Ninth Weekend After Pentecost
Hilary & Frank’s Farewell
“God Already Has a Moses: Be Yourself!”
July 25-26, 2015
Shortly after we offered Hilary the position of Holy Trinity Director of Music Ministry, back in the fall of 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit. Hilary & Frank were still living in Berkeley, CA, and the folks there asked, “Are you still going? Are you sure you want to go?” The Guters assured friends and family that yes, they were following through on the move to the soggy Garden State. It’s then that people said, “Well, then, they better batten down the hatches for Hurricane Hilary!!”
We have learned in these past 2 ½ years that Hilary’s energy is unmatchable. When people would ask about her day off, I’d answer, “I’m not so sure she has one.” Hilary tried to identify and take a weekly day off, but she discovered, unearthed, encouraged so much vocal and instrumental talent among our children, youth and adults, that there was always someone or some duet, trio or quartet to rehearse with. There were talent shows to launch and an ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service to plan and a Blue Christmas worship experience to initiate – not to mention bringing Prayer Around the Creche and Prayer Around the Cross to our confirmands on Saturday nights as well as to our midweek Advent & Lenten worshipers.
Hilary did more than “showcase” the children and youth. She has helped them grow into true worship leaders, serving as cantors for Saturday evening worship and Holden evening prayer, becoming the primary choir for Prayer Around the Creche and Cross, intoning beautiful sung mantras as we lit candles and prayed silently…. Hilary’s ministry with our adult choir and Joyful Noise has also taken the musical aspect of our worship experiences to new heights. In addition to the beauty of the singing and instrumentals we have heard, Hilary’s choice of music has also blessed us and enhanced our worship. If you haven’t noticed yet, each weekend and each season there is a theme running through the Scripture we hear. Hilary has spent untold time researching anthems and other pieces that would complement and underscore those themes. That has been a great gift to all of us. It’s been a special joy Hilary and I have shared, when the anthem she chose and the sermon I preached dovetailed perfectly. At those moments we’ve said, “Thank You, Holy Spirit!” and we are reminded that, by God’s grace, the outcome of ministry is more than the sum of our human efforts. That is true for any aspect of ministry, whether we’re involved in worship or education, social ministry or Stephen Ministry, stewardship or evangelism, keeping track of finances or caring for our property: by God’s grace, the outcome of ministry is more than the sum of our human efforts.
Then there’s Frank J. When we offered Hilary her position, we didn’t realize we were getting a package deal! Thank Heaven, we did. As so often happens, in retrospect we see God’s fingerprints all over unexpected developments in our lives. During their first spring with us, Frank’s search for a call wasn’t resulting in full-time employment and our office manager position opened up. Frank served as our interim for a few months. The “permanent” position was filled in the summer, and vacated by the fall. Frank once again stepped up as our interim office manager, a position he has filled with talent and grace for these past two years. Frank, I must say, you have been unflappable on even the most chaotic days! We’ve been grateful for your technological know-how and impressed by how you seem to understand people as well as machines J. You haven’t served formally as a pastor here, but you have brought your pastoral presence to anyone who entered the office, and to the staff as well.
Frank immediately jumped into Superstorm Sandy recovery mode by joining the executive board of MOVE, the Manasquan Organization of Volunteer Efforts, the umbrella under which our Furniture Bank, Kitchen & Linen Brigades operate. He has also given generously of his time and musical talent, participating in Joyful Noise on Saturday nights, and in the adult choir when he wasn’t preaching elsewhere on Sunday mornings.
There’s always angst when beloved members of the community, either staff or parishioners, leave our family of faith. How will we sustain what they began? How will anyone fill their shoes?? Well, that’s why we don’t talk about anyone filling someone else’s shoes J. We can only fill our own. That’s why I’ve emphasized that, by God’s grace, the outcome of ministry is more than the sum of our human efforts. And that is why the epistle assigned for this weekend of Hilary & Frank’s Farewell & Godspeed ends perfectly:
20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Here’s the paraphrase from The Message:
God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!
“But I’m not Hilary!” you might say. “But I’m not Frank!” God needs Hilary and Frank in Michigan; God has work for them there. God needs us in New Jersey; God has work for us here. There’s a story about a young rabbi who was serving in a synagogue for the first time and was very discouraged. He was wise to seek out an older colleague and to pour out his disappointment and sense of failure that his congregants stared out the windows or checked their e-mail while he was preaching, half the congregation thought he was too liberal and the other half thought he was too conservative, and that he didn’t feel learned enough to teach the people what they needed to know. The older rabbi told him:
“…[W]hen you get to heaven, God is not going to say, ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ But God is going to say, ‘Why weren’t you [you]?’ So why don’t you stop trying to be Moses, and start being the [unique person] God created you to be?”1
There’s a saying I’ve seen on greeting cards and refrigerator magnets that says the same thing in a different way:
“Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”
Thank you, Hilary & Frank, for both accepting who we are and for calling forth gifts we didn’t know we had. Go forth to Grand Rapids and continue in faith to be who you are! We shall do the same here. Know that we thank God for you.
20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham
1Paul Ofstedal, editor, Daily Readings from Spiritual Classics (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1990), p. 175.