As I sat in the parish hall yesterday afternoon trying to keep my composure in the midst of all the raw emotion pouring out for Steven’s retirement celebration, I was struck by one other transformation in our midst.
As Kathy Trapani got up to speak there was something different about her. Something I could not quite put my finger on and yet I sensed that this closure of our time together with Steven was also a closure of another sort—-and a new chapter beginning.
For years Kathy has been the faithful sidekick as I have called her many times doing the hard but essential work of the church. No fanfare or drama—that is not her style. As a mother of four she knows how to keep things organized lest the chaos of the alternative suck up the precious time she had available. But this sense of something different I had was not about that. No one doubts Kathy’s management or organization skills—we have seen them in action many times.
This was different.
Kathy had an ease about her that I had not seen before. She was not tentative or hesitant to step up to that microphone or to show her emotion at the symbolism of the occasion. This was a Kathy who knew that the burdens and joys of a rowdy flock were now her primary mission. This was our Interim Rector at work in her first task.
She had to accept the mantle of leadership from her “boss and friend” and despite its interim label she knew she had to fully live into the role of Rector while she held it.
This was a self confident Kathy. An “I can do this, just watch me” Kathy.
And so she did.
I found myself thinking as I watched her give that plaque to Steven as a remembrance of all he had taught her about what it meant to be a priest and part of a collegial team herding the cats forward. She gets it. She knows that what we need now is both a time to grieve Steven’s departure but also a time to imagine our future in new and different ways.
And then it came to me—the idea that had been buried in my head and heart trying to escape. The way to describe this transformation we were witnessing amidst the hugs and tears of Steven’s send-off.
That image stuck in my head—the North Star!
What Kathy showed us yesterday was not a new person just a new dimension we had not appreciated in a person we know so well. She showed us that she knew we expected her to pick up that mantle of leadership from Steven and lead us forward. She was telling us that she was willing, able and eager to be our North Star on this next stage of our faith journey. That exchange of the plaque was at one in the same time the greatest tribute a colleague can give a mentor—thank you for showing me what it means to be a priest, and a reassuring message that said plainly and simply—I’m ready. I can do this.
Everything is going to be alright! And so it is!