On losing your pastor

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He was not the priest we would have chosen had anyone asked, but now that he's leaving ...

I don’t like change, and a new man stood in front of us that Sunday. My first response as he introduced himself was that canon law used to forbid priests having mustaches. My wife and I had liked our pastor a great deal. We liked his more formal celebration of the Mass and his logical, clearly doctrinal preaching, and his feeling that he had something we had to hear whether we wanted to hear it or not.

Fellow - Guy - Fr - Mike

This new fellow, who was he? What was he? What would he change that we liked? This new guy wouldn’t be Fr. Mike, that we knew for sure.

We were right. Fr. Rich Jones wasn’t Fr. Mike. He preached from the aisle and his homilies tended to wander. He wasn’t nearly so interested in teaching as Fr. Mike had been. We sang fewer and fewer of the great old hymns from the St. Michael Hymnal and it eventually disappeared from the pews. We sang more songs that made me think dark thoughts about the ’70s. Though he wasn’t by any means irreverent, Fr. Rich wasn’t quite as formal as Fr. Mike when he celebrated the Mass.

Priest - Anyone - Way - Episcopalianism - Way

Not the priest we would have chosen had anyone asked. I suspect now we responded that way because he didn’t fit our vestigial Episcopalianism the way Fr. Mike had done. However we felt, we knew that St. Joseph’s was our church and he was our pastor, so that was that. We’d deal.

Ten years later, the announcement that he’d be leaving us in just a month caused me pain right in the center of my chest. My wife had been sick and when I told her later, she said the saddest “Oh” I have...
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