Former Westcottian Roger Chapman, when he preached his last sermon at Seabury last year, likened going back to Westcott after his exchange program ended as "stepping back through the wardrobe." That has always stuck in my mind because that is exactly what it feels like. Like in the Narnia books, there have been many adventures and many colorful characters I will never forget, I go back not the person I was when I entered the wardrobe, and in many ways I do not want to go.
For all things there is a season, and unfortunately my time in Narnia has ended. I step back through the wardrobe to my own reality, a reality of the hills of Tennessee for Christmas, a return to the Seabury community, General Ordination Exams, field education at a parish in Chicago, and like the children in the novels, I also return to a war. Fortunately not a world war, but a war nonetheless. A war fought not with bombs but with words, not with landmines but with doctrine, and not with soldiers but with lawyers. I return to a Church trying very hard to rip itself apart. And yet for good or for bad, I must return. And return I will, with a renewed sense of God's love, with new appreciation for what it means to be Anglican, and with a renewed proclaimation that we are all one body because we all share in one bread.
At the end of the movie version of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy asks the Professor if she will ever get back to the magical land of Narnia. The Professor simply replies, "I expect so, probably when you least expect it. What's to say? Keep your eyes open." That film ends with a cameo shot of the Wardrobe and the sound of Aslan's roar. One day I hope to return to this Narnian land of Westcott, but until then I must be content with the memories, not of Aslan's roar, but the fond memory of the Westcott bell ringing 9 times for daily prayer. I will remember, like Mr. Tumnus keeping an eye out his window for Lucy the daughter of Eve, the empty church next door to Westcott that patiently peeps over the wall like a friendly but lonely old neighbor wondering when his friends might return for a visit. I will remember Angela Tilby's grin, the laughter at the Westcott bar, the apples growing on the trees in the Westcott courtyard, and the smell of Paul Cody's pipe.
I will return.
I will remember.
Farewell and God bless.