Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday

We were all awakened by a fire alarm shortly after 7, and were asked, "Please leave the building." Somebody had broken the rule and put a croissant in the toaster, which is for "bread only." It seems there's a good reason for the rule!

Packing was an intimidating task, but I accomplished it in just over an hour, paranoid about making sure I leave nothing behind. The conference center staff cheerfully called me a taxi, and I was soon on my way to the Canterbury West rail station. I inquired of the gate agent when the next "fast train" to London would arrive and he pointed to the one currently at the platform. I boarded gratefully, thinking I was on the high speed service. I was not. No harm. I resigned myself to a more leisurely ride, and a longer taxi ride once in London (Charing Cross being further from my hotel than St Pancras). Then, about 30 minutes later, we pulled into Ashford International, and I heard the announcement, "Change here for high speed service to St Pancras." Here's where the advantage of traveling on an open pass becomes evident. I just got off, changed platforms, and caught a high speed train about 15 minutes later.

Basically, I don't like taxis. I become a ball of anxiety as I watch the fare on the meter click upward. So I braved the Underground with my large and heavy suitcase. Happily, my room at the Delmere Hotel (part of a long block of row houses converted into hotels; this one wears the Best Western label) near Paddington Station (from which my train to the airport tomorrow departs) was ready when I arrived. The whole place is ... compact. But my room is quite comfortable.

After stowing my luggage and grabbing some lunch at an Indian place, I made a longish Underground journey (two transfers) to Southwark, the section of London that lies south of the Thames. I wanted to see Southwark Cathedral. It sits virtually at the foot of London Bridge, not the one that "fell down" and now lives in comfortable Arizona retirement, but its wider and stronger replacement. The site was originally a convent in Saxon times, became a priory during Norman times (when most of the present church was constructed), a parish church after the Reformation (St Saviour & St Mary Overie), and a cathedral in 1905 when the Diocese of Southwark was erected. It's rather smaller in scale than most cathedrals, including the seat of the London Diocese, St Paul's, the dome of which is easily visible across the river from Southwark. When I arrived, a violin and piano recital had just begun in the nave, so I sat down and listened. It was wonderful. I looked around a good bit, surprised to encounter the tomb of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, one of the formative fathers of the Anglican theological method in the early seventeenth century. After ducking out for a bit to find some tea, I returned for Evensong at 5:30. The choir is about a third smaller than Canterbury's, but they are superb. What a treat it has been to attend choral Evensong nine times in four locations on this trip.

The trip back to the hotel gave me an opportunity to experience London rush hour. Enough said. Found a nice dinner in the neighborhood. Happy to be traveling tomorrow to a place where I can count the change in my pocket without examining evey coin.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday (St Charles, King & Martyr)

The theme of this final day of our conference was "the bishop as human being." Ponder that.

We met for Bible study after breakfast, again in All Saints' Chapel, and again under the capable leadership of Ed Condry. We looked at a rather obscure passage in Luke (obscure in that I don't think it ever turns up in the Sunday lectionary) wherein Jesus in effect promises that he will gird himself up and wait on those who are themselves his servants. The point is that those who regularly minister to others run the risk of forgetting to allow Jesus to minister to them, which can have devastating consequences. Our time in that setting was concluded with a rather sweetly intense period of extemporaneous prayer. The Spirit's presence was palpable.

For the later half of the morning, we were joined by Jane Williams, wife of Archbishop Rowan. Though she is a seminary professor and theologian in her own right, she was among us today as a bishop's spouse, to talk about issues arising from the bishop's family and home life. Her observations were perceptive and the conversation lively. I was strucks by the comfortable and integrated way she is able to talk about her own personal faith in the context of the high-octane life she and her family lead.

