Farewell from Canon Durning

Farewell from Canon Durning

Canon Michael Durning reflects on his time in Oklahoma in this endearing farewell letter

They couldn't pick a better time to start in life,
It ain't too early and it ain't too late.
Startin' as a farmer with a brand-new wife
Soon be livin' in a brand-new state! --“Oklahoma”, Oscar Hammerstein II

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.            --Isaiah 43:19

Dear Oklahoma Episcopalians: 

Thirteen months is time enough for God to do a new thing!

Time enough for the Diocese of Oklahoma to effect a transition where Bishop Ed and a faithful people go with God, finding new paths of grace, calling a good priest to serve as your next bishop, looking forward together to the New Thing-- whatever that may be!

Time enough for us.   Our return trip to our Florida home will find us preparing for the arrival of grandchild #4 and #5.  With the cancellation of many summer activities for kids, I expect that “Camp Grandma” will once more come to life, giving us that precious role of helping our extended family.

Time “not-enough” in so many ways.  We have had so many experiences of grace and mercy in Oklahoma that it would be impossible to count.  We are deeply impressed with the faith of this holy place.  The collegiality of the clergy is unmatched, and the lay leadership is inspired!  During my time here, I worked with 35 of the 70 Oklahoma congregations.  I am thankful for diocesan colleagues in Kansas and Texas who responded when called to help with our 16 congregations that were looking for a priest.  As a result of their cooperation, Oklahoma has been blessed with even more good clergy leadership.  Of course, I am also thankful for a motivated, creative staff, a staff that welcomed us with open arms and never failed, even in a pandemic, to maintain workflow and good morale.

I think of this assignment as that time when, unexpectedly, the Organist replays verse one of a favorite hymn.  I am grateful to Bishop Ed for allowing me to “play it again” in this new setting.  I am equally grateful to my wife of almost 47 years, Bonnie Jean, for being such a welcomed and constant companion, whether in the passenger seat of the car on the way to a rural parish or sheltering in place.  I simply cannot imagine another person to be sequestered with! 

Oklahoma, a wide-open canvas, is where Native people live and thrive and create, even under the weight of a cruel past.  It is where the Sooners turned the red earth, bringing forth life and giving growth.  It is where God will not be stopped.  Neither the Conquistador, the Trail of Tears, the Murrah Bombing nor COVID-19—none of this can stop God’s relentless love for Oklahoma.

Paul Tillich’s The Eternal Now points out that some spend too much time captivated by the past, while others are too preoccupied with the future.  The gracious moment is where we are always “livin’ in a brand-new state”, if you will, a State of Grace. May this State be yours now and always!

(the Rev.) Michael P. Durning


924 N. Robinson I Oklahoma City, OK 73102
(405) 232-4820

Hours: 9 am to 5 pm CST


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