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Annual Parish Meeting: Senior Warden Remarks

February 27, 2022

Greetings, as the great arc of our life together takes a turn up and forward – or so we dearly hope! 

I have longed to sound that sort of cautiously upbeat note for two years now. 

Even with war in the headlines, yet another completely gratuitous upwelling of evil in the world, I am sticking with cautious optimism. For now; for us. 

Last year at this time, you will recall, I welcomed you to what I called perhaps the strangest Trinity Church annual meeting in our 289 year history. Hundreds of well-ordered Episcopalians all obediently gathered in their Hollywood Squares, voting remotely on elections and on other weighty matters such as whose job it is – I’m not quite making this up -- to keep the Phillips Brooks statue from strolling away across Copley Square. And, God bless Lord Zoom, it worked. 

But I want to start this morning by taking us back for a moment to the annual meeting of 2020, in its own way stranger still. Not because of what took place that day but what came next. One week later, the world shut down, and our season of pandemic diaspora commenced.  

For me, that meeting also stood out because of something Morgan said in his sermon – something he said and something he did.  He swept his right hand down a long gradual arc, and then turned it up – just a little but unmistakably up. He was describing our year over year stewardship numbers, up for the first time in some time. And then his hand sketched that hopeful checkmark shape again -- our morning attendance, also up – even after we went from three morning services to two. 

“Given these attendance metrics,” Morgan said, smiling, “I am excited to announce that this month we will partner with our Ushers and facility staff to open the balconies for the 10:00 a.m. service, beginning Palm Sunday, and continuing through the end of the Program Year.” 


Remember that feeling? 

That’s where we were, smiling and fully mobilized, on the lip of a crevasse we couldn’t yet see. And that’s where we are again now, taking in the vista of what’s ahead and what may now be possible – a scene lit, in my imagining, by the brilliant, hopeful blue of the Christ Preaching window shining at us now. 

We’ve never done anything quite like this, but we do know how. The road to here was built of familiar things, reconceived; just as the road from here to there will be. 

One of these is our devotion to each other and to this church. Sustaining the power of this place is important to God, to the world, and of course to us. I will come back to this point in a bit, because nothing matters quite as much, and there are some simple things we each can do to help.  

Another familiar and essential thing for Trinity has been and will be our ability to get hard things done, even when there is so much pressure to trim our dreams. This is the force that drove the innovations of these years, including solving the puzzle of how we might worship in the neighborhood of our sanctuary but not in it.  Thus was born Prayer on the Square, a simple but beautiful idea, an innovation in our history – certainly the first involving lawn chairs. 

A like spirit of creativity and care enabled our regathering in church in September, so carefully planned, so assiduous in adhering to public health science, so welcome and so beautiful. Just as no church anywhere could have done better at worship from home, the thoughtfulness and care that went into our return was its match. Just review in your mind the wonders of the Advent season, imagine what made all that happen, and say thank you. And for all who were part of that work, especially Morgan and the whole liturgy team, the Regathering Task Force, the building staff, our intrepid and cherished ushers led by the peerless Christopher Atwood, the choir and choristers, let me say, thank you! 

Despite all the many pressures of this season in the life of the world, this was also a year in which two epic undertakings – the Ministry Collaborative, led by our unstoppable junior warden,  Barbara Dortch-Okara,and  and the Task Force on Justice and Reparations, led with zeal and creative determination by Constance Perry and Steve Hendrickson – moved close to the finish line. I won’t say much more about these, because you have just heard so much about both – with visuals no less, and I can’t compete with that. Suffice it to say these have been great labors of faith – faithful labor given freely for us all. Those two key words – thank you – come to mind again! 

Labor and faith – and high competence – are also the story behind another critical piece of us: our financial health. You will soon hear wise words about our reassuring numbers from our Treasurer Olie Thorp, and from Steve, this time in his role as chairman of our investment committee. But I will exercise my warden’s right to claim one stat that seems to me to carry special power. Consider, friends: Trinity Church’s 3 best years of parish giving since our pre-2008 heyday were 2019, 2020, and 2021. Which is to say: Through an era of historic disruption and painful separation, you came through with remarkable generosity. What an amazing story to contemplate and take pride in. And its author is you! Thanks for that – and don’t stop now! 

