Muscatine Living

A year ago, in the midst of a pandemic, Trinity Episcopal Church in Muscatine called me to be their new rector, and my family and I moved from Clayton County and its eastern Mississippi border to Muscatine County, where the same river flows from east to west. It was a pandemic transition that was full of uncertainty, sweetened somewhat by being ordained as a priest in the oldest, historic Episcopal church in Iowa and baptizing my grandchild the next day.

I was called into ministry within the Episcopal Church later in life, which allowed me the life experiences of being a farmer, factory worker, manufacturing manager, and school board member as well as a spouse and parent. Being a middle-life pastor allows me to realize that the world is a complicated place, and usually I need to listen more than speak.

Beginning this journey meant learning about a new community that I had only visited a few times before and learning new skills. Livestream setups, recognizing people from their nose upwards because of their masks, and getting to know parishioners from their voices on the telephone were just a few of the adjustments.

Sometimes we are led to somewhere or into something new. Being in a new place and among new people can be unnerving for some, but it is also an opportunity for bravery as I worked with my leadership to try new things. Some worked, and others fell flat. Now, after my first year, I reflect and I see that the patterns of life are still solid.

Newness is part and parcel of being human. Our surroundings change with the seasons and what the church becomes now differs from where it was pre-pandemic. Babies have been born and loved ones have died. Relationships with others have also changed, strengthened or weakened by communication or the lack of it. All of these moments in our lives are new to us but they are also an opportunity to step boldly forward to value and care for our neighbors and our families.

Throughout this year, though, I have found a quietness that has come into our lives, and that leaves room for the Spirit of God to gently rest upon us, and provide us grace for the difficulties we have had. This can help strengthen us for the journey ahead. As we move through these next weeks and months, I pray that we can use the experience of this past year and a half to help us decide what changes we wish to keep as we move forward and what traditions we should leave behind because they no longer serve us or those whom we value.

May God bless you this week wherever you are in this journey of becoming, changing, and finding grace.

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