As we anticipate the official moment of Lisa’s transition from being our Vicar to being retired, we must come to terms with one of the more difficult-to-implement parts of this transition, a real change in our collective and individual relationships with Lisa, Lamar, and Becca. This part is hard because it’s so personal and may be subject to the perspective that the changes I’ll outline below could be well and good in principle and for most of the People of the Advocate, but “surely this doesn’t also apply to me.” And yet the instruction from the diocese and the witness from others who have trodden this road before us indicates that this actually does apply to each of us, and is the best approach to help us to bond with Marion and appreciate her capable leadership. Many of us do indeed have unique and very special relationships with the Fischbeck-Bland household, and in spite of those relationships we are asked to submit to this instruction. Besides being the right thing for our church, we are assured that this is also the best approach to free Lisa and her family to begin to form new relationships and live into their next chapter as well.
With that somewhat ominous and sober introduction, here are the guidelines for our journey into a changed relationship in the coming year:
Of course you know that Lisa, Lamar, and Becca have valued, and will continue to value, their friendships and relationships with the People of the Advocate. This part of the leave-taking is difficult all around. But a year is only a year. So let us accept this discipline in hope and with peaceful hearts, knowing that we all have work to do to form new bonds and establish new routines, and in our certain knowledge that all shall be well.
Dear People of the Advocate,
I write, on this octave of All Saints, to tell you about plans and guidance for our life ahead.
The bottom line is that we will be separated. I am retiring from parish ministry, you are continuing as the People of the Advocate with a new and good Vicar, Marion. My relationship with you, and yours with me, will change.
As of November 21, Christ the Kings Sunday, I will step aside, and Marion will be your priest, your pastor, your chief liturgist, your guide. The wisdom of the church and the guidelines of the Diocese teach us that the healthiest and most effective way for that new relationship to form is for the retiring Vicar, and her family, to separate from the church and its people physically and digitally. It’s painful, and I want to say that “the Advocate is different!”, but wisdom is wisdom, and I see that wisdom in our case.
So starting November 22, Lamar and Becca and I will not be at the Advocate, neither on the land nor in the chapel, neither on the Zoom nor by email. This will be true for at least a year.
Where will we go? For starters, we will all be in Tucson for the first week of Advent, and will fly to Toronto for a Christmas in Canada. After that, Lamar and I will continue to live in Durham. In the year ahead we will enjoy the freedom from the clock and calendar that retirement offers. We will travel as safety allows. I hope to be a visiting preacher and teacher in the wider church, and to do what I can to work for the election of representatives in our state who share the values I cherish. Becca will be in Tucson, pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. When we are in Durham on a Sunday, we will explore other churches, and perhaps settle in at one of them. It will be different, that’s for sure!
In true Advocate form, we will embody all this in the context of our liturgy. November 21 will be a day of sadness and of joy, of celebration of what has gone before and what lies ahead. I do hope that you all will join in – the liturgy will be what it will be because of who is gathered, in person as much as is possible, and on Zoom.
Any words I might come up with to express my gratitude and love feel pale and inadequate. Please know that my feelings for you all are strong and robust.
God grant you many years.
Dear People of the Advocate,
As you have read in the letters from Lisa and from Donya, the time is quickly approaching to say good bye to Lisa, Lamar, and Becca. I know this is a difficult time for many as Lisa has been your priest, pastor, confidant, and friend. You have celebrated together, you have grieved together, and the relationship you have developed through the years is an important one: one in which you have seen God in the other.
I give thanks for the time I have had in getting to know Lisa. We have laughed and prayed together, walked the beautiful land together and, most importantly, shared in holy food and drink around God’s holy table with all of you. God has richly blessed this community with Lisa – her gifts and talents, her dedication to God, and her love of you. The Advocate would not be The Advocate as we know it today without her listening to where the Holy Spirit was leading. Thanks be to God!
During the liturgy on November 21st, we will pray with and for Lisa, Lamar, and Becca, and Lisa will complete the final “passing of the baton” to me. At that point I will be the Vicar of The Advocate. I am deeply humbled by this. Humbled to be your priest and your pastor. Humbled to be with you in joy and sadness, to pray with you and for you, and humbled to share in word and sacrament in this holy place with you, God’s holy people.
As we prepare for this time, please be in prayer for Lisa, Lamar, and Becca.
Please be in prayer for the Vestry of The Advocate.
Please pray for each other.
Please pray for yourselves.
Please be in prayer for Amanda and me.
God’s blessings be upon Lisa, Lamar, and Becca and upon you, the People of the Advocate.
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20, 21)