Rector’s Farewell

Dear parish family and friends,

On Sunday, July 28, I will celebrate my last Sunday with you as your rector. I thank you for the many ways that you have enriched my life and ministry. It has been an honor and a special privilege to have served as your priest and pastor as I conclude my active ministry as a priest of the Episcopal Church for almost 41 years. It has been my joy and privilege to be with you at times of greatest happiness to baptize you and your children, to officiate the weddings of many, to provide pastoral counsel and advice, to attend to you when you were sick and hospitalized, and to stand with you when death crossed our paths. These are special opportunities for a priest, and I cherish the many memories made as we lived into the life of the Body of Christ as God’s faithful people.

As I prepare to conclude my active ministry, I remind you of our Diocesan and Episcopal Church policy: When a priest concludes ministry in a parish, that priest is no longer the congregation’s pastor. This means that I will not be able to return to officiate at any of the services of this parish, including baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The church establishes this policy to help both priest and congregation make a clean break and to allow the congregation to begin the important process of transition, a process that includes reformation of its identity and sense of mission and ministry for the future. In this way, the congregation will have a clearer focus on who its next pastor should be: a person who will work with you to achieve and work toward the goals and objectives you have identified. Throughout the upcoming transition, please keep your wardens and vestry, and the transition and search committees (yet to be named) in your prayers.

Some of you have asked what I will do in retirement. I am preparing to move to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Bethlehem will allow me to be much closer to my mom in Reading, Pennsylvania as well as to the New York metro area. For much of the rest of this year, I will continue to serve our Diocese as President of the Standing Committee. Beyond that, I am looking forward to taking several months to regroup, rest and discern what God may have in store for this next chapter of my life. I am looking forward to finding more time to pursue some of my hobbies, especially in setting up a woodworking shop.

All my life I have been deeply drawn to Catholicism and over the past four or five years I have been discerning how to respond to that deep call. Later this year, I will incardinate (be received as a priest) into an independent Catholic church (one not in communion with either Rome (and the Pope) or the Episcopal Church). I will become a priest of the American National Catholic Church ANCC) and serve as a priest in that vineyard. Sadly, because our Episcopal Church canons require it, I will have to give up my ministry as an Episcopal priest. This causes me great sadness because I have an abiding love and respect for the Episcopal Church, which has nurtured and formed me as a Christian and as a priest. I leave the Episcopal Church not out of anger or regret but with thanks and joy that it has sustained me to this place where I may now pursue a vocation I have sensed since childhood.

I leave with gratitude for our time together; gratitude for all that we have shared: the wonderful times and the more challenging ones, and the very ordinary in-between ones. I leave with the hope that you will continue to seek to perceive God’s presence in your lives and in the lives of others; that you will continue to grow in Christ, as individuals and as a faith community. Know that you will not be far from my thoughts and prayers. I wish you the knowledge of God’s rich and abundant blessing.

 – Fr. Harmon