Friday, July 23, 2010

Should I stay or should I go?

On Tuesday, the 23rd of June 1987, a blue Subaru station wagon containing three humans and two felines arrived at the Peace Arch border crossing into Canada. Although the driver's previous trips to Vancouver in early October and mid-December of 1986 had been graced with blue skies and sunshine, this time his arrival with wife and infant son was greeted by what was to be two weeks of clouds and rain.

So began what was intended to be a three-year sojourn in Canada for Paula, David and I. Twenty-three years later we have found our home here on the Pacific coast. Paula has been able to respond to the call to ordained ministry and will soon celebrate twelve years as Rector of St Faith's and fifteen years of presbyteral ministry. David and Anna will graduate in May of 2011 from the University of British Columbia. Owen will begin his criminal justice studies at Langara College in September of this year. All three of our children identify themselves as Canadians, British Columbians and Vancouverites.

So what about me? My three-year plan has faded into the past and now, twenty years after those three years, I ahve attained those goals which seemed so distant on that rainy day as I patiently waited for the customs agent to review the pages and pages of documentation necessary for our entry into Canada.

Vancouver School of Theology has been a generous and life-giving community for me. In 1990 the Board of Governors let me borrow an extra sabbatical term to finish my thesis. When that goal was not realized, there was no blame nor threats of academic consequences. When I did finish in 1993, tenure was granted and eventually promotion to Associate Professor. When I floated the question of promotion to Full Professor in 2000, just to see what would be required, I discovered to my surprise that my committee recommended promotion and the Board granted that promotion.

My position at the School has opened doors for me that have allowed me to practice my craft regionally, nationally and internationally. It was my place on the Faculty that allowed Archbishop Peers to appoint me to my first national committee responsibility in 1989, an arena for ministry that I continue to enjoy. My Diocese has elected me as a member of General Synod four times (1995, 1998, 2004 and 2007). With the support of our national church and others I have attended international Anglican liturgical gatherings in Toronto, Berkeley, Oxford and Auckland.

But I never imagined that my whole exercise of public ministry would be associated with the School. Bishop Jim Cruickshank once introduced me as 'a parish priest who teaches in a theological college', the highest compliment anyone has ever paid me. Long ago I thought that my epitaph should be Hic jacet Richard Geoffrey Leggett presbyter ecclesiae catholicae sive usum anglicanum ('Here lies Richard Geoffrey Leggett, a presbyter of the Catholic Church according to the Anglican use.')

Lately I've been experiencing professional Wanderlust. So earlier this year I approached Wendy Fletcher, the School's Principal and Academic Dean, about 'retiring' from full-time teaching. Over the past couple of months we've been discussing how best to do this: best for the School I respect and hope to continue to serve in new and different ways and best for me, someone who still has at least ten good years of full-time ministry ahead of me, in one form or another.

And so on Sunday, the 1st of August 2010, I will enter a time of discernment, not as Associate Dean and Professor of Liturgical Studies but as Emeritus Professor of Liturgical Studies. I will begin work on my long-delayed writing project on Canadian Anglican liturgical revision since 1959. I will preach and administer the sacraments of the New Covenant. Ci Bach, our Shetland sheepdog, will receive more of the attention she is certain she deserves. My wife and children will keep me honest as will the large circle of friends and colleagues I have come to love and respect.

More importantly I will wait upon God. Even in these challenging times I am confident that God has not given up on us, especially those who live lives of faithful witness and ministry in our congregations, great and small. I am confident that God has not given up on me, since there is still so much room for me to grow into that maturity in Christ which is our telos, our destiny as God's children. I will trust in the wisdom of my Welsh ancestors who proclaimed Heb Dduw ddim. Duw a digon. ('Without God nothing. God and enough.')

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have shaped so many Anglican priests during your 'three —long— years'. It surely must be rewarding to know the impact you've been able to have upon others in your life as a professor. I'll say a special prayer for you and your family tonight before bed. Pax. Shane+