Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh


Sermon
On the Institution of Father Jeffrey Monroe
St. Margaret of Scotland Anglican Church
Conway, New Hampshire
November 14, 2010

 

Let us pray: Almighty God, giver of all good things, who by thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church; Mercifully behold this thy servant now called to be Rector of this particular place; so replenish him with the truth of thy Doctrine, and adorn him with innocency of life, that, both by word and good example, he may faithfully serve Thee in his Ministry, to the glory of thy Name, and the edification of thy Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we gather here today in this holy place to institute a new rector. Jeffrey Wayne Monroe is instituted the fifth rector of St. Margaret of Scotland Anglican Church. Five rectors is a lot of rectors, particularly for a parish of the Continuing Church. Parishes that have been around for centuries may count dozens of parish priests that have served their congregations. Perhaps they have worshipped in more than one building.

St. Margaret's is indeed unique. It has owned one building. Many of the founders of the parish are here today. Some of you remember each priest who has served this parish. Some of you have been very much a part of the journey this parish has taken. From the early days when Father Chamberlain came to this place and began to build a church, you have watched it grow and change.

This parish, now thirty some years old, has had a rich history. It has served as the first cathedral church of the diocese. It has been the setting for ordinations, diocesan synods, episcopal visits, weddings, funerals, baptisms and confirmations. It has been the setting for many church suppers, holiday fairs and unique events peculiar to this parish. This building is now old enough to have seen it all. But, above all, it has been prayed in. It is the true test of a faithful parish church. This place passes that test; it resonates with the word of God prayed faithfully over time.

I must add that, whenever I visit St. Margaret's, I spend time in the lovely chapel that often serves as our vesting room. And I never fail to be moved by the sense of duty and dedication that created that wonderful place of prayer. It was one of the first chapels in our diocese and it should be a place that we honor for the faithful priest and people who built, with God's great favor, a wonderful church out of the stubborn New Hampshire environment we all know so well.

St. Margaret's Anglican Church is a very special place. But the journey has not always been smooth or easy. There have been bumps in the road, difficulties on the path and real concern about whether this place could survive to live and preach the gospel. There are times that we all may have wondered. Nearly two years ago, events took place that threatened to tear this church apart. I had just been installed bishop of the diocese. Suddenly, I was faced with a huge problem in Conway, New Hampshire. My prayer life became very fervent. Perhaps I should thank you all for that. But I prayed for an answer. Help me, God, help me to find a way that this place will not die. Please God, let St. Margaret's live. Help me to find a way. Help me to breathe life into this wonderful place. At such times one feels very inadequate to the task.

Today is the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity. In the gospel for today, we hear of a certain ruler. He came to Jesus and worshipped him, saying: ”my daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.” Lay thy hand upon her and she shall live. We might imagine that this ruler felt absolutely inadequate. His daughter had died. Please God, he said to Jesus, only your healing touch can save her now. Only your healing touch. And so, Jesus went to the ruler's house. Preparations were made for a funeral. The musicians were warming up. People were making noise, mourning loudly for the poor young woman and her family. There were many of them there. And it was hard for Jesus to walk through the crowd. He told them to make way because he needed to see the child. “She is only sleeping,” he said. But they laughed him to scorn. You see, they knew death. They knew what death was all about and they could tell when one was dead. But Jesus knew something else. He went in to the child, took her by the hand and she arose. He took her by the hand and she lived. Truly, she had been sleeping. God showed everybody that it was true.

St. Margaret's church had been sleeping, too. But Jesus has offered His hand. He has stretched forth his hand in love to this place and has said, “arise.” It is when Jesus is placed at the center of our lives that we truly live. Whether we are individual Christians or whether we are parish churches. It is the Good News of the gospel that restores life to all.

 

A year ago, on the first Sunday in Advent, Father Jeffrey Monroe was sent to this parish as its Interim Vicar. He was given a very simple mandate. I seem to remember that it went something like this: you have got a year; you are to preach the gospel; and you are to love the people at St. Margaret's. I recall that he paused for a long time. Then he asked: “is that all?” And I said something like: “have you seen those people?”

But Father Monroe has indeed done what I asked – and a good deal more besides. He has preached the gospel with a fervor and an intensity that does indeed bring the Word present. And he has loved this congregation with a devotion that is truly inspiring. He brings many gifts to this task. He is a solid administrator, a skillful pastor and a dedicated priest. He is also a sea captain and is capable of navigating through a hurricane when necessary. He is, in other words, the ideal rector for this place. And when he was midway through his term as Interim, the Senior Warden of St. Margaret's contacted me and asked: “is there any way that he could stay? We need him; he is right for this parish.” “Well, Peter,” I said, “the rule for an Interim is very clear; one year only.” “But,” he asked, “can't we find a way?” “Yes,” I told him, “there is a way. If we are very certain that it is a clear call from God that Father Monroe become rector of St. Margaret's, we will have no choice. But we must be sure.” Well, we are very sure of that. God has called Father Monroe to this place.

My brother, you have now been installed as rector of this parish. You have received the keys to the building, you have been presented the Bible, the prayer book and the canons that govern our church. You have received all the temporal and symbolic forms that will bind you to this ministry. Now I will ask you one last time, my brother, is it your will that you serve this congregation? Have you seen these people?

Bless you in your ministry here, my dear brother in Christ. Preach the gospel. And love these people with the love that God has given to them. Is that all that I ask? Yes, it is. Because it is what Christ gives to us.

Oh, yes, there is one other tiny thing. Take this parish by the hand, Father. Just as Jesus did to a little Judean girl so long ago, take St. Margaret's by the hand, tell her to arise from her sleep. And tell her to live. To live fully and completely in the wonderful faith of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.