Thursday, July 22, 2010

Photos from final Sunday at Christ Church

Many thanks to Joanne Bouknight for these wonderful photos on such a glorious final Sunday of worship for us at Christ Church Greenwich. Cheri, Emma, Ella and I will always cherish these seven years with you all and look forward to visiting next summer. Until then, my heartfelt thanks go out to Clawson Smith, Lynn & Scott Smith, along with Audrey Schaus and Kamal Browning for helping host such a beautiful reception for all of us at the Tomes-Higgins House.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saying Good Bye to A Ministry and Friends at Christ Church Greenwich

Let me just say,
it feels great to be here with all of you this morning.

Somehow I can not believe this will be my last time
to stand here in this great pulpit,
but it’s safe to say, it could be a quite while
before I am back to preach.

Nevertheless, it always feels good to be in this
beautiful sacred space.
I will miss it.

I have to admit I am already wondering
what Christmas Eve is going to feel like in Florida.
It just won’t be the same…

Today is Sad for me in a lot of ways.
Sad because I love the people of this church so much.

Cheri and I could never ask for better friends here…
especially the distant members of her Smith family tree --
Clawson and all your family,
and more Smith’s - Scott and Lynn.

But, anyone who knows me, knows that I love all people.
Not just Smiths…
I am an extrovert off the charts, sometimes…
Cheri, Emma and Ella will tell you,
I enjoy talking, maybe too much…
I hear - “can we go now!”
Happy clergy families = 2 cars.

It has been both a blessing and privilege
to serve along side you.
I feel like I have learned a lot…grown in so many ways.

One of my brothers who is about 12 years older than me
and a banker in Mobile, said –
“Oh, this Church business will be good for you.
It’s easy work.
You only have one book to read,
and it’s a one-day work week!”

I said,
actually, Episcopalians have two books…

Nevertheless, I will miss you all.
Cheri, Emma and Ella join me in saying
thank you for our time together.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about our time…
the baptisms, weddings, confirmation, divorces, funerals,
staff meetings, chaplain at Belle Haven.
It’s been a long ride hasn’t it…

Thank goodness for my three-years of CPE chaplaincy training
at Greenwich Hospital.

But through it all,
to follow in the path of other assistants like
Sydney, Terry Ellsbury, Sandy Stainer, Al Votow,
Ted Babcock, Lee Walker, and Pam Strobel, etc…
has been a real honor for me.

But let me just say this from MY heart,
there has never been anyone
who is more thankful to God than I am
for these last seven years of my life here.

Our girls have grown up in a comfortable
clergy home at 8 Ridge Road,
benefited from the Cos Cob School,
our friends in the Cos Cob community.

Where, Cheri says,
we have been more embedded than the Russian spies!
ALL will be forever a priceless gift…

Now, speaking of friends,
we meet three of Jesus’ closest in Luke’s classic story…

Mary and Martha of Bethany and their brother Lazarus.
I read recently that some scholars now believe
Lazarus was “the Beloved Disciple” at the foot of the cross.
Of course, we don’t know this…

But, what we do know is this --
Jesus makes it very clear to ALL Martha’s –
past and present,
stop the worrying!

He says, we are “worried and distracted by many things.”
Boy, that’s the truth, isn’t it?

Stop. Settle down and listen,
especially to those you love.

Even St. Paul jumps into this…
and says, “Do not be anxious,”
especially, the men and women
who are trying to work out the practicalities
of living the Faith in a hostile world,
and among people who believe religion and
a personal relationship with God
is a total waste of time.

I can’t even begin to count the number of funerals I have done
where I see such an emptiness in certain loved ones
who appear to have no experience or interest in a life of faith.

It’s like they have been transported to a foreign land,
with no language, feelings, or means to express
human pain and grief
to a Living, and Loving God.

There is a Richard Dawkins, blankness which is sad.

Unfortunately, religion in this post-modern, post-Christian world
is often viewed by some people as untrustworthy.
Maybe in some cases, with just cause!
Nevertheless, there is a vast sea of emptiness in our complex world.
My hope is we can now move beyond distractions
and into a more sacred non-anxious place,
called un-conditional Love.

