Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday (Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest)

  • Customary Thursday morning weights and treadmill workout. 
  • Morning Prayer in the car on the way in. Brief devotions in the cathedral. 
  • Met with an ordinand and a team of four other clergy as ad hoc examiners in order to certify academic fitness. At about half past noon, the examining team and I adjourned to a nearby restaurant to multi-task by discussing the morning while we took necessary sustenance. 
  • Met with the Administrator and the Archdeacon in--yes--the first step in preparing for October's annual diocesan synod. Some canonical offices are filled by bishop's appointment, and we made those decisions. For those that are elected, we endeavored to ensure that there is at least one candidate for each office. There is, of course, a regular nominating process as well, so there may be some contested elections. 
  • Took care of one more outstanding item in the preparatory runup to the St Michael's Youth Conference. 
  • Attended to some Renewal Works, Peru visit, and Nashotah House tasks. 
  • Sat with my notes on the readings for Proper 11 (July 19 at St Mark's, West Frankfort), and emerged with a central message statement from which to craft a homily. 
  • Evening Prayer in my car en route home. 
  • After dinner, spent most of the evening turning an outline into a first draft of a sermon for Proper 5 (June 7 at Trinity, Jacksonville).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday (First Book of Common Prayer)

  • Morning Prayer in the office. Devotions before the Blessed Sacrament in the cathedral. 
  • Dealt with an administrative issue pertaining to General Convention. 
  • Spoke at some length by phone with a potential candidate for a clergy vacancy in the diocese. 
  • Reviewed and replied to an email pertaining to the details of one of my upcoming visitations. 
  • Made preparations to preside and preach at the cathedral midday liturgy. 
  •  Took some small steps, via email, toward nailing down the details of our planned July visit to the Diocese of Peru. 
  • Began working on turning some broad stroke notes for my next Covenant blog deadline to a postable product. 
  • Celebrated and preached the 12:15 Mass, keeping the lesser commemoration of the First Book of Common Prayer. The appointed first reading ends with Acts 2:42: "And they continued steadfast in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers." Indeed, the Prayer Book provides a healthy context and medium for doing just that. 
  • Lunch from Taco Gringo, eaten at home. 
  • Spent most of the rest of the afternoon on the aforementioned Covenant post. I was frustrated, but I shouldn't have been. I should have known it would take that long, and not included so many other things on today's task list. Writing takes however long it takes. 
  • I did squeeze out a couple of Nashotah-related emails before heading to ... 
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday (St Augustine of Canterbury)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral. 
  • Arranged for a disbursement from the Discretionary Fund to help seed a program initiative in one of our communities. 
  • Passed on some information about a book I recommended to someone in the ordination discernment process. 
  • Took some administrative steps toward ensuring there is a cohort of parishes doing the Renewal Works survey and follow-up workshops this fall. 
  • Dashed off a brief email to one of our ordinands. 
  • Took care of a detail of General Convention business. The pace of that sort of thing is about to quicken. 
  • Responded to a request from a layperson in the diocese for help with a theological issue. 
  • Began the work of refining this Sunday's homily (Trinity, Mattoon). 
  • Attended a meeting with the priest, two lay leaders, and the daycare center director of St Thomas', Glen Carbon--along with the Archdeacon and the Treasurer--to take counsel together regarding the ongoing viability of the enterprise. While we all no doubt wish we had never begun it in the first place, there are some encouraging recent trends. 
  • Completed the work of refining and printing this Sunday's sermon. 
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home. 
  • Did some low-level calendar organizing. 
  • Took care of a small bit of business on behalf of one of our postulants. 
  • Worked on the presentations I am responsible for at the upcoming St Michael's Youth Conference. 
  • Drafted a formal letter of invitation to the Bishop of Tabora for him and his wife to visit us this October. He needs this letter in order for them to get visas from the U.S. State Department. 
  • Took a good thorough look at some proposals that will come to General Convention. One could affect us rather severely, as it would turn voluntary financial askings into mandatory assessments. 
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I'm writing this mid-afternoon, right before hitting the road north to Nashotah House. It will be a busy week, with the installation of the new dean, commencement, and trustees meetings. My time will not be my own, and there will be no wifi connection in my lodging, so I'm just going to say now that I won't be posting daily accounts of my doings. There may be occasionally something on Facebook, so follow me there, if you'd like. Then, next weekend, we're having some extended family time in Door County, WI. So I'll be back to regular posting here on Tuesday the 26th.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Back home from Cairo--the town that's closer to New Orleans than it is to Chicago, and I'm not just talking about geography. Four years ago, the Church of the Redeemer was all but dead. Today's attendance was 44. We baptized a family of four, confirmed two and received two. Delicious potluck meal (best chicken and dumplings ever) in the parish hall afterward. Redeemer is now a growing, multi-ethnic community that is modeling the sort of racial reconciliation that Cairo has so sorely needed. Yes, Christ is risen. Cairo is, of course, the longest jaunt on my circuit. We pulled away just before 12:30 and arrived home just past 4:30.

