With Poetry, Prose and Prayer

Fly with me
Upwards, towards the heavens
Until we reach
“That steady underneath us level air”
Then, let us wheel and glide
Over the lake and mountains
In the exhilaration of our desires
Borne on wings to
Places we have roamed,
Autumns we have passed
Quietly circling our tomorrows
In the confidence
We have gained
Becoming who we are
In challenge after challenge
Until, forced to let go
Of whatever defines us
We are free to enter
The beginning of everything
We have ever known.
   The Rev. John G. Hay

He had a smile that could light up the room, a twinkle in his eye that always felt like he was just a wee bit mischievous and he was constantly humming, whistling or singing. This is how I would describe Fr. John, the author of the poem above and mentor priest for my curacy.  Much of what I know about both the priesthood and parish ministry I can trace directly to him.  Specifically, my grounding in the ministry of all the baptized was forged under  Fr. John’s tutelage. He  was gregarious, collaborative, innovative,  and above all, an extraordinary parish priest who excelled pastorally, programmatically and as a preacher.  Yet at his core he was a deeply soulful person who grounded his life in scripture and responded to life in prose, poetry and prayer.

Fr. John’s primary partner in ministry was his spouse Marj. A person who very clearly was not the Rector’s wife, but rather a person who had a strong sense of her own gifts and ministry in their home, in the  Church and in the world. Marj’s wisdom was also not lost on my new partner in ministry (my bride of just one month, the lovely Mrs. Prior).

Six weeks ago, sharing a hospital room together, John and Marj went on to God’s greater glory within 24 hours of each other. A true testament in my own mind of both their love and partnership.

While I am not exactly certain, my sense is, knowing Fr. John, this poem, which was printed in their joint memorial service bulletin, was written in the latter days of their lives. Consistent with how he navigated the world, anticipating their forthcoming death, Fr. John responded in poetry.   Great challenges both near and far, or moments of joy and wonder, he was always inspired by the Spirit to respond in writing – prose, poetry and prayer.

I am truly grateful for both John and Marj, for their caring mentoring of both Staci and me. And I’m truly  grateful for all the beautiful, powerful, humorous, soulful inspiring words that the Spirit led Fr. John to write. My life was both blessed and transformed by his prose, poetry and prayer.

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