- Parish House
Dear People of Christ Church,
When my family and I arrived at Christ Church twelve years ago this July, I couldn’t have imagined what the days to come would hold. I wouldn’t have dared imagine Larry Benfield’s becoming our bishop a year and a half into my curacy. And it was beyond belief that a congregation that had come to thrive again under his leadership would be so fearless as to invite a 39-year-old me to be their vicar and priest-in-charge and then, two years on, their rector.
Looking back I can see only more clearly that the trust you extended to me changed me. That you weren’t fearful about the future eased the perfectly reasonable fears anyone in my position would have had. Faith really does beget faith, it seems. I owe so much of mine to yours.
Today I find myself conscious again of an unimagined future unfolding for me and for Christ Church. On Friday, April 28, I accepted a call to be the next rector of Calvary Church in downtown Memphis.
The prospect of moving away from this vibrant place filled with people we love dearly seems utterly mad at times. In fact, I flatly turned down Calvary’s invitation to enter their process last November. But a couple of more personal contacts after they’d stopped officially receiving names became gentle nudges to explore whether this other lively old downtown parish in a storied southern city might make sense as the next leg on the wonderful journey we’ve been on with you. Eventually those nudges became all out shoves by the Spirit. Nothing less, of course, would budge me from our wonderful Little Rock life.
As you will read in her letter below, Patricia Matthews also has an unexpected announcement. I’ll let her tell that story, but it means that Christ Church will be sending two of its clergy out into the world to take what we’ve learned from you and put it to use in other places. I’d find the prospect a good deal more scary if I hadn’t watched you launch bishops and curates and all kinds of irreplaceable baptized Christians only to find new life and new gifts always seem to arise from your willingness to joyfully let people go when they are so called.
The Walters family will be at Christ Church through May 28, the Sunday before we leave for Spain to walk the end of the Camino. And we will return for a goodbye and celebration with you on Sunday, June 25.
New life will follow this summer of change at Christ Church. Your clergy, staff, vestry leadership, and congregation are wise and grounded deeply in the gospel of grace. The way of Jesus will continue to be explored and expressed with the peculiar beauty, warmth, and humor that are familiar to anyone who has ever experienced Christ Church at prayer.
And so it is with great love and expectation that I thank you, my dear friends, for giving of yourselves so generously to me, to Ardelle, and to Alden and Kate, these past twelve years. You have lived out with and for us the praise from Ephesians at the close of Morning Prayer: “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.”
Through you, God has done infinitely more than I could ask or imagine for me. God has infinitely more in store for us and for all of you in the years to come.
I am writing to let you know that I have been called to be the assistant rector at St. Mark’s, here in Little Rock, and I have accepted. My last day at Christ Church will be Sunday, June 25. And while I would not have sought out a job at this moment, with Scott leaving, too, this call came and I decided to listen. With each conversation, it became clearer and clearer that accepting this call was the right, next step in the life of the church and in my development as a priest.
Since being ordained, I have felt a stretching and growing. And while I had no plans to leave this wonderful place and your beautiful children, I did find that this new job felt like the direction in which I needed to grow. As assistant rector, I will be moving into a generalist position – which means that I will be participating in the broader life of the church.
I wish you could know how much I have loved serving the children, youth, and families at Christ Church. When I came here seven years ago, I had no idea the depth with which I would come to care for you. Together, we have welcomed new babies, embraced new families, and sent kids off to college. Personally, you have witnessed my marriage to James, the birth of Louisa, and the growth of Dillon and Zoë. You have supported me through the discernment process and my ordination; I will be forever grateful for that. I feel extremely lucky to have found you and to have been nurtured by you, and I hope your support will continue through this change.
As many of you know, the church is, and always has been, bigger than any individual. Even with two of your leaders leaving, who you are does not change, and I have full faith in who you are. When people walk through the doors of Christ Church, they are embraced by your goodness. I know that you will continue to do incredible things together.
I will always hold a special place in my heart for you and for these last seven years together. Thank you for allowing me to serve here with you. I look forward to what the future holds for all of us.
With gratitude, love, and peace,