Over 300 attend Rev. Bailey’s final service 

Published in the February 10, 2016 edition

IN HIS RETIREMENT from the ministry, Rev. Dr. Dennis C. Bailey plans to spend quality time with his family, which includes his girlfriend, Rev. Linda Hey (right), as well as her mother, Lillian Worcester (left) along with Hey's three sons (back, from left): Jason, Josh and Adam Hey, and Adam's girlfriend, Lauren Lessard. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

IN HIS RETIREMENT from the ministry, Rev. Dr. Dennis C. Bailey plans to spend quality time with his family, which includes his girlfriend, Rev. Linda Hey (right), as well as her mother, Lillian Worcester (left) along with Hey’s three sons (back, from left): Jason, Josh and Adam Hey, and Adam’s girlfriend, Lauren Lessard. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

 

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

LYNNFIELD — Laughter, songs, tears of sadness and tears of joy, scripture readings, prayers of thankfulness, vows of release and more laughter. All this and more were part of the worship service and collation held to celebrate the ministry of Reverend Dr. Dennis C. Bailey at Centre Congregational Church on Jan. 31.

A standing room only crowd of parishioners and guests, from infants to members well into their 90s, were dressed in cheerful red and greeted Rev. Bailey in the church’s sanctuary to be part of the celebration. The two-hour ceremony marked his final service as pastor of Centre Church after 9 1/2 years as well as his official retirement from active ministry in the United Church of Christ (UCC). His ministry spanned more than 41 years in three churches in Jamaica Plain, Billerica and Lynnfield.

During the call to worship, he brought to the altar many parishioners who had played significant roles in his ministry at the three churches he served. He then led the entire congregation and the Centre Church Choir in a rousing final rendition of the Processional hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You,” accompanied by organist Doug Hodgkins.

Rev. Bailey has a soft spot in his heart for children. And they eagerly gathered around him on the altar to hear a message just for them entitled “God’s Love.”

Addressing a boy of about 5, Rev. Bailey said, “Cameron always has the answers to the big important questions so the question is this, Cameron, ‘Where is Jesus?’” The child responded enthusiastically, “In our hearts!” Rev. Bailey then had Cameron show the other children how to sign “Jesus is in my heart.” This led to Rev. Bailey’s explanation to the children that he would be leaving and Rev. Estelle Margarones would be taking his place.

“Just as Cameron said, ‘Jesus is in my heart,’ you are all going to be in my heart forever and ever. I am going to remember you, and love you and pray for you. Next week, there is going to be a new minister here. Her name is Rev. Estelle and I want you to make her feel welcome like you made me feel welcome,” he told them.

MAKING joyful noise together were the youngest members of the Centre Congregational Church who performed "I've Got Peace Like a River" for Rev. Dr. Dennis C. Bailey during his final worship service. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

MAKING joyful noise together were the youngest members of the Centre Congregational Church who performed “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” for Rev. Dr. Dennis C. Bailey during his final worship service. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

Using a hula hoop as an example of a circle and encouraging the children to gather around and hold onto it, Rev. Bailey explained that a circle has no beginning and no end. “God’s love has no beginning and no ending. God loves us all the time, when we’re together and when we’re apart,” he explained.

The youngsters then sang a song for Rev. Bailey entitled “I’ve Got Peace like a River,” accompanied by student Camille Hodgkins on the piano. The entire congregation joined in, waving blue crepe paper ribbons to symbolize the flowing water.

Linda Ladd read a scripture reading from Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, 13:1-2, from the family Bible that had been passed down to Rev. Bailey by his late maternal grandmother, Marian Shaffer, to celebrate his ordination on September 15, 1974. Ladd also read the letter his grandmother had written to her grandson about the importance of this Bible to her and her wish that it would inspire his ministry.

A stirring rendition of “Sanctuary/Total Praise” was sung by the Centre Church Choir, which drew applause from the congregation, prior to Rev. Bailey’s final sermon. He offered a bit of levity to the occasion, having written two sermons and allowing the congregation to decide whether they wanted to hear the one written from the head or from the heart. Not surprisingly, they chose the latter, which he entitled, “Here Comes Good-Bye,” inspired by a song by Rascal Flatts.

