The following is the transcript of the speech our Senior Warden Randy Schwimmer wrote for our parish reception on June 18, honoring Jim and Sharon Lemler. Enjoy!
How do you say thank you to someone to whom you owe so much? Words seem inadequate. When I asked some of you to help, you offered up: “selfless”, “generous,” “hopeful,” “fearless,” “unwavering,” “balanced.”
But these don’t begin to describe what you have meant to us over the past ten years. You were our unwavering rock. Our steadfast light. Through thick and thin, no matter what went on around you, you kept your buoyant composure. Every task you touched was made better by your involvement. Even through some of your own personal challenges, you never wavered in your support for us, and for this church.
It’s hard to be universally popular in a place like Christ Church Greenwich, but somehow you managed it. In a recent Gallup Poll, you received a 100% job approval rating. But that simply reflects who you are, and how much we love you. And so, Sharon Lemler, thank you! Thank you for being among us, for your wonderful spirit, and for being a great friend of Christ Church.
Now, I do want to say a few words about Sharon’s husband.
About nine years ago, Jen and I took Jim out to dinner. I think it was Applausi in Old Greenwich. We had been church shopping, to be honest. The church had been in a very dark place. You were still a priest in charge, and we wanted to make sure you were going to be around before we committed to coming back. You said, don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.
You kept your promise. If leadership is measured by leaving the institution in better shape than when you found it, you have been the greatest rector in the history of Christ Church Greenwich.
Over the past ten years you helped rebuild our home, restore our faith, and renew our hope. And not only here on this campus, but in our community. When you announced your retirement I called my counterpart at Trinity Church to give him the news. “Oh, no!” he said. “We will miss Jim so much. He brought us all together.”
That so captures what you are all about. You brought us all together. Yet despite all your accomplishments too numerous to mention, your true legacy will be something else. Your real gift to us was a parish ready now to move boldly and confidently into the future. The foundation you helped restore allows us to be whatever we want to be. That may be even a greater challenge, because now we have no excuses. All that holds us back is ourselves.
So what one word best describes Jim? I did a word search of all your sermons you’ve given here over the past decade. Guess what the #1 recurring word was? Metrics? No, but close.
It was Love. Love is what you are all about. Love of God, love of church, love of family, love of friends. Your love sustained us in tough times, and inspired us in good times. How appropriate on this Father’s Day, we celebrate your time with us. You truly were the father of this flock.
And now it’s our turn. Today we give that love back to you – to thank you for all you’ve given us. May that love follow you and Sharon and the growing Lemler family in all you do and wherever you go. May God bless you both. And may God bless Christ Church.