Sermon for Easter VII

Redeemer, Cairo--John 17:11b-19, Acts 1:15-26

What a great day! We’re still basking in the afterglow of yesterday’s festivities. This is a time of new beginnings. Yesterday we celebrated the relationship between Father Muriuki and the people of this congregation. Today we celebrate new promises made, new vows taken, and new relationships established as we baptize and confirm an impressive group of people! And all of this happens within an environment among the Christian community of Cairo and the surrounding areas that has seen a lot of stress and a lot of change over the last several years. I am aware that there are those among us today who have, in effect, lost their church home, and while I rejoice that you are finding a new one here at Redeemer, I nonetheless also share your grief over what you have had to let go of. In an environment like this, where lots of difficult choices and decisions get made, one could be forgiven for assuming that the Church—any particular church, and the whole Church in general—we could be forgiven for concluding that the Church is a voluntary association of like-minded individuals—that the Church is a religious club, a faith-based version of a fraternity, or service club, or an athletic league, or a professional or trade association. If the purposes and activities of the organization appeal to you, you can decide to join it. Of course, once you join, it’s only fair that you pay your dues, and support the group financially. A few really enthusiastic members take on leadership roles, and become officers. And, if you get disenchanted, or burn out, or have a tiff with another member, you can find another chapter or club, or maybe even just quit the whole thing entirely. And when we allow ourselves to think this way, of course, then we have a hard time escaping the notion that the Church is an institution, the ultimate goal of which is simply to perpetuate itself, to continue to exist. We may have lots of concrete and measurable goals; we may have elegantly crafted mission statements hung up on banners in the parish hall, as some churches do—but as long as we think of the Church primarily as an institution that is concerned with perpetuating itself, all these goals and mission statements are simply practical means to an end. They become sacramental signs, not of the gospel, but of articles of incorporation and by-laws and policies and all that technical, lawyerly stuff.  Now…if that doesn’t inspire you to go out and die the death of martyr, then what will, eh?!

Well, there’s this biblical text that the scholars call the “high-priestly prayer” of Christ, and, in a way, it reins us in from thinking of the Church too much in institutional terms. This prayer takes up a long portion of John’s gospel, and, within that sequence, it takes place at the Last Supper, on the eve of our Lord’s crucifixion. It was a sort of farewell address, a valedictory invocation. God the Son was interceding—as a high priest—Jesus was interceding with God the Father, petitioning the Father for the sake of his followers—not only the twelve who were with him in the upper room, but all who would come after them, including us. Jesus is asking the Father to preserve us and protect us and guide and direct us.
Holy Father, keep [the ones you have given me] in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
Jesus knows the hostile and challenging environment into which he is about to send his disciples, and he wants a blanket of divine protection to cover them and inspire them and call them to be all that they are meant to be.
I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.
In this high-priestly prayer, Christ reminds us that it is God who writes the Church’s mission statement. It is God who sets the Church’s goals and mobilizes her resources. Jesus prays,  
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. 
It is God who casts the vision for His Church; it us God who incites His Church to a passion for that vision, and it is God who delivers the marching orders. God energizes and sustains His church-in-mission.
This is itself a lofty vision. It is not for the faint-hearted. It invites us to change our thinking. It invites us to change our attitudes in some very fundamental ways. The most important of these attitude changes, I would say, you all have, for the most part, already begun to work on. So keep it up! What I’m talking about here is getting rid of the idea that the “people in the pews” are the “consumers,” and that the clergy—and in the case of Redeemer, his family!—are the “providers” who try to please their constituency, the consumers. This, my friends, is the picture of a community that is way too interested in technicalities, and is not availing itself of the blanket of providential care that Jesus prayed for. That’s the image of a cruise ship, where the crew members serve the passengers. In fact, though, if the Church is a cruise ship, there are no passengers. You’re either a crew member … or a stowaway. And the stowaways are always welcome to join the crew!

Ultimately, when the details are boiled down, the mission of the Church—and the mission of each individual member of the Church, is to be a witness-bearer. We are witnesses to the world that Christ is risen from the dead, that death and evil are conquered, and that life has meaning. We are witnesses to the good news that God’s love has the last word in every situation that a human being can face. The Church is a sign that there is never a lack of witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. This is what the election of Matthias to replace Judas in the company of the twelve apostles is about. On a smaller scale, the election of any bishop is a token of this assurance that the risen Christ will never want for witnesses—which means that there will always be a consistent message of healing for those who are sick, deliverance for those who are addicted, forgiveness to those who are regretful, relief and freedom for those who are enslaved to work or wealth, companionship for whose who are lonely, and fidelity for those who are wounded by betrayal of trust. Whatever we do or say as the Church—locally, nationally, or globally—it is our faithfulness to this witness-bearing mission, not whether we adhere to our by-laws, that is always the standard of our success.
Alleluia and Amen.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


The induction and installation of Fr James Muriuki as Priest-in-Charge of Redeemer, Cairo was a rip-roaring celebration. Over 90 people in the room, including a great turnout of diocesan clergy and laity from as far away as Bloomington and Champaign, a representative ecumenical sampling of local clergy, which included the mayor of Cairo. After the Spirit-filled liturgy, there was superb local BBQ under a tent in the churchyard, which was procured in anticipation of the need for shade but ended up being needed for shelter in the midst of ever-increasing rain. In due time, we made out way to our hosts for the night, parishioners Burt and Emma Gruchy, who live in the country near Anna and Dongola. A very pleasant place to unwind.