I attend Holy Trinity Anglican Church, where the Reverend Stephen Hambidge delivers God’s Word each Sunday. He’s a fantastic preacher – his sermons are consistently challenging, yet accessible. He’s got deep knowledge and loads of education, but doesn’t clutter his messages with unnecessarily polysyllabic verbiage (unlike some people).
He has a knack for revealing truths hidden in plain sight in Scripture, and for helping people discern their callings and tap into their gifts. He’s not stuffy or phoney.
In typical Hambidgian fashion, his response to a recent question about where the line is for Holy Trinity when it comes to non-traditional worship practices, was: “I don’t know if there is a line … or if there is one, we shouldn’t expect it to be in the same place it is now, a year from now.”
He doesn’t want Holy Trinity to be a museum to what great churches were like in the 1970s (or even the 2000s), he wants his parish to move forward. And under his leadership for the past 19 years, it has.
In short, he’s the kind of pastor everyone should have.
That’s why our church decided to do something special for Clergy Appreciation Month this year. We went together on a gift, wrote some nice cards and letters and even made a short video in which parishioners told the camera how much Stephen means to us. (My daughter Katie produced/directed this masterpiece.)
And we surprised him with it all after service on Sunday.
As a more personal follow-up, I sent an email to Stephen this week to express my appreciation, and with his permission, I’m going to publish it below. I invite you to give it a read.
I let Karen speak for both of us in the thank-you card she wrote for Pastor Appreciation Sunday, but I realized this morning that I have more to add.
So here goes:
I often think about what a great pastor you are – a skilled teacher, a wonderful mentor and an excellent friend. And I know that you, personally and tangibly, have been instrumental in my spiritual journey over the last six years or so. And for that, I thank God for you every day.
But what occurred to me this morning during my morning commute/prayer time is that your personal and tangible contribution in my growth as a disciple is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are a few fumbled-together points, in no particular order:
You’re not overtly involved in the small group and music team where I’ve begun to spread my wings, but they both stem from seeds you planted and continue to water.
You’re not the only Christian mentor I have in my life. In fact, this roster is quite long and still growing (thank God). But I realized this morning that you’re also a mentor to many of my mentors! In addition to thanking God for a mentor like you, I thank God for mentors like Kaz and Dennis and Jack; for Tom and Jason and Anthony; for Jeff and Scott and Jay (to name a few) – and all of them can (or at least should) thank God for mentors like you!
The church where I feel so at home is the way it is because God used you to make it this way! For nearly two decades, you’ve been the steward of this parish, so it’s clearly the way it is because of you. And if it’s not obvious, I’m of the opinion that this is the best church around. Therefore, it must have the best pastor around. (The Trash Heap has spoken. [Fraggle Rock reference])
So, Stephen, if you’re at all pleased with the progress I’ve made in my journey so far, I hope you’ll allow yourself to take some of the credit and be proud. (And if you ever think I need a kick in the pants because I’m either off-track or falling behind, please don’t hesitate to lace up your steel-toed boots! You’ve definitely earned the right.)
I want to thank you for being my friend, my pastor and my mentor. ‘Thank’ isn’t a big enough word, really, but it’ll have to do – on this side of Heaven.
Your Brother In Christ,
So if you’re a little slow on the uptake (like me) and you’ve had trouble connecting the cause-and-effect dots between your great pastor and your great church, I encourage you to express that thought to your man/woman in black as soon as possible. (ClergyAppreciation Month is over now, but really, every month should be Clergy Appreciation Month, shouldn’t it?)
Meanwhile, if you like your pastor but are a little frustrated with your church, maybe he or she could use more than words of appreciation. Great pastors need a great deal of help from their great parishioners to build great churches, after all.
Peace be with you.
- Pastor’s Day (October 12, 2010)
- Petkau Family Photo Album (Rob and Karen’s Vow Renewal, July 2, 2011. Photo by Ken Blackmore)