The Power of Pentecost

A Word from Our Interim Rector: Rev. Gerald "Jay" Collins

I am sharing with you an article entitled “Good Transitions.” It is from the Episcopal Church’s Vestry Papers. I believe the contents of the article will be useful as we begin to move forward on a journey that leads to the call of your next rector.  

I hope we will use the article as a platform from which we begin to understand the value of and need for interim ministry.  The ministry is not a placeholder until a new person accepts a call to TCO from the Vestry.  It is, however, a necessary component of ministry designed to lead a faith community toward a successful change in pastoral leadership and lay participation.  Enjoy the read and let’s prepare to move forward in faith.

Good Transitions

Israeli anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari proposes that our success as a species arose from our ability to create and respond to change. Neanderthals didn’t adapt very well, and they were left behind as the world changed.

Change is often threatening. The church appoints committees and commissions to propose new liturgies. Many of us have seen a new Prayer Book, a new Hymnal and new Bible translations in our lifetimes, yet we often cling anxiously to the old familiar hymns and words. A deacon friend of mine cautions that the seven last words of the church are, “We have always done it that way.”

Transitions can be fraught with anxiety and the fear of losing what we love and expect, of what makes us comfortable and lifts our souls to God. But, a system that cannot or will not embrace change, like the Neanderthals, is dead or dying. A system that sees possibility and opportunity in times of change is open to new life and new hope.

I think especially of the transitions that occur when parish clergy leave. Both the congregation losing its priest and the priest who is moving on are often fearful of letting go. I have seen this in the parishes where I have served as the interim rector, and I offer the following suggestions for the times when clergy leadership changes.

5 Ways Congregations in Transition Can Prepare for the Future

1. Trust that God is on the journey with you and that God has something new in store for you.

Don’t forget to say your prayers and to listen to God and to each other. Continuing to pray purposely and intentionally during an interim period embodies the conviction that you are living out God’s word and that you are a part of God’s mission.

2. Be adventurous.

Try something new and remember that it is only a trial. Have a plan to assess the outcome and be swift to revert to form if the new effort fails. At one parish, as the prayer list grew longer and longer, no one was able to make the hard decision to stop reading through all the names at every service. The interim clergy leader tried variations to make the intercessions briefer and less tedious and also led discussions on intercessory prayer.

While one family left because their soldier son’s name was not read each week, the endeavor got people thinking and talking about the purpose of prayer. They began listening to the weekly intercessions rather than tuning out when the long list of names began.

3. Changes in the worship space are upsetting to folks who have always sat in the same pew.

Move the furniture very slowly, and only if it is necessary. Before you make a change, explain what you are doing and why. In one church, a new priest tossed out the stained and frayed cushion that held the altar book, only to learn that it had been made from the vestments of the beloved founding rector. While he was repentant, the damage was done.

4. Be a cheerleader and supporter.

Identify and praise the strengths of the parish.

5. You are not there to strengthen a foundation upon which something worthwhile will happen someday.

You are there to lead the congregation in mission now. The parish is living and growing. One of the most attractive things to priests seeking a new cure is a new project begun during the interim. Such an endeavor shows that the parish claims and supports its mission and is open to new opportunities.

Small projects can have large impacts. A parish that focused mostly on social justice outside its walls developed an art show to celebrate the talents of the congregation. The fellowship and appreciation that evolved strengthened the parish considerably. Transitions can be important times of joy and camaraderie, of remembrance and gratitude, and of spiritual growth. Have fun. God is with you.

May the God of our loving, liberating, Lord Jesus Christ shower and empower you with the Power of Pentecost. Pax Christi.


3rd Sunday After Pentecost

New Call for Father Robÿn Announced
During today’s services, Father Robÿn announced to the congregation that he’s accepted a new call to serve as rector of St. Mary’s in Tuxedo Park, New York.  The audio of his sermon and announcement are attached.
During a special meeting of the Vestry on Wednesday, June 21, Father Robÿn tendered his resignation and it was reluctantly accepted. Letters from Father Robÿn and Lorie Henry, Rector’s Warden, are being mailed to all parishioners:
Father Robÿn’s letter
Lorie Henry’s letter
His last Sunday will be on July 16 and the diocese is already working on identifying an interim pastor; until then, Father Graff has graciously agreed to take most of the services.
From Father Robÿn: “It’s been my joy and privilege to serve as 31st rector of Trinity Church Oxford for the last eight years. This church will always have a special place in my heart. Pete and I wish you abundant blessings in the future and ask for your prayers as we start a new chapter of our lives at St. Mary’s.”

Rector's Easter Message

Holy Week and Easter, 2017

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

For the last five weeks, we have been walking in the way of the cross with our Lord. Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the blind beggar, Mary and Martha: all followers of Jesus who for us have been guideposts and examples of discipleship throughout the season of Lent. Our Lord used each of these diverse people in order to reveal God’s glory to us all. In them we see the human struggle for understanding, and yearning for a deepening of faith and unity with God.

Through those stories of Lenten discipleship we are led, once again to Calvary, that wretched yet blessed place where through Jesus Christ, true discipleship and unity with God became a reality of all.

I hope that you will be able to join with your parish family for as much of the Holy Week experience as possible. Each liturgy tells its own story--from the shouts of Hosanna! On Palm Sunday, to the tenderness of the first Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, to the shouts of “Crucify him!” on Good Friday--we walk with Jesus and those who loved him to the agony of the cross and finally, to the glory of the empty tomb.

It is my prayer that you will be greatly blessed this Holy Week. I hope that you will encounter Jesus along the way, and that the joy of Easter morning and the resurrection of our Lord will be carried forth in your hearts both now and throughout the year.

Yours in the Crucified and Risen Christ,

The Rev’d Richard J. Robÿn

XXXI Rector

Spring Trinitarian Message

At first glance, the beginning of this year has been one of false-starts. Just look at our weather in the northeast--bounding from balmy to blizzard, neither people nor plants can tell which end is up. Perhaps you have had the challenge of seemingly false-starts in your personal or professional life, as well. We all have hopes and dreams for our lives. I know that I have heard myself saying, “If only I can get to ____, everything will be great!” “If only” sometimes comes to pass, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, we often realize that it wasn’t the panacea we had hoped for. When it doesn’t, the disappointment and haunting “what if’s” can be a real drain on the soul. When this happens, it is a sign that we are living too much unto our own wills, and not discerning that of God. Certainly, free will and the creative drive in all of us are gifts from God, but like all his other gifts, it is in returning them to Him that we find our true joy.

“God has a plan for you.” Truer and more frustrating words have rarely been spoken. We all want the best for the world, our church, our families, and ourselves. And though we have agency, or the ability to act and effect change, action without God’s direction is like a ship without a pilot.

Lent is the time of year when we pay special attention to our mortality, sinfulness, and need for God’s grace in our lives. Consider Jesus in the garden: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Even our Lord struggled with accepting God’s will and plan for him, but because he did, we not only have Lent, but also Easter. Let us use the remaining weeks of Lent and Holy Week to pray in the garden of Gethsemane that is in each of our hearts. Look back at the year that has passed and find those places where God’s will was done in your life. Look ahead as well and have faith. Engage with God through prayer, reading of holy scripture, and the partaking of the sacraments of His Church. Ask and work for the wisdom and grace to open your heart and mind to His will. And finally, remember the words of St. Paul, “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Eph. 3:20)