Alright, so it’s not the best picture ever, but it’s the best we could do in a crowded parish hall – and I mean crowded! I hope that, at the very least, the smiles on our faces give you some sense of what a truly wonderful and joyful afternoon was had this past Sunday at St. Thomas’ church in Greenville when the Rev. Susan Carpenter was installed as rector. We were just brimming with joy.
Now Susan’s installment as rector was personally significant for me, because her calling to be their rector is what has afforded me the chance to be the director at ECC. I’m certainly grateful to Susan for thinking of me for the role, and trusting me with such an awesome responsibility. I was a few minutes late for the installation, thanks to a meeting that ran a bit over, and I snuck into the back of the church as the litany was being sung. Joyce and Lance were right in the back row and were kind enough to let me squeeze in between them for the rest of the service. While I would have enjoyed being with the other clergy, I loved being with Joyce and Lance in the back. I know how much they love Susan and that they will miss her, and they have been SO gracious and wonderful to me as I’ve transitioned into this role. Sitting with them seemed right – like we were a little corner of ECC there for Susan.
It ended up being good that I was in the back because I cried like a dang fool through almost the entire service. It was that beautiful. First, it should be noted how incredible it is that St. Thomas’ has grown so much in the last couple of years that they can call Susan as their full time rector. In perhaps the most emotional moment of the whole service Bishop Wolf called attention to this incredible growth. In a short statement after the sermon the Bishop mentioned how many times she had met with the parish to talk about their future, and how she had decided to let them take a chance and see what would happen. At this point the Bishop got choked up and commented that after closing 12 churches it was truly wonderful to be at the installation and celebrating the growth of this parish. It was a pretty special moment.
So as if I wasn’t crying enough already (I’m a big crier – I think Lance thought maybe something was wrong with me), right after the bishop’s comment there were a series of presentations made to Susan by other clergy and members of the parish. A stole, bread and wine, the keys to the church. Each person that stepped forward invited her to be part of the ministry of St. Thomas’ and the diocese. Susan is one of the most joyful and loving people I know, and as was said in the sermon, she just gives and gives and gives of herself. I know how happy she was to be installed as the rector there, so it was great to see how happy they are to have her. The sign outside the church reads “The Installation of the Rev. Susan Carpenter, April 29th. How blessed are we??” And their feeling of blessing was obvious in their celebration on Sunday.
After being given the gifts Susan stood before the Bishop and the altar and read a prayer about her ministry at St. Thomas’ in a loud clear voice, and her passion for her work was abundantly clear. I found myself uttering my own prayers: prayers of gratitude for Susan’s incredible ministries, and prayers of hope for my own ministry at ECC. She’s no easy act to follow, so I can only pray for the grace to share my gifts the ways she has shared hers.
The service continued with a heart-warming “The Peace of the Lord be always with you!” from an emotional Susan, followed by Eucharist with joyful singing, and a final blessing and dismissal from the new rector. A BIG ole party followed, and support for Susan and St. Thomas’ was overflowing. Having had the pleasure of being supply at St. Thomas’ I can speak to what a wonderful group of people they are. They are blessed to have Susan, and she is blessed to have them. Thanks be to God!