When I was sent forth from my sponsoring parish, and on many occasions when I visited during my seminary years, parishioners would come up to me and excitedly exclaim how happy they were for me and ask when I was coming back. Some went so far to say, I can't wait for you to come back so that things can be like they were.
The Diocese of New York has a rule, that is fairly common in TEC, which states that an individual raised from a particular parish cannot go back and serve that parish as priest, either as associate or rector. Certainly this, like many rules, is broken. Sometimes the cure at the sponsoring parish is a successful one, often times it is not. We hear people around Jesus say Yes we know where this man is from. It is so very hard to change impressions people have of others, particularly those they knew before some dramatic change occurred in their lives. And this image of people gets in the way of a priest being a priest.
Although where we come from helps form and shape us, that location and background is not all that we are or all that we will become. New York's rule is a good one as it understands human nature, both of the congregation and of the individual changed.
People can and do change, and although the past informs, it does not have to control us.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.