28 October 2007

Of the Lord's Mercy

Tomorrow is another personal anniversary. It will mark one year to the day when I publicly announced my resignation as the Fifth Pastor of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit.

During the month between my resignation and its public announcement, I continued many of the usual pastoral duties. These were done at the request and with the permission of both the English District President and the officers of Zion Church. I was most uncomfortable carrying out their wishes, but carry them out I did.

During that time, I also had several conversations with the District President during which, at his request, I told him the outline and basic points I would make in my Statement of Resignation. Three times during that interval the District President pointedly, yet gently and kindly, asked me if I was sure about my decision. On these occasions he also offered both a defense of Lutheranism and that it was not too late to change my mind. The third time he did so was immediately before the service on 29 October, during which he announced that I would resign. I shall always be grateful to the Rev. David Stechholz for his loving determination and his concern for my family's and my well-being.

I am also grateful to Rev. Stechholz for sitting by my side during my Statement of Resignation. As one might guess, it was emotionally difficult to read a statement severing ties with the parish I had loved and served for 11 years. In fact, at some points I could not continue. Yet showing his continued compassion, Rev. Stechholz read aloud what I could not read. Afterwards, as was proper, he offered corrections about where he and Lutheranism disagreed with my reasons for leaving Lutheranism. But, as ever, these were loving rebukes made, as he often said, "from one brother to another."

At this point last year, I was completely at a loss to explain how my family and I would fare financially or otherwise one year later. Both when I resigned on 29 September and when I publicly announced that resignation on 29 October, I had no prospects for full-time employment, and I had resigned myself to the fact that I might never again serve in a pastoral or priestly capacity. And while I had a desire for being Orthodox in the Western tradition, there were no realistic prospects for fulfilling such a desire.

Now, one year later, more has happened than I ever imagined or desired. Thanks to the kindness of the local Catholic priest and parish, I have full-time employment. Due to the kindness of many, my family never suffered loss of health coverage and we were able to survive the financially thin months. By the grace and kindness of the Lord, last December my family and I were received (with several others) into the Orthodox Church at St George in Troy. In January, the Metropolitan graciously blessed the decision of the Holy Synod concerning the application for ordination which Bishop MARK urged me to make and, at the same time, Metropolitan PHILIP blessed constitution for the re-establishment of a Western Rite parish in Detroit. On 10 February I was ordained a Deacon, on 11 February I was ordained a Priest, and on 18 February the inaugural Mass at Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church was celebrated.

Looking back, one may say that the Lord mercifully confirmed my decision with His blessing; or one may say that the Lord mercifully cares for His own despite their fool-hardiness. I, of course, will argue for the former, but I'm sure many Lutherans will tend toward the latter. In either case, this past year is due to nothing of mine and everything of the Lord's mercy.

5 comments:

Fr David said...

Thanks, Fr. John, for your faithfulness. You are blessed indeed.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Glory to God and many years to you!

I am glad that both now and a month ago, you were able to clear up a few of these questions some people have had.

Anastasia

-C said...

I remember this day very well, Father - Reformation Sunday, 2006.

At that time, I had already made up my mind that as soon as I could, I would become an Orthodox Christian (though my chrismation date had yet to be set). I had been a lurker on your blog for several months before that, though, thinking that if I could find a Lutheran Church like yours, I might be able to continue to be a Lutheran.

I was not surprised to read your post that day after church, but I was at first sort of sad - "Not him, too" I thought. I wasn't sad for you, though, I was happy for you for I knew you'd found your home. But I was sad for the Lutherans. Didn't figure they could afford to lose you.

And they couldn't.

An important anniversary indeed, Fr., and one which I remember well.

And now we are both where we belong.

Glory to God for all things, indeed!

Fr John W Fenton said...

-c

Thanks for the kind words.

For the record, it was not "Reformation Sunday" at Zion on the day I publicly announced my resignation. At that time Zion celebrated Mass daily, so the Reformation would have been celebrated on 31 October.

-C said...

"...so the Reformation would have been celebrated on 31 October."

Of course it would have.

But my (former) church celebrated Reformation on the last Sunday of October. That's the day I saw the post.

:-)