Sunday, January 22, 2012

Holy and Human, Seven Days a Week (A Retirement Tribute to Father Gil)

From August 1992 through mid-2005, my priest was Father Gil Crosby. One of our practices as a congregation at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church was called "Thanksgivings." During this part of the service, which occurred right before recessional, he would stand in front of us and anyone who wished to express something they were thankful for would make a donation into the "Thanksgivings" bucket and say what they were thankful for. The proceeds all went into a scholarship fund to send kids to summer camp at Camp Weed.

As Father Gil retires, I would like to share a few thoughts in tribute and thanksgiving. If I were monopolozing "Thanksgivings" long enough to discuss the things for which I am most grateful, they would include:

Helping me prepare for and co-officiating over my 1995 confirmation by the Bishop. For saying to me, during that preparation period, "Jesus came to take away our sin, not our intellect"

For the time he leaned over into my ear, and said, during the passing of the peace, "this may be a good day to ask for intercessory prayer," not knowing I had just received test results about my unborn baby that had me worried. (I did get intercessory prayer and everything did turn out fine.)

Baptizing Tenley in November 1996

Blessing our Opal Court house in 1998

Being (or acting) oblivious when a very young toddler Tenley stood there with him during Thanksgivings, just "hanging out" where the gratitude was

Baptizing Wayne Kevin in October 1999

Starting every vestry meeting off with prayer and reflection rather than business

Being the sole clergyperson who, when I met with him to discuss my decision to move to a different congregation, prayed with me about it

Being candidly human when, at the end of church one day, he shared a personal request on behalf of his granddaughter, who sorely needed our prayers, and his grief was so un-glossed over. He trusted us, an entire congregation, to share the pain

Making sure so many children (including Tenley) had an opportunity to go to Camp Weed regardless of financial considerations

Adding publicly, one night when we were praying as a vestry, "please help Paula deal with being so tired." (I don't remember the exact words, but they went precisely to the heart of my needs.)

As Trina McCarthy put it at his retirement dinner, Fr. Gil models how to be "human as well as holy." At the same event, someone else poked fun at the old (and utterly untrue) joke that a priest only works on Sundays.

A Don Sergio Castro quote I read recently said, "If everybody acted in a simple and human way, we'd all be saints." That quote struck something about my feelings for and gratitude toward Father Gil (and his wife Jacque). There were times, especially in my last years at St. Francis, when we as a congregation, he as a clergyperson, I as a parishioner, and all of us as Christians faced a complexity we had not anticipated and didn't want. I am also sure none of us are saints. But I know Fr. Gil has a gift for helping us approach the complex by breaking it down into the simple. I know he will continue reminding everyone in his circle of the role of prayer in each individual's life, each congregation's journey, each nation's fate.

I could fund a lot of children's trips to Camp Weed with the amount of money I would really like to give to represent my gratitude for the human holiness which Father Gil demonstrated seven days a week.

Written with a thankful heart .... January 2012


Betty Ann said...

I hope you sent him a copy of this. What a beautiful tribute to a man who has devoted his life to so many of us!

Ann said...

The power of a good and loving priest is completely underestimated. I grew up baptist but never felt it was where I belonged. Over the years I attended dozens of different churches and spoke to dozens of preachers and priests about this feeling. "How do you know when you have found the right religion?" Because when it comes down to it so many of the beliefs within Christian churches are the same. I always received the same half hearted answer - you have to have faith. It was the wrong answer. I had faith in God and Jesus. I just didn't understand what made one religion or one church the right one for me. Then I met Father Ryan. His answer was so simple and it struck me as right. "You know, when you start attending that church and it feels like home." I became a Cathlolic 1997. and I am finally home. Thanks for sharing your story Paula.

Trina+ said...

Thank you, Paula. It was such a blessing to see you and other St. Francis folk at the dinner. This lovely tribute makes me miss you even more! Pax.