It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to be Rector of St. Stephen’s Oxford. To be a part of the rich history and tradition going back to 1823 is very special. And, I thank God for all that we have accomplished together in ministry. Yes, the past eleven years have been filled with joys, sorrows, ups and downs, frustrations, thanksgivings, and many blessings! I look back on them now and thank the Lord for walking with you and me – we have done this together.
In reality, when I ponder the better part of the past decade, I see family, friends, and relationships that have shaped and formed you and me – even with some folks who are not so sad to see me go. This is a real testament to this faith community because it is truly not about the buildings, history, family connections, gifts we share, etc. The secret beauty of this place is you, the people, and your love for one another and the purpose of St. Stephen’s in the first place.
I get emotional every time I think about leaving. This has become home; my children have grown-up here. But at the same time, I so strongly believe in the power and freedom of self-awareness – where God allows us to see things; taking a hard look at the surroundings outside one’s self, and perhaps attaining a big-picture view for our own personal assessment. In this case, I am confident my leaving will allow the Lord to create anew in this church and in me. I thank you and God for allowing me to see this.
I want to thank those parishioners who have actively engaged the worship and community aspects of who we are called to be. Without your regular presence in church and the gifts of your time and talent, there would be no reason to gather on Sunday mornings or to do what we do in the name of Jesus.
Too often, we hear the old cliché, “What we need here in this church is more young people and young families”. I heard it said recently, and I agree; it would be great to see. But the reality is, every church is struggling to get the younger generations to come – and no one can force another to do something that is not a priority in their life. Yes, efforts have been and should continue to be made. But, I will say this… I am thankful and so proud to have been a part of a church where we have regularly acquired new members, no matter their age or demographics – they come because we are a welcoming community and we have fun together. Where St. Stephen’s needs to begin, is in the return of current members – this is my hope and prayer. To this end, I share the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to Philemon.
“When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love.” I love you all!