I’ve heard it said on a number of occasions that the best prayer is always “Thank You!” And, I have to say that in my experience, those two simple words whether in prayer or in my everyday relationships, have left me more open, more receptive, and have created more space for God’s love to continue to flow in and through my life.
Last Sunday my wife Erin and I were left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude coupled with a sadness that comes when anything good comes to an end. At the Good-bye Celebration that you all threw in our honor, I was prepared to say so many different things, to add my two cents to the many and wonderful words that had been spoken and heard. And, when I stepped in front of the mic, all that remained in my head was “thank you”. The generosity of that moment, the words, the gifts, the smiles, and applause – it was like a distilation of all that Erin and Jude and I have come to know and love about you all – gracious, generous, bold, and possessed by the Spirit of God. All thoughts flew from my head then, and I was left with just the two best.
I stand by that word of thanks, but, if I had kept my wits, I would have added something like this:
First and foremost, thanks be to God for Erin. Were it not for her loving support, wise counsel, and excellent sermon critique, I would not have survived these first two years of ordained ministry – let alone the first two weeks. For all the ways you sacrificed so that our family could take on this ministry – thank you!
Thank you to the youth of St. Alban’s Parish, the Senior Youth, J2Aers, and Rite 13ers – your complete lack of guile (most days) and open spirits challenged me to be as authentic as I could be. Your questions drove me to new and deeper insights, and your own insights inspired my faith. I cannot count the number of ways that you have taught me about compassion and hope and love and about the very heart of God.
Thank you to the young adults for your vulnerability during the many and varied changes of life. Thank you for sharing your lives with Erin and with me, and for allowing us to share ours with you. For your passion for pursuing the good, for your faithfulness to the Body of Christ, and for your willingness just to be here, when most days our generation is absent from this and many other houses of faith, I am given new hope for the future of God’s mission. For the community we built together, for the bread we broke, and the laughter – thank you.
For the Hospitality and Communications teams, the Green Team, and for all the various ministries whose life and work intersected with my own, thank you for allowing me to come along side you in the inspiring work we were given to share on Mt. Alban. Your care and concern about things mundane as well as grand in the ministry of Christ’s church, were an inspiration. The excellence with which you all pursue the mission of God is an example to me of how faithful ministry ought to always be pursued.
To the staff of the parish, a word of special thanks – your collegiality, friendship, and your love for the people and place that are St. Alban’s were a true joy to share. I have never laughed so hard with, or cared so deeply for, a group of colleagues in my life.
And, to each and every one of you who invited me into your life in sadness or celebration, who offered a word of wisdom, or shared a moment of prayer – for all the ways that you entrusted me with this beautiful ministry in this beautiful place, thank you.
Thank you thank you thank you – Thanks be to God for all of you!
Your words of thanks are are great gift to our parish, and speak volumes about you. A wise person once said, “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (OK, it was Cicero.)
We thank YOU.
God’s peace to you and your family – Anne-Louise Oliphant