Rev. Bailey encouraged his parishioners to “laugh, cry, hug, show some emotion, once in a while at least!’ He implored them not to join the crowd. “Rather, join something that lasts, join the faith. Be part of God’s unfolding story, something greater than yourself. God’s people never quit, they always have hope, we pray for everyone, we don’t build walls to keep people out, rather, we tear them down and we open doors.”

After thanking dozens of individuals and groups who had offered their assistance in countless ways to ensure he had a successful ministry during the past 9 1/2 years, he reminded the parishioners that they are never alone. He added that they should ask for help when they need it, apologize for mistakes made,  ask for forgiveness, and to always be thankful, just as he remains thankful for those who stood by him in difficult times of personal crisis.

“You are not alone. God is with you, and, so often, so are God’s people. We are part of a wonderful team of disciples who want to be alive with the Spirit,” he said.

“Real faith believes and trusts in the promises of God even when you don’t see physical evidence, and even when you know you may not live to see all of the results.”

Drawing attention to the shiny new pair of red sneakers he wore, which matched the cheerful red displayed throughout the sanctuary, Rev. Bailey said, “I decided to wear these red sneakers today because they symbolize for me the Holy Spirit’s power at work in me. These feet have carried me to so many wonderful places: to your hospital bed, to worship, to pulpit, to your homes, to the places of service, to the places of leadership.

“They have carried me over the 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail. They have pedaled me across this country of ours, over 4,600 miles. They have helped me build houses and homes. And, most importantly of all, they have helped me come to know you and so many other wonderful people of God. And now, thanks to God, they are ready to help carry me to a new journey which God has prepared for me,” he said.

During his sermon, Rev. Bailey formally introduced his girlfriend and her family to the congregation. The next journey in his life will involve spending time with Rev. Linda Hey, who is a UCC interim minister in Pembroke, N.H., and her three sons, Jason, Josh and Adam, and Rev. Hey’s mother, Lillian Worcester.

The offertory song, “For Good” from the musical “Wicked” was sung by the Centre Church Choir and included a dance performed by student Elizabeth Miller and solos by Lauren Donadio and Jill DiGiorgio. Rev. Bailey chose this song in honor of his friendship with parishioner Kenny Kramer, who had written a letter to thank him for the gift of his friendship following the death of his daughter Valerie in 2012.

“People – you, Dennis – came into our lives – my family’s life – for a reason. You brought me something I have been trying to learn. I have been trying to learn about God. You have led me to grow and to open my heart to God. I am not there yet, but I feel I am making progress. Attending your services, and most of all, listening to your sermons, has inspired me,” Kramer wrote, adding, “…And now, whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend. Who could ever say if I have been changed for the better? But Dennis, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

The ethical code of conduct within the UCC tradition requires that once a pastor leaves a church he or she can no longer interact with those parishioners as their pastor, regardless of how good or successful that relationship was. This is done so as not to interfere with his or her successor in establishing rapport, trust and friendship with the congregation.

In keeping with this tradition, Rev. Wendy Vander Hart, the Associate Conference Minister of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, conducted the formal Vows of Release together with Rev. Bailey and all members of the congregation. Each offered forgiveness for mistakes made and gratitude for the kindnesses, love and support shown throughout his ministry. The congregation formally released Rev. Bailey from the duties of pastor and Rev. Bailey released Centre Congregational Church from turning to him and depending on him. And the transition was complete.

The collation in Richards Hall held following the service was equally well attended and included a receiving line for Rev. Bailey and an exchange of gifts given during a roasting by friends from his past and present.

Among the gifts received were two engraved bricks for the church courtyard, a formal brick in honor of “The Reverend Dr. Dennis C. Bailey, a Red Letter Pastor, 2006-2016,” as well as one more reflective of his humorous side dedicated to “The Reverend Dr. Calvin B. Kool, DCB’s ‘Altar Ego.'”