22 September 2022
“Where you go, I will go,” Ruth 1:16
On 26 December 1999, I met a girl. I won’t say it was love at first sight, but I was duly smitten. We courted and, despite the wise advice of friends and family, were married. And ever since that day, Ellen has followed me: to seminary in Virginia, to my curacy in Kentucky, to my first rectorship in North Carolina, to Calvary, Memphis, and to Madison, Mississippi to be rector of the Chapel of the Cross. Along the way she earned a Masters in Occupational Therapy, a Doctorate in Clinical Anatomy, raised two amazing children, and deftly and lovingly supported me and my ministry. I am indescribably grateful for my beloved Ellen. And now it is my turn to follow her.
Ellen has been appointed to the faculty of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA (outside Richmond) and will begin teaching classes in January. I am thrilled for Ellen, for the opportunity and how well the position at RMC will utilize her many strengths. However, this move necessitates that I step down as Rector of the Chapel of the Cross.
I am deeply grateful for the privilege to serve such a wondrous parish: I love our community, I take great pride in all that we have accomplished, I am blessed by excellent and admirable colleagues, and I enjoy my work. I will sincerely miss each and every one of you, the Diocese of Mississippi, and the Chapel.
During last night’s Vestry meeting, the Senior Warden, Treasurer, and I presented a plan for my transition. My last day of active ministry will be Sunday, 18 December, 4 Advent. Until then, I will continue to actively and diligently serve as Rector, fulfilling my regular duties as well as preparing the staff for my departure. On Monday, 19 December, Will will be Priest-In-Charge of the Chapel of the Cross, as per Bishop Seage’s appointment. Brock shares more details in his letter below. Your Wardens and Vestry are among the best parish leaders I have ever known. You are in good hands, and I thank God for each and every one of them.
Winnie-the-Pooh said, “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This is not goodbye, not quite yet. I look forward to coffees, lunches, and other opportunities to connect with you in the next three months. And I am confident that your next rector will be a good and fine priest, for the Chapel is a healthy and vibrant parish. Continue to love each other, welcome the stranger, worship in our peculiar way, and follow our Savior Jesus Christ, all of which you do so well.
You will always be in my prayers, and I love you with all my heart.
Keep the Faith,
22 September 2022
We are eternally grateful to Ben for his steadfast leadership over the past eight years. As he has told us, his reason for leaving is right and just. I am reminded of my oldest brother who retired from the Air Force after 27 years of service a few months ago. At the ceremony his wife was overheard to have big plans for their next, and hopefully final, move. It is no easy thing to be married to one who has committed him or herself to service, and thus we thank Ellen, Anna, and Henry for allowing Ben to lead us often at the expense of the time he could be with them. They say it is part of the job, but some jobs do not keep regular hours. We appreciate their sacrifice to allow Ben to serve us. And serve he has.
Now we as a Church must move forward into a time of transition. Change is inevitable, but is often not welcome. In our case we happen to be in a very strong position as a Church. When Ben started with us 8 years ago our membership was 612. As of 2020, our numbers have grown to 945. Our average attendance was 210 and in 2019 (pre-pandemic) we had increased to 267. According to data readily available from the Episcopal Church, we are one of the four largest Congregations in the state of Mississippi. But beyond the data, all you need do to understand the strength of our Church is to take a walk and look around you. From the good people, powerful ministry, and bucolic surroundings, we have a strong spiritual home.
We will be looking for a leader that can sustain and grow on the catalyst that Ben has started. We are fortunate to have an outstanding Associate Rector in Will Compton, who will be appointed Priest in Charge by Bishop Seage. We have an excellent Chapel Staff that will continue to do their duties diligently. Your Vestry will begin the process of finding a new Rector as outlined by the procedures set forth by the Diocese of Mississippi. There is, in fact, a Manual provided by the Diocese that we will follow in order to find our next Rector. We will receive support from the Diocese in many forms, including the support of an experienced and trained Search Consultant. A Search Committee will be formed and they will be tasked with following the process, including creating a Parish Profile and soliciting nominations from potential Rectors.
Please know that this change, as difficult as it is, is not unprecedented. The Vestry asks for your prayers and your patience as we begin undertaking this critical task. If you have questions, please call me. Once again, I want to thank Ben and his family for 8 years of faithful service to the Chapel of the Cross and wish them the very best in the next chapter of their lives.
Brock H. Haas