Reflection by Mary Lou Edgar for August 13, 2023.
Right now, for the people at SsAM, transition is a powerful word. We waited to hear who our new rector would be, and now we know.
There are so many Biblical stories of waiting for messengers from God. So many of the messengers struggle. We need only look at Peter the Apostle. He is an ordinary man, and Jesus loves him. In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites Peter to walk on water with him. Peter starts and then stops. Jesus asks him if he did not believe who Jesus is. There are several Gospel stories where Peter is struggling to honestly answer this question. It is the same for me and maybe for some of you.
Since I have been at SsAM, we have had two rectors. Both had very different gifts; both were different people. But God sent them to us. Like Peter, we needed to learn and believe. It appears we start well, with enthusiasm. Then we begin to have questions, to doubt. How very human we are! That is when we must rely on the Spirit who will help us understand what God’s will is for us. I say that with great strength because I am at a transition in my life that does not involve SsAM.
This week, Dan, Moni, and I will visit my remaining family of origin in my hometown which is in the heart of Appalachia. I do not go back there often because my memories are complicated. However, this time I believe my trip will be different. I have had a great deal of support in the last three years. I feel as though God is telling me it is time to go. It is not a time to make peace with family members, that was done long ago. Rather it is a time to make peace with myself. I need to acknowledge my beginnings, to respect them and appreciate them as well as the people involved in them. It is time for me to accept who I am. You have no idea how important you all (y’all) have been in that process.
On December 24, 2019, our family came to SsAM for the first time. We came early because we were unfamiliar with the church. We were greeted warmly by Father David, the rector at that time. I can remember saying to Dan that I felt at home here. I didn’t want to ever leave, and we haven’t.
Then, when Father Jim came, he was so supportive of how I was feeling about Moni’s massive stroke. Now we are expecting a new rector. Although this is a joyous time, for me it is also a tenuous time. I am not a fan of change. The people of SsAM have been my anchor, my family. I can reach out at any time, and someone is there. I feel enormously blessed by that. I love to sit in the church and feel the quiet — it is one of the best times of my week. I am new to the Episcopal faith; however, no matter how much I questioned, I have always felt loved.
This week, I will return briefly to my roots and see the people of southwest Virginia/West Virginia as the kind, caring (although sometimes rough around the edges) people I know them to be. I learned different things there. They are strong, courageous people who were judgmental at times – the way I built my family totally confused them. Once I heard someone say, “we always knew she was crazy.” I used to judge them as well. I couldn’t wait to leave. Now I am going back just for a few days. I’m going to look at it all differently because of what I have learned here.
As Father Patrick Burke joins us, we will learn from him, and he will learn from us. The Spirit is wonderful that way. We will all be in transition and transition is not a quick process. It takes time and patience. But what you have shown me is that we have lots of both.
P.S. — A special thank you to the Rector Search Committee members who worked so hard and prayed so intensely. Thank God for each of you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.