Thursday, March 31, 2011

  • Yesterday morning, the last one of this meeting of the House of Bishops, we turned our attention to the state of theological education, with particular attention to the proactive recruitment of young people for ministry, both lay and ordained (as distinguished from waiting for them to self-select). The deans of all the Episcopal seminaries were there (save one who was absent due to illness). I have been on Commissions on Minsitry in two dioceses, Standing Committees in two dioceses, I've been an Examining Chaplain in two dioceses, I've been a General Ordination Exam reader four times, and I've taught in a diocesan formation program for both future deacons and future priests. Of course, I've also been a postulant, candidate, and seminarian, and now I'm a bishop! The process is forever being tinkered with because it's always perceived as inadequate, as not producing the fruit we would like to see. I must confess, I still see it that way, and will probably do my share of tinkering. But I will probably never get it completely right, and will be frustrated most of the time. And grace will still abound, and God will raise up laborers for his vineyard nonetheless.
  • In the afternoon we had a business session and a "town meeting." Neither was very eventful. When the town meeting concluded, I had planned to stay for Eucharist and dinner, but the call of the open road was too strong to resist. I decided to take advantage of the few hours of daylight that were left and headed toward home. I made it over the Smokies (the most hazardous part of the trip) before dusk, though it rained the whole time, and then on to the outskirts of Nashville before getting a room for the night.
  • Up and out the door just after 7:30 this morning. Made excellent time and covered the 400 remaining miles in just under seven hours. Talked by phone en route with a priest from outside the diocese regarding possibilities for ministry in Springfield. Got home in time to catch up with Brenda and then take a long hard walk, something I very much needed to do.
  • So my first House of Bishops meeting is behind me. What a mixed bag. The opportunity to connect names with faces among my colleagues (many of whose names I have known for a long while) was very valuable, as were several chance encounter conversations that took place at odd moments. Much of the program was worthwhile, and I even came away with a couple of epiphanies about my new life and work. And in the midst of it all, there were certainly ample sources of annoyance over matters both trivial and substantive. On the whole, I'm very glad to be home.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

  • For the most part, life at a House of Bishops meeting happens non-stop. Sunday morning and afternoon was set apart as "Sabbath" time, for which we all were grateful, and this afternoon is unscheduled as well. Beyond that, between worship, meals, and working sessions, there's scarcely time to turn around.
  • Sunday night we were visited by four bishops of the southern province of the Moravian Church. (They are spiritual descendants of the late 15th century proto-reformer Jan Hus, and the Episcopal Church as recently entered into full communion with them.) They led us in a celebration of Holy Communion according to their liturgy. It was quite interesting on a number of levels, very different in its details from the broad historic tradition of western eucharistic worship, but still preserving the rudimentary shape of Word followed by Sacrament. 
  • Yesterday (Monday) was spent considering the relationship between Christianity and Islam. We had two outside presenters, one of whom is a Pakistani Muslim scholar who is well-versed in Christianity. This is certainly a timely subject, not only on a global level (Christians in Islamic countries have been martyred this very month) but on a local one as well, as communities of Muslims are popping up all across the U.S. The question of inter-faith relations is delicate one. Certainly nothing is gained by a spirit of fear and an atmosphere of incipient violence, conditions that are always at least just around the corner in the minds of many Americans. And there is surely no shortage of opportunities for people from various religious traditions to cooperate in addressing some of the ills in our social fabric. That said, I believe Christian faithfulness calls us to resist the temptation to embrace religious pluralism as an ideal, an inherent good, rather than as a concession to the need we all have to live in peace and relative harmony. We must never coerce or manipulate, and we must treat the religions of our neighbors, as well as our neighbors themselves, with dignity and respect. And then we must, in love, call all people to repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, baptism, and discipleship in the communion of the Church. That may be an impossibly fine line for us to walk, but walking that line is nonetheless our call.
  • In the evening, we had "class dinners." Every bishop is a member of a "class" made up of those who were elected in the same calendar year (and then, for some unknown reason, they take the following year as the designation for their class, so I am in the Class of 2011). There are twelve of us--on the large side as classes go--but we seem to get on quite well and had a spirited time over dinner.
  • This morning the subject was the Anglican Covenant. The Bishop of Atlanta gave a lucid presentation, the main point of which is that ecclesiology, liturgy, sacraments, and polity are all systemically interrelated, and when we touch one, we touch all. The proposed covenant touches polity directly, but all the others indirectly. If we adopt it, it will change us. That's neither an argument in favor nor an argument against, just a statement of fact. I completely agree. The Anglican Covenant will change us in the Episcopal Church--in fact, it will change us even if we never adopt it (I tend to think we will not, but I could be surprised). And I think that change will be for the better. In the age of the internet, any distinction between the universal and the local is becoming increasingly meaningless. If we want to continue to cohere as a communion, we need to embrace the new reality that it's all local.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Yesterday I packed my bags and headed to the airport according to plan, got checked in and cleared security. A few minutes later we got the word that our departure (Springfield to Chicago, then a moderate layover followed by Chicago to Asheville) was delayed due to mechanical issues with the aircraft. I'm all for them taking all the time they need to get that sort of thing right, bit the time frame that gave us meant that I would miss my connection. A phone call to United yielded that information that the best they could do was route me to LaGuardia and deposit me in Asheville (which is still a 30 minute or so drive from Kanuga) around 10:45pm. I made a snap decision, canceled my reservation, retrieved my checked bag, and hit the road: 700 miles, about 12 hours. I arrived at 1am, only about 90 minutes after I would have gotten here anyway, and now I have a car. There may be some moments of regret when it comes time to go home, but on the whole, it was a decent decision. I'm pretty fond of road trips, and I got here fully alert, having enjoyed a wonderful rendition of Mahler's 2nd Symphony on sattelite radio as I was driving through the Smokies.

