Pillar of Cloud / Pillar of Fire

The Vestry of the Church of Our Saviour was informed this evening of information which they have directed me to share with you as soon as possible following tonight’s (Tuesday, Sept 5th) Vestry meeting.  It is 9:30pm, September 5th, as I begin to write to you.

My last Sunday at the Church of our Saviour as your Rector will be January 14th, 2018. 

While my original plan for retirement, which I shared with you six years ago this month, was to retire after the Celebration of Easter in 2020 in the midst of my then 72nd year—mandatory retirement age—the situation of the Bradleys’ lives has changed.

The “situation,” as most of you well know, is the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s that Peg received before the summer last year, 2016.  At that time, I seriously considered immediate retirement, but the very important message of the doctor was that, while time to enjoy retirement is clearly shortened, the high value of socialization and purposeful work must balance the move toward retirement.

Peg and I have been so tremendously blessed by your love, your concern, your support for Peg over the last several years, before the diagnosis, but with clearly observable markers pointing toward the reality finally given its dreadful name in May, 2016: Alzheimer’s.

In Peg’s characteristic sweetness and forthright honesty, she only said two things upon receiving the diagnosis, which the doctor delivered “straight-up,” as they say – pulling no punches, just telling it like it distressingly was.  Peg said, “We have the time we have; we will use it as best we can.”  And then, she said, “You know what one of my first graders said years ago about her grandmother?  She told the class that her grammie had “Old-Timer’s Disease.”

That is the sweetness and honesty with which I have been blessed for nearly 40 years, qualities that make it not only possible but a privilege to be entrusted for as long as possible with her primary care. 

The retirement date was chosen as “the acceptable time” with a number of counter-balanced objectives before Peg and me, prayer being at the center of the decision-making, and the hybrid-sabbatical time being the ground of clarity to weigh the two-sides of the situation.  I know it is the right time, the acceptable time, as St. Paul would call it.

Of course, the question now arises – what next?  PLEASE be assured that no Vestry has been as well prepared as the Vestry now in place to carry on the work before it.  On September 17th the Vestry will lead the FORUM at 9am in Cleaver Hall on Sunday, September 17th to clearly answer that question: “What next?”  PLEASE pass the word—Come to that Forum!  And…

For that reason, please also help each other to not engage in discussion about “What next?” during this coming weekend of the Celebration of 150 years of this great parish.  The Vestry seriously weighed the option to hold the retirement decision announcement until after Sunday, September 10th, but the consensus was a vote for transparency and trust of the wonderful people of the Church of Our Saviour.

In any case, here is the nucleus of the answer to the “What next?” question:  the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  That is what got the Israelites through the major transition of their lives.  They never really “wandered” in the desert as so often stated.  They were guided the whole time by God, symbolized by the presence of the pillars, day and night, which did not cease to guide them on their path … in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” (Exodus 40:34,38)

It will be my distinct privilege to point to the Pillar of Presence over the remaining four+ months of my tenure as your Rector. 

God Bless You!

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The Rev. Gary J. Bradley
Rector, The Church of Our Saviour