This weekend I am back at Ascension Memorial Church. Today I officiated at the funeral of a longtime resident of Ipswich. Although she was not a member of the parish, it was good that we could provide a place for her family and friends to grieve, to give thanks for her life, and to hear the Good News of God's love incarnate in the Christ Child. Tomorrow I will preside and preach at the parish's two celebrations of the Eucharist.
What I felt today and what I expect to feel tomorrow is, besides the joy of being with friends, is almost the feeling of being at home at Ascension. Almost, because I am not really a member of the parish, but a visitor. But almost, because, after spending four months there, the community has become a part of my life, as have the other congregations I have served. As a parishioner said to me some thirty years ago, priests and parishioners get inside one another's hearts. Sharing life together in a congregation changes us - if we let it. I'd like to think that there are a few people whom I have helped to follow Jesus more faithfully over the course of the past forty years. I know that there are many parishioners who have helped me to be a more faithful priest. And when I am given the privilege of going back to a parish, it is a bit like going home, for it is a return to one of those communities which, like my childhood home and family, helped me to become who I am. Even as the locum tenens - the place holder - the place, the people, have a place in my heart. Thanks be to God.