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My thanks to you—from the bottom of my heart!

What a wonderful weekend it was—the Rededication of the parish church, the Setting Apart of two subdeacons, the Confirmation of four candidates, and the Ordination of two priests and a deacon! And it being St Stephen’s, celebrations would not have been complete without the two terrific parties.

Congratulations go to our two new associate rectors, Fr. Michael Belt and Fr. John Novicki. Their road to ordinations involved what must have seemed to them like an endless ordeal of more than a decade of study. It is a testament to the strength of their calling that they didn’t give up the quest.

And congratulations are also in order for our newly minted deacon, The Rev. Mr. Wiley Hawks. The manner in which Mr. Hawks buckled down to study for his canonical examinations and the enthusiasm that he brought to his work as subdeacon should be an inspiration to all our people seeking Holy Orders.

Likewise congratulations are due to our own Dan Bursi and Mark Newsome, a postulant from Burlington, North Carolina, who were set apart as subdeacons, and we look forward to seeing them ordained to the diaconate when they have completed their studies.

It was a great pleasure to welcome Bishop John Vaughan, our Ordinary, to the parish. His affection for St Stephen’s was evident throughout his stay. Indeed, he spent the two weeks before the big weekend with Deacon Wiley Hawks and Happy Riley, Director of Pastoral Care, visiting the retirement communities and health facilities served by the parish

It was also a joy to receive visitors from the Anglican Province of America: The Very Rev. Gordon Anderson, Rector of St. Albans Anglican Church, Belair, and his colleague The Rev. Canon Rob Tregenza, Rector of Mount Calvary Church, Lothian, MD.

We also owe a hearty vote of thanks to the St Stephen’s alumni who spent the hours behind the wheel in order to celebrate with us. Fr. John Filkins drove all the way from Picayune, Missisippi, to be with us, and Fr. Rhae Kelley and his wife, Molly travelled here from North Carolina.

The church looked magnificent, courtesy of the Flower Committee, especially Anne Hawkins and my wife, Charlotte. The buildings sparkled and the grounds were well manicured thanks to the efforts of Brock Johnson, Martha Miller, Don Ruthig, John Karlsen, Colby Hawks, Bill Hawkins, Anne Hawkins, Happy Riley, Courtney Buchness, Ellen Reather, Judy Kight, Judy Elliott, Mar Bopst, Sara & Paul Douglas, Mavis & Gordon Turner, Barbara Parker, Lynn DeWitt, et al., et al. (I’m sure I have forgotten some hard-working people. Please ascribe it to old age and forgive me.)

It was a weekend in which the parish truly lived up to its reputation. We were blessed with glorious music courtesy of Adric. All kudos for the boundless hospitality goes to the Parish Life Committee and its leaders Priscilla and Dick Huffman.

It is a group so efficient and well organized that it makes the most complicated of tasks look effortless.

As for me, it was one of the most wonderful (and certainly the most embarrassing) weekends of my life. I confess I did not entirely recognize myself in Fr. Kerouac’s sermon on Saturday. But I thank him for thinking well of me, and for paying tribute to Charlotte for the way in which she has shared my ministry. She has been a truly wonderful partner.

The truth is that I feel very privileged that God granted me the opportunity to serve as your rector. I could not have asked for a nicer group of people. Thank you so much for 25 momentous and happy years.

Lastly, what a surprise it was to be presented with such a marvelous portrait! Usually, parish priests are not immortalized on canvas until they have shuffled off this mortal coil and everyone has forgotten what a trial they were as rectors.

Allison Belt is not just a talented artist. She is one of my favorite talented artists. (I own two of her paintings.) I am most flattered to think that the likeness she has captured not only looks like me to me, but looks like me to everybody else as well.

Some folks might say that generations long in the future might think better of it if she’d made me look just a tad more like a Harrison Ford, say, or a Clark Gable. But I confess I’m quite content with my long-standing resemblance to the rather less than romantic Peter Ustinov. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. GPH✠

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