I want to thank you all again for the warm welcome I have received over the past few months. The luncheon to officially “Meet & Greet our New Curate” was fabulous. I have appreciated everyone who has included me in smaller group meetings and dinners. Small group settings are truly the best way I can get to know people better. I am grateful to everyone who has continued to wear their nametag and/or continued to introduce themselves to me. I only had two Sundays in which you all could see my face and I could see your faces without the mask, so having a chance to really put faces with names has been hard and opportunities to see everyone’s smiling faces are greatly appreciated.
Several months ago, Father Stephen announced that I had been approved for Ordination to the Priesthood. One of the comments he made was something like, we will no longer have Deacon Lathrop. That caused a bit of confusion, with several people asking me if I would be leaving after I was ordained a priest. I think there may also be a bit of confusion because I am a Transitional Deacon, which means that I am transitioning to the priesthood and will be staying at St. James (not that I am transitioning and moving away from St. James as I become a priest).
Y’all, I just got settled (OK, I still have about 12-14 boxes to unpack and all the boxes in the basement to slowly sort through) and Beau and JJ (my dogs) have recently joined me. I have so much to learn from and with you all and so much to learn from and with Father Stephen, especially if you think in terms of the title of “Curate” as really being more like a “priest-in-training.” Even once Bishop Waldo lays hands on me on December 15, that does not mean all this knowledge is automatically transferred to my brain. It simply means I will have authority to do all the things a priest can do in addition to all the things a deacon can do. Take for example, learning to do all the priest things for a Sunday morning (which is one of the most visible things a priest does). Father Stephen and I have started working through everything for a Sunday morning. Even as we work on those things and I prepare for ordination on December 15 and to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time on December 19 (which is a big deal for a newly ordained priest), I will still be learning, and I will still be honing my skills as a priest. Just like any job, the more you do something the more comfortable you become and the better you become at it (I am really hoping that is the case for chanting!).
We also have so much work to do to rebuild after COVID and I am invested in that rebuilding process, not only for the Children’ Ministry, Youth Ministry, and Canterbury (college-aged ministry at Furman), but also for St. James as a whole. This re-building process is not just a 6-month or a one-year or even a several year process, it is going to take time. At times it can be scary, and I have to remind myself about the exciting opportunities we have to re-build and re-think things. I plan to be with you all every step of the way as we figure out what all the various ministries at St. James are going to look like going forward. That will take creative thinking, patience, being willing to build the airplane as we fly it and re-evaluate things as we are going along. Also, being willing to take baby steps and realize that some things might be worth really focusing on while letting go of other things for the time being. My hope is that we will re-envision and re-build St. James together.
We all have that place that we consider holy ground. Now, I am not talking about our wonderful church, St. James, although indeed, it is holy ground. I am talking about a place that is special to you or your family, and when you are there, you feel the presence of God. It may be the beach house your family has gone to every year since you can remember or the mountain house that your family has owned or a beautiful garden, or even the serenity of your own backyard. That place you can go to in the midst of everything going on in the world and know you will experience God and be wrapped in God’s presence. Some people call them thin spaces, a place in which the space between heaven and earth becomes so thin, and you feel you can almost reach out and touch heaven and the heavenly realm, where the distance between heaven and earth collapses.
While I have several spaces that I consider holy ground, the most special of these and the most precious to me is Sewanee. Sewanee has been in my blood since before I was born. Both my grandfather and my father attended undergraduate there. And I always knew I was destined to carry on the family legacy. The first time I set foot on the campus, in my ninth-grade year, I fell in love. And while I did apply and was accepted to enter the freshman class in the fall of 1992, I decided to attend Converse College. I knew then, if not for my undergraduate degree, I was meant to attend seminary there. I knew I was meant to continue the family legacy. And in the Fall of 2018, I had that chance. I have always talked about continuing the family legacy with a bit of a twist. You see, I am the third generation to attend Sewanee, but the first female to attend in my family and the first to attend The School of Theology.
Words cannot describe how I feel when I enter the gates of The Domain. In my first letter to Bishop Waldo after I started seminary and almost every letter afterward, I talked about having to pinch myself getting to drive by All Saints’ Chapel every day, often multiple times a day. For three years, I had the amazing experience of walking on the sidewalks my father and grandfather walked and sat in All Saints’ Chapel as they did. Sewanee, in so many ways, is holy ground for me. A place where even in all the midst of my studies and preparations to become a deacon and then a priest, that I felt God’s presence, not only Chapel of the Apostles or All Saints, but in the very ground on which I stood, walked, and hiked. As I sat in Abbo’s Alley and watched the fish in the pond. I had the amazing experience of watching the fog roll up the mountain at Green’s View. As I hiked the Perimeter Trail, first in sections and then as a whole with classmates. As I sat out at Memorial Cross and felt the breeze and sunshine on my face. As I watched the leaves change and experienced how much like Narnia certain places on campus can become with enough snow under the right conditions. As I watched the baby goats be born and grown up. As I gathered and fellowshipped with my classmates and friends. As we shared our hopes and dreams and prayed for one another as we made our transitions off the Holy Mountain.
This week, I am in Sewanee for the School of Theology’s Alumni lectures. As soon as I entered the gates, I realized how much I missed it, even after only being away for three months. Unfortunately, I do not have much extra time to hike or even just sit on this trip. This is a quick trip. I realized that this place is where I need to come back often for rest, rejuvenation, prayer, and retreat. It is a profoundly spiritual and grounding place. A thin space where you feel like you can reach out and touch the heavens.