Thursday, April 14, 2022

Holy Week Memory Lane: 25th Renewal of Clergy Vows

[Tuesday, April 12, 2022] Heading off this morning to St. John's Cathedral for the annual Tuesday-in-Holy-Week-Renewal-of-Clergy-Vows. I just did the math (something I usually avoid doing!) and realized this is the 25th time I've made this trek with the rest of my clergy siblings here in the Diocese of Los Angeles. And I'm remembering as if it was a few months ago -- not a quarter century (how on EARTH did that happen so fast???) ago -- my first Renewal of Vows. 

I was a transitional deacon whose ordination to the priesthood had been delayed by a Standing Committee which was not satisfied with the answers they got from my then-bishop +Fred Borsch and me about my coming out process. Having pulled their approval in December for the scheduled January ordination, when Holy Week rolled around, I was the last transitional deacon standing ... and to put it mildly, it was not the best of times.

I was therefore not inclined to go show up with the rest of my cohort and risk what I expected would be questions, sidelong glances and probably well meaning pity. But wiser heads prevailed and off I went -- remembering the words of Liz Habecker: "Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but you always suit up."

And so I suited up -- and when I came up the elevator into the lobby of Cathedral Center and the door opened to a crowd of my vested colleagues, I almost hit the "down" button to escape ... but there was Mitties DeChamplain of blessed memory who immediately grabbed my arm and said "Oh there you are! Won't you be my date this morning?" And she helped me vest and walked with me in the procession and told me "all will be well" ... and it was.

There was that memorable moment (to me) when it was time for the actual renewal of vows part where the bishop asks the clergy to rise -- first the deacons and then the presbyters -- and I realized when it came time for the deacons there would be just two of us. (We only had one vocational deacon in the diocese at that point, believe it or not!) But I got through that part and sat down ... and remember as if it was yesterday the pastoral support in the eyes of Fred Borsch who was a mensch if there every was one. And then I remember the great "whoosh" in the room as all the other clergy stood around me.

And I also remember the friendship, mentorship and support of all those who stood by in that "not the best of times" and with whom I've had the privilege of serving over these last 25 years ... especially giving thanks this morning (In addition to +Fred and Mitties) for Liz Habecker, Lynn Jay, Warren Nyback, +Chet Talton, Alan Richardson, Hartshorn Murphy, Mark Kowalewski, Kay Sylvester, Charles Sacquety, Joanna Satorius, Tony Jewiss & Barbara Mudge.

So here I go again. Down the 110 to Adams Blvd. to another Tuesday in Holy Week Renewal of Clergy Vows. And for all the challenges and changes and chances of this crazy vocation where we suit up in weird vestments and presume to offer ourselves to serve as icons of the priesthood of all believers I can't imagine having a greater privilege than being called to do this work in this place with these colleagues over these last 25 years.

And of all the lessons I've learned, the one I'm remembering this morning is the one I learned from Liz and we've all learned 100 times over during this time of pandemic and challenge: "Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but you always suit up."

And when the time comes for us all to stand and renew our vows before our bishop, I'll remember -- once again -- what it felt like to be the one left sitting ... and that until there are no strangers left sitting (or standing at the gate) la lucha continua.

 Onward and upward ... Holy Week Blessings, Church!

[photo credit: Janet Kawamoto, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles]