This blog post is taken from my sermon at Trinity, Buffalo, on the occasion of the celebration of their new ministry with the Rev. Matt Lincoln. But I think it applies to most new rectors and most congregations with new rectors.
There are s few things that I, as your bishop, would like to point out to you new priests, to help you get settled.
You are joining a diocese with a number of distinguished accomplishments that we’re very proud of.
This is the diocese where Jell-o was invented (in LeRoy); where one of our churches is built over the healing waters of a spa (Alden); and where an inland village has its own sea serpent festival (Perry).
The village of Gowanda was once known as America’s Glue Capital. Just a few miles away in Eden is the site of the only metal kazoo factory in North America.
Your fellow clergy around the diocese are eager to defend their bragging rights, so be ready!
As for me, I dream that one day I will be the bishop of the diocese that wins the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup. You all need to pray extra hard with me about that!
I need to give you some advice about how to get along with your new congregation.
There are two great places to get a first-rate beef on weck sandwich: Charlie the Butcher’s, in the Ellicott Square building downtown; and Schwabl’s in West Seneca. Let’s take a moment to remember Eckl’s in Orchard Park, which just closed at the end of September after 81 years.
Never declare a preference. Never say which one is your favorite. It’s like saying which one is your favorite child, or choosing your favorite hymn. You can only get yourself in trouble.
If you’re trying to find a member of the congregation early in the morning, there is only one place to look: Towne Red Hots on Allen Street. And the souvlaki breakfast at the Towne’s is fabulous.
The three most important names in Buffalo are not Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No, the three names are Wegman’s, Ted’s and Chiavetta’s.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus differentiates between those who are part of the power structure … the insiders with a stake in maintaining things just the way they’ve always been … and the infants — which could mean children, or newcomers — people who see the world in a different way, with different eyes.
The people who often live on the margins … who aren’t sure how they fit in here … people who may have had an unhappy experience in another church but feel called here, looking for something they know they’re missing …people who are humble and vulnerable and broken and are looking for a place that feels like home, where they can be healed and renewed and strengthened.
It is through those different eyes that we see God most closely.
As your bishop, as you begin your ministry here, this is what I pray for you:
- That your creativity will enhance and enrich this congregation in ways we cannot imagine and make this a safe, beautiful and joyful place where we meet God and each other
- That you will combine the richness of the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible with the wealth of world literature to help us hear the Word of God in ways old and new
- That this will continue to be a place where all are welcome, including — or especially — those who need most to be here
This is a celebration of a new minisTRY — not a celebration of a new minisTER. This is a celebration of what you, the congregation, and your priest will do together. This is not a spectator sport, with the laity sitting on the sidelines watching … and either cheering or booing depending on how they think the rector is doing. Our service today invites YOU, the congregation, to partner with your new rector and see what you can do together.
The Search Committee knew that they were the midwives of change, leading this congregation to give birth to a new life, new ideas, new ways of seeing things, new leadership.
This is the start of a journey of joy and discovery and new birth.