The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
Saturday, 2 September 2017
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus:
Twenty years ago today, I formally began my ministry at Holy Innocents’; such an anniversary gives this letter a particular timeliness. Having received Bishop Stokes’ blessing, and having given notice of the same to the Church Wardens and Vestry of the parish, this comes to say that I am retiring from full-time parish ministry effective 1 March 2018. On that day I will have been ordained over 30 years, I will be 65 years old, and I will have served as your priest and rector for 20½ years.
It’s time. We’ve done good work together, and now you need new ordained leadership. My long-held beliefs about clergy transitions are summed up as: “leave ‘em strong and laughing.” When I’ve said this, I’ve meant departing before my presence becomes tiresome, when the parish is un-conflicted and the lay leadership is strong and confident, when parish finances and the state of the physical plant are stable, and when daily life is characterized by a clear sense of joyful mission. That time is now.
Leaving you strong and laughing depends upon both you and me.
For your part, strong and laughing means you will continue to be God’s splendid people in this place.
You already know that it’s about the ministry not the minister- who does what inevitably changes, as it should. You already know that the Church is best when flexible and open to the leading of The Holy Spirit- what God has in mind will be revealed in God’s time, and we are called to wait for that revelation. So, in the time ahead some ministries will continue, you’ll conclude others, and you’ll begin ministries that couldn’t have been imagined until after I retired.
Under the direction of our Bishop, you’ll commence a transition process led by a well-grounded, mature priest. That person will gather you, leading you to a coherent sense of self that can be articulated, as well as a vision of what lies ahead. You’ll formulate a parish profile, and you will search for and call your next ordained leader. Bishop Stokes expects parish transition processes to take no more than 12 – 15 months, and there is every reason to expect that such a schedule will be kept at Holy Innocents’. This means your next ordained leader, in all likelihood a Priest-in-Charge, should be in place sometime in 2019.
Your transitional leader will help you re-script reactive thinking- thinking expressed as “Fr. Frank never did it that way,” or “Fr. Frank always did it that way.” Such remarks are ponderous, they hinder the growth of the parish, and they’re a weight around your ankles. You have control over the transition narrative. I don’t. Having that control, I pray you will not burden yourselves and my successors by invoking prevailing habits, policies and customs that perhaps should and undoubtedly will change.
I have wisdom about parish transitions, but I won’t be expressing it; please don’t ask me. My commenting on the specifics of the parish’s transition process once it’s underway would be inappropriate and unprofessional.
I’ve said that “leaving you strong and laughing” depends upon both you and me.
For my part, strong and laughing means I leave, and stay gone.
When I say “leave and stay gone,” I mean just that. Gretchen+ and I love Beach Haven; we’ve lived here longer than we’ve lived anywhere in our lives, and we have thoroughly enjoyed it. But even if we could afford to live in Beach Haven in retirement, we wouldn’t. We will move away. Remaining in Beach Haven would quickly become burdensome to you, to us and to my successor.
You and I are long-time Companions in the Way. I’m a better human being and a more faithful priest for having served you. I love you, I am profoundly grateful to be part of this parish’s history, and I will hold you in my heart for the rest of my life. These abiding truths endure; now we will express them from a longer communicative distance. If you choose to remain in contact after we’ve moved, those communications will be personal, not professional. I simply can’t and won’t respond to communications about specific features of the transition period, the actions of my successors, or the details of parish life after I am gone.
It is appropriate that I not worship with you for quite some time; proximity, your schedule, and mine will make this an easily observed convention. Returning for weddings, baptisms, and funerals isn’t a good idea; your next leader must build her/his relationship with you, and such milestones are important moments when relationships are forged. If at some point my successor invites me to preside or preach, that will be her/his choice. That choice, like all choices concerning the liturgy, is the rector’s alone to make and it will be final. I know you will respect those choices.
I wish neither to rush out of here nor to linger over-long. Our bishop insists that retiring clergy write to their parishes at least 6 months in advance, so I couldn’t bolt for the door even if I wanted to do so. We have some time left; I pray that it will be filled with affectionate gratitude for all that has been, and joyful hope for what lies ahead for us all.
Echoing Ecclesiastes, Hammarskjöld was right:
“For all that has been, Thanks. For all that will be, Yes!”
Love you. See you in Church.
The Rev’d Frank B. Crumbaugh III
IV Rector of the Parish
 Ecclesiastes 3:15a NRSV
 Hammarskjöld. Markings. 1964
New Altar Cloth in Memory of Bob Bregler
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Father Frank below photos
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
410 South Atlantic Ave
between Atlantic and Beach)
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008