Friday, February 28, 2014

A Lily in the Pulpit Returns Home to Phoenix

St. Paul Cathedral interim Dean, the Very Reverend Rebecca McClain appeared 'fragile as a lily in the pulpit' (as one woman in the audience was heard to murmur) at the 10:30 a.m. Cathedral Day service on January 26 at St. Paul's, her final sermon.

Interim Dean McClain's amazing field of energy has continued to inspire, instruct and amuse during her year in office which ended Feb. 23,  followed immediately on Feb. 24 by the incoming Dean elect, the Rev. Penelope M. Bridges, formerly rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, VA.

In her final sermon Dean McClain expressed current feeling of separation from this, her cathedral home parish for a year, and the St. Paul congregation she called "teeming with tenacity, compassion and intellect" and she subsequently asked to be remembered here as "beloved Rebecca, part of the beloved St.Paul Community."

This farewell sermon was also part of the Installation and Seating of the Rev. Allisyn Thomas as Honorary Cathedral Canon.  She  was given the Canon Cassock by her presenter, the Rev. Canon Brooks Mason, and also a Cathedral Canon's Cross by interim Dean McClain who noted how happily and effectively she and the Rev. Canon Thomas have worked during the past year. (McCain has served as Canon to the Ordinary in Phoenix, a post soon to be filled in the San Diego office by Thomas.)

"Alisyn and I love to color together," she quipped, never missing a chance to be droll and, ultimately, right on target.

Many in the January 24 congregation knew the truth about this apparent desert lily, at 5'1" and how her diminutive, child-like appearance belies a throbbing vital spirit with a vast field of energy as she heads back to Phoenix where she formerly served as Dean, Trinity Cathedral (1995-2005)----- plus a sense of amazement as an Episcopal priest, administrator and counselor staggering since her ordination back in 1985 Diocese of Texas to her official retirement June 2012, Diocese of Olympia WA.

Here's how her St. Paul experience first came down in December, 2012, when she "ran into" St. Paul parishioner Norm Friesen during the intermission of the performing Phoenix Chorale; at the spur of the moment he asked casually if she might consider a year as interim Dean of St. Paul's.

"I'm retired," she said, at age 65, but possibly too gently to be taken seriously. Without much urging she investigated. "we never know where relationships will take us," she mused recently. She, Friesen and Warden Mark Lester, back in San Diego, cobbled together a contract proposal for a one-year term as Cathedral Dean along with a lease for her Hillcrest condo

Mindful is the peaceful state where Interim Dean McClain, a longtime Zen meditator, apparently landed years ago--- and she appears to greet most all encounters with awe, a bit of ironic detachment and----always---wonder; her capacious frame of reference---literary, theological and juvenile---gives easy access to smooth references from, say, Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to contemporary writers such as Robert Farrar Capon and Eugene Peterson.

Her adored three children and five grandchildren are now scattered in Phoenix, Seattle and Baltimore and Dean McClain continues to be a super-effective communicatior with them. Around San Diego she's been observed walking everywhere after her morning jaunt to Pappalegos Coffee Shop near her building where she starts with Americano coffee with whipped cream then reads the New York Times on her I-phone.

"I'll miss all the energy of San Diego and everyone within the Cathedral..... but I'll find plenty to do in Phoenix," said the beloved Rebecca.

And we wish her Godspeed.

Ellen Shaw Tufts

1 comment:

Donna L Turner said...

Thank you, Ellen. You combined the thread of our wonderful time with Dean Rebecca with grace. I learned a few things and was reminded of more that I do not want to forget.