My spouse and I went back to Brandon this past weekend for the first time since I retired last June. It was a very quick trip, squeezed in between commitments here in Edmonton, but it was not a short trip. Our total road time was over 25 hours, somewhat inflated by poor weather in Saskatchewan on Monday morning.
The purpose of the trip was to attend a wedding. The bride had joined the choir as a choral scholar at St. Matthew’s Cathedral three years ago, becoming in time not just a paid singer but an active congregant. Her fiance came with her in the second year. It was a joy to be asked to celebrate their marriage with them and old friends.
On the Sunday morning, we decided that we had to go to church at St. Matthew’s. There is something of an unwritten rule that departed clergy should steer clear of the previous place for a while, but we really wanted to see some people. Besides, the parish is still between rectors, so I was hardly stepping on the toes of my successor.
I left a happy, healthy parish, and I found that not much had changed. A few people had left, but there were also a number of fresh faces in the pews, along with (hallelujah!) a substantial contingent of children. Most things were much the same, with a few things now done a bit differently, but the folks we talked to were still the same great people whom we had come to love over our 10½ years there.
A big difference for me was sitting in the congregation for a Sunday for the first time ever, realizing just how long a building it is, and how far away is the celebrant at the Eucharist. It might have helped my ministry there if I’d taken some time to sit in the pews — but that’s history now. That parish was home for a decade, and the people there still hold a big piece of my heart. Nonetheless, it is clear that we have moved, both physically and spiritually. Holy Trinity is becoming home, for which we are very glad.
Some people wanted to discuss parish issues with me, but I was quite able to say, “That’s not my problem.” That ended the discussion, but not the conversation. The relationship is different now — simply as friends, not as pastor and congregant. For at least one person, that seemed to be a relief! And indeed, it is a bit of a relief for me too, because I don’t have to be “on,” as clergy always have to be in public. Today I can go to coffee time after worship and see the stipendiary clergy having serious conversations with various people, and I can think, “That used to be me,” and then I can smile.
We went to our previous home, and then we came home again.