There is a clear task ahead for us Episcopalians…
we can not mess this thing up!

We are in prime position to welcome seekers.
Seekers who are looking for a new way forward,
away from hatred, judgmental religious anger,
into a Faith/Church filled with big welcoming tents
just like Abraham at Mamre.

St Paul said, “The Lord is very near to us.”
What this means for 21st century Christians is this --
our hearts must be fixed where true joy is to be found,
and when “we make our requests known to God
in prayer and with thanksgiving,”
the peace of God will be ours.

Mary was right! Peace is still possible…

But let us act NOW and move forward in ministry,
both at St Simon’s and right here at Christ Church
to gain confidence,
live in love,

because underneath each one of us
will always…ALWAYS be
God’s everlasting arms.

May God bless you in this Journey.
And - I’ll see ya down that road!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christ Church Greenwich Letter

Dear Members of Christ Church Greenwich,

I write to make an important announcement regarding the ministry of our priest and colleague, The Rev'd Mark L. Fitzhugh. I am proud to announce that Mark has been called to serve as the Rector of St. Simon’s on-the-Sound Episcopal Church in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He will begin this new ministry in August.

Mark has served Christ Church Greenwich faithfully for the past seven years. He has been a pastor for this congregation and has helped to introduce new educational and evangelism initiatives for the congregation. Mark has also functioned more broadly for the church and its mission in Greenwich and the larger Church. He now will be in a program size congregation offering leadership for its development and growth.

We wish Mark, Cheri, Emma, and Ella, Godspeed as they make the transition to a new community; a town and region where there are extended family and many friends. I know that they will relish your expressions of best wishes and thanks. We will have the opportunity for farewell worship together on Sunday, July 18, with a reception for Mark and his family immediately following the 9:30 am service. You are welcome to thank them by giving a gift in their honor to a place which is special to the family, Kanuga Episcopal Conference Center, near Ashville, North Carolina, or your contributions are invited as we assemble a purse to honor his ministry here at Christ Church Greenwich.

May God bless the Smith Fitzhugh family and St. Simon’s Church in this time of new beginnings and transition. And... may we offer thanks for their presence in our community of faith.

With best wishes, I am,
Yours faithfully,
The Rev'd Dr. James B. Lemler
Christ Church Greenwich

Acceptance Letter to the people of St Simon's on the Sound

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny… This means that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in God’s creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth.” Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

I proudly accept the vocational call of the Vestry of St Simon’s on the Sound to share my gifts in ministry as your next Rector. I am especially grateful for the work of your search committee, wardens, and vestry.

The quote from Thomas Merton is exactly right. Our calling or vocation is to come together and share our own unique special gifts in ministry in order to build up the Body of Christ. God has called me to come and join your leadership efforts to do just this work in the Fort Walton Beach community.

I was born and raised in Mobile and grew up at Trinity Episcopal Church. For the past seven years, I have had the privilege of serving on the clergy staff at Christ Church Greenwich, Connecticut. And now, Cheri, Emma, Ella and I are excited to come back “home” to our beloved Gulf Coast and for this we are extremely thankful.

Clearly, St Simon’s Church has a long tradition of excellent ministry and I am pleased to team up with the countless number of amazing volunteers and staff members who make this church such a special and well respected part of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.

We look forward to meeting all of you and please keep us in your prayers as we begin our transition.

Every blessing,

The Rev’d Mark L. Fitzhugh

A New Ministry Begins at St Simon's on the Sound in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

I look forward to serving as the new Rector of St Simon's on the Sound Episcopal Church in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. My first Sunday there in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast will be August 22nd. This is an exciting time for our family, however it will be very sad to say good bye to so many wonderful friends here at Christ Church Greenwich and the Cos Cob School community.

Our thanks and praise to God for these seven years here in Connecticut. Now we set our faces toward the beautiful Emerald Coast (even with the terrible oil spill). Where we will be greeted by our family and friends from years past.

Please keep us in your prayers as Cheri, Emma, Ella and I make this transition. We are very excited and thankful for everyone's support and care.

Every blessing to you and those you love!