Dear Pierce,

It’s strange to think that in just over a week, we’ll be saying goodbye to you as Rector of Christ Church as you enter retirement following an impressive run of 20 years here.

When I met you in the summer of 2005, I didn’t quite know what to make of you. You were quiet. In almost all of the meetings we were in, you rarely spoke. You just seemed to be observing the whole process without getting too involved. When I finished my interviews and audition, I was leaving the church preparing to head back to the hotel. I turned around and came back to find you. I wanted to say goodbye and thank you for the opportunity to have an interview. You shook my hand and walked me outside of the front gate in the evening and told me that Christ Church was an amazing parish full of incredible parishioners who were really making a difference in the world. I’ve been here for over nine years now, but it was early on that I realized how right you were in your assessment of the parish. The role that Christ Church plays in this community is a testament to your wise, bold, albeit quiet, leadership.

You once remarked that all of us who work for the church are only interim. We might serve the parish for 5 months or 50 years but in the grand scheme of things, we are only interim/temporary – stewards of the church for a period of time, but aware that others will follow us. That doesn’t make one’s departure any easier, especially when one has developed a pastoral relationship with so many people.

I know from other priests who have retired, that the ending of the relationship with so many parishioners is difficult for both sides. People whom you have known, counseled, baptized, married and cared for have to acknowledge that while you might remain in their prayers, you will no longer be the priest ministering directly to them. It seems unfair doesn’t it? I’m not sure that I agree with the reasons that the larger church has made this a rule for all retiring priests, but we just have to trust that there are good reasons for this decision.

I will miss your sermons – especially your willingness to poke fun at yourself in them. I will forever recall the sermon in which you told of the conference in Ohio where someone in the hotel posted signs inviting everyone to attend a party they were throwing on the 10th floor at midnight. You were so impressed that someone was willing to have an open invite to their party that you couldn’t wait to attend just to see what kind of people would be there, and to see what type of person would be willing to host a party that was open to absolutely anyone. You went to bed but set your alarm to wake at midnight. When the alarm went off, you got dressed, got in the elevator and then discovered that the hotel only had 9 floors. It was a prank, and you had fallen victim to it. But you connected it to how Jesus is someone who is throwing a party and does invite everyone to it.

I will continue to heed your advice not to let our personal preferences guide the liturgical decisions we make, but rather remember the needs and expectations of the full parish.

I will think back frequently and fondly of several memories I have of you – you and Erika Takacs smoking cigars on one of our staff retreats, riding in your boat (I think it should be a requirement that the next Rector own a boat), introducing me to Desmond Tutu and inviting him to say a prayer and blessing for me, your instructing me that the church has two pulpits – the one the preachers used and the other one being the organ bench, the Christ Church Carol Sings in which you’d invite the most random collection of people to sing particular verses of a hymn (i.e. If you were raised Roman Catholic, sing verse 2, if you went to the University of Virginia sing verse 3, if you have served on vestry, sing verse 4, if you are an only child sing verse 5, etc.), your beautiful roses outside the gift shop entrance, and the look of unbridled joy that swept across your face every time we decided we would sing the Sursum Corda (Ha!). I think I’ll even miss the way you occasionally forgot to say the Peace at a service in which you were Celebrant. All of this is just a tiny part of what makes you unique, memorable, and real.

You have been a wonderfully supportive boss and colleague. You trusted me with the music ministry of this parish, and you never interfered. You have been supportive in every manner imaginable. Those simple little notes or voicemails expressing praise and gratitude were always appreciated, and I have saved many of them.

Lastly, I want to extend a personal thanks for the role you have played in making Christ Church a spiritual home for LGBT individuals. You did so at great cost. We lost some valued members of the parish who disagreed on this and I am sure you were on the receiving end of many negative phone calls, letters, and emails. But, I want to thank you for standing up for us and helping to remind us, and everyone, that there are no outcasts in God’s kingdom. As I look at the diversity we now see in the church on Sundays, I am reminded of how far you have brought this church just in the time that I have been here.

The good news is that you are not dying, and have many years left to follow your heart’s passions and interests. The sad news is that I’m saying goodbye to an incredibly supportive boss who has taught me many things over these years working together. In addition to being a wise leader, you’ve helped strengthen my own faith and given me new insights into the mystery and love of the God we both serve.

I know you are not excited about having your portrait painted to hang in the Meade Room – it’s not your style to be held up for such honor and recognition (sidenote: Do you even own an ego?!). But, I’m glad it will be hanging there, so that each time I pass by, I’ll see it and smile at the remarkable ministry you led at Christ Church. And perhaps I'll even say a quiet prayer that one day you’ll find that party on the 10th floor.

Together met, together bound, we’ll go our separate ways, and as his people in the world we’ll live and speak his praise. (Hymn 304, vs. 5)

Well done good and faithful servant.

Sincerely,

Jason