Final Address by The Rev. Canon Douglas Graydon June 30, 2019
As any good cleric knows, seminary or college never prepares one sufficiently for the task of being a parish priest; sometimes I feel it really is no preparation at all. The expectations placed upon clergy these days seem overwhelming. We are many times expected to be everything to everybody
In truth however, I think clergy are called to be:
our custodian of our sacramental history. We are the host, as it were, of our shared eucharistic meal.
We are chosen to be your guide and advocate, not only to the wider church and community, but also to advocate for and guide you as a community of faith into a deeper, more relevant and contextual witness to our Diocese.
We are charged with that almost impossible task – as all clerics are – of discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying to you as a collective whole and where that spirit may be leading Saint Andrew’s.
Finally we are charged with the task of praying for you, of grieving with you, laughing and celebrating with you; of living with you and being part of this community so that in a way we can discern and then challenge you to be more of what you believe you can be.
But there are limits. A fundamental truth all good clerics learn is that, not surprisingly, we who wear the clerical collar can discern, suggest, facilitate, pray for, advocate and lead worship for a community of believers but we cannot make happen what a congregation believes cannot happen.
To use, and twist an old and time tested maxim, we the clergy of this Diocese can lead a congregational horse to the water but we cannot make it drink.
We can only make real a witness of faith when the spirit of the Divine empowers all of us to make such a witness real.
Today is the hard part of living a vocation as a priest. The leave taking from communities which we have grown to love.
I have struggled to put down words which you might find profound, wise, forward looking or at least faithful. But as you know I am rarely any of those things.
Instead maybe I can share simply with you what I am thankful for:
As you know I arrived, almost two years ago, in the midst of a flooded island at a time of stress, anxiety and for many, an unwelcome change. I stressed that my role / ministry would be one of maintaining the status quo until the new Incumbent would arrive and that my learning curve would be almost vertical and that I needed to lean upon you to show me who St. Andrew’s is.
You have done a brilliant job
I learned you are a fiercely independent lot, born of this Island’s history; no one is going to tell you which way St. Andrew’s should go. (David, this insight is important for you to hear.)
You are, for me anyway, a creative lot
Musically: not only every Sunday but with concerts and other musical events
Liturgically: in that you are up to trying just about anything, as the Quaker service next month proves
Artistically: I revelled in the church’s stained glass and other works of art, let alone those who make Wassail, Pancake suppers, Easter and Christmas services happen
and your ministry of service and presence to the larger Island community as witnessed when
funds managed through St. Andrew’s are granted to Islanders in need
strangers gathered in the church to marry
Islanders came together to bury those whom they knew and loved
I learned to relax; rarely does anything start on time. (This is important to know, David.)
I learned to be flexible during worship or other parish events
to trust all would be revealed:
what was going to happen
when it was going to happen
and who was going to do what
(David, are you listening?)
To know, despite my mental block, that there were always eager hands going up to volunteer to read lessons, lead in prayer, learn about the ministry of anointing and generally make worship a collective event - as it should be
To be O.K. with you folk getting up throughout the service to refresh coffee mugs and tea cups. Imagine my shock when the choir would disappear for refreshments during the peace exchange!
I experienced St. Andrew’s as a welcoming community of faith
especially during the summer when strangers wandered in as they walked by, and are welcomed with a veritable chorus of please stay for coffee, cookies or tea
when without question, you the congregation willingly and lovingly made available St. Andrew’s for just about anything; including that which made money, of course.
when each Sunday morning in rain or shine or snow or sleet, a van was waiting to take me safely to church. And the wonderful laughter-filled conversations which took place within that van – of which I am sworn to silence
and the welcoming company of those who greeted me as we rode across on the ferry, both ways, and the city folk you know and the wonderful conversations. A witness of welcome to say the least.
And I learned that St. Andrew’s was and is valued by the Toronto Island community. I learned this when:
arriving at the church for an important Island celebration of life, I witnessed what seemed the entire Parks staff cleaning up the surrounding parkland to make the church presentable. A sign of respect
when an Islander greeted me, at the ferry docks, to share with me how she had cashed in her mother’s jewelry so as to contribute to the church’s fund for a new van; a witness of appreciation as to what the church means to many on this Island.
And, this is an inside story for those listening who are our guests here today, when, to me, a total stranger arrived on a green bicycle and insisted that he clean the goose poop off the church dock before a bridal couple arrived; a witness to an Island community who pitches in to help – always.
I could go on, but suffice to say, I arrived as a much loved cleric was forced to depart and a somewhat wounded cleric arrived after his and my ministry were abruptly coming to an end.
I was glad to come and you all were genuinely glad to welcome me. In many ways this has been a healing place for me and I experienced the Holy Spirit – alive and well – here many times.
I am convinced, however, that you all are a crazy lot in the most wonderful way one can use such a phrase. And I am deeply grateful for that. If there was a way for this cleric to end a ministry and to retire well, it is to come to and experience this place.
I wish you well. I wish David well. I wish you all God’s blessings.