I spent two days last week in the company of most of the active clergy of the Diocese of Edmonton. After several weeks of doing not very much (and frankly mostly enjoying it!) I got around to sitting down with the Bishop to discuss what the future might bring. Some thoughts came out of that meeting, about which more later as they become more concrete. The Diocesan clergy were meeting a few days later for two days with the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu. Having received assurances that I would be welcome at the Clergy Days, I put on a clerical shirt for the first time since June 23, and toddled along.
It was an interesting experience. I was welcomed warmly by quite a few old friends, but also regarded with some curiosity by the large number of new-to-me clergy, more than half the gathering. A diocese can change dramatically in 11 years! I enjoyed the presentations and discussion, the chance to worship with colleagues, and especially the opportunity to get a sense of what had been happening “on the ground” in my home diocese while I was serving in Brandon.
The thing I didn’t expect, which has taken me a week or so to unpack, was my emotional response to watching diocesan business being conducted all around me, and realizing that I was no longer a part of this, either here or back in Manitoba. For more than a quarter-century, I was deeply involved in the business of the church. There is much about that business I don’t miss at all, but even if some of it was negative, it was still very much a part of me and my life.
That’s gone. It’s over. Something new is taking shape, but at the moment there is for me the hard fact that the things that got me out of the house at 8 AM for all those years are done with.
That’s a loss, and any loss, positive or negative, can be the occasion for grief. And rather to my surprise, I believe that’s what I experienced last week at the clergy day. Facebook posts and e-mails from friends at St. Matthew’s have evoked similar feelings.
I didn’t expect to feel this way, but perhaps Joni Mitchell’s words from 1970 say it as well as it can be said:
Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.