By now most of you have heard the news. I will be leaving St. Luke's as of May 20th. I've known for several months that another assignment was awaiting me - but didn't know until recently when I would be leaving. My contract here officially expired the end of March. Because another parish (who is doing a full search for a rector) needs me to come as their Interim Priest, I must move on. I pray that the next priest assigned to you - as Bridge or Interim - will faithfully and prayerfully guide and lead you forward in this time of transition. Welcome them as you have so graciously welcome me. I pray that in good time you will once again have a PIC or Rector.
Meanwhile continue to pray for your Wardens and Vestry. Pray for each other. Pray for new visions for the future of this parish in this community. What more might God be calling you to do - in this community - in the world? Parishes always say "we want to grow". But, what are you offering to attract people here? Are you as visible as you can be in your ministries? The priest can't be expected to single-handedly "grow the church". That is work that you must do together. How can you best serve God, the people of this parish and this community where you live? Churches may have to change in order to meet the changing needs of this world today. Look around your communities. What more might you offer to them? Look at what other parishes are doing - and, as I have said before, "think out of the box"! But always remember to care for one another! Reach out to those who have been missing - give them a call, ask how they are and let them that know they are missed.
After some vacation time in Ocean Park, Maine, I will be going to Christ Church in Harwichport. They are a parish with no children or young families. But they have a very active ministry to and with their older members and to the community there. Hopefully I will find a place to stay. Commuting there during the summer will be a huge challenge! Thank heaven for book tapes!
It has been a blessing to me to serve here as your Bridge Priest. I will miss all of you when I leave but the time has come for me to move on. Please pray for me as I pray for you. I am grateful to have walked this part of my journey with you.
and peace to all of you, Mother Billie+
From the recent Clergy Conference:
As I mentioned last Sunday at announcements, the clergy and bishops heard an amazing speaker for 2 days of the Clergy Conference. Amy-Jill Levine PhD is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Her topic for this conference was "Understanding Jesus Means Understanding Judaism". Just like the disciples on the road to Emmaeus who finally had their eyes opened to see that Jesus had been walking with them, we, too, had our eyes and hearts opened. Now we have a new way of reading and understanding both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
I can't begin to share all that she said, but I will share some "snippets" for you:
1st presentation: "The Misunderstood Jew". She said that the more we understand about 1st century Judaism, the better we will understand Jesus. We "don't have to read a text anti-Semetically" and must acknowledge the difficulties with some passages in the NT and learn how to deal with them. She has an Annotated NT that is very helpful (I have sent for mine!). One of her comments was about the Gospel passage after Easter that says "the doors were locked for fear of the Jews". "They were all Jews", she said! Another comment, "people look at a crucifix and don't realize that they are looking at a Jew"! We must be careful about what we say. Expressions like, "Stop behaving like wild Indians!" are so offensive. Something that is good to say when you have obviously offended someone: "I'm sorry, that is not what I meant, how could I have said it differently?"
Jesus was arguing with other Jews about how to follow Judaism. That was OK - that was what they do! Jesus didn't violate Laws but may have [protested] against how the Pharisees interpreted them! He was arguing in a Jewish way about the Law - not against it!
Her last presentation was "Hearing the Parables as Jewish Stories". The parables, she said, use exaggeration - to make us laugh and then perhaps to indict us! Parables will always be open to different interpretations. She says that little kids understand them! Perhaps, she says, the Gospel writers and Jesus left them un-interpreted to encourage conversation! They are designed to challenge and entice us. Parables can indict, challenge, amuse at the same time. If you feel uncomfortable then you have been indicted!
I have pages of notes, so only gave you a tiny sample of her thoughts. She has published several books. She also did one of The Great Courses, which I have sent for! I encourage you to read some of her works or even to view together some of her lectures from the Great Courses. Talk to Barbara Bachand, she has seen them!