As I have promised, I wanted to keep you informed as we travel the road together in this dynamic time in the life of the Church of the Ascension. I will try not to repeat too much from Fr Garry's excellent message in last week's communication.
Your Vestry met on Wednesday evening in prayerful discussion for two and a half hours. We were blessed to have the Canon to the Ordinary, Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, join us to help inform our conversations.
On behalf of the Bishop, Canon Ruth has been in weekly contact with Father Lucas since he began his retreat in New Mexico. She reported that he is doing well and embracing the program. He recently received his "90-day Sobriety Chip," of which he is rightly proud.
Lucas will return to the Rectory over Labor Day weekend. You may see him in the neighborhood, however he will not return to his duties at the church until the Bishop finishes his discernment. Upon his return, Lucas will meet with the Bishop. The Bishop and the Canon to the Ordinary will continue their conversations with the Vestry. It is likely that the Bishop will not make a decision until the end of September.
The term of Fr Garry's interim service expires in mid-September. I continue to be amazed at how blessed we have been to have Fr Garry shepherd us through this summer. He started early, and we cannot ask him to stay beyond his term. Accordingly, we will arrange for supply clergy through the end of September, as the Bishop continues his discernment. Please join me in thanking Garry for his service to our Parish.
The Vestry discussed the feedback we received during the 6 August Parish meeting. Thank you to all who participated. It is important to the Vestry that people be able to communicate their fears, hopes, and desires during this period of uncertainty and provided parishioners the opportunity to reach out to members of the Parish Care and Communications Committee.
To that end, the Vestry also received a report from the Parish Care and Communications Committee, chaired by Phillip Weiss. The committee received feedback from 22 parishioners from diverse backgrounds and relationships with the church. Phillip and his committee generated an extensive and valuable report for the Vestry summarizing the feedback. It formed the basis of our conversations last night, and it will continue to inform our discussion as a Vestry and with the Bishop. I thank Phillip and his committee for their thoroughness and dedication.
The Committee's report gave us a deep understanding of the diverse views of our parishioners about our direction going forward. Needless to say, each interview started differently, but many ended up focusing on the question on everyone's mind, "What will happen upon Lucas's return?" At this point, neither the Bishop nor the Vestry can answer that. But the conversations continue. I am grateful for your contributions to these conversations.
Discernment in this situation is one of process. In the upcoming weeks, the Vestry will meet with Father Lucas to hear about his recovery and what his personal discernment looks like. We will meet with each other and possibly again with Canon Ruth and Bishop Rob regarding the church's and the Vestry's own discernment with regard to Father Lucas's return. Finally, Bishop Rob will consider in prayer all relevant information from the church, from Fr. Lucas, and from Canon Ruth to make a final, prayerful decision.
As I mentioned, the interviews found significant diversity of opinions on a variety of topics, but one area of agreement shown through, whether vocalized or intimated. This is a time of anxiety for our Parish. I can assure you that I and your Vestry share this anxiety. But I would be remiss, if I did not also remark on the wonderful strength our congregation has shown during these trials. Parishioners, staff, clergy, and the Vestry have all stepped up in wonderful ways. We would not be in the strong position we are during this uncertainty, were it not for everyone's strength and commitment. Periods of "not knowing" are essential in spiritual decision-making, as uncomfortable as they may be.
Thank you to all for keeping the flame burning brightly this summer. Thank you to Father Garry, Deacon Tim, Sue, Celeste, and Dan. Thank you to our lay leaders and our Vestry.
Please continue to hold them in your prayers, as we continue to pray for Lucas, Meredith, Bishop Rob, and Canon Ruth.