“The day was bittersweet,” said the Rev. Tripp Jeffords, Rector of St. Paul’s, Summerville, speaking of the Renewal of Vows Service held at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston, May 18, 2021. “Knowing this was the last renewal of vows under the fine leadership of Mark Lawrence brought with it a bit of sadness.”
The service, which is held annually, will be the last one at which Bishop Mark Lawrence, who has served as the Diocesan Bishop since 2008, will preside. He will be retiring early next year.
At the same time, the service was joyful. For many, this was the first-time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in which those vaccinated were able to gather without masks or social distancing.
“It was an amazing day of worship for me,” said Jeffords. “To see fellow clergy and laity all together, singing to the glory of God, gave me chills.”
“It was great to be back together,” adds the Rev. Canon Todd Simonis, Diocesan Canon for Church Planting, and Associate Rector at St. Helena’s, Beaufort. “You get used to seeing people virtually for so long it was great to be able to give them a hug.”
In his sermon, the Bishop reflected on the encounter between Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 where prior to Elijah being taken up to heaven Elisha asks for a “double-portion” of Elijah’s spirit. During the encounter Elisha picks up the cloak which had fallen from Elijah as he was taken up to heaven.
Lawrence urged the more than 60 clergy present to pick up the “mantle of Elijah,” and to “rekindle the gift of the Holy Spirit” that had been bestowed on them by the laying on of hands at their ordinations.
“Where is the God of Elijah?” he asked, “Where is the mantle that fell from the prophet?”
In speaking of the time just after his own conversion he said, “If I told someone about Jesus it wasn’t because I wanted my church to grow. If I prayed for the healing power of Jesus in the life of someone it wasn’t because I thought in some way or another word would get out that would make the congregation I’m serving grow. It was only because I wanted them to know about Jesus…”
In reflecting on how clergy can lose their sense of call when submerged into the business of church he said, “… sometimes, I look back and think how did I get so deep into the institution that I’m not in those places anymore?”
“Don’t you dare retreat into the institution and not commit yourself to the spiritual gift that is within you by the laying on of hands,” he said.
“Our bishop’s message was a clear call to move forward with a fresh, new anointing of the Holy Spirit for the journey ahead,” said Jeffords. “He was passing the mantle of ministry with a powerful call for us all to be evangelists of the Good News of Jesus Christ. My favorite phrase was that we are to ‘gossip the Gospel’ everywhere we go.”
Reflecting on the day, Simonis said, “It wasn’t just about getting together, it was about responding to the call to go back on mission. That was really encouraging.”
Listen to the Bishop’s Address
By Joy Hunter, Director of Communications