The early afternoon was free time, which I used to take care of some errands and get some more walking in on the old city wall, which is even more interesting in the daylight. At 4 o'clock, Canon Condry led us on about a quarter-mile hike east of the cathedral to St Augustine's, which began life as "the other monastery" in Canterbuy (i.e. not the one at the cathedral), then lay underused and fallow for about 300 years, then was rehabilitated and added-on to in the 19th century as a missionary training college, and is now part of a boarding school campus. There in the chapel we exchanged the gifts we had been asked to bring for one other, something that represents the environment in which we minister. I presented a book of sayings from Abraham Lincoln to a bishop from Malawi, and received from a Nigerian bishop a decorated wooden bowl. Again, a rather emotional moment as our time together draws to a close. We were served tea in yet another chapel the walls of which are covered with stone plaques commemorating missionaries who were trained in that place and then were sent all over the world (or all over the British Empire, at any rate) and who never returned home. The closest to Illinois any of them made it was western New York state. Oh, I should not neglect to mention that we were allowed to spend a moment in what is now a classroom/conference room, but was once a bedroom. Are you ready for this: King Charles I spent his wedding night there. Now, since today is actually his feast day, the anniversary of his martyrdom at the hands of Calvinist Puritans, that's pretty cool, right? Well, I certainly thought so.

Dinner tonight was at the Deanery, the home of the Dean of Canterbury, the most gracious and Very Reverend Robert Willis. Walking there (it's just on the other side of the cathedral from where our lodgings are), I felt like I was in a Susan Howatch novel. The Deanery started out as a medieval Great Hall, and was converted into a home in the sixteenth century. Every Dean of Canterbury since then has lived in that house, and each one has a huge portrait of himself hanging somewhere in the walls. I would estimate the living room is sixty feet long by 25 or so feet wide, with two fireplaces, a grand piano, and a harpsichord. We were joined by members of the cathedral chapter and their spouses, divided between two large rooms, and served an elegant dinner with grace and efficiency. What a wonderful capstone to what has been a truly formative and spiritually nourishing experience. I am one incredibly grateful bishop, and one incredibly grateful human being. I am immensely eager to be home, but very sad to be leaving this place.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

This was another relaxed morning. Having been recruited last night, I reported with four of my colleagues at 10:15 for orientation toward the duty of bearing a chalice at the 11am Sung Eucharist. Meeting in the oldest sacristy in continuous use in England, we were supplied with albs and stoles, and then given prominent seats near the High Altar. Serving Holy Communion from that location was surely an unforgettable experience. The Church of England liturgy allows Candlemas to be observed on the Sunday prior, so that feast was kept today. To mark the pivot point between the Incarnational and Paschal cycles of the year (the Sundays that follow are "before Lent"), we concluded by having the entire congregation of about 500 process down from the quire and High Altar into the nave (about a ten foot drop in elevation!) and to the font for some concluding devotions. As it happened, I found myself right in front of the choir, so I had a row of boy trebles singing into my ears for the last couple of verses of the processional hymn. Sweet.  Coffee hour was held in the Chapter House, which is where the resident monks used to have their regular meetings. It was good to be able to mingle with the congregation. We were very hospitably received.

After some down time for lunch, informal conversation, and, in my case, some private walking around in the cathedral nave, Evensong was at 3:15. Attendance was rather higher than on weekdays, and the anthem was the iconic "I Was Glad" by Charles H. H. Parry. We gathered shortly afterward with Canon Condry (who has been a real workhorse this week), who gave us a retreat-style meditation on the vocation of the Anglican Communion, not so much to Anglicans themselves, but to the rest of the Church. What is our special charism for the benefit of the whole Body of Christ?

After dinner our guest was an American gentleman named Gene Sharp, along with his assistant Jamila Raqib and Scottish documentary film maker Rauridh Arrow. Mr Sharp is a renowned scholar and theoretician of tactics for non-violent overthrow of repressive regimes, and has been credited with inspiring successful non-violent revoutions in Serbia, Georgia, and much of the recent "Arab spring." We watched the new film "How to Start a Revolution" and had a discussion with Mr Sharp afterward.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday (St Thomas Aquinas)

After breakfast we were taken to one of the places in the cathedral that is not open to the general public--All Saints' Chapel, accessible through a narrow and winding staircase on the south side of the choir. It dates from the fifteenth century, but the vestige of a Norman arch in one of the walls is a telltale sign of an earlier period in the cathedral's life and the very messily organic character of its physical development. There Canon Condry led us in a Bible study on the "road to Emmaus" text from Luke. It was rather more substantive and less manipulative than the three sessions we had previously experienced. Our after-the-break session, back in our accustomed conference center location (a site that was free for the construction of a conference center in the 1990s because the land had been cleared by a German bomb in the 1940s), was a presentation by Fr Christopher Irvine, Canon Librarian, on the role of the bishop in liturgy. It was quite well done. The ensuing discussion reminded me once again of the tremendous diversity of liturgical practice across the communion, and the broad range of assumptions that participants in a conference like this one bring.

