Dear Members and Friends of Saint Timothy’s,
With the New Year comes new experiences, new events, new resolutions, new friends and acquaintances, and new and fresh beginnings to launch. This will be my last article for The Tidings as my family and I are answering a new call to another Church, and this new month of January will see us leave to pursue this new calling. So the idea of the New Year with lots of new things happening hits home in a very real way for us. We are deeply affected by this change and the effects are amplified and intensified by the length of time we served Saint Timothy’s Church and School. We know how much we are affected by this change and if it’s true for us as a family, it must be true for the parish family as well. Twenty-five years of ministry in the same place is out of the ordinary these days. For Saint Timothy’s to only have two rectors since 1956 is truly not the norm by today’s standards. Father Hale was here for thirty-six years and I have been here for twenty-five years. That kind of longevity and continuity in the position as rector does not happen much anymore in The Episcopal Church. It can be a great blessing but it also generates the curse of having to leave and that can be very difficult. The strong ties and bonds that develop are difficult to break. So we are left with new and exciting prospects and at the same time sadness in leaving a place we have loved to serve.
One of the blessings of being in a place like Saint Timothy’s Church is the strong witness this parish makes to the orthodox, Biblical Christian faith. I am convinced that is one of the reasons Father Hale and I could be in the parish so long. The stability, faithfulness, strength, and comfort of a parish that is rooted and grounded in right teaching and Biblical principles is attractive to clergy and therefore it ought not to be any surprise that priests like Father Hale and me would want to stay around for all those decades. I know the traditional background of the parish is also the reason Saint Timothy’s Church is so diverse and it is also the reason Saint Timothy’s School is thriving. Without the traditional teaching rooted in creedal Christianity, without the expression of traditional Prayer Book worship in our chapel services for the School, and Sunday by Sunday in the parish, the parish and the school would have drifted from what has made them strong anchors for searching Christians and safe harbors for parents trying to have their children in a safe and good academic classroom.
This ought to come as a warning that should the Church and the School be allowed to break free from their orthodox moorings and begin drifting in a sea of contemporary liturgical experiments and a redone Biblical morality that fits our present progressive social scene, then we cannot expect a priest to be rector or chaplain of the School for very long. Neither can we expect Saint Timothy’s Church and School to remain stable or grow. Those who want stability, contentment, longevity, consistency, and diversity are the same clergy, and the same members of the Church and School, who are looking for traditional Prayer Book worship, traditional New Testament morality, attentive pastoral care, and spirituality that acknowledges the reality of sin and the need for redemption. If the Church and the School remain planted in that good ground, they will continue to grow and flourish. That is what keeps clergy ministering in one parish and what keeps people in the pews and students in the classrooms.
Since I announced my resignation at the end of this month and that my last service will be Sunday, January 21st, I have been met with many touching letters and comments about friendship, leadership, and examples of true Christian love and fellowship. It has amazed me how close a priest can come to a parish family. We learn as parish priests how to be loved and how to love, and I hope I have learned from all of you how to love in both of those ways, better. “Thank you” for being such good friends and fellow Christians. Now you must learn to love and how to be loved by another priest and I pray that change is good. The published guidelines on how this kind of change ought to be conducted suggest that you know that after January 21st I will no longer be able to function as your priest and pastor, so I can no longer baptize, officiate at weddings or funerals, hear confessions, take home communions, appear on the website, and generally “withdraw” from social interaction. The recommended time for this “distancing” is one year and then I would come back only at the invitation of the interim priest or the new rector. I know our friendships will last long beyond a year and in fact these are friendships that will last a lifetime. They will always be treasured.
Since Saint Saviour’s Church was founded in 1894 as a mission of Christ Church the Rector of Christ Church oversaw the mission and ministry. He would assign one of the assisting priests at Christ Church the work of being the Vicar of Saint Saviour’s Mission. Fathers Kelsey, Wilcox, Lackey, Cox, Haskell, and Wulf served faithfully in this capacity. Saint Saviour’s reached parish status in 1948 so Fathers Katt and Cheathom served not as Vicar, but as the first and second Rectors of Saint Saviours. When the parish moved here to Six Forks Road in 1956, and with the accompanying name change to Saint Timothy’s, Father Hale and I round out this short list of Rectors of Saint Timothy’s. I tell this brief history of clerical lineage only to point out that there have been a number vicars and rectors of Saint Saviour’s and Saint Timothy’s and for these ensuing decades other clergy will continue to come and go. This only shows that there is no one “leader” of Saint Timothy’s here in the world. It is Jesus Christ alone who is and ought to be ultimately watching over us, forgiving us, caring for us and giving us His grace so we can continue to witness for Him until He comes again.
Thank you for allowing my family and me to be part of the life and ministry of Saint Timothy’s. It has been a great blessing to be part of your family. We will pray for you and remember you so warmly in our hearts.
Yours faithfully, in Christ,
The Reverend Jay C. James