When I was ordained as your bishop, I inherited a remarkably gifted, energetic and dedicated staff at the Duvall Center which included your canon to the ordinary, The Rev. Massey Gentry. In addition to guiding congregations through transitions, mediating conflict, and recruiting clergy, Massey has been a guide, guard and guru to me. Last week, I accepted his resignation as priest-in-charge of St. Peter’s in Bon Secour, and as canon. The text of his letter follows:
Against the wind,
We were running against the wind
We were young and strong, we were running
Against the wind
Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band
Many years ago (which is a phrase I use often lately) the United Methodist Church published a magazine, “Motive,” aimed at the college crowd. One of the many traits of the publication I appreciated was the artwork.
The sketches and drawings, predominately by the artist Robert Hodgell, captured the lean but dynamic spirit of such characters as Moses and Jesus and Elijah. A particular favorite of mine was a small pin and ink of a barely identifiable man, a crutch under one arm to support a frail leg, his face shadowed by the clearest thing in the picture. It was a sign reading, "The end is near.”
It will come as no surprise to you that I have had that framed picture on my wall wherever I have moved in my +41 years as a priest. As the skull sitting on the edge of the desks of Luther and Erasmus and Abelard, it has served as a reminder of my own finitude, of a certainty that claims us all.
The picture shortly will be placed on another wall in Birmingham.
The end to the blessings given to me by being allowed to serve in this diocese is near. My thanksgivings to St.Francis, Gulf Breeze, to Beckwith, to St.Peter’s, Bon Secour, and to the people and bishops of this diocese ascend as the fragrance of incense to the heavens.
I have been...I am...a lucky man. I have a wife I love more than life, blessed children, and, like Abraham, a child of my old age.
I have been allowed to serve parishes both large and small, urban and suburban, “town and country,” aﬄuent and struggling. I also have been privileged to serve as diocesan staﬀ for four bishops, and as canon to the ordinary to three of them. I have given them each the best advice I knew how, believed in the sanctity of their episcopacies, and told them the truth.
While I can continue to tell the truth, I am no longer young, no longer strong, and I can no longer run against the winds of time and health and even competence.
A friend of mine, a priest, whenever he gets out of joint about something happening in the church with which he does not agree, likes to say, "This is not the church we were ordained into.”
Indeed, he is correct. Thanks be to God!
I have another picture. It is a photograph given to me by former parishioner who was in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. The photo is a testament to perspective, an example of “you see what you are looking for.” It appears to be a large square cut into the ground with some sort of arcane design in the middle. When you look carefully, you can just make out a very small figure in the lower right hand corner. It is the figure of a man. Only then can you see, dug into the ground in order to disguise itself from persecutors, a Coptic Church.
The Church of Jesus Christ is bigger than all of us and there is no one...no one...who cannot be replaced. The one small mark we make only serves to illustrate the expansiveness of the love of God.
I have told Bishop Russell that we are moving just as soon as we can buy a house. Our grandson will be starting school in Homewood on August 19. As Bishop Russell sees fit, and as I also told him, I will do whatever I can to assist until he finds a replacement.
But there are some winds against which one cannot prevail.
It is time to acknowledge this truth. It is time to thank the family of God that is the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.
I do. TBTG.
As Massey states, he will continue to serve our diocese until the end of this year. What will happen afterwards remains to be dreamt and decided. Right now, I have far more questions than I do answers. Right now, I am grieving this change and the loss of a dedicated colleague who has served four bishops. Right now, I am full of gratitude. Right now, I am praying for Massey, Jan and Joseph.
Far more importantly to serving bishops, Massey has served our Lord. He has told the story well, often with a story in itself, and he has loved the people in his care. On behalf of bishops Stough, Miller, Duncan and myself, we give thanks.
The Rt. Rev. J. Russell Kendrick
Bishop of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast