Please let me begin this Hump Day Message by saying: Thank YouEpiphany. Thank you for all of your love; thank you for all of your support; thank you for all of the cards; thank you for all of the warm meals and delicious goodies; thank you for all of your visits; thank you for mourning with us the loss of our infant child, Adelia Sue; and most of all, thank you for all of your strength. All of these things and more are what makes Epiphany such a special place and further are a testament to what it means to live into the baptized life of Christ and the Christian community. As you have heard me say before, and following the teachings of the late Aidan Kavanah who was one of the great liturgical thinkers of our time, our baptism is an ecclesiology of differentiation. In other words, the life we promise to live defines us differently than the rest of the world. It defines us differently because as we read from Acts 19 in our lectionary readings for the First Sunday after Epiphany, we do not baptize in the name of repentance, but instead we baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus who gives us not only His strength, but also the strength of God and the Holy Spirit. It is with this strength that we are able to go out into the world, loving our God and loving our neighbor; it is with this strength that we are able to care for our fellow brothers and sisters, and not just those who are Christian, but all of God’s children; and it is with this strength that we are able to make it through the most difficult and trying times of our lives. Because of the commitment that you have made to live your lives differently, you have been given this strength. And because you have been given this strength, you have given me and my wife April the strength to know that Adelia Sue is in the loving arms of God and Christ, who is our rock and our redeemer. Our greatest comfort has come from knowing that our little child is being cared for by our loving God, and further is being cared for in a more loving way than even we, her parents, could have cared for her. This is because as scripture tells us, God is love (1 John 4:8), and if God is love, then God must be good. Your strength has been a solid reminder of this with each and every day that passes; and again, I say: Thank You Epiphany, from the bottom of my heart.
Secondly, I would like to fill you in on the plans that Rev. Hillary and I have set for my final semester of Field Education with Epiphany (I know…I can’t believe it will be my last semester! I will miss all of you so very much!). As you know, I am being called by God to move through the process of ordination into the priesthood of Christ in the Episcopal Church. The priesthood, like any other position within the Church, including the laity, is a calling from God and is a ministry within the Church. Like any other position in the Church, the priesthood calls for certain tasks and duties that must be fulfilled. According to the Outline of the Faith, found in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the ministry of a priest is to “represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.” (BCP p.856) Naturally, as with any occupation, practice of these duties makes more excellent. I do not like to say that “practice makes perfect” because there was only one who was perfect, and that one was Christ Jesus. Instead, practice makes more excellent, and if we strive for excellence in all that we do, then I believe we represent our duties as Christians in the best possible way. That being said, Rev. Hillary has graciously offered for me to practice some of these duties so that when I am ordained, God-willing, I can fulfill my duties with excellence.
The above being said, beginning the Sunday of January 28, 2018, I will begin to practice some of these duties. The most obvious of these duties will be assisting with the preparation of the altar table. Traditionally, when there is a deacon present in the life of a parish, it is the duty of the deacon to assist the priest with setting the Table. However, given that most parishes do not have a deacon present, it becomes the duty of a priest to prepare the Table for the holy meal that strengthens our life of differentiation. Given this fact, and given that Epiphany does not have a deacon in our midst, I will be assisting Rev. Hillary in the preparation of the Table as a way to practice what will soon become my future duties in the life of the Church.
In addition to these roles, I will also be visiting Epiphany during the work week. For this last semester of seminary, I plan to be at Epiphany at least one day during the week (in addition to Sundays) so that I can shadow Rev. Hillary, learn some more of the administrative duties that come with the priesthood (yes, these are the things that they don’t teach you in seminary), work on the church directory (I promise it is coming! Finally!), and hopefully hold some office hours so that I can continue to grow my relationship with all of you! As of right now, I am planning to make my weekly visits on Tuesdays; however, this will change from time to time depending on what is happening in the life of the parish. I will do my best to post my visitation schedule on a weekly basis so that you can keep track of me and help me to learn more about what the priestly life is all about. Please feel free to contact myself or Rev. Hillary should you have any questions about anything that is written above. I am very much looking forward to working with you, serving with you, and learning with you over the next several months. I could not have asked to work, serve, or learn from a better group of people. It is truly a blessing.
In closing, once more, I would like to say: Thank You Epiphany. Thank you for all of your love, and thank you for all of your strength. You are truly a wonderful church, and you because of your commitment to live your lives differently, you make the world a better place, each and every day. I am honored to be your seminarian.
In the name of Christ, who is our strength and redeemer,
Seldon M. Walker, seminarian