6th Sunday of Easter 2017 “The Impossible Dream”
Many of us, most of us hopefully, have special people in our lives who help us to grow, to evolve, to be more like the people God intends us to be. I want to tell you about two folks in our life…Charlotte and Jack Hunt, members of our first parish, Grace in Trenton. Jack was a WWII vet who worked as a psychiatric technician at the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute at Skillman, where he lovingly took care of his “boys” as he called them…folks with extreme life issues. Jack was also our church sexton, a ministry that was his love and his joy. The inside of our Ministry Center sparkled, and our small lawn there in the city was manicured like the finest golf course green. Charlotte was on my call committee and was such a positive force in our congregation. I’ve shared before, when we went there, almost everyone was old enough to be our parents, and fact is, a majority were old enough to be our grandparents. My predecessor had been at Grace for 39 years until his forced retirement. And the sad thing is, very little happened in the second half of his ministry…they didn’t even have Sunday bulletins…since Lutherans would know our liturgy. Which would have been plausible if they were doing what the Lutheran Church was doing, but they were stuck 30 years before.
This is the time of year when many of the church’s Synods meet for their annual meeting at Synod Assembly. I’ve talked with some clergy friends and colleagues and noticed others posting pictures and updates on Facebook these past few weeks. Some excited about things happening in the church, and others not so much. Feelings of frustration and concern about the state of the church. Questioning where we seem to be going, and in some cases what we’re not doing that we should be. This past weekend our own New Jersey Synod met in Princeton for our Annual gathering of clergy and church leaders. Financial Reports and the Bishop’s message painted a somewhat fraught picture of the state of the church. A world in which far too many of us compromise our beliefs for our own selfish needs.
It was 26 years ago that my dear friend, Bishop Herluf Jensen announced that he would not stand for re-election as our Bishop. He was weary and he said it was time for new blood. And so for the first time in a good little bit our Synod was faced with a transition in the Bishop’s Office and our Synod Council sought ways to mark this time of new beginnings. They asked Pastor Frank Fry of St. John’s in Summit and me to work on plans for the installation of our soon to be elected new Bishop. And among the other things Frank and I did, was to commission a wood worker to prepare a new pectoral cross that would be passed from Bishop to Bishop in the coming years, as it has been. And we designed a Bishop’s Crook that matched the pectoral cross, as a symbol and sign of the Bishop’s office. And those of you who have been here when Bishop Riley or Bishop Bartholomew have visited, will probably remember that large staff with the curved top that they carry. The crook has long been a symbol of the Bishop’s Office, of the Pastoral office, in fact, of the baptismal ministry in which we each share, and which Wesley joins today.