Albert: Farewell and Godspeed

At the end of July 25th’s 11 a.m. service The Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle removed his chasuble that was then placed on the altar.

This was the symbolic ending of Albert’s 25 months as St. Paul’s interim rector. It also marked his retirement after 44 years of active ministry.

Canon Albert Ogle at the altar at the end of his last service as St. Paul’s’ interim rector.

At all three of Sunday’s services, he was thanked for his time with us. He was also given some remembrances of our time together. Each service was followed by an opportunity for Albert to visit with parishioners.

In reflecting on his time at St. Paul’s for an article in the Chestnut Hill Local he said, “The role of the interim is to try to help the parish come to terms with its history. Part of what you do then is to try to help the congregation begin to imagine what their ministry, their values, and their shared future is going to hold. That takes time.

“The priest’s job,” Albert continued, “is to speak truth to power. It’s the congregation’s job to fix what needs fixing. The interim [helps] the congregation to reflect where the spirit is calling it with its gifts, its resources, its potential and its problems.

 “A lot of what happened during the last two years was due to the hard work of the volunteers and the staff. It was a combination of being open to new, fresh ideas and not being threatened by that [but] allowing the institution to share its treasure in a different way.”

When asked what the new rector, the Rev. Eric Hungerford, will find when he arrives in Chestnut Hill in August, he said “Eric will find a very loving group of people who are very excited about this new chapter in the community’s life. Having a young parent [as the new rector] is going to bring in new membership.”

He also said, “I look up at the cross on the flèche. It’s the highest cross that overshadows and blesses the city of Philadelphia. We are the stewards of what that represents.”

Rector’s Warden Ruth Desiderio presents Albert with a framed etching of St. Paul’s. Albert’s husband, Mile Petrov, looks on.

At Sunday’s service he made it clear that he loved his time at St. Paul’s and will miss it a great deal.

He is thankful that the spirit brought him and his husband, Mile Petrov (they were married on Valentine’s Day eve 2016), to Chestnut Hill when Mile was starting a new job and St. Paul’s was looking for an interim rector.

So what’s next?

“Being retired,” he says, “I’m going to be able to spend more time with friends and family, something I have been unable to do for 40 years.” He also plans to travel more and to pursue the painting and writing that he has been undertaking since he was a youngster.

When he visits his brother in Ireland, he has a meeting with the National Museum in Dublin. It’s doing an archive of LGBTQ Irish folk. “I’m part of that so they’re going to record my story.”

The LGBT archive at the University of Southern California (USC) wants his materials because of the AIDS and gay and lesbian work he’s done.

Summing up Albert’s time at St. Paul’s Rector’s Warden Ruth Desiderio said, “of all his gifts and strengths, the greatest may be that he challenged what we thought, what we were doing. He shook us up.”

Mile Petrov and Albert Ogle after Albert’s last service at St. Paul’s.

On July 19, at his last Vestry meeting, Albert bid the Vestry, and the parish, farewell. “You guys have really prepared the ground,” he said. “This is an enormous blessing for Eric coming in to have all of this laid out.

“This is a really great way to end our time together. I feel I’ve been heard. I can honestly say this is the best Vestry I’ve ever worked with. You guys have been incredibly committed, I think the fruit of our work together [has resulted in our] having a successful search, having people smiling and happy.

“[The Rev.] Bud Holland has a wonderful phrase. It was about turning the ship so that the wind could catch the sail. I think that’s what we’ve done. I think we’ve positioned this wonderful vessel to catch the wind.”