At 1:30, those of us who had signed up reported for a 90 minute guided historical tour of the cathedral. Though that was about the right amount of time for my physical stamina, it only scratched the surface of my intellectual curiosity. The guide was rushed--we were up against the preparations for 3:15 Evensong and the sounds of a rehearsing choir--so I didn't ask most of the questions that came to me. A place like this is a challenge to a mind like mine, which appreciates consistent patterns and ordered progression. Architechturally, it is in many places rather like a striped tie on a plaid shirt. Conflicting forces across the centuries have left their artifacts, and those artifacts have mostly been allowed to remain, rarely ever "fixed," bearing ongoing silent witness to the mayhem that both human beings and nature can work, such that the whole place becomes a palimpsest of the history of Christianity in Britain. I know what I would do with much of it, but I don't expect I'll be given the chance!

Evensong was a combined effort of the cathedral choirs of Canterbury and Rochester (a neighboring diocese sometime referred to as a "church plant" from Canterbury, having been founded some eight years later, that is, in 605!), which translates to about sixty voices. There were lots of visitors from the Friends of Choral Music and, of all places, Brigham Young University; hence, the entire choir and the area between the choir and the High Altar, were full. The music, as one might imagine, was "big"-- the Howells "St Paul's Service" and an anthem by Elgar. We even sang one of my favorite hymns, "How shall I sing that majesty...?" (Tune: Coe Fen). But would it have killed those boys to learn the descant? :--)

More wandering around town, pretty much just for that sake of exercise, during the late afternoon. No street here is anything resembling straight, of course, and even though I have what I believe is a better than average internal compass, it takes me barely any time at all to get completely disoriented. The saving grace of Canterbury, however, is that one is never very many steps away from a view of the cathedral tower, so you at least have an idea which way you need to turn at the next opportunity. My ambulation this afternoon included a fairly long stretch along the top of the old city wall, some of which dates back to Roman times. Every few yards there is a turret where an archer with a crossbow undoubtedly once crouched. Now, of course, you can look through those turrets and see an auto dealer or a supermarket or a bus stop, with traffic whizzing by (on the wrong side of the street, no less; I don't understand why there aren't more accidents).

After dinner, we had the most incredible experience. Canon Condry took us back into the church, which by this time was closed to the public, cleared of everyone but us. Only a few strategically placed lights were on (and candles limit). We gathered for prayer at the west end, where medieval pilgrims would have entered. I cannot begin to tell you what it was like to have the place, in effect, to ourselves, with Ed providing not so much an historical commentary as a spiritual commentary on this place of pilgrimage. We moved up the center aisle of the nave to the Compass Rose installed in the floor, symbolizing the worldwide and omnidirectional reach of the Anglican Commmunion. We stood in prayerful silence in the place where Thomas Becket was murdered on December 29, 1170. We walked down into the crypt, with its various chapels and its vaulted ceiling that was constructed in the early eleventh century, and the faded residue of what once once vivid polychrome paint that adorned the entire area. Finally, we gathered where normal visitors are not allowed to walk, holding lit candles and forming a circle around the single candle on the floor that burns perpetually on the spot where the shrine to St Thomas Becket once stood, and only a few feet away from the Throne of St Augustine, the sign of the ministry of the See of Canterbury that binds the Anglican Communion together. There, at a spot where the stone was literally indented by the knees of 300 years of kneeling pilgrims, we prayed the Our Father together, each in our own language. What more can I say?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday (St John Chrysostom)

It was a late night last night, due in part to some technical difficulties in posting to this blog. Consequently, I played hooky from Mattins and Mass this morning, getting some much needed extra sleep. The day dawned bright and clear, providing a beautiful setting for a couple of local university graduation ceremonies that took place in the cathedral nave. I was surprised to find that some of the trees along the south side of the cathedral are beginning to blossom out. Nonetheless, even with the clear skies, it was rather cooler than it's been, and the next several days look to be miserable--upper 30s with rain.

The morning brought us yet another agenda-driven Bible study led by the same individual. The agenda this time had to do with "ministering" to the powerful, using the story of Nathan's confrontation of David as the springboard. After the break, the rest of the morning was spent with the Bishop of Harare (Zimbabwe), whose diocese is locked in a bizarre battle with his rogue predecessor, who seems to be a megalomaniac in cahoots with another of the same genre, President Robert Mugabe.

