Giving Thanks for the Fathers

When I step inside All Saints, I can breathe.

As Kirk and I have been drawn to All Saints church over the last five years, it has been, in large measure, because of the affinity we felt toward the rector of the church, Father Rob. He is a man who cares deeply about transformation, who thinks intently and reads widely, and who also has a particular gift for teaching.

It seemed every time we visited the church on a sporadic basis the last five years, Father Rob would mention a book or an author we had also come to love or would teach on a subject that was near and dear to our own hearts. Kirk and I would leave these services shaking our heads, amazed and grateful to have found such a kindred spiritual soul so close to home.  

It is also significant that Father Rob initiated the institution of the Celtic contemplative service that we began attending on Sunday nights in June. That is the service that led us, ultimately, to greater and greater involvement at the church to the point of deciding it is the place we are meant to stay.

It is not too much of a stretch, therefore, to say that our affection for this church all along has had a lot to do with our admiration and respect for Father Rob and his spiritual leadership of the church and of us.

Holy space.

But it wasn't until more recently than we began to connect with the other two men who also assist in leading this church, Father Stephen and Father Russell. 

Father Russell is in charge of the ministries having to do with pastoral care at the church, and when I recently signed up to indicate my interest in becoming a Stephen Minister at the church, Father Russell was the one to follow up with me.

Since I am new to the church, he invited me to meet with him in person for a chat so that he could get to know me and my interest in this particular ministry. 

I was really touched by the time Father Russell spent with me that day. We talked about Stephen Ministry, yes, and I shared with him my background and care for companioning with people. But we also talked about many other things. We talked about grief and what it is like to walk alongside someone experiencing a great loss. We talked about All Saints and the journey Kirk and I have been making more recently to explore the episcopal tradition. We talked about some of the ways the Anglican/Episcopal tradition differs from other traditions in the greater church body. 

And when I left my time with Father Russell that day, I noticed that I carried a smile on my face. I found myself wondering how long it had been since I'd spent an hour in the office of someone I consider to be one of my pastors, just dialoguing and asking questions and sharing insights and generally being given a chance to be known and get to know. It felt like such a privilege.

Peter and John.

Father Stephen, on the other hand, is teaching the 9-month catechumenate class Kirk and I take on Wednesday nights. He, too, like Father Rob, is a man of great learning. He absolutely loves to teach and seems to particularly enjoy the challenge of a really difficult question being posed to him. I don't know that there is any question you could ask Father Stephen about the history of the scriptures or the church that he hasn't already considered in some measure, and I have come to love knowing he is someone I can turn to with my questions. 

Just this past Wednesday night, in fact, I carried a list of four questions up to the front of the room when our catechumenate class ended and asked Father Stephen if he wouldn't mind taking some time to answer them for me. Two of them had to do with things he had mentioned during the class -- questions about the resurrection of Jesus versus the resuscitation of Lazarus, and about seeming contradictions between some of the gospel stories -- but the others were more general faith questions about the episcopal tradition. 

Father Stephen spent 45 minutes with me after class that night. And when, as I left, I thanked him for the generosity of his time, he said that I would be welcome to call, to stop by his office, or even to schedule time to meet for coffee if I had more questions I wanted to talk through with him some more. 

When I walked out to my car that night, a smile played upon my lips a second time. Here again, I had found myself utterly supported and encouraged by a person standing in a place of spiritual leadership in my life right now. I never expected to find this particular kind of gift through our journey into the greater life of All Saints Church, and yet suddenly there are three spiritual fathers in my life -- our life -- each one of them increasingly dear in their own special way.

I gave thanks on that night for these three new spiritual fathers in our life, and I continue to find myself giving thanks for them yet again each day.