a good vintage

James Daniel Miller

James Daniel Miller’s Mustache, as worn by James Daniel Miller

As I walk to my office each morning through the hallway outside the chapel, I am greeted by the faces of the 10 rectors of St. Andrew’s who have preceded me. Mounted in a beautiful hardwood frame crafted by parishioner Henry Kendall, the photos remind me – from Fenner Stickney (1891-93) to Wendy Billingslea (2001-2009) – that St. Andrew’s has been around for a while.

If you are in our parish hall but haven’t had a chance to see these photos, I encourage you to do so. Take some extra time with James Miller (1893-1900 & 1912-1918) and his incredible mustache (same time period). You won’t be disappointed.

This rogue’s gallery of rectors gives the kind of perspective that we don’t see much in our world. I am humbled to be reminded that many have come before me, and eventually many will follow me. In a time when so much value is placed on newer and better, instant and immediate, I am heartened to have the chance to play a role in cultivating a garden that takes generations to bloom in full.

I love that our church is older than I am. I love that our church is older than anyone here, and I love that we are all, together, entrusted to care for it today and pass it on to those who come after us.

Aren’t we a bit, in our best moments, like a fine wine that’s been aged well? That doesn’t mean we are stuffy or out of touch. It just means that there is a depth of wisdom and perspective that finds its way into the walls and pews of a place like St. Andrew’s, and if we can learn to be receptive to it, even as we navigate and embrace changes in the world beyond our doors, then we can authentically be who God calls us to be.

One of the greatest pleasures of being a part of St. Andrew’s is the opportunity we have to celebrate our living history. On June 8th after the 10:30 service, we will gather in the parish hall to celebrate in fine St. Andrew’s “High Coffee” style the 100th birthday of Henry Kendall, a man whose grace and talent have been a source of joy for us all.

Yet I am also mindful of some of the deep losses we have experienced in recent weeks, of brothers and sisters in Christ who are themselves a profound part of the history of this place. Several folks we’ve lost in recent months, especially Ruth Ellen Nance (aka “Poochie”) and Bob Clark, knew a number of those rectors personally, and faithfully served Christ through St. Andrew’s for many years. They are deeply missed.

This is what the life of the baptized looks like. Sometimes it is baptisms, sometimes Youth Sundays, and sometimes it’s services of the Resurrection. On special occasions, it means bringing out the fine china to celebrate people who’ve sustained this place through their presence and their prayers.

We have much to celebrate, and many stories to share.


About bernardowens

I'm an Episcopal priest in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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