In the afternoon, we were addressed by, and interacted with, Canon John Rees, whose official title is Chief Registrar, but in effect he is the top legal counsel to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He talked about threads of continuity in the canon law of the various provinces of the communion. There are vast differences, to be sure, but also a great deal that is the same. Canon Rees is both a lawyer and a priest. It is certainly helpful to have someone in that sort of legal role also be theologically trained.

During the late afternoon down time I had an extended conversation with a bishop from Tanzania regarding the Anglican Covenant and the potential range of responses available to the Episcopal Church at this summer's General Convention. I then took a moderately long walk through the winding streets of the old city. It was "a capella" night at Evensong, with the responses, Psalms, canticles, and anthem all unaccompanied. The anthem was William Walton's devastatingly beautiful Set Me as a Seal. Happily, the organ did play for the hymn.

We were joined at dinner by the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Robert Willis. Both while we ate (as it happened, he and I were at the same table) and afterward, I enjoyed hearing him engagingly and winsomely give an account of the ministry of the cathedral--to the city, to the diocese, to the Church of England, to the worldwide communion, and, most of all, to the bishop whose seat it holds and whose church it is: Archbishop Rowan Williams. There are enormous differences between the British and American church environments, of course. Nonetheless, there is also much of what I heard that is worthy of emulation.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday (Ss Timothy & Titus)

Road trip day for bishops. We all (27 of us) piled into a bus (aka "motor coach") at 7:50am in the midst of a dreary drizzle for a 2.5 hour trip to London. Now, the same trip took an hour of my time on a high speed train on Monday. The difference is not only that the bus doesn't go 120mph, but that there are no multi-lane controlled access highways that actually go into central London. So it was all on what Californians call "surface streets"--through the east end and Southwark, over the Thames at the Tower Bridge, through the financial district and Westminster, past Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, and on into Kensignton, finally alighting at the Anglican Communion office, which occupies a former convent. We were greeted by Canon Kenneth Kearon, who talked generally about the work of the ACO before introducing the staff, each of whom took a few moments to speak about his or her area of concentration. We then broke for some informal time with the staff, according to our inclination.

In due course, we were called out to the (quite lovely) garden for a group photo. A charitable staff member soon found himself with an armload of bishops' cameras and instructions to duplicate the official shot. This was accomplished with surprising efficiency. We then proceeded to the chapel for a brief Liturgy of the Word, after which we had about ten minutes to consume our sack lunches while staff members continued to gently lobby us about their individual concerns.

Next stop was Lambeth Palace, London home of Archbishops of Canterbury since the 14th century. Eveything happened there with graceful precision. As we gathered on the front steps for another photo, Archbishop Williams appeared in the front row as if on cue. We were ushered into a large hall adorned with oversize portraits of previous occupants of the See of Canterbury. (We learned later that this is the very room where the first Lambeth Conference took place.) We sat down in a circle and the Archbishop spoke to us winsomely about what he considers the core of a bishop's pastoral ministry, namely, to peristently assure people that God can be trusted. Any human person will eventually let us down, but God can always be trusted. He then took questions for about 30 minutes, after which it was tea time (with all the "goodies" associated with English afternoon tea). Archbishop Rowan stayed and mingled with us informally. I am not one to be star struck, but I will always treasure the few moments I spent chatting with him.

We were then turned over to a retired priest who gave us a very fine tour of the palace--state dining room, formal drawing room overlooking a wonderful formal English garden, the historic main chapel, and the crypt chapel, the oldest part of the palace. There we were led in the evening office, using the Church if England's Common Worship.

On the bus and back to Canterbury the same way we had come in the morning, which is essentially the ancient Canterbury pilgrimage road. At one point I saw that the street was called Old Kent Road. We arrived back about half past seven, very grateful that dinner was ready for us. I got into another wide-ranging discussion, this time with the two Church of England participants (suffragans in the Norwich and Peterborough dioceses), our lone Canadian, and one of two from South Sudan. We did a lot of comparing and contrasting in the areas of administrative support and organization, parish and diocesan finances, and clergy deployment. Such conversations and the chance to cultivate such relationships are precisely why I came on this trip.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Conversion of St Paul

Same structure to the day as yesterday. Same Bible study leader, again with a little more of an agenda than I was comfortable with. (Truth to tell, I'm not comfortable with any agenda; the text itself should set the agenda.) After a break, we heard a presentation about and were led in a discussion of power, authority, and influence as they impact mission, both on a global communion-wide level, and within provinces and dioceses. There were certainly some valuable nuggets in this, but, I must confess, I was fighting off sleep much of the time. After lunch (which is at 1, and dinner at 7, both an hour later than my American inner clock is accustomed to), we heard from four non-bishops--two lay and two clergy--on precisely what they think of bishops and what they look for in their bishops. In short: hold power lightly, lead by influence rather than coercion, be available. These remarks, and the ensuing discussion, were probably the best part of the formal conference program yet.

During the free time between the conclusion of the afternoon session and Evensong (no boys tonight, just men, but there are a couple of wickedly good contra-tenors who almost make up for the loss), I again stepped outside the cathedral close, this time in the company of a couple of colleagues. When we walked into a nearby liturgical supply store--a very small one, I should add--we found six others of our group already there. It was very crowded, and I'm not sure what the shopkeeper made of her afternoon. I advised my Brazilian colleague in the purchase of a zuchetto. I think he overpaid, but he seemed happy with the acquisition.

Over dinner, there was an animated discussion with bishops from Brazil, England, Sri Lanka, Canada, and Japan across a whole range of issues, from the Anglican Covenant, to the sexuality controversies, to the convoluted politics of the Church of England with respect to the legislation that will enable the appointment of women as bishops, such that those who would really prefer that there be no women bishops might vote in favor of the legislation and those who want there to be women bishops may vote against it. Still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

Add North India to the list of provinces represented.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday

So, are you enjoying my hand-crafted artisanal HTML tags? You're welcome.

Mattins (said) in the cathedral at 7:30, followed immediately by Mass in the crypt chapel (the oldest section of the building, dating back well over a millennium), followed by breakfast in the refectory. Continuing to nurture new relationships; most here are strangers to one another. It does tax my introversion a bit.

Our first morning session was a long period of Bible study led by a Jamaican woman who now teaches in a theological college in Birmingham. From time to time she had us break out into small groups to discuss questions she would pose. Some of where she took us pressed a few of my buttons, so it was good that the process forced me to articulate discomfort rather than just feel it. After a break we continued with a presentation from another faculty member at the same college on missiology, the character of mission, and the "five marks of mission" (google that phrase). Again, some of my buttons were pushed. (Curious about my buttons? See entries in my main blog from last September when I was at a House of Bishops meeting).

After lunch, three more outside presenters talked to us about broad themes of justice, peace, and reconciliation. I particularly enjoyed the presentation from Paul Porter, Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral. I can't say as much for the talk on economic theory from a chaplain (not an economist) at the London School of Economics. His point was that bishops are capable of speaking with authority on economic matters, and then proceeded to tell us what to speak. I'm not buying it.

By 3:30 we were free until Evensong, so I wandered on foot outside the cathedral close into the old section of the city inside the medieval walls. The cobblestone streets are narrow and quaint and the buildings are centuries old and they've made most of it a pedestrian-only zone. Yet, it's very touristy, with a variety of thriving retail businesses, including two Subway sandwich shops within a three minute walk of one another. I was on an expedition to acquire some supplementary food stuffs (nuts, mostly, and a little chocolate) for those times when the conference center fare is lacking. Evensong was scrumptious, of course. I particularly enjoyed the Palestrina anthem on the antiphon for the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, of which this is the eve.

After dinner I journeyed out to a pub with colleagues from Norwich and Papua New Guinea and had a pint of proper English bitter. Not my usual choice in beer. Now I can say I've done it.
Add to the list of provinces represented: Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Kenya.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday (Phillips Brooks)

OK! I lied ... that is, when I said I would never hand-insert HTML tags. The only reason there are paragraphs in yesterday's entry is because I did exactly that. It is a little cumbersome, to be sure. Here's one now.

This morning I packed, checked out, stowed my bags at the hotel, and hit the Tube system one last time. Sadly, I had to make a return visit to Watts, with what surely must be the most humble request ever made by a walk-in customer: a clergy collar tab insert. