The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Angela and I have a longstanding practice of always saying goodbye and “I love you,” sealed with a kiss, whenever one of us leaves the house – whether we are going to the grocery store or on a trip across the world. It is a habit that we adopted when we first married and have continued to this day. We have now included our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in this simple ritual – usually without the kiss! It is not that we are particularly demonstrative – after all, we did grow up in England! It is simply something that we do. It reflects our love and respect for one another but also an awareness of the fragility of life. We never know what might happen next, so a “good goodbye” is always important.
As you may have learned or guessed, the etymology of “goodbye” is the old blessing, “God be with you.” The phrase not only provides closure – temporary or more permanent – to a relationship but also invokes God’s blessing for the one from whom we are taking our leave.
With all of that by way of introduction, it is time for Angela, Rachel, and me to say goodbye to all of you. It is hard to believe that 17 months have passed since I received a call from Archbishop Foley Beach asking if I would serve as interim bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. When we accepted the invitation, I don’t think we had a clue about what it would involve, especially since we started under the cloud of repressive COVID restrictions.
We are most grateful for the way you have welcomed us into this remarkably resilient Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh clergy family. In our congregational visits across the diocese, you have been generous in hospitality for us, especially as I have struggled to pronounce some of the more challenging local names (Monongahela still does not come easily!) and find our way through the amazingly complex road and bridge systems with which you are blessed. If you have wondered why we are usually early for our visits, it is because we are never sure whether we might get lost on the way.
We have also been blessed by visits to some of the outlying congregations in Wheaton and Nashville – in particular, we will always treasure the memory of our visits with the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, as we have walked and wept through the tragedy of the sudden death of their rector, Thomas, and his first-born child, Charlie, last year. It will be very hard to say goodbye to the friendships that have emerged out of our shared grief and loss. Of course, we are comforted by the fact that there is a well-traveled road from Nashville to our home in Destin!
One group of Pittsburghers with whom we have spent countless hours is the Standing Committee of the Diocese. This band of eight faithful men and women, clergy and laity – only occasionally referred to as the “eight-headed monster” – have met by the miracle of Zoom technology at least three times a week – every week. We have been graciously led by three remarkable presidents – Jeff Wylie, Dave Grissom, and now the indefatigable Elaine Storm. By God’s grace, they have been able to provide steady leadership to the diocese through these turbulent times. As with most aspects of clergy life, it is impossible to describe all the personal and corporate issues with which we have been confronted. It is also a never-failing mystery how our distinct personalities have been blended into a delightful – often funny – family of faith. Truly the Spirit of God has been present with us through all of the challenges, and we have seen God’s hand at work as we have struggled to respond to the many issues and questions of our task.
We wish a fond goodbye to two remarkable saints – Sarah Kwolek, Director of Administration, and Bonnie Catalano, Executive Assistant to the Bishop. Angela and I have known Sarah and her family for almost 50 years since they were part of the Church of the Redeemer in Houston, and then later in New York and in Virginia where Sarah’s parents, George and Leslie Mims, were members of the staff team of Truro Church. It has been a privilege to see Sarah and Mark and their children continue their heritage of Gospel service, and I am confident that you will continue to find them a source of great blessing. Bonnie Catalano has been an unexpected gift, and we will both be saying goodbye at the same time – Bonnie having served for more than 20 years in the office of the bishop. She has become a wonderful friend and colleague who genuinely cares for the clergy of this diocese and is always able to track down the lost facts and files from your complex history. Bonnie will be sorely missed and greatly appreciated.
We will not be saying goodbye to the Slocum family. Our daughter Catherine, husband, Jay, and daughters Emma (with husband Josh) and Lydia will remain in their adopted home city of Pittsburgh. It has been a special joy to live close by for the occasional cup of tea and meal. It has also been a source of considerable parental pride to watch them all at work with their various ministries at Church of the Ascension and beyond. I know that we can safely entrust them to your continuing love and care.
Please forgive me if I have failed to single you out for a personal goodbye, but do know that you are loved and have been the source of great blessing in our lives.
Thank you and goodbye!
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24)
P.S. Thank you also to my faithful editor, Cindy Rinaman Marsch.