I write today to announce my resignation as Rector of the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. I have accepted a call to become the Canon Evangelist for the Diocese of Southern Virginia. Eli and I will say farewell and celebrate our grace-filled 10 years as part of this parish on Sunday, June 27, then take a bit of time to relocate and rest before beginning this new ministry.
I cannot adequately convey my profound gratitude to God for calling me to serve here these ten years and to each of you for sharing in all the richness of being a part of this lively community of faith. It’s hard to remember what our life was like even a year ago, let alone ten years ago when I started. Over these years, we have seen God at work in so many amazing and surprising ways: through cultivating a habit of welcome that draws newcomers into our life; through developing outreach ministries that involve more parishioners every year in hands-on service to those in need; through nurturing the spiritual growth of our children and youth; and through myriad other creative ministries.
Even more important, we have grown a tremendous and gifted assemblage of leaders in all areas of the parish. We have one of the most faithful, caring, and thoughtful vestries I have ever worked with who will ably navigate this period of transition as the parish reflects and then calls your next Rector over the coming months. Bethesda is poised and equipped for dynamic new leadership in mission and ministry and will attract the very best clergy in its search.
I have been wrestling with a sense of call to a new season of ministry and praying about how, when, and where might be right to take the leap of faith to embrace a new calling. Consecrated fifteen months ago, just before the pandemic hit, the Bishop of Southern Virginia, the Right Rev. Susan Haynes, spent her first year as bishop building relationships, listening, and learning. This past February, she unveiled her strategic vision for the Diocese at their Annual Council in the form of five initiatives around the Baptismal Covenant. She then began to consider how to effectively implement those initiatives, and her staff approached me several weeks later about joining her team to lead that implementation. The work aligns so beautifully with my passions and the ways the Holy Spirit is shaping me. They include working with parishioners across that diocese to nurture their spiritual lives, supporting congregations in developing ministries of Evangelism, building more life-giving connections between congregations, and developing ministries to address two critical issues of our day: racial justice and the stewardship of creation.
Whenever a rector leaves a parish, the parish, the rector, and the community necessarily encounter mixed feelings of gratitude and grief, along with a combination of hope and anxiety about what comes next. Bishop Eaton and his staff along with the Vestry will be in regular contact and will chart a faithful path to the calling of a new rector in due course. For now, we have some holy time to celebrate and give thanks to God for the privilege and blessing of these ten years together.
I hope to have a chance to say good-bye to each of you personally, though that will certainly be challenging given the pandemic. To that end, our Zoom Middle Way tomorrow will be a Town Hall where we can talk together about this news. Sunday’s Zoom coffee hour will provide an additional opportunity for conversation. If you’re not able to join us, and whether or not we get another chance to talk over these coming weeks, know that I am deeply grateful for you and for the life we have shared. Know that I am a better person, Christian, and priest for these past years together. Know that I hold you in my heart with love and with hope for all God has in store for you.