By SARAH BRADBURY
As Reverend Vickie Houk, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Pulaski, stepped in front of the congregation for her last sermon, she quoted Dr. Seuss, who said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
She then shared a quote from Hunter S. Thompson who said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” Houk said this was fitting to her time spent at the church.
Houk said the first thing she had to learn about living in a small town in Southwest Virginia is that everybody is related to everybody else. Other things she learned quickly were that you must specifically order unsweetened tea, there are at least three ways to pronounce Pulaski, and if someone says “Bless your little heart,” in reference to you, you can get away with anything.
She said they had been through many wonderful things together as a church including baptisms, weddings, and potluck dinners. “We’ve had a lot of fun together, learned to eat new things. I learned what cheese straws were … they’re good … and chess pie … it’s pie, so it must be good.” She also mentioned grits and sausage gravy, and said she would only use the latter for mortar in between bricks.
Houk also reflected on difficult times the church endured together, including 9-11, the Virginia Tech Massacre, the tornado that plagued the Town of Pulaski, and deaths of beloved church members.
The church had their share of inner struggles, too. Particularly when Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop, was elected in 2003. Houk stated that there were disagreements within the church, but the fact was that now “LGBT brothers and sisters can have full stature in the church.” Although this was something that not everyone in the church agreed on, it “pulled us together and made us who we are today.”
Houk said the ability to laugh together is a sign of a healthy church, and told the congregation, “believe me, you guys are healthy.”
She said she would miss the congregation and told them this was merely a change in their relationship, but not a change in their friendship, which they will maintain as they go on. “It’s the people that make the pastor, not the pastor that makes the people,” she said.
Houk figured up that she had preached over 900 sermons to the congregation at Christ Episcopal Church, and jokingly added, “Some of you have used this time for refreshing naps.”
She concluded her final sermon with the words “I thank you for the time. I thank you for accepting me for who I am.”
A good number of people from the congregation and the community attended the service and the reception in her honor that followed. Even though Houk is retiring, she will be living in Pulaski and will remain active in the community.