How Much Are You Loved??

I can’t answer that question for myself at the moment, but over the last 16 days, I’ve learned exactly how much Paul Roberts Abernathy, current Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill, is loved. How do I know? Because I’m the person taking signups and making table assignments for the party on Saturday January 24th in honor of his sixteen and a half years of ministry at St. Mark’s as he retires.

I’ve easily worked more than 150 hours on this project thus far and I’ve done little else over the last two weeks. Next to Paul, I’m clearly the most popular person at St. Mark’s at the moment and his retirement party is the Hottest ticket in DC.

This man is LOVED!!

People were told there would be limited seating when the signups began on January 4th. Some early birds even sent emails asking for seats on January 2nd. One of the things that surprised us the most is how we virtually sold out on the first Sunday we signed people up. We added more tables, then a couple of more tables, and finally this week, two more tables….There are now 35 tables in all!

This man is LOVED!!

To say that people were desperate to attend this party is an understatement – people offered to pay double and triple the cost for the event, to stand up for the entire party, to sit on the floor, to not eat the dinner being served, and to even sit in the parish hall away from the live action. People told me that they just “have to be in that room!!” for the party. People called me early in the morning, late at night, followed me to the rest room at church, and emailed me several times to confirm and reconfirm that they were on the attendee list.

This man is LOVED!!

I sent and received more than 1,000 emails, text messages and phone calls about this party. When people learned that they were on the attendee list, some laughed and cheered, some cried tears of joy, some jumped and yelled as if they had won the lottery. I’m overwhelmed and totally exhausted now that the RSVPs and official signups ended today, but I too laughed and cried, yelled and cheered with the now 350 people who will be in the St. Mark’s Nave next Saturday night!!

This man is LOVED!!

When I asked people WHY being at this party was so important, some of what they shared with me included:

“he baptized my child with the love I thought only a parent could have”.

“He preaches like no other!”

“He always remembered my name and hugged me every Sunday”.

“I hated church before coming to St. Mark’s, Paul made me want to get up early on a Sunday.”

“he saved my life and gave me hope!”

But one of the most common themes was: “we want to show him that we love him as much as he loves us”!

I have no idea how much I’m loved in the many communities I work in, but the last two weeks have taught me that if you are authentic, passionate about love and justice, and teach and preach in a way that touches everyone, then YES people will do almost anything to be in the same room with you on your last weekend in town. I’m honored to be part of the party planning team with Justi, Kristen, and Marilu because even if you add up every hour we’ve worked on this party thus far, it doesn’t come close to adding up to how much we love Paul Roberts Abernathy.