In the Interim: A Final Word

Just about one year ago, I became your interim rector. Now within a couple of weeks, you will have your new rector in place, and, effective September 1, I will no longer be your interim. During this interim period, you have been admirably served by your wardens, Cat Anderson and Roger Herrscher, who have tackled a number of important issues and made good decisions about the future direction the parish should take. Patsy Finch has done an outstanding job as the chair of the committee charged with looking for a new rector, and the excellent staff here has taken its work not only seriously but spiritually as well.
We’ve done some good things this year: we’ve improved signage to make St. Thomas more accessible to those who visit us on a Sunday; we’ve begun monthly newcomers’ classes; and—and I think most importantly—we’ve increased the involvement of the parish in the life of the Diocese of Texas. Members of this parish now serve on some important committees of the Diocese. The parish will host a regional altar guild retreat shortly after the first of the year. We’ve deepened our connection with the Episcopal presence in the ministry to seafarers at the Houston port. We’ve sent “Flat Andy” all over and have the photos to prove it. We’ve doubled the enrollment of the parish’s Early Childhood Learning Program. And, although much of this is the result of full-time positions not being filled and Chad’s call to another parish, you will end this year with a surplus, rather than a deficit, in its budget.
There are, of course, plenty of challenges ahead for the new rector and the parish: it’s time to take a fresh look at the relationship between the parish and the school, and the organizational chart of the parish and the school needs re-evaluation. While the level of giving per pledging unit remains high, the number of pledging units needs to be increased, which means that the parish needs to look at realistic ways to make St. Thomas grow. And the parish needs to continue to seek out ways to strengthen its ties to the Diocese of Texas.
The pieces are in place to meet these challenges, and I think the inspiration come from remembering who the patron saint of this parish is. Thomas was one of the Twelve, as you know, and history remembers him as “Doubting Thomas,” but scripture remembers him for more than just those doubt he had after the Resurrection. Early on when the other disciples were still a little giddy about the way their leader bested the scribes and Pharisees at their own games, when Jesus told them his intention was to go to Jerusalem, the others around him dismissed the idea as foolish, but Thomas knew what might lie ahead, and he said, “Let us go with him to Jerusalem, there to die with him.” Thomas knew the cost of following Jesus, and he was willing to pay it. Then on what we know as the Second Sunday of Easter, when Jesus once again appeared among his disciples and showed the scars of what the Romans had done to him to Thomas, Thomas knelt before him and professed, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas knew the one he was willing to follow even to death was the God who made heaven and earth. As long as the people of the parish here in Houston which bears his name continue to follow Jesus even knowing what the cost may be and know the One whom they follow is none other than God Almighty, they will continue to be a part of the goodly heritage the past 60 years here have established, and they may be certain that what they do will be blessed by the Giver of all good gifts.
With His love and mine,
Ken +