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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Simply Put, Thank You

A few weeks ago, during staff meeting, I momentarily thought I was off the hook for July. Joanne Morse, parish administrator extraordinaire, was reminding us of the deadline for the July issue of On Your Mark, and for a confused moment I thought that that deadline was after my last day at Saint Mark's and therefore my June article would have been my last as Priest-in-Charge. Freedom!
My freedom and my confusion were short-lived though, as everyone around the table simultaneously clarified the deadline for me...and indeed I would need to write one last PIC article. Thankfully, given that my last Sunday at Saint Mark's will be July 12th, the theme for my July article has readily presented itself: Farewell and Thank You. If only the article itself would be so easily composed (I'll let you all know how it turns out shortly).
I write to you, my beloved parish family of the last 23 months, with mixed emotions of celebration and sadness, a bit of disappointment but a heart full of joy. Most of all, though, I write to you with an deep sense of gratitude. Simply put, I want to thank each and every one of you for working so faithfully as a parish throughout the transition and for sharing your amazing and plentiful gifts with me.
When Bishop Bruno appointed me to serve as your Priest-in-Charge, I came to Saint Mark's excited to jump in and help with the work of preparing the parish for the process of calling a new rector. I was also more than a little nervous about the 'in charge' part of my title. Fortunately (but not accidentally) there was a deep and gracious well of support for your newly minted leader and only the barest minimum of 'dirty work' to accomplish. Together we celebrated the conclusion of our Centennial Year and began the process of sharing and crafting the story of Saint Mark's, evaluating our past and dreaming of our future. You did an amazing job and the Parish Profile that resulted from that work lays a strong foundation for Saint Mark's future mission and ministry. Though I had hoped my transitional ministry with you would evolve into a long term call to serve this unique community, I nevertheless celebrate with you and rejoice in the call of the Reverend Carri Patterson Grindon to serve as Saint Mark's Rector. If I may say, Pastor Carri is as blessed to be gaining you all as her parish family as you all are to be gaining her as the rector.
Despite a tinge of sadness to be leaving this wonderful parish, I want to make it clear that I do so with an abundance of joy and thankfulness in no small part because of the ministry each and every one of you have had with me. Perhaps you did not know you were ministering to me, or you did and you were singularly polite about it, but I leave Saint Mark's a much better priest and pastor, preacher and teacher than when I arrived. Thank you for taking a young and still green priest and helping to continue my growth and formation as a servant-leader. Though Heather and I do not yet know where God is calling us to next, we do know that we are taking you all with us. I will take all I have learned and experienced, the successes (yours) and the failures (mine), and in so doing you will be a blessing to the next community we serve.
I could fill this entire issue of On Your Mark with personal thanks to, well, everyone. Due to space limitations, postage rates, availability of paper, and the importance of sharing the news about all the other wonderful activities happening here this summer, I must limit my personal thanks to a select few. Regardless, everyone at Saint Mark's has my gratitude and I hope to thank as many of you individually as I may in the next few weeks.
I want to thank the faithful members of the Saint Mark's Vestry who have been diligent in matters great and small, and with whom it has been a real pleasure to share the 'light yoke' of parish leadership...well into the evening on vestry nights! I commend your dedication to the parish and the work we have done to renew and enrich Stewardship.
I want to thank Saint Mark's Head of School, Dr. Doreen Oleson, and Chair of the School Board, Alan Bates, for being valued colleagues in refreshing the relationship between Church and School while visioning a mutually beneficial future.
I must thank the members of Saint Mark's Parish staff for their dedication to making this such and amazing parish. Thank you for your diligence on Tuesday mornings as we planned and prepped for mission and ministry. Thank you for the laughs, the stories, the prayers, and the delicious food we have shared. I must especially thank Joanne Morse and Lisa Auyong, parish administrator and secretary, for their work...no, ministry...on all our behalf. Thank you both for putting up with my unique style of 'organization'...the next administrator/secretary thanks you in advance for training me so well.
I must thank Mo. Betsy for her valued counsel throughout the transition, her strong pastoral leadership, and for her wise judgement regarding all things Saint Mark's. Thank you for helping me in a thousand little ways. Thank you for your mentoring.
A profund word of thanks to Diane and Bob Killgore and also to Jackie Dwight. What an amazing experience to go from being your chorister just a few years ago to now being your priest and colleague. I thank God for the chance and the blessing of 'working together' again.
Finally, I hope you all will join me in thanking Marianne Wright, our phenomenal Senior Warden, with whom and from whom I learned that I could, indeed, lead a parish and be the priest 'in charge'. I cannot express sufficiently my gratitude to you for all you have done for Saint Mark's and for me over the last two years except to say you have set the standard for future Senior Wardens with whom I will work almost unattainable high.
I carry forward many happy memories of Saint Mark's, not the least of which is the baptism of our twins last spring. I will always cherish the blessings God has bestowed upon me through you. Please keep Heather, Liam, Lucian, Hannah, Holly, and I in your prayers as you will most assuredly remain in ours. Each and every week since I arrived here, I have thanked God for the gift of Saint Mark's...for the gift of you. Thank you, Lord, and thank you all.

in Christ's peace, Fr. Andrew O'Connor

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