|St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church, Wollaston, MA.|
When you step through a doorway there is no telling where you will end up. Bilbo Baggins had it right,
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
I had absolutely no idea where going through that doorway would lead us, and I say “us” because the call is not just my own, but is shared over a forty-five year journey with my wife Diana. We have travelled this road together hand in hand.
If I had my druthers I would rather be living in a seashore cottage and walking along the rocky shore of a windswept beach. But where has the journey taken us? From Boston, to Nashville, to Steel Valley, PA, to Northern Kentucky, and finally, quite unpredictably to planting a church near Dallas, Texas. I still miss the sound of waves crashing on the beach, and the tang of salt laden air; but God has not called me to the places that might have been my first choice.
I am an Oblate of the Order of St. Benedict, and I have made an Oblation of my life in the context of a specific Benedictine community. The principles laid down by St. Benedict guide my life, and my understanding of Ordination as a Priest. Benedict says, “Let him who is to be received make before all, in the Oratory, a promise of STABILITY, CONVERSION OF LIFE, and OBEDIENCE, in the presence of God and of his saints.” That applies not only to making an Oblation of my life as a Benedictine, it also applies to my understanding of a call to ministry.
Every journey has its ups and downs, its false steps, and even stupid errors. That is just part of being human. Nevertheless I take seriously the call to Stability, Conversion of Life, and Obedience. That also accounts for why we are living here in the Dallas area in Texas. I take seriously the word of the prophet Jeremiah,
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” [Jeremiah 29:4-7].
I am a man under authority. Where He leads me, I will follow. Forty-five years ago I took the following questions and vows seriously, and I still do.
From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Bishop. DO you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?
Answer. I think it.
Bishop. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?
Answer. I am so persuaded, and have so determined, by God’s grace.
Bishop. Will you then give your faithful diligence always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the Commandments of God; so that you may teach the people committed to your Cure and Charge with all diligence to keep and observe the same?
Answer. I will so do, by the help of the Lord.
Bishop. Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your Cures, as need shall require, and occasion shall be given?
Answer. I will, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you be diligent in Prayers, and in reading the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh?
Answer. I will endeavour so to do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves, and your families, according to the Doctrine of Christ; and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ?
Answer. I will apply myself thereto, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you maintain and set forwards, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people, and especially among them that are or shall be committed to your charge?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you reverently obey your Bishop, and other chief Ministers, who, according to the Canons of the Church, may have the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
¶ Then, all standing, shall the Bishop say,
ALMIGHTY God, who hath given you this will to do all these things; Grant also unto you strength and power to perform the same, that he may accomplish his work which he hath begun in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.