Farewell to Father Ethan
To misquote the song: ”I just got him from the windy city”, and now the windy city is claiming him back. To be honest it is not just the charms of Chicago versus Philadelphia that are calling Fr Ethan Jewett, my Curate for the last year, but the charms of his life-partner, Mike. I had hoped Ethan would be with us for longer than the fourteen months he will have been here by the time he leaves, but it has proved impossible for Mike to relocate his job to Philly, as we had first thought. In fact, Mike has just received a well-deserved promotion, which binds him even more than formerly to Chicago. So Ethan and I have decided that it is absolutely right for his curacy to be terminated ten months earlier than the two years which are more usual for a first curacy. This is sad news for St Clement’s, as, even in the short time Fr Ethan has been here, he has done some remarkable things that St Clement’s had never done before. He took to the streets last Ash Wednesday (and will do so again this year) and imposed ashes for two hours on over 200 people during their lunch period. A passing reporter for the New York Times, who was on his way to report on the ashing ceremony at the RC Basilica, changed his mind when he saw Fr Ethan in cassock and cotta, and snapped a picture of him making the sign of the Cross on a baby in a stroller, the mother having been ashed first. It appeared in the Times the next day. Another of his initiatives was to organize the distribution of empty bags from a local store to about 200 nearby houses one Sunday after Mass. They had a note pinned to them saying they were from St Clement’s, and that we invited the householders to join us in our work of feeding the hungry by filling the bags with non-perishable foodstuffs and putting them on their doorsteps the next Sunday. A team of helpers went round and picked up the bags that had been put out, and (with a few which had been delivered during the week to the church) they amassed about fifty bags bursting with good things – a pretty good return. They talked with some of the donors, and it was all a very happy piece of local contacts for the church, as well as a magnificent bonus for the St John’s hostel for the homeless, where we took the food. But of course Fr Ethan’s priestly life here has not been mainly about special events. He has assisted me in the constant round of the Daily Office, and shared in saying and singing the Masses, once he was ordained priest in a magnificent ceremony conducted by Bishop Rodney Michel, our Assisting Bishop, on behalf of the Bishop of Chicago. He has also learned about the continual demands on a priest’s life from the needs of the sick and shut-ins, and from the unending stream of enquiries and calls from telephone, email and personal interviews. Sorry though I am to be losing him, the Diocese of Chicago will benefit from receiving back a priest who has been learning what Monsignor Ronnie Knox called “Priestcraft”. This is barely taught in seminaries in the States (a bit more in the UK ones) but it is ultimately something that is best learned by experience. Those of you who read this blog will have your suspicions that St Clement’s is a little higher than most Episcopal churches (indeed than most RC churches these days!) so Fr Ethan has had a crash course in the old Liturgy, the old Prayer Book and some arcane rites and ceremonies that have died out almost everywhere. So wherever his next parish is and whatever its churchmanship, he will profit from the things he has learned here. There will not be much that can faze him elsewhere! We will be having a party to say farewell sometime in April. By then the ice should have melted in Chicago and the wind died down a bit, and he can sing with feeling “Chicago, that wonderful town”, without being blown away!