When a couple is going to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, how do they celebrate? They usually have a party, and invite family, friends and any of the original wedding party members who are still available.
What does an Episcopal priest do when he is going to celebrate his golden anniversary as a priest? He celebrates, too, but in a different way. First, the Holy Eucharist is celebrated to the glory of God and in thanksgiving for 50 years of his ministry. The bishop usually is the celebrant, and if any persons who assisted at the ordination are still available, they are invited to take part in the celebration.
The wedding couple reminisces about how they met and what has happened over the years. Those at their party chime in with stories.
The priest, too, looks back over the years. This is what I will be doing at 11 a.m. on Saturday in St. Johns Grace Episcopal Church. On that day, I will have been a priest for 50 years.
I was born in Quincy, Mass., attended local schools and graduated from Boston University. After graduation, I worked at the Granite Trust Co. as a night deposit teller. After four years, I became the head teller, and the bank became the South Shore National Bank of Quincy.
But the priesthood had always been on my mind, so I contacted the bishop’s office for information on how I should proceed. The bishop’s secretary called and asked me to come and meet with the bishop on a Saturday morning. The Monday before that appointment, the bank offered me the job of head bookkeeper. It would require a five-year commitment. The bank wanted an answer the next morning. After a sleepless night and much praying, I decided to turn down the offer.
My meeting with the bishop went well, and he wanted me to go to seminary away from home. So I resigned from the bank and entered the Philadelphia Divinity School in Pennsylvania. I graduated with a master of divinity degree.
I was ordained a deacon on Oct. 13, 1962, in Christ Church in Quincy. Six months later, on April 27, 1963, I was ordained to the priesthood by the Rt. Rev. Lewis B. Whittemore, retired bishop of Western Michigan.
Since my ordination, I have served churches in the dioceses of Rochester and Western New York. In 1970, I was called to be rector of All Saints Church in Lockport. This was not a full-time position, since All Saints was the smallest of three Episcopal churches in Lockport. So I became a “worker priest” and worked for Marine Midland Bank as a teller. This allowed the church to remain open until 1979.
In 1982, I began a 20-year interim ministry in the diocese. Presently, I am priest associate at St. Johns-Grace Episcopal Church.
On Saturday, the Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin will preside at the Holy Eucharist in celebration of the 50 years of my ministry as a priest. Assisting him will be the Rev. Canon Clinton Dugger, a seminary classmate of mine, and the Rev. Deacon Cecily Whiteford, a deacon in the diocese. A reception will follow the service.
As the golden wedding couple talk about their ups and downs, I also have had ups and downs. At one point I was ready to give up the priesthood, but God said to me, “I still need you.”
For me, the priesthood has been rewarding, and I pray that I can do God’s work for a long time.