This was our first morning with our new priest. I think the search committee did a great job and it SEEMS like the new priest is going to be a good fit and that it’s going to be nice for him to be here, too. Apparently he has family roots in the area. It’s a little incongruous that he would come to our tiny church in a small town because he’s coming to us from a much larger church in a more metropolitan area — and from all appearances it’s not like he’s a duffer who needs to downsize. A little internet sleuthing revealed that he graduated cum laude from his seminary and a friend at church says both of his previous churches loved him. But his dad was at the service this morning and looked frail so maybe this is an important time in his life to be closer to family.
From the interactions I’ve had so far, he seems to be genuinely a people person and genuinely a spiritual person. Our previous priest was really great for the needs of the church at the time–with his energy and organizational skills. He really helped reboot the church, which had declined through bad management and a toxic rector in the period somewhat before we started attending. I loved his fresh-from-seminary enthusiasm for sharing the riches of the Anglican tradition. He was skillful with people in a professional sort of way, but not tender.
Father Matt strikes me as quite different but I suspect his strengths are going to be just right for our church — and me — at this time. I know I felt both relief and anticipation as I heard his sermon this morning and watched his movements in conducting the service. He was intentional and reverent — but unselfconscious (at a time when he had to know everyone–like me–was watching with particular interest.) I saw people responded to him warmly. And during the sermon he surprised me by basically declaring his love for the congregation rather like an old testament bridegroom for his bride, sight unseen. It was believable, it was woven into the context of the gospel passage and it was not sentimental or self conscious.
It was commensurate with a person who is either reckless or who knows he has been loved by God and therefore doesn’t need to protect himself or hedge his bets.
And it fit what I’d heard about him so far, I’d asked a member of the search committee what she felt his strengths were and she said, “he makes a connection with people that is very genuine.” And that is what I’ve seen so far. The canon had said he was a man with a deep, genuine faith in God. That too seems evident.
It’s going to be an interesting ride and I pray that he will be good for us, and we will be good for him. Amen.