Closing The Door

I must have sung the song a hundred times through the years I was a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Tallahassee (1988, then 1992 through 2005).

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

and his righteousness ……..

I sang this song today at St. Francis’s closing service. After more than 30 years, the size of the parish has declined to the point that it is no longer feasible to remain open.

I left St. Francis in 2005. Although my move to Holy Comforter was the right move for my family and me, St. Francis always held a special place in my heart and spirit. When I walked in today, the memories came flooding back:

  • My confirmation in 1995
  • Tenley’s baptism in 1996
  • Our house blessing in 1998
  • Wayne Kevin’s baptism in 1999
  • Countless communions
  • Tenley taking communion for the first time
  • Wayne Kevin taking communion for the first time
  • Serving on the vestry
  • Many  meals shared
  • Tears shed over deaths, challenges, spiritually moving moments
  • Christmas pageants, “the dancing angel
  • Easter bonnet parades
  • The “Thanksgivings” tradition at the end of each service
  • Moments where the Holy Spirit was inarguably, tangibly present

Today as I walked in, I noticed some visual signs of decline:

But inside, I encountered what really mattered — the people with whom I built all those memories, who nurtured my family and me through so much.

We pored over photo albums, marveling and how young we once were, where we have dispersed to, what we have shared:

Although we did not sing it today, a later verse of “Seek Ye First” says:

Ask and it shall be given unto you

Seek and ye shall find

Knock and the door shall be opened unto you

Today I saw the door of the church closed, physically, after the altar was stripped, the candles extinguished for a final time, and one last parishioner was baptized.

The priest officially closes the church.

This door will no longer be open.

Thank you, St. Francis of Assisi, for the years in which the kingdom of God graced those doors, that altar, every blade of grass.

To Awake Satisfied – An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of my church, Holy Comforter, contribute devotionals for the season of Advent. This is my contribution for 2010. 
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
-Psalm 17:15

December 3, 2010, is the seventeenth anniversary of the death of my sister-in-law, Ann Kiger Paredes. Ann died in her sleep of an undiagnosed genetic cardiac disorder, at the age of 30. She left behind a husband, a six year old son, a three year old daughter, and a six month old baby girl.

Advent Reflection

Christmas 1993 was not an easy holiday for our family. Ann’s coworker, Faith Bass, captured the feeling in her poem, “Is There Christmas in Heaven?” from which I have provided an excerpt:

Do you exchange gifts,
have parties and such,
or is your only wish to be mortal,
to feel your child’s touch?


Are you watching us from heaven?
Do you feel our grief?
Is living in heaven such a relief?

Ann’s children are young adults now. How I wish she could have been here among us over the past seventeen years, marveling in their growth and, yes, grumbling about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. For some reason, God gave us, her family, that gift. When I “hang out” with that nephew and those nieces whose world was so drastically shaken so long ago, I know Ann is with us when I see Zack’s “AEK” tattoo on his arm, when Logan says something that just has that “Ann” tone to it, and when Jordan still has that exuberant little sparkle in her eye she did as a youngster.

I still do not understand why Ann did not wake up before dawn on December 3, 1993. She awoke to the likeness of God. As you contemplate the gifts of Christmas, may you awaken to a Godly likeness with every moment.

Advent Reflection
The Kiger Siblings, 1991 (Ann is 2nd from the left)