Farewell and God Bless, Pastor Mary Jane
Our church held a Service of Gratitude for Pastor Mary Jane O’Conner-Ropp on Feb. 9, the final Sunday service before her retirement. Mary Jane joined our church as a co-pastor with Priscilla Dreyman last July, but decided to step down at this time for health reasons. The service included Mary Jane’s favorite scripture readings (Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Ephesians 2:16-19) and her favorite hymns, including God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale, and Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.
Mary Jane also selected the photo of a tree by the river for the cover of the Sunday bulletin. “Tree roots weave together and form a community,” she told the congregation. “But they aren’t just a community; they are grounded and they’re there to help each other.” She went on to say, “This congregation is deeply grounded in God’s love. I need to be rooted and grounded again, rooted and grounded in retirement. It’s time.”
At one point during the service, members of the congregation came forward, formed a circle around Mary Jane and placed their hands on her to offer a farewell blessing. It was similar to the blessing Mary Jane had done a week earlier for children and their parents.
During the Children’s Story, Mary Jane was presented two mugs children had decorated the week before in Sunday School.
Lay Leader Steve Hill addressed the congregation about what Mary Jane has meant to us over the past seven months: “This morning’s scripture sums it up pretty well — ‘Blessed is one who trusts in the Lord,’ ” he said. “You’ve exhibited these qualities and more. You have your roots and foundation in love. You are completely filled with the love of God . . . It has been an honor and pleasure having you with us. You are kind, caring, confident, creative, compassionate, contemplative — and fun. We will indeed miss you.”
Pastor Priscilla Dreyman recalled her first meetings with Mary Jane and the possibility of co-ministering in this church. “You at first said no,” Priscilla said, “and then you had a dream that warned you. But you changed your mind and in so many ways this was meant to be.”
When Priscilla agreed to come to this church, it was in large part to start an Eco Dream Team that would look into God’s creation and study the ways climate change was endangering it. Having Mary Jane at her side made much of this possible.
“Your love of nature is profound,” Priscilla told Mary Jane from the pulpit. “I think of your deep connection with trees. I thank you so much for teaching me. I love nature, but you actually choose to spend time there, here and at home in Wells. You have helped us to be more deeply grounded . . . You were in the right place at the right time for us and I give you great, great thanks.”
Also during the service, Staff-Parish Relations Chairperson Mark Braun read an original, impassioned poem about all Mary Jane has given the church, and a video was shown reflecting on many of those contributions.
After the service, a congratulatory cake was presented and all shared in well wishes.
Here are additional images from the Gratitude Service for Pastor Mary Jane O’Connor-Ropp: