Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Fitchburg, MA (2)

My body and my voice (I sang with the choir) were at St. Boniface Church here on Siesta Key this a.m. My mind was elsewhere.

The Rector, Ted Copland preached a very brief sermon, but I haven’t a clue as to what he said.  My mind was elsewhere.

My mind was with the congregation at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Fitchburg, MA as they worshipped together for the final time in that time honoured building on Wachusett St. in West Fitchburg. Those good folks will be folded as of next Sunday into the larger Christ Church on Main St. in Fitchburg.

They have made a wise decision. Time and tide wait for no-one and it became clear that the small congregation could no longer sustain the expenses of a Priest’s stipend, plus the maintenance of an ageing building.

It will be very hard for many folks to say adieu to a building in which they were baptized, confirmed or married; a building in which they prayed the final prayers for their Moms and Dads, or Gramps and Grandmas who had died.

It will be very hard for many folks to say adieu to a building in which their own children were baptized and confirmed and married.

Have no doubt about it – buildings are treasure houses of memories, good or bad.  I wager that each of my 8 siblings can within a trice remember the smell and feel of the house in which we were raised.  I can!

And I can remember the smell and feel of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Wachusett Street.  It was that smell and feel which took over my mind and senses this morning. I wanted to be there to weep with the remnant who was saying good-bye to a building, and to a particular identity. They will not be the same people when they worship at Christ Church.  This will be sad for them.  It could and should also be a blessing.

Yesterday I wrote about three liturgies at Good Shepherd which are forever imprinted on my mind.

My good brother Martyn made a comment on yesterday’s blog. It was about the liturgy in December 2001 when, at Good Shepherd, I celebrated the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the priest-hood.  He was there, and I take his point well!

On a Sunday afternoon in 2001 we gathered at the Church of the Good Shepherd to give thanks for the grace of God which had sustained my ministry for 25 years.

By my choice we did not celebrate Communion – the “usual thing to do” for such anniversaries.

Instead we had a hymn sing.  We sang eight hymns. There were two of the favourites from each of the four congregations in which I had served.  I linked the hymns together with some “patter” about why they were important.  The little Church was filled, and these Massachusetts folks sang with enthusiasm and glee.

The congregation included people from Fitchburg, Pittsfield and Cambridge –  three of the four cities in which I had served.  Sadly there were no people from Chicopee, where I’d served from 1980-84.

December 2001 “feels” as if it were a very long time ago.  In truth it was less than nine years ago,

Be it nine, ninety, or nine hundred years ago – I bless all that is mysterious and holy (a.k.a. ”God” ) for the people of Good Shepherd who helped to hone my ministry.

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