It’s right there…in front of me on the shelf of my desk. Not shiny. No glisten. Actually somewhat blemished, dented in a couple of places. Sure. I could polish it up…like new. Maybe even undent it. But, truth transparent, nothing ever new about it. And it won’t be.
It’s a Chalice…with a history richer than any moment or sequence of moments I can ever consider a replacement. Have shared the story before…but in this moment, the dawning moments of Wednesday, April 22, the memory is clear and the appreciation full and the hope steadfast, perhaps even eternal.
The Chalice belonged to Vince Crane. I first met Vince Crane as an 8th grader attending a youth church camp at Camp Adams, Molalla, Oregon. On the last camp day as my parents came for the closing celebration, then to return to our Portland home, Vince asked if he could speak to me…privately and personally. I never considered him a “vice-principal for discipline” type. I wasn’t wrong. He spoke quietly but with clear intent, “Mark, I hope you will consider becoming a minister. You have gifts for that.” My first thought was I really thought my gift had something to do with pitching, but I didn’t say that.
He then handed me a pocket cross. I never had one before.
Fast forward a few decades. Vince had become the pastor at the First Congregational Church in Bellingham, Washington, served more than twenty years. He retired and died. Donel McClellan became the minister and served for more than twenty years. When I arrived in Seattle in 2005 to become the Interim Conference Minister I learned that Esther Crane, Vince’s widow, was still living—with great faith and joy I must add—and a member of the FCC in Bellingham. I arranged for my first worship service to be at that Bellingham Church, mainly so I could visit with Esther Crane.
What I didn’t know is that Donel was dying—a very rapidly spreading cancer—and had been writing a blog about the experience. Powerful, profound and so very poignant. As you can imagine.
A wonderful surprise: Donel attended the worship service and invited me to visit with him and his dear wife in their home following worship. As I sat with them I noticed a very old Chalice…battered and dented. As our visit ended Donel lifted the Chalice: “Mark, this was given to me by Vince. He asked that when my ministry ended, if I would gift it to someone special. I know of your relationship with Vince…”
He handed me the Chalice, “Here, it is now yours…from Vince through me.”
Time has passed. This morning, in our new home in Leander, Texas, the battered and dented Chalice is on my desk shelf, front and centered. I look at it and oh my, how it helps reflecting upon all the joys and vicissitudes of ministry—cannot have one without the other. And what I hope…hopefully not too soon…when the time comes to keep the gift of the Chalice continuing…the one to whom it will be gifted…
Well, no answer for that now.
But, for today…and each dawning day I hope, pray and trust as long as breath continues, my journey will give evidence of the message of the Chalice—from one generation to the next. Even more, the prayer that the journey, personal yes, but with hope and promise for each of us, will reflect a worthy manner of life…