By David Miron, Clergy & Congregation Care Coordinator
One Thanksgiving Day morning in 2014 my wife, an ordained deacon at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, received a phone call from the rector’s wife.
“I need you to come in to the ICU with me. Please come.”
Three days before, the rector had been hit by a car while riding his bicycle, and that Thanksgiving morning things did not look good. He breathed his last breath less than two weeks later.
The following two years were difficult for the congregation. Initially, the much loved associate rector was permitted to continue on with them; however, this rector then had to leave after eight months due to a prior contract with the diocese.
After four months of supply preachers, an interim rector was appointed. But the relationship was difficult, and the congregation struggled over the next year. Then, finally, a priest with a young family accepted the bishop’s recommendation and vestry’s welcome to serve as priest in charge.
How did this congregation stay resilient in this difficult season?
While there were many changes in these two years, there was one deacon who remained consistent throughout. This deacon’s presence and ministry held things together, and helped the congregation maintain a sense of hope.
A Willingness to Ask for Help
Soon after the rector’s death, congregational leaders invited Samaritan’s Clergy and Congregation Care to facilitate a meeting with those who wanted to share about what they’d been going through. And later on when preparing to call their next rector, Samaritan was again utilized to provide an assessment that assisted in the development of a congregational profile.
Prayer and Determination
Congregants dedicated themselves to prayer, both for the faith community as a whole and for one another. Through it all, they remained determined to persevere in this season.
Supporting Each Other
Members called one another and stayed in touch over these tough years. When needs arose, they were made known, and others responded to meet them. People also pitched in to do what was necessary to run services and continued their financial contributions.
Space to Respond Uniquely
Within months after the rector’s death, some congregants were ready to move on and talk about what was next. However, others were not. For some, it was difficult to think of what was next even after a year had passed. And those differences were accepted by the community.
Taking things lightly
There was a sense of freedom to be who they were. The experience with the interim rector could have created disharmony. Instead, congregants were able to take things lightly and developed an even stronger sense of community.
Openness to God’s grace
In the midst of everything, the congregants stayed open to the movement of the Spirit among them. They trusted that God would lead them forward, even though the current circumstances were difficult.
Through It All
It was the people, and more to the point, the relationships that had developed among the congregants that allowed them to bounce back from this season.
Because, as this congregation showed, when we commit to a community, when we are willing to live with uncertainty, when we choose to draw upon each other’s strength, and when we acknowledge God’s presence with us, we can and will become a resilient people.