Today the focus of the HoB was on ministry to and with young adults, certainly a very timely topic given the demographics of the Episcopal Church. In off moments, I have reconnected with old friends and acquaintances, and met people in the concrete whom I have heretofore known only the in abstract. The weather here is rainy and cold (40s), so the much-touted natural charms of Kanuga have not yet been revealed to me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

  • Read the morning paper (glad the it's more substantive than the daily publication in the small town we came from, and surprised at how seriously people in Springfield take their local politics!). Organized tasks for the day (by which I mean I used my online task management app to decide which items in the queue I would actually try to get done today).
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Took care of some paperwork related to my being a trustee of the Putnam Trust, from which a couple of our congregations receive a signigicant amount of income each year.
  • Processed a steady stream of emails. (By "processed" I mean that I either responded immediately, flagged an item for later attention, or created a task for a day in the future. My goal is that nothing falls through the cracks. Sometimes I actually meet that goal.)
  • Wrote my first Ad Clerum (bishop's letter to the clergy of the diocese).
  • Set up voice mail on my office phone.
  • Dealt with some administrative issues related to the Bishop's Discretionary Fund.
  • Pastoral check-in by phone with Fr Tournoux at Christ Church, who has been suffering from the flu. Happily, he's now recovered and back in the land of the living.
  • Processed more emails. They just keep arriving.
  • Lunch with the Archdeacon at A Taste of India.
  • Appointed a Diocesan Coordinator for Episcopal Relief & Development.
  • Wrote my regular article for April edition of the Springfield Current, our monthly diocesan newsletter.
  • Took an incoming phone call from a long-time friend and colleague about a matter of mutual concern that has us both just a bit distressed.
  • Arranged to have motel room in the O'Fallon area on the night before my April 3 visit to St Michael's.
  • Downloaded and reviewed  materials for the House of Bishops meeting that begins tomorrow.
  • Communicated by email with members of a special ad hoc committee which I am chairing in connection with my duties as a member of the Board of Trustees of Nashotah House.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Viewed the play Wings, with Brenda, at the Lincoln Museum.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

  • Delivered my mother and two siblings to Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport for their flights home after the big consecration weekend. For a while, we had nine house guests. Now Brenda and I now have the place back to ourselves (and the four-footed creatures).
  • Took a phone call from Fr Swan, beginning to flesh out some of the details of an extended visit to the Hale Deanery in June. 
  • Worked on a sermon for Lent IV, to be delivered April 3 at St Michael's,  O'Fallon.
  • Took a call from a local pastor in another denomination wanting to make a lunch date with me. 
  • As per usual, the Archdeacon and the Diocesan Administrator and I spend most of our day interrupting one another, usually for quite worthwhile reasons.
  • Lunch with my predecessor, Bishop Beckwith, who is still in town following the consecration. His wisdom on several practical matters is greatly appreciated.
  • Finished my perusal of the diocesan constitution and canons. I agree with the suggestion some have made that the Committee on Constitution and Canons needs to be awakened from hibernation.
  • Offered both Morning and Evening Prayer in the cathedral nave, by myself, as has become my custom. 
  • Dinner with Brenda at TGIF, followed by an evening of starting to restore the house to "normal" status.