October 12, 2013

The Rev. Patricia M. Grace: A time for every purpose …

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven …” — Ecclesiastes 3:1

The time has come for my last column, my last one-way chat with the good people of Dalton.  I will be leaving St. Mark’s to take a position in Knoxville, Tenn., working for the Episcopal Church in that region. Although the time for me in Dalton, and with all of you, has been short, it is time to go.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven.

Often, when we leave or take a job, it’s the result of our own doing, our own machinations and manipulations for the future. It’s been like that for me, for most of the positions I’ve held. This situation has been different.  This time, it has been all about God.  

Speaking of timing, it’s way off. Two years in a pastorate is just the beginning and there’s a lot still to do. And I’ll be spending my time quite differently than I ever have. My “parish” will now be other priests and their parishes. The effort will be primarily administrative, working alongside my bishop to steady and strengthen the larger church. But that this is a call from God is not in question.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven and it’s time to go.

As it always is, my parish, and the people I’ve come to know outside of my church, have enriched my life in ways I have only just started to comprehend. These people have taken me in, taught me how to be a better person and a better priest. The newspaper let me write this column — a life-long wish, to be a columnist! You all have graced me with friendship, spiritual intimacy, significant conversations and a lot of good meals, especially at the Oakwood! My sister will especially miss the fried bologna sandwiches there.  

But it is time for God to use me for another purpose. So it’s time to say thank you and farewell. I know of no better way to say that than to share with you the priestly blessing from the book of Numbers (6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. God be with you until we meet again.

The Rev. Patricia Grace is the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Dalton.