Change can be hard and we’ve had a lot of it this year. After officiating in July at the marriage of our niece Sarah to Jay, John announced that he was retiring and that was the last priestly event he would do for the family. The past 2 summers there have been funerals for one brother-in-law and one sister-in-law. Those life events are very important and serious and they demand a lot of time and effort for everyone involved. John was ordained to the priesthood 30 years ago and we are both 75 years old. It was time for a change—for real retirement.
That retirement from ministry meant he would not be preaching and celebrating several times a month at the Church of the Epiphany in Tempe, the Episcopal church we have been worshiping in for 5 years during our winters in Arizona. That was a real change. On top of that, the rector there (who happened to have attended the same seminary as John at the same time) retired. The worship experience was different as a result. Being a part of that church community and worship had been a central part of our life here each winter.
These changes were difficult to adjust to. We decided to see if we could find a church where we could truly worship God in the Phoenix valley without driving 25 miles one way to the services. That drive had meant John drove 400 miles during Holy Week last spring, serving at every worship service during that special week. We wanted to find something closer.
After visiting 3 nearby churches, I wondered if we would find any place where we really felt we could worship. I had to keep reassuring myself God would not abandon us. There would be a church closer to where we live, where we would feel comfortable and reach out to God in this part of the valley.
In 1984 the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America entered into open communion, agreeing they could share clergy and members could worship and receive communion in either church, no matter which one they were a member of. We think we have found a church home in an ELCA church and are working through this change with hope.