Bells pealed at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church at 9:30 a.m. on a gorgeous Sunday signifying the beginning of a special service and the end of Rev. C. Read Heydt's seven-year run as rector.
Despite the light-hearted and joyous touches involved in the service attended by nearly 100, a strong summer turnout, more than a few people walked misty-eyed into the reception immediately following.
"You have done so much for us," said Lolo Weir of Boca Grande.
From left: The Revs. C. Read Heydt, Michelle Robertshaw and Vincent Scotto.
"I'm still in grief he's leaving," said Nevine Miller of Boca Grande. "He's a wonderful person."
With his typically puckish sense of humor, Heydt discussed how his Episcopalian career began as he was called to God's service as a 25-year-old working in the Trust Department for the Bank of New York in 1962. He enjoyed living in New York but it wasn't his life's calling, he said.
Heydt followed his successor, the Rev. Michelle Robertshaw, into the service amid the raised voices of a singing congregation. Later, he recalled how he was called into service to God in Cleveland decades earlier.
Who: The Rev. Michelle Robertshaw
What: first service as rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church of Boca Grande
When: 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 2
Where: St. Andrew's Episcopal Church of Boca Grande on Gilchrist Avenue
Why: Welcome Robertshaw as rector
"I decided to consult God," Heydt said. "To my surprise he came. It was very unsettling."
He didn't act on the calling immediately, however, until after a failed job interview. His career path changeover was fraught with concerns earthly and otherwise.
"To speak for the Lord is not only presumptuous; it's terrifying," Heydt said. "That is as it should be."
Heydt conducted a 90-minute service lengthened by personal interactions with dozens of people in the congregation. He said he hoped he'd generated "more wheat than chaff" and "helped more than hurt" in preaching God's message.
Heydt plans to continue preaching on a traveling basis and will conduct his son's October wedding. He and his wife, Peg, will move to Sarasota.
"Thank you for being with me as I end my career walk with Jesus," Heydt said.