The Call to Retire


September 15, 2019 — Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Rev. Alison Quin

Today’s Readings:

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

The Call to Retire

By now, most of you will have heard the news that I’m planning to retire at the end of November.

It was a hard decision because I have loved being here with all of you.  But just as God called me to be your rector in 2007, God is now calling me to begin a new chapter.

Many of you have heard the story of how I came to Christ the King.  When I was first ordained, I served as Children’s Missioner at a parish in Maryland, building up their programs for children and youth.  Then I was called to a parish in DC, where I was the Assistant Rector and then the interim rector.  While I was there, the parish went through major conflict over the issue of homosexuality—Gene Robinson was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop while I was there.   The struggle was worthwhile because in the end the parish decided to be open and affirming.

But I was a little bruised after that conflict and I went back to my home parish to serve as Associate Rector and heal.  I was there for two years.  After the first year, I started looking at rector positions around the Northeast.

I looked in Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island.  I put my name in 14 searches and was a finalist in four or five.

But none of them seemed right.  Either they chose someone else or I withdrew.

After a year of looking, I began to doubt myself.  Maybe this sense of call that I was waiting for was not real.  Maybe I just needed to pick a church.

Late one night, I was scrolling through the online list of parishes looking for a rector and I saw Christ the King’s profile.  I was immediately excited to read about the food pantry founded by CTK and the church’s ministry with migrant farmworkers.  And there was a joyful spirit expressed in that profile.

I sent my application to the chair of the search committee, Andy Lutz, at 11:30pm.  By 7:30 the next morning, I had an email thanking me and expressing interest in talking with me.

After that, there were several rounds of interviews with people at CTK, and a couple of visits to the parish.  Each time, I felt more and more called to come here.

Tim and my daughter Rosemary visited the parish with me, and both of them felt it was right as well.  In fact, Rosemary, who wasn’t that keen on us leaving Maryland, said to me, “Mom, if that parish calls you, you should go.”

I was so excited about the possibility—but the vestry had to decide.  I went on silent retreat the week they decided because I knew I would need God’s consolation if I were not chosen and I would need to process the joy if I were.

When I didn’t hear from the wardens (Tim and Tony at the time), I assumed they had chosen someone else.  So, I was praying through my disappointment when the call came!

From that moment to this, I have loved being your rector.  My first event at the church was a stewardship dinner.   I was told that the theme was Pony Express and that people would be wearing cowboy outfits.  So I bought cowboy boots and a bandana and a straw hat at Wal-Mart and came to meet the parish.  Then we sang old cowboy songs with new lyrics written by Elbert Rogers.  What a way to start our ministry together!

We have shared so much over the years—joys and sorrows, feasts and fasts, ministry to the community and to each other, and above all, faith.  We have seen the power of God doing infinitely more for us than we could ask or imagine.

We have seen God provide for us when it seemed that there was no way—when some ministry was struggling for people and funds.

We have seen the Spirit bring new people and new ideas into our midst.  We have so often been presented with new opportunities to serve and grow in love.  And how many times has God opened our eyes and our hearts and given us a new perspective on ourselves, each other and issues in the world?

We have seen the living God at work in our midst.

Now the same God who called me here is calling me to leave and it is not easy.  Tim and I will miss being here with all of you very much.  But I leave with the great consolation that God will be with you, and with Tim and me as well, enabling all of us to move into the future that God has in store for us.

Tim and I have rented a condo in Rhinebeck—we will be a little closer to our grandson and plan to babysit for him two days a week.  Other than that, I am planning to rest for several months and then look for a part time ministry.   My last Sunday will be Christ the King Sunday, November 24th.

I leave with great confidence in the lay and clergy leadership at Christ the King, and with great confidence in all of you.  The wardens, the vestry, Janet and Robin and the rest of the staff will be here to guide the parish through the transition.  The bishop and his staff will be there to help you—the staff member whose job it is to help parishes through transitions is named Nora Smith—she will come and preach and meet with the vestry on the first Sunday of Advent, right after I leave.  You will love her and she will be an invaluable resource in the search process.

I wanted to stay until the building project was complete, but I did not realize how long these things take!  But the project is progressing well—we had two more significant gifts over the summer, and the vestry is hard at work securing financing so the construction can begin before all the pledges are fulfilled.   I am glad and grateful for all the hard work and generous gifts that have brought us to this point.  And I have no doubt that with God’s help, and your prayers and support, the project will be completed.  It will be the gift to the community and to the church in the future that we dreamed it would be.

Brothers and sisters, holy and beloved, continue to carry out your calling to share the good news of God’s love in the world, each of you with your own gifts.   Know that God is always with you and will guide you in the search for a new rector.

And we still have a few more months together, so I am planning to savor every moment.

Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus.  Amen