November 13, 2011 -- St. Margaret's - Anne-Marie Jeffery

posted Nov 13, 2011, 3:40 PM by ajeffery@stmargaretsdc.org   [ updated Nov 13, 2011, 3:44 PM by Terry Brady ]

Give it all away

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Singing to the tune ‘I’ve grown accustomed to her face’

I’ve grown accustomed to this place

And how you make my day begin

Your highs and your lows,

your ups and downs.

are second nature to me now,

like breathing out and breathing in.

Because I’m accustomed to this place.

 

That was a snippet of a song from one of my favorite musicals, My Fair Lady, with a little adaptation. It sums up well how at home I have felt in this place in a short time. I truly have become accustomed to this wonderful place called St. Margaret’s and I love you dearly. A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine after work at Maddy’s down the street from here, and after dinner, as we walked up the street and I looked up at St Margaret’s all lit up in the evening and said to my friend, “You know, this place has been good for me.”

 

I really meant that and it is very much due to the welcome you gave me right from the beginning. This is something I mentioned to your new rector, Kym.  I told her that you are a congregation that is good at welcoming and making many - including a “a priest-type” person feel at home very quickly. 

 

I came to you knowing that our time would be short and that I was to prepare you for your next rector.  I hope I have helped to prepare you for what is next and I know you have prepared me in so many wonderful ways for my next steps.  Often people ask me what being an interim is like. How do you serve a congregation for a short time and leave? It is a challenging proposition – enter a congregation, get to know them, love and care for them, help them figure out where they want to go next and then let them go.

Let them go. Do everything you can to make sure this congregation you have come to love and their new rector head off into a bright future.  Give it all away.

 

I learnt fairly early on when I became more involved in this ‘ministry with Christ’ experience that giving it all away is part of the package. In my twenties when I returned to church after some time away and got involved, I quickly fell in love with being an acolyte.  Somehow, in a matter of months I became acolyte master – they saw me coming. I loved being an acolyte.  There was something about leading worship that drew me in.  I remember one Sunday when I had not served in several weeks and I missed it terribly. One of our young people about 13 years old burst through the door about 10 min before the service began.  He thought he had been scheduled and was late.  

He wasn’t on the schedule and I had been looking forward to serving, but there was a moment when I realized that I needed to give it all away. This young man needed to be an acolyte that morning and so I got him robed and went to sit in the congregation – a little disappointed but with the feeling I had done the right thing.

 

It is easy to hold on to our ministries whether it is at church or elsewhere.  Whether we are ordained or lay, there is much that we do because of who we are as people of faith whether it is the atmosphere we create at work or our leadership of a committee - church or otherwise or helping feed the hungry. We find ways to do good and we work hard to make a ministry that we are passionate about happen. But at times we come to a place when we need to let go of our ministry. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have to hand over everything or let others take over all the time, but sometimes we are called to give it all away.

 

Margaret Queen of Scotland gave it all away. In fact she was a little crazy about it.

When she walked or rode out in public, crowds of poor people flocked to her.  When she had given out all she had brought with her for the needy, she would ask her attendants and the rich who accompanied her, to give their garments and anything else they had with them.  You had to be careful if you travelled with Margaret of Scotland. It was also her custom to bring three hundred poor people into the royal hall and to wait on them and serve them with food and drink. I find it so interesting that a similar program – Charlie’s Place, breakfast and services for the poor - exists at the church that claims her as their patron saint.

 

Not all of us are called to give in the way that St Margaret did, but we are called to give.  We give in different ways each and every day over our lives. We give when we reach out to other people and give a friendly smile. We give away our time whether it is to a charity or our children. When our children leave home we give them away to the world. We give our lives to our work and to our chosen ministries. We give when we are open to the changes that life demands of us in church, at home and at work. In our parish community, we give when we let the new person try his or her idea and we give when a fellow parishioner leaves –understanding that sometimes people need to leave our faith community because they feel called elsewhere.

 

There will be many opportunities for all of us to give it all away in these next few months. It will happen as I leave and we release one another from our relationship as interim rector and congregation, and as you all live into this next period of time. It will happen as you welcome your new rector and in the engagement and development of your mission as a faith community which may differ from where you have been before. I pray that we all will be open to the ways that we are being called to give our ministry away. 

 

As, our Old Testament reading for St. Margaret’s Day says, “Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.” Whether it is to our needy neighbors or our fellow parishioners, we are called to be willing to give it all away, that is to hold with an equally light hand our possessions and our ministries.  St. Margaret reminds us that we are to remember all that we have comes from God including, and perhaps most especially, our callings in ministry. 


My beloved friends keep me in your prayers. I will keep you in mine.  God has been with us in our journey this past year. God has prepared us all for the times where we have and will burst out into the world as the wonderful people of God who have been nurtured by the community of St. Margaret’s. Let us be the people who are open to give it all away so that the Spirit of God can come down and make God’s presence known in this world.

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