“Father Doug wants you to give him a call.” I was sitting in my office in Colorado Springs when I received this message from Darla Johnson. I had already been called to serve as the new Rector of All Saints but I hadn’t yet made the move to Springfield. I will admit, the request made me a little nervous. I had heard horror stories from other priests about tense relationships with former rectors still active in their parishes. After all, giving up control is hard, and when you have been a senior pastor for as long as Fr. Doug, it can be hard to no longer be in charge, to watch someone do things differently. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was Fr. Doug going to tell me how to do things? Was he going to take issue with something I had said during the interview process? Was he going to warn me that he would always be looking over my shoulder?
Fortunately, my anxiety was unfounded. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about during that phone call, but I do remember thinking it was much more pleasant than I had anticipated. So when Fr. Doug requested another meeting with me shortly after my arrival in Springfield, I went into it with a much more positive attitude. I’ll never forget what he said to me that day. He told me that All Saints is his legacy, and in order for All Saints to be successful I would need to be successful. He then promised me that I would have his full support and assistance. If I did anything he disagreed with he said he would tell me, and only me. He has kept his word.
As we continued to talk we discovered that although we are very different in many ways, we discovered that we both share a love for the Church and Anglican liturgy. As I told him my plans for the upcoming Holy Week services his constant refrain was, “Yes, that is how I would have done it as well.”
As I settled in at All Saints, Father Doug and I developed a very good relationship with each other. I had spent 17 years working as an associate rector, so having an older, more experienced priest as a mentor just came naturally to me. As Fr. Doug adjusted to some of the minor changes I had made to the liturgical movements at All Saints, I found myself starting to imitate some of his practices as well. We made it a point to have lunch together on at least a monthly basis, and I always enjoyed our time together, especially when Fr. Doug picked up the tab!
At some point we re-instituted Fr. Doug’s weekly preaching workshop. The clergy would all get together with Fr. Doug and review the previous week’s sermon. It wasn’t always fun, but it was always helpful, and I feel like my preaching improved as a result. I will admit on some occasions when I felt my sermon wasn’t quite up to snuff I would divert the conversation and get Fr. Doug telling stories from his many years in ministry. That was always more fun than hearing about how bad my sermon was!
When Fr. Doug decided his preaching days were finally over we decided instead to do a weekly podcast. With so many stories to tell I thought it would be fun to get some of them recorded for posterity’s sake. The first couple of sessions were so much fun for both of us and those hours just flew by. The day we were scheduled to record our third podcast I got a call from someone telling me that Fr. Doug was being taken to the emergency room. I immediately headed to the hospital and found him in one of the many beds that line the hallway in Mercy’s ER. For roughly 10 hours I stood by his bed in the ER talking and telling stories. I wish I had brought my recording equipment with me that day. It was non-stop entertainment!
Since that day we have seen a pretty steady decline in Fr. Doug’s health and it has been hard to watch. For so many years he has served the Church with what seemed like endless energy and joy. No matter where I go in the ACNA I can always find someone who knows him from somewhere, whether it was a parish he served in or a seminary where he taught. One priest in Tennessee told me plainly one day, “Fr. Doug is a legend.” Doubtless anyone could argue with that statement.
As we approach the celebration of the Incarnation, we often take time to reflect on the things for which we are thankful. I am thankful for the ministry of Doug McGlynn. I’m thankful that he built such an amazing foundation at All Saints. So often the job of a new rector is to come in and fix all of the mistakes of the previous rector, and I simply didn’t have to do that. It was like buying a new house where everything is working properly. Sure, I painted some walls and changed out some light fixtures (figuratively speaking), but the foundation and the structure were sound thanks to Fr. Doug.
I’m also thankful for our relationship. Especially during my first year here, Fr. Doug’s advice was invaluable. He knew the history, he knew that pastoral concerns, he knew what would work and what wouldn’t. I avoided a lot of mistakes during that first year thanks to him. But our relationship is more than just that. It is a friendship built on mutual admiration and respect.
Thank you, Fr. Doug, for welcoming me into my ministry at All Saints (don’t call it a job, he always tells me). Thank you for making the transition as easy as possible. Thank you for your continual support and encouragement. Thank you for all that you have done for the sake of the Gospel. You are truly a legend, not just at All Saints, but in the larger Church. You cast a long shadow, my friend, but in that shadow I have found comfort and safety and peace. May God’s peace be upon you this Christmas season and into the coming year.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.