Vermont District says farewell to DS Brigid Farrell
June 06, 2017
There were Korean drums and kazoos, poetry and praises; even a comedy skit – and lots and lots of cupcakes.
That’s how the clergy and laity of Vermont celebrated Superintendent Brigid Farrell’s service to the district on June 4, 2017, at Hedding UMC in Barre.
Rev. Farrell will leave the Cabinet on July 1; the Rev. Jill Colley Robinson will become Vermont District Superintendent.
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar admitted his relationship with Rev. Farrell began under tough circumstances with an issue they inherited that “forced us to start our journey with tough and holy conversations.”
“It did not take us long to realize that we were a brother and sister in Christ, bonded by His love,” the bishop said. “… I came to appreciate and respect Brigid more and more. It has been a true joy and a blessing to travel with sister Brigid as a colleague, guide, spiritual inspirer, critic, and friend.”
Bishop Devadhar praised Rev. Farrell for proving “that it is possible to be an administrator and pastor at the same time.”
It was appropriate to celebrate Rev. Farrell on Pentecost Sunday, because it was a Pentecost Sunday some 27 years ago when she became a United Methodist.
She reflected on that and on her first sermon as District Superintendent, when her theme was “Choose Life.”
“Eight years ago I asked us all to focus, not on the death of the church and the fact that we hear all the time that we are the least churched state in the
nation,” she said. “… I asked us instead to choose life, to come alive to what God is asking of us, to be open to the Spirit blowing through our churches, our neighborhoods, and to join in that work ….”
This day her theme was “Choose Love.”
“Well, today we celebrate receiving the power of Holy Spirit in that new way; the power not only to choose life, but to choose love, for that is what is needed: love,” she said.
In his remarks, Bishop Devadhar called Rev. Farrell “a true Wesleyan in the spirit of Charles Wesley who coined the famous words, ‘A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky. To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my master's will!’”
“Brigid is always willing to learn and reshape her tools to serve the present age,” the bishop said.
And that willingness to adapt is exactly what Rev. Farrell encouraged her district to continue to do.
“We need the church more than ever at this time,” she said. “Not just at 10 on Sunday mornings, not inside our hallowed walls, but in the streets, the parks, the schools, our homes – 24/7 – the church is the Body of Christ; not the dead Body, but the Christ that is alive and spreading the Good News to all. We need to take that to the world. We can’t wait inside our walls, expecting others to find their way in; even if they found their way in, would they find there what they need? Those who don’t know when to sit or stand, who don’t our favorite hymns or rituals, would they find the love they so desperately seek or would they go quietly back into their pain?”
“There is so much violence in the world right now; the world needs us to choose love, to spread love in the face of all the hateful rhetoric, hateful action, and more, we need to choose to love, to accept, to reach out, to wade into the places where there is pain, there is loneliness, there is a need for love,” she said. “This morning Mark Demers asked ‘Will you show up and be the church that God needs us to be?’”
The service ended with communion, celebrated by Rev. Farrell, Bishop Devadhar and Rev. Colley Robinson.
Then it was time for the show: “Bye Bye Brigid.” It featured some not-so-wise men, a cranky emcee named Thelma, a duet, some little blonde girls asking questions like “Does Brigid paint her toenails? (she didn’t answer), and even a juggling bishop. Amid it all, Rev. Farrell was given a tiara and wand.
Unlike the actors who ad-libbed their lines, Rev. Farrell said she had spent weeks deciding what she would say at this farewell.
“ … I came to the realization that it really didn’t matter; for what we are here for today is to celebrate a relationship, our relationship, and I don’t need the perfect words, the beautiful juxtaposition of those words and images to do that …”
And she offered some parting advice:
“Find your calling, whether that be stewardship of the Earth, inclusion of all in all ways, in all places, poverty, hunger and homelessness, immigration rights and sanctuary, combatting the opioid crisis or teen suicide. God is already there in the middle of the fray. Let the Spirit lead you into it. Just show up, receive the Spirit that has been breathed into you, come alive and be the church.”