By Gisele McKnight
Some came from across the city, others came from across the province, but about 30 retired clergy and spouses gathered for the annual retired clergy tea at Bishop’s Court in downtown Fredericton May 16.
The best guess is this year’s was the 18th annual event. Retired Bishop Bill Hockin began the gathering, he believes, in 2000 or 2001.
“The first time, Canon Basil Buckland came and stood there in the entryway and welcomed everyone,” said Bill. “I think he was lonely and just so happy to see everyone.”
These days, Bill and his wife, Isabelle, rarely miss a year.
“I just love seeing my fellow retired clergy,” he said. “They’re wonderful people. We look forward to it.”
The afternoon is filled with hugs, conversations, food and the tradition of dry and sweet sherry served by the bishop.
The Rev. Bob Smith came up from Saint John and spent time reminiscing with retired Bishop George Lemmon.
“We were ordained together,” said George.
The Rev. Gordon and Bell Thompson drove from Grand Bay-Westfield. As new retirees, this is only their second time attending.
“Last year was the first time and we really enjoyed it,” he said. “We spent the winter in Florida so we were away from everyone.”
The Rev. Bruce and Carol Glencross travelled from Kent County, where Bruce is honorary assistant in Brown’s Yard in the Parish of Kent. Bruce spent most of his years serving in the Diocese of Quebec, so the retired clergy tea is a good way to meet fellow clergy in the diocese in which he now lives.
“It’s important to get together with other clergy,” said Carol. “It’s a real privilege to have time with them.”
After the recent Clergy Spouses’ Retreat, Carol realized how important it is to spend time together — both for clergy and for spouses — because this is not your typical career, she said.
Jackie Spencer and Pat Crowther spend much of the time deep in conversation — two old friends, who, years ago, lived in the neighbouring parishes of Canterbury and Richmond Corner while their husbands served.
“We’ve come every year since they’ve had this,” said Pat. “We come from Salmon Beach, near Bathurst, and wouldn’t miss it. We’ve got to know so many, and it’s always so lovely and friendly and relaxed.”
“We come to see everybody, of course,” said Jackie. “We know most of the people here.”
She does confess, however, to a bit of a surprise.
“It’s amazing, but the retiring clergy look younger every year!”
The Diocese of Fredericton continues Bill Hockin’s tradition, with the staff pitching in to plan, prepare and clean up.