Fr Austin’s last Sunday at Saint Thomas Church was June 19. He celebrated and preached at the 11am mass.
Below please find a message from Fr Turner, Rector of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, which was delivered at a special coffee hour in honor of Fr Austin following the 11am mass on June 19.
Farewell to Fr Austin
Today is Father Austin’s last Sunday with us at Saint Thomas before he moves to Texas to take up the post of Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Dallas and to be ‘in residence’ at the Church if the Incarnation. Fr. Austin has been a faithful priest to this parish for nearly twelve years and many of our parishioners have grown to love him very much. Incisive, clear and methodical, he has encouraged many people to ‘take theology seriously’ and his classes, lectures and seminars have become the mainstay of a core group of people who have appreciated his wisdom and skill. I have enjoyed co-leading the Rector’s Christian Doctrine Class with him and listening to the way that he unfolds great truths with clarity and precision. Although he often speaks in meetings and in classes with that characteristically gentle tone of voice, I will particularly miss the careful way he reads the scriptures, which brings them alive to the listener, (it is a wonderful thing having a stall next to the lectern!). He has continued to encourage students of theology from a variety of Christian traditions, giving annual lectures in a number of august universities around the world, leading groups, acting as a consultant or mentor to others and preaching with conviction. He has also continued to research and write and his most recent book is a testament to his ability to reflect even on the most difficult of subjects. Then again, he is very well read himself – the list of books that have been discussed by parishioners over to past eleven and a half years shows how much the written word is dear to him – everything from Thomas Aquinas to Mark Twain. As a pastor, he has journeyed with a large number of people, particularly through very difficult or tragic times of their lives – all of this in spite of the weight of responsibility he bore with Susan’s increasing frailty and eventual death. Perhaps as much because of that experience he has continued to encourage the faith in others and why many feel a profound sense of loss at his moving on. Any leave-taking brings mixed emotions but, Father Victor, you can rest assured that your presence has changed many people in this place, including many that you may not have thought about – myself included – and you have shown people how to be faithful by your own example. Thank you for all you have given; we the Vestry, your parishioners and we, your priestly colleagues, wish you well in the future and, as you begin a new chapter in your own spiritual journey, say to you “Godspeed, Victor Austin – Faithful priest and Theologian of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue New York.”