When I arrived as the Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Glen Rock, New Jersey in 2003, Father “X,” one of the congregation’s former clergy, still lived in the neighborhood. Although he had accepted a new call to another church, he never told the people of All Saints’ goodbye, and he kept showing up at the church for weddings, funerals, and even at the coffee hour after Sunday morning worship. Of course, the people in the congregation loved to see him, because they knew him and had a history with him. That’s understandable. But his presence made it impossible for me, the new priest who had arrived at All Saints’ eager and ready to serve them, to form a bond with my new congregation.

I distinctly remember a phone call with a lay leader of the church who called me to let me know of her mother’s funeral by saying: “I hope you won’t mind, but we’ve asked Father X to preside at mom’s funeral. It’s nothing personal.” When the phone call ended, I remember bursting into tears and asking out loud, fist raised to God: “Why did I come here if the people won’t let me love them and serve them as their new pastor?” I vowed, then and there, that I would never interfere with the ministry of any of my successors. Part of being a good and healthy priest is entrusting the pastoral care ministry of the church to other priests and lay leaders.

So, it is with that vow in mind, that I make my commitment to you and your new priest that when I leave as your Vicar on November 29, I will remain your friend, but I will no longer serve as your pastor or priest. I will faithfully adhere to the expectations that Bishop Baskerville-Burrows expects all of her clergy when we leave a congregation:

  • It will no longer be my role to officiate at Good Samaritan’s worship services, or at any baptisms, weddings, or funerals of Good Samaritan’s members.
  • I will only return to Good Samaritan at the invitation of my successor, and then, I will attend as your former pastor and priest.
  • I will not be involved with the appointment process of your new Vicar and won’t be offering my opinions about potential candidates to Bishop Jennifer or her staff or to anyone in the congregation.
  • I will not discuss any Good Samaritan congregational business after I leave, nor should you consult me about such business. Instead, when you have concerns/questions/ideas/comments, please take them to your new priest and to your Wardens and Bishop’s Committee.

During the transition and before your new Vicar arrives, your Wardens have made provisions for continued care of this congregation. In addition to the wonderful retired ecumenical clergy of Good Sam’s who are glad to provide pastoral care and a listening ear, we have also made arrangements with several neighboring Episcopal clergy to be on-call in December and January. If you have a need of pastoral care, please be in touch with Senior Warden Kevin Samples at 317-431-6644, who will connect you with the clergyperson-on-call.

It has been the highest honor to serve as your pastor and priest these past five and a half years. I want your next Vicar to know this joy and honor as I have experienced it, and so I pass and entrust this responsibility and privilege to my successor with the greatest respect and care. –Gray+

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