Pastor Preiser installed at Harbor Church

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 5:45pm

Pastor Peter Preiser was officially sworn in to his position on Sunday, June 9, at the Harbor Church. Second Warden André Boudreau delivered the following remarks at the installation:

Good afternoon everybody.

As noted, I am André Boudreau, the Second Warden of Block Island, or as probably 90 percent of you here currently refer to me: “That poor bastard.”

On behalf of our community, I would like to welcome our guests Rev. Kathryn Palen and the Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles. It’s truly an honor to have you here today.

It is also with great honor that I officially welcome Peter and his family to our island community. I’m glad to see you sitting here after spending the winter.

This building you are about to inherit is and has been for many years our unofficial community center. From my own perspective, I can only speak to the wonderful times I ran the children’s Christmas plays here. It is also that beacon that hosts AA meetings, BIRA, Bridge Club, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Ecumenical Choir, Helping Hands Food Pantry and Block Island Boy Scouts, the Spring Street Art Gallery, the International Student Center, and the list goes on.

All of this is what I think this church represents: Acceptance. Acceptance of all, without pre-judgement.  

I’m not sure if anyone read the paper last week, or the week before... and the week before that, but our town is having a bit of a difficult time right now. This week there is a quote from a resident that said “I have to say that ninety percent of the people on Block Island are not a good fit. That’s why we live here.” It was a perfect response to an imperfect issue because that is exactly why we live here.

Now, I’m not a regular churchgoer: But I did grow up Catholic and served as an altar boy at Saint Cecilia’s in Pawtucket. I was once told by one of the nuns that I was going to burn in the fires of Gehenna for my mischievous Catholic school behavior. I’m not sure she was all that wrong, as now I find myself smoldering in the hot-seat in paradise.

But Peter, I do believe our positions in the community are not too different and I also believe things happen for a reason. Some call it faith, some chance, or karma.

Like myself, you will be called upon in times of great need, and I often wondered how, in these times, does one be savior, caregiver, healer, have empathy, be bold, comfort the afraid, give confidence to the weak, and make whole the ones cast aside. Then I read something that changed all of that, and it said:

“Wherever you are, be all there …That’s ministry of presence. That’s the gift of being truly you, wholly present in every place, with every person, in every conversation. Minimalism can clear the rubble to reveal you—able to be all you—fully present in each interaction. The ripples of such a decision will provide a valuable gift to everyone you meet. Your full presence is a generous gift to the world. To attend a meeting and bring yourself 100 percent into the room with no thoughts of to-do lists or the stack of emails waiting for you, opens the door to fresh thought and inspiration and helps others be present as well. When you help others be present, you create happiness and mindfullness — which is a well-documented antidote for anxiety, worry, fear, and sadness. Paying attention to the present moment without drifting into the future or past keeps us current with our actual experience, not what we fear might happen or wish had happened differently. To spend time with a friend, for the sake of pure enjoyment, without needing or wanting anything from them but the pleasure of their company, is a gift of true love. Yet, as much as your full presence benefits the world, it benefits you even more. Presence opens the door to your intuition, heart, knowledge, and essence.”

These are Peter’s words from a sermon dated Nov. 25, 2018.

Imagine how wonderful a place our island could be if we all were to take this advice. My seat surely would get cooler.

These words have had an enormous impact on the approach I take toward my belief that as a human being, and as an elected official, I need to help anyone I can, and of course make our moms proud.

Peter, as the new pastor, your words and actions will reach beyond your congregation. You have come here to guide our community in faith, but also to stand by those who have none. God has brought you to us at this time for a reason…perhaps your presence is our present, for reasons that we currently don’t comprehend.

There will be many like myself that come to you, squirt guns that squirt jelly, polka dotted elephants, a Charlie-in-the-box, a bird that swims, a wind up mouse in a box of nesting clowns, trains with square wheels; all the toys that will only feel loved once they are in the hands of a child — our neighbors seeking acceptance, or answers with no terms. That is the foundation of this great church and, by extension, our great community. Our job is to build on that.

Peter, there is no doubt in my mind you are up for this challenge. On behalf of a grateful town, I sincerely welcome you and Carrie to Block Island.