Dear Church of the Ascension,
Labor Day weekend signals the end of our summer worship season at the Church of the Ascension. As seasonal residents depart and year-round residents anticipate the crisp silence of autumn in the Adirondacks, our Church continues to keep watch over our corner of God’s kingdom. I hope that we might take comfort in the thought of our little log church as a sentinel, persisting and enduring through more than a century of winters in the north woods, waiting for the return of summer when we gather in her presence.
So much of the world is in tumult. Bob and I are praying for an end to this global pandemic, free and fair elections in November, and continued engagement in the deferred race-dialogue in our county. Sometimes these days it feels as though our desire to stay informed is at odds with our ability to remain sane! With that said, our hope is that each one of us will discover ways to engage the world with a love that might subsume the fear that is often too palpable and too powerful in our midst.
The 2020 summer season was filled with the kind of grace that we do well to appreciate but rarely want. We gathered together for ten services of Morning Prayer: wearing masks and forgoing Holy Communion, hymn singing, coffee and donuts, handshakes, and a physical passing of the peace. Some of our members joined us in spirit only, enriching our prayers while staying safe at home. We worshiped as best we could within the constraints of necessary health practices. In spite of all of that, many moments of beauty emerged. We baptized two new members of the Church and we celebrated two weddings. For some, our small and socially distant services on the hill were the first and only opportunities for corporate worship in months, and our cup did run over with gratitude. To recall a powerful verse from the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, we witnessed the truth that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (Jn. 1:5).
We are entering a period of transition at the Church of the Ascension. The Rev. Bob Holum has expressed a desire to tend a summer garden at his home in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, among other activities that he has deferred for some time to spend his summers with us at the Church of the Ascension. We are grateful that he will continue to open the summer season on July 4th and preach the last weeks of August and Labor Day weekend for us in the years to come, but he is retiring from the position of lead Minister and Rector.
Bob joined our community as Rector in 2007, and he has served our community beautifully. As the story goes, Edith Sheerin, the wife of longtime Rector Charles Sheerin, was somewhat circumspect about the new Minister until after his first service when she announced to her family, “Bob preaches a good sermon!” Amen. Bob’s wisdom, humor, bird songs and passion for social justice have graced us all over the past thirteen years from the pulpit, bringing the Gospel to life in our midst. Bob’s outreach with the year-round residents has greatly enriched our life together, bringing new faces to our community and spreading the word about our little church. He has served as a pastor to many of us, caring for our souls as we walk through the valleys and over the mountaintops of life. Thank you, Bob, for being a living sacrament for us, and offering yourself so completely to our community.
On a personal note, Bob is a mentor and role model for me. He is one of several ordained clergy who made “the call” coherent for me as a young man. When Bob first asked me if I might consider taking on more leadership at the Church of the Ascension, my first and honest response was, “Only if it means that you will stay around for as long as possible.” One of the great joys of Bob's new role as Rector Emeritus is that I will get to see Bob each year as he opens and closes the summer season. I have a hard time imagining the place without him. This is not a goodbye, but it is the beginning of what we both pray will be a fruitful new season in the life of our Church. The hummus (he-oo-mus as Bob would be quick to remind us!) of our community is rich, thanks in large part to Bob’s good stewardship, and we are well positioned to keep tilling the soil.
We do have some exciting opportunities and challenges in the years ahead of us, largely to do with the reality of caring for buildings that are now well over 100 years old. Our Board of Trustees is full of capable and committed men and women. We are in very good hands. Bob and I will both help the Board to imagine a new future for our Church, looking towards the next hundred years on the lake and discerning the Good News that Our Lord has in store for us.
We wish you every blessing this year, and we look forward to another summer with you in God’s country next year. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can serve you during the winter season.
with love and prayers,
The Rev. Tyler Montgomery The Rev. Robert Holum
Rector Rector Emeritus