Seventy-five people from across the Diocese of Maine gathered on Saturday morning at St. Mark’s in Waterville to give thanks for the ministry of Vicki Wiederkehr, Canon for Transition and Ministry Development, as she retires after 16 years on diocesan staff. In his remarks, Bishop Steve Lane said, “I think if you asked Vicki, she would say that she has done nothing remarkable – she has simply acted out of her love and care for God’s people – which is, in fact, the remarkable thing.”
Surrounded by her husband, Dan; two of her five sisters, Pam of New York and Deb of Yarmouth; two of her children, Sarah of Freeport and Emily of Portland; and two of her four grandchildren, Maya and Grover, Vicki listened as 18 people stood to share their thanks and appreciation for her ministry. Several gave thanks on behalf of their congregations for her support to their transition processes, some clergy members shared appreciation for her pastoral care and friendship in times of sorrow, staff colleagues paid tribute to her example of professionalism and dedication.
With her retirement on June 27, Vicki will mark more than 25 years in the employ of the Episcopal Church. She started her career as a parish administrator in New York (working with the Rev. David Heald, now priest of St. Nicholas’, Scarborough.) When she and her family moved to Brunswick, she became the executive assistant to the Rt. Rev. Harold “Hoppy” Hopkins in the Office of Pastoral Development, a national church office based, during his tenure, in Yarmouth. She held that post for seven years. Bishop Hopkins’ retirement and the move of the office back to the Episcopal Church Center coincided with the election of Bishop Chilton Knudsen and, in 1998, she came to work for the Diocese of Maine. In 2002 she was named Canon for Ministry and Program. With the retirement of Canon Linton Studdiford in 2008, she added transition ministry to her portfolio.
Godspeed and God bless, Vicki!
Below are Bishop Steve’s remarks from Saturday’s service:
All of us who are baptized have a vocation to serve God in God’s world. Baptism both initiates our call to serve and empowers us for service. Moreover, it’s our confession that in baptism we receive all that we need to exercise our vocation, all the gifts we need to do the work God has invited us to do. Whoever we are… whatever our circumstances… we have all we need to share in God’s project of reconciliation.
That’s not how the world thinks about these matters, of course. These days, even the most basic occupation requires extensive education. We think in terms of degrees and certificates, in terms of the specific, sometimes highly arcane and technical, skills that are required for various kinds of work. A lot of us will be carrying the debt of our educations for decades.
Moreover today’s workplace is highly competitive. One can hardly rest on one’s laurels. Continuing education is a constant requirement. We have similar expectations in the church: we expect our clergy to be highly educated and expert at addressing issues as diverse as budgeting, fundraising, public speaking, volunteer management and suicide prevention. As a result of this kind of thinking, I believe it’s often the case that we exercise our ministries in the service of God with a certain hesitancy, a certain timidity. We aren’t sure we have what it takes, aren’t sure we can take the necessary risks.
But listen to what Jesus has to say… You are the salt of the earth – the flavoring for all God’s creation. You are the light of the world called to shed divine light into the darkest corners of the world. You are God’s chosen, God’s ministers. Be bold. Be brave. Stand on a lamp stand for all to see. And shine, shine, shine!
The power for our ministries is rooted not in education – although education is helpful – but in the confidence that we are loved by God, sent by God to share that love, and accompanied by God in all our doubts and uncertainties. God provides what we need for our part in God’s mission.
It’s very encouraging to all who of us who call ourselves Christian to see someone act in such confidence and share the love of God with his or her neighbors. That, quite simply, is what Vicki Wiederkehr has done among us.
We know Vicki as a loving presence, who loves the beauty of the natural world, flowers and trees; who loves children, her own and others; and who loves us. We who have had the pleasure of working with Vicki have felt the respect and love which Vicki has offered us. She brings to her work great care for people’s commitments and sensitivity to their emotional life. She cares for not only for the decisions that we need to make, but for how we feel about those decisions. She is voice reminding us that people need time to think, to process, to change.
Vicki has also reminded us of the sacramental nature of all ministry. It’s about relationships, about care for people, about the presence of God in people and things. Her ministry of caring for the sacred vessels and for the memorial gifts of churches that have closed has been inspiring
I think if you asked Vicki, she would say that she has done nothing remarkable – she has simply acted out of her love and care for God’s people – which is, in fact, the remarkable thing. In the midst of all the pressures to get her work done, to find clergy for the congregations, to follow the Title IV processes, to increase compliance with the requirements for safe church training, and all the rest, she has remembered that we are God’s people, and she has treated us that way.
Vicki has been clear with me that she doesn’t want long flowery speeches or flowing tributes, so I won’t carry on. Yet I believe she has put her light on a lampstand so that it gives light to the whole room. And all of us have responded to the light.
In a moment there will be a brief opportunity for you to share recollections about Vicki’s ministry. For now let me simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you, Vicki for the love and respect that has characterized your ministry. Thank you for your devotion, for your patience, for your steadfastness – for your commitment to God and us. You have flavored our life in the Diocese of Maine in a way that we will savor for years to come.