Fr. Rex Chambers
I retired three months ago after four churches and 10 years at St. Alban’s, Windsor. My time there has been rewarding and fulfilling. In an effort to leave the church in as healthy position as possible financially and physically, I did not take any vacation or days off for the last year.
This last year, in addition to all the services, I officiated at 17 baptism, 7 weddings, and five funerals. I have been at the birth of countless babies, held the hand of those passing over to the promised eternal life, and cried with those who felt alone or lost. In the last seven years we ventured into a new construction adding 700 additional square feet to the parish hall at a cost of $500,000. We paid cash.
In the beginning…
Years ago, I participated in a Cursillo retreat, a short course in Christianity. The whole weekend was a time of listening and singing. The food was great. One particular night I was sitting in the small wooden chapel, acutely aware of the soft silence, the smell of an aged oil heater in the back of the church, incense, and 100 years of prayers.
About two in the morning, I began praying out loud…” Lord I know you can’t forgive me my sins and the things I did in Viet Nam. Suddenly, there was voice as clearly as I’m speaking to you, “are you so big I can’t forgive you. I’m here, and you are forgiven.” Lord I’m so unworthy and I have no gifts for you.” He responded, “you are the servant of the servant, be glad in that.”
I wept for some time, but I felt like an elephant had been lifted off my shoulders…forgiveness! I never knew it could feel so releasing. But, the servant of the servant, what did that mean, what was God directing me to do or be? I didn’t know. I would spend the next 20 years going from church to church as my family and I moved across the country from job to job. Each church we attended the priest would tell me that he thought I was called. I always said the same thing, “no, I’m just a soldier in the trenches.”
At one point in my life, I was General Manager and Vice President of the Hilton Corp for Rabex of Japan, and one day I invited my priest to lunch at my hotel. As we worked our way through the meal, he said, “I think you are called to the ordained ministry.” I said, “What does that mean exactly? How do I investigate my ministry?” He responded, “We form a team to meet with you on a weekly basis until there is a clear discernment from them about your journey.” At the age of 50 I was ordained in the Episcopal tradition.
The rest is history.
Years later, when my bishop ordained me, he took my hands in his made the sign of the cross on each and said, “These hands are the hands of Christ to a broken world. Your ministry is outside the walls of this church.”
I have been Rector of three churches and Vicar of one that I started with the help of some wonderfully faithful people. Each church was in some kind of difficulty. St. John’s, In Breckenridge, the priest left suddenly saying he wasn’t meant to be a parish priest. The church went into a tail spin. At Buena Vista, Grace church, the priest left taking 200 plus members with him. He started an Anglican church in a mall. Within six months he left them. When I arrived at Grace there were 12 families. I was hired as interim/Rector. We built the church up to 135 members in two years. While ministering to Grace Episcopal, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, I started a church in Dillon, Colorado, called St. Francis. We started with 17 people. I financed the church out of my own resources. Over the next two years we gathered 137 unchurched parishioners.
In June 1985 I was professed to the Third Order of St. Francis. I remember the day very clearly. I was at the Bishops ranch in Healdsburg, California with three others: a college professor, a radio announcer, and Jew coming to Christ. It was wonderful.
Through the years of traveling from one coast to the other, sometimes desperately seeking others like myself, I found my relationship with Francis to be my refuge and my strength. There were many times I felt lost and very alone, but never abandoned.
I am still passionate about the care of God’s people. I don’t think one can shut off his/her compassion for the hurt and lonely just because we “retire.” So, I continue in God’s work as He sees fit to use me… To be His hands to a broken world.
Humbly submitted by Rex Chambers