The Parish Hall of St. George’s Anglican Church, Fort Langley began to fill up for the 10am Celebration of the Eucharist at approximately 9am on Sunday, March 18th, 2012.
The liturgy was moved from its usual location in the sanctuary of St. George’s to the hall as parish leaders were expecting a capacity plus turnout for worship. By 10am it was “standing room only” as parishioners and colleagues of the Reverend Pam Worthington gathered to sing, pray and participate in the Lord’s Supper together with their priest, pastor, mentor and friend.
Bishop Michael Ingham was the preacher and presider for the Lent IV worship and would attend the luncheon and speak at this celebration of Pam’s time at St. George’s, an incumbency that began September 1st, 1990 and will officially conclude following the Easter Sunday service, April 8th, 2012.
Prior to the procession, Rector’s Warden, Rick Pallen was asked what the organizers had in store for Pam at the luncheon scheduled to follow the service. He replied “After 21 years we think it’s time for a Performance Review. More than a few development points have been suggested but we will start with the top ten.”
Prior to the Grace, Bishop Michael made reference to the “standing room only” congregation and said that their attendance was “a great tribute, and display of affection and respect for Pamela.”
At the completion of the worship the hall went through a rapid transition where many chairs were shifted to make way for numerous tables that were quickly positioned around the room. Then the chairs were placed around the tables and potluck dishes began to emerge from the kitchen and lined up on long tables situated in front of the stage area where a half hour earlier the Eucharist had been celebrated.
There was an abundance of delicious savoury selections to enjoy followed by the clearing of the buffet tables, making way for a similar number of sweet items for dessert.
Rick Pallen's "ROAST" of Pam consisted of listing the Top Ten development ideas emerging from her performance review. His presentation had the capacity crowd drying tears of laughter from their eyes. Rick concluded with these words...
“Pam you taught us that perfection is not mandatory and sharing a laugh at our own expense is an endearing act.
We enjoyed wonderful sermons and reflections that brought us to look at God in new and diverse ways. You are a great pastor who made everyone that you ministered to feel that they were the most important person in the world.”
Bishop Michael was next up to speak to Pam and he began by reminding the congregation that this is not Pam’s last Sunday among them. The next three weeks will be a serious anti-climax, however in his experience the biblical text a priest uses for their last sermon tells you everything about them and how they feel about the congregation they are leaving. Bishop Michael went on to list a number of scripture suggestions with more than one or two meanings and they were hilarious.
Following Bishop Michael, there was a farewell from Pam’s ministerial colleague, Rev. Debra Hinksman of St. Andrew’s United who had kind words, pleasant memories and gifts for Pam. Reverend Paul Illical currently Priest-in-Charge at St. Oswald, Port Kells brought greetings of love and affection from the St. Oswald’s community as well as his own personal message of thanks, for Pam’s friendship and ministry during his 18 year incumbency at St. Michael’s, Surrey.
Now it was time for the parish to give gifts of appreciation to Pam. The wardens joined Pam on the platform to present her with numerous items that will assist her in her planned retirement, which at its outset consists of an extended vacation in a motor home traveling around North America with her partner, Marilynn and two of their beloved Shelties.
The first gift was a large plastic storage container filled with everything anyone could ever need on a road trip, including a large supply of duct tape, which Pam pointed out was “military grade.” Next there was a key chain and finally a stylish credit card case holding more than a dozen gas station gift cards to help with the high cost of vehicular travel. Pam confided that the motor home gets about 8 miles to the gallon.
And then it was time for Pam to give thanks for the gifts she had received that day and for gifts of ministry shared this past 21 and a half years.
She stood at the podium and looked out at the community and shared with them for one of the last times, what is most important to her; God’s Love, that infinite love that is the greatest love of all, love that is greater than death.
Thanks be to God.
Images: Top, Pam and Bishop Michael sing the first hymn. Top right, Pam hugs and shakes hands during the Peace. Middle, left, Wardens, Rick Pallen and Kim Hodge. Lower right, Pam listens to Bishop Michael present some possible texts for her last sermon. Lower left Kim and Pam enjoy the contents of a bag of travel items. Below, Pam composes herself to say thank-you and good-bye