I am so very excited about what our Lord is doing and about the constant renewing of his love in our midst. When I embarked upon full-time prison chaplaincy more than two years ago, I thought he had closed the door to my working with you in establishing an Anglican parish in Mount Sterling. I adjusted myself to that fact and moved on with ministry behind the prison walls – I ministry I still love very much and intend to continue.
As happens when we allow God to be God, he worked things out in such a way that I could celebrate the Mass on Sunday afternoons within the prison! I delighted in this, and I think that several Inmates were touched and transformed by the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments – our Lord is very faithful, isn’t he! I was very happy with this arrangement until late July/early August 2010, when several of the Inmates who attended Sunday Mass were transferred to other Institutions. My heart was broken, for I had come to greatly enjoy our weekly fellowship with Jesus.
In early September the announcement came that my colleague in the Chaplain’s office was retiring immediately, and that I was being made Senior Chaplain. With that news came a shift in my schedule. I would no longer be able to celebrate the Mass in the prison. To say that I was saddened wouldn’t begin to touch the surface of my feelings. I once again felt that I needed to adjust my feelings to accommodate whatever our Lord might have in mind. In short, I prepared myself for what seemed the inevitable probability that I would not be celebrating the Mass for some time to come.
I struggled with this new reality. While a great deal of what I do at the prison is quite definitely the work of a priest, I was no longer able to do the one thing I love most. After all, I had been ordained to love and walk with God’s people – whoever they may be – and to preach his Word and celebrate the Sacraments. This is the very reason I was created – just as each of us has a reason for being. And so, as I began to pray and seek from the Lord how I might continue serving him, it came to me that perhaps I should actively pray about the founding of an Anglican parish in Mount Sterling.
If I could handle the work load of both the Chaplaincy and shepherding a parish behind the prison walls, I could indeed handle the work load of both the Chaplaincy and shepherding a parish in which the parishioners can take their rightful place with me in ministry. You might be surprised to hear this, but my pledge to has nothing to do with me being able to handle the work load of a growing and vibrant parish. My pledge to you is that I will do something uncharacteristic for me – something that is quite necessary if our new parish is to survive for generations to come: I pledge to put YOU to work in the ministry of God’s kingdom!
While there are certain things that only a parish priest can do in the midst of his congregation, there is much more that WE can do TOGETHER!!! ALL of God’s people are called to be in ministry. And I fully recognize that one of my faults in parish ministry has been the thought that I must do everything. Being placed in a situation – full-time prison Chaplaincy – in which there is no possible way I can function without being collaborative has forced me to understand how REAL parish ministry works!
So, my brothers and sisters, if you want to be a part of Saints Mary and Martha Church, get ready to pray without ceasing and to work as though lives depended on it – because they do. This will not be a parish for the faint of heart or those who desire some form of comfortable Christianity. This will be a parish in which we take seriously the Biblical mandate that all believers have a role to play in ministry! This is my solemn pledge to you.
God bless you!
Father Todd Boyce, MSJ
Vicar, Saints Mary and Martha Anglican Church
Mount Sterling, Kentucky