Hail and Farewell, Emmanuel.
First, Hail Emmanuel. You are a splendid parish having stood for more than 160 years in Mount Vernon to proclaim the love of God. Through a civil war, two world wars, countless other conflicts you have been steadfast. Through drastic changes to Baltimore including shrinking population, racial tensions, divisions between rich and poor your doors have been open to all, never more than today. Through rectors long-term and short, and countless curates, assistants, supply clergy, and interims you have been resilient and faithful.
Your buildings are splendid, and the commitment to make them more accessible is not only laudable but necessary for the mission and ministry of the parish. Your music is second to none in the city inspiring newcomers and long-timers with the beauty of holiness. Your participation in the neighborhood and the diocese has had its ups and downs, but you are on a track of increased engagement. Your commitment to outreach, your willingness to address the scourge of racism, your welcome and inclusion of persons of varying sexual and gender identities is a model for the church.
But it is the people of Emmanuel who must be hailed for you are the ones who make all of the above possible. Your steadfastness, your generosity, your willingness to embrace change while valuing tradition are amazing.
Hail Emmanuel as you move into a new season of your common life, one filled with excitement and promise. As you do that, let me repeat the words of a dismissal which we sometimes use: "Be strong and of good courage, hold fast to that which is true, love and serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit."
And now, farewell Emmanuel. My being with you off and on over the past two years has been a wonderful experience. Leading worship, convening the staff, celebrating various occasions with you with excellent food and fellowship have been joyous times for me. Visiting you at your homes, or in nursing homes or hospital rooms, sharing the Sacrament in intimate occasions, crying with you as well as rejoicing with you, have reminded me of why I became a priest.
Your welcome to Tim and me over our months together has never wavered. Your response to my sermons and to Tim's lectures has been more than gratifying, as we have sought to proclaim the good news amidst all that is going on around us.
Quite honestly we do not know where we will be on October 1, but we know that you will be in our thoughts and prayers. Please keep us in yours as we move into the next season of life as well.
Hail and farewell, Emmanuel, and "may God bless us, every one."