Less obviously visible is that the church finance office is being reformed from the ground up, under the leadership of Morgan, Olie, and our CFO of four months Rob Hess. Rob has made a consequential impact already and arrives with two special credentials. First, he recently retired from Fidelity where he held many positions, including as executive in charge of Fidelity operations in India. Think of it as managing financial possibilities for a bustling parish of 1.3 billion souls. Second, Rob did a stint as Senior Warden of St. John’s in Hingham, as did his father before him. Rob is well-formed for this role and for us. 

There were some other arrivals and departures between our last annual meeting and this, but two stand out as meriting special notice. Kit Lonergan joined the clergy staff, as our priest for welcome and care, in December. Kit is a special soul, I’m sure that is already clear to all. And, was it just me, or did it take her – what? – 2.3 seconds to get comfortable in our penthouse pulpit? Kit, your words and presence help fill our empty boat. And, Church – as she is wont to say -- if you don’t get the reference, look it up! 

And then it was, before we could believe it, time to say goodbye to our dear Vicar Bill Rich after 17 years of rich and meaningful service to this church, to God, and to us all. Bill was a leader, guide, teacher, and friend. We will always be grateful that he was such a huge part of our life together. And we can hope that he is finding happiness as he leans into all those next things and dreams, put off for so long for our sake. In aid of that transition, I want to note for posterity here, the parish made Bill a very handsome financial gift, designed to boost his retirement earnings closer to where they should be. This was an offering of gratitude from us all, as it should be.  

One last thing about that mid-January event. I’m not sure why but for some reason Bill’s farewell ceremony was relocated from our west porch to the Everest Base Camp. Or so it seemed in that frozen gale. But what an expression of devotion and grace it was that so many sturdy Trinitarians clung to their seats, braved the elements and stayed the course. Maybe only for Bill.   

Some came and went, but some, of course, were faithfully here all along, helping to sustain and uplift us. I refer of course to Patrick, Karen, and Paige. Thank you for all you do! 

I turn now, as I have in past years, to a few reflections on Morgan, the man who seemed not to leave his garret office for the first long siege of the pandemic, but somehow was everywhere at once. This is, we know, no ordinary priest and he has been tested like no ordinary priest. God called him as a very young man to lead a small parish in Louisiana that would soon be blasted by two historic storms, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He worked tirelessly in the face of that humanitarian imperative, but when it was passed, he felt it, even at the ripe age of 30.  

Just under two decades later, circumstance again challenged Morgan. He was called, before even his second year as our Rector, to lead us through the unceasing perils and demands of this COVID storm – and the nation’s coincident and historic civil rights reckoning. And how incredibly fortunate we are that this exceptional leader has been ours in these many, hard days.  

Morgan has led with grace, thoughtfulness, and creativity, while also somehow finding time to preach with consistent brilliance, a sense of fun when the moment allows, and parabolic power. As Senior Warden I have had a privileged vantage point to witness just how many crises he has faced down. And mine is just a partial view. His family of course has known much more about the price paid, and what a debt we should feel to him, to Missy, Michael and Ginna for what they have given, and given up for us. 

 Would Morgan and the whole Allen family stand so we might offer our gratitude to them all? 

Yes, Morgan has been tireless, or seemed to be. But as COVID time seems, dare I say, close to its end – everyone please knock on the wood of your pews! -- he is feeling it a little, now in ripe middle age. He is even, though not often, willing to admit as much. 

But…This is Morgan Allen. He’s also ready to roll. And he needs our willing hearts to roll with him; he needs our help, our goodwill, our hopefulness, and, sometimes, our patience.  

The arc of our history is poised to bend upwards again, in that optimistic check mark path Morgan inscribed in the air two years ago. We have held ourselves together these endless two years – no small thing that! – but now it is time to bust out. To get those wheels going we will need to join our energies, faith, our stories and dreams to his and to set aside our wary relationship with change, our anxieties, and that ancient Trinitarian instinct to expect perfection and then to grumble when we inevitably fall a tad short. Here’s an elegant alternative: Give thanks for the good! Whisper to your neighbors in the pews all that you loved! Spread the word of your high hopes for what comes next! 

We are writing our next story as a congregation. We Christians must always be writing our next story, knowing that whatever is asked of us now will give way to what is asked next. And that, whatever we are facing into now, no matter how challenging, the light on the horizon is one of hope – that guiding star in the sky, and soon, the never-less-than stunning miracle of Easter. 

I’m feeling ready to help write this next chapter, and I think you are, too. 

God bless you all. 

Thank you. 

Mark Marrow ('23)