A message from The Rev. Dan Kline
Dear People of St. Paul’s,
We have made it. After years of praying, discerning, and waiting, through building construction, staff changes, and a global pandemic, we have arrived at this moment, this last Sunday before our new rector begins. We are at our Promised Land. When the Israelites made it to the border of the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for forty years, they appointed a new leader to walk with them over the river Jordan. They needed a new kind of leader, a leader who could help them become a settled nation rather than a nomadic tribe trying to figure out how to survive in the desert. Moses did not cross over with the people, but Joshua, the new leader, did.
When I answered this call at St. Paul’s two years ago, it was a chance for me to learn about and practice interim ministry, a ministry of what it means to live in that place between the Exodus and the Promised Land, between the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. As the interim ministry period began to draw to a close over the past few months, an opportunity presented itself that I was not expecting. With the blessing of the bishop, my wife and I have accepted a new call to be co-rectors of the Church of St. Paul in the Desert in Palm Springs, California. My final Sunday will be August 29th.
This news is bittersweet. Jessie and I have been praying about working together for a long time and were not sure when, if ever, that opportunity would arise. I am so excited to be able to work with my partner because she is gifted in so many ways. At the same time, this means leaving you all. We have been through a lot together. First off, you are the parish where I was ordained to the priesthood. I will always have your name on my ordination certificate wherever I live for the rest of my life. But I know your name will also be on my heart in the same way too. We have been through the perfect storm of COVID-19, an interim period, and a capital campaign together. Going through such adversity creates deep bonds.
As St. Paul, our patron saint, says: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God” (2 Corinthians 3:2-4). And I am confident that the work that Albert+ and myself did to prepare you as a letter of Christ to Chestnut Hill, to Fr. Eric and his family, and to the world speaks for itself and of our ministry among you. I am confident that what we have labored together over these past few years is enough to prepare you for the exciting future that awaits you all, as you go from one degree of glory to the next. As John the Baptist said, “I’m not the bridegroom. I’m the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, who rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
I don’t know if you know this, but my first priest that I worked under in The Episcopal Church, when I was discerning a call to the priesthood, died suddenly of a heart attack – out of the blue. He was in his fifties. “Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us.” A few weeks before his death, he was preaching about what it means to let go of a loved one who has died. This can be one of the hardest things we face as human beings. He said, “You know, it’s paradoxical. In my experience the tighter people hold on to the departed, the further away they feel from them. But something amazing happens. As soon as you let them go, you find that they come back to you in a way you could have never expected – in the mysterious communion of the saints.” As a priest, I have shared with you the mysteries of God, the holy bread and wine, at this Table. I will not be here to celebrate with you anymore, but I will still be with you. And even more importantly, the Person I represent will be with you. Christ is with you always, even to the end of the world. Any time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are together, even when we are apart. In the Christian Church, there are no permanent goodbyes. Only temporary separation.
The last thing I want to say to you is this. Your new priest is many wonderful things, but perhaps the most important of them is that he is a good person. I would not feel comfortable leaving if I did not think you were in good hands. In my interactions with him, I have been thoroughly impressed by his character and pastoral sensitivity. I don’t think you could have made a better selection. I suspect Fr. Eric was looking forward very much for an opportunity to work with me and I think it would have been a joy to work with him. But we are being called into something new.
This means that you need to look to Fr. Eric as your priest, not me. We have the next few weeks together, but after that you need to reach out to him in crisis or when you feel like things are not going as well as you hoped (we all have those moments and every good start has at least one bump). Should you reach out to me, I will redirect you back to him, so I want you to save your time. I know you don’t have much time to spare. If you run into me on the street or at the airport or even in a church somewhere sometime in the future, we will have many stories to share about what has happened in our lives since then. So save the stories for that chance encounter. Again, there are no chance encounters in the Christian faith.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Daniel Kline
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill