All Saints Episcopal Church, Pontiac, MI
A Renewal of Ministry and
Welcoming of New Rector:
The Rev. Chris Johnson
Thursday, December 7, 2017
By The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
Director of the Whitaker Institute, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
May the words of my mouth and
the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Scripture texts here
Bishop Gibbs, Priest Chris, congregation of All Saints,
ministry colleagues and friends,
I am honored to speak with you tonight
and begin by offering thanks…
Thanks to God for the people of All Saints
and for your parish leaders
who have faithfully guided the congregation
through a season of transition
– you have been waiting a long time for this moment!
Thanks to the Holy Spirit for bringing Chris
into discernment with All Saints
and all that resulted in his call to join you in ministry.
And I give thanks for family and friends
who have surrounded him on every side.
* Tonight is a happy occasion
to preach the good news of salvation,
in this Thin Place,
where you have been drawn together
by the One
One new humanity,
to One God
through the One body
and who gave access
to the One Spirit,
as members of the household of God.
Surprisingly, perhaps, a small seed
for this happy occasion
began in a different “Thin Place,”
where I first met Christ some 15 or 20 years ago
in the Diocese of Colorado.
Chris had sent a call out for any available churches
to help at his parish with badly needed repairs.
Our parish bulletin that week included this invitation,
so , as a parishioner, I joined others from our church and
we showed up at Chris’s church one Saturday afternoon
for a work day across town.
Chris greeted us, gave us a quick tour of the building
and turned us loose on the stairwell for repainting and repair.
as he met other groups in various parts of the church building.
His presence was very kind
and he trusted us (amazingly)
to figure out what needed to happen.
Thankfully, we had a professional painter
as well as several handy and skilled workers in our little group
who guided those of us that were less-gifted
and had brought, innocently enough, no tools or skills for the day.
In *that* Thin Place, I personally learned about
the joy of working on projects with parishioner-mates
whom I barely knew,
for someone who I had just met,
in a part of Denver previously unknown to me.
And I don’t remember much more about that day.
A seed was planted in my heart for
the adventures that can arise
when we somehow hear The Lord’s call
to go on ahead of him.
And, *this moment is another “Thin Place”
in the full sense of the phrase.
“Thin places,” one author writes,
“…are places where the distance
between heaven and earth collapses
and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine.”
Thin places often disorient, confuse, or redirect us
to find new ways of being.
Thin places jolt us out of old ways of seeing the world
to transform our vision.
Thin places surprise us in mesmerizing geography
like the rocky peaks of Iona
where the wind and water meet the shore.
The Celtic people say,
“Heaven and earth are only three feet apart,
but in Thin Places that distance is even shorter.”
Thin places, Isaiah reminds us,
invite us to the house of the God of Jacob,
where God teaches us God’s ways
so that we may walk in Sacred paths.
Thin places surprise us
when sharp weapons are transformed for good use
– tilling the land and shaping the trees –
to feed hungry people in peace.
Thin places, the Gospel reminds us, draw us
to labor with deep soul-work
through the plentiful aching, pain and war –
to labor in the midst of wolves
who seek to destroy God’s vision of peace,
to labor with nothing but our Lov,e
to eat what is set before us,
to harvest a peace that passes understanding,
which the world cannot give,
to hold a vision for the Kingdom of God.
And, indeed, *this new pastoral relationship moment
is a Thin Place.
Sometimes the world seems very far from Thin Places.
Like when governments make laws and budgets
that hurt those already on the margins.
When society indulges in uncivil discourse
with words and name calling that wound our souls.
When a dear loved one dies,
when a long-time relationship ends,
or when we make mistakes,
only to realize it’s too late to ask for forgiveness.
These are places that seem far from “Thin.”
Yet in times like tonight, God makes a place “Thin,”
and that we know that
when we experience the apparent absence of God
we faithful Christians know God
in the paradoxical intimacy of Jesus,
closer than our breath.
* This Thin Place proclaims God incarnate
right here, right now,
where we cannot be wounded by the world,
where compassion fuels our empathy for one another,
where God’s wide open mercy pours out on you and me.
And so tonight in this Thin Place, I offer some charges.
Chris, will you please stand?
I charge you:
To stay awake.
To stay alert to this Thin Place.
To here. To presence.
As Rilke once said, “To be here is immense.”
And now that you are here, with this congregation,
you enter the inheritance
of everything that has preceded you
– you are an heir to this place.
The Holy Spirit has chosen you
and brought you through your “forest of dreaming”
until you could emerge
on the path of life,
in *this Thin Place.
So, I charge you
to witness the ongoing work of this community,
to harvest the wisdom of the invisible, sacred world
and to know and share God’s love for you
and all God’s children
who pass before you.
Will you, with God’s help?
And to the congregation, All Saints. Will you please stand?
I charge you
to go to those Thin Places where Jesus himself intends to go,
to seek out Thin Places where your hearts burst
with love for and with ache of the world.
to live into your heritage and mission,
fueled by your Benedictine vow of Stability –
to stay in this community
and serve the Christ among you
to challenge your passions and to find rest for your souls,
so that all nations will stream to your light.
Will you, with God’s help?
May God give you strength and
May God give you grace.
For indeed, this is a Thin Place.
Where the Kingdom of God has come near!
 Eph 2:13-22
 Cited at Eric Weinstein’s March 9, 2012 New York Times article, found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/travel/thin-places-where-we-are-jolted-out-of-old-ways-of-seeing-the-world.html
 John O’Donohue, “To Bless The Space Between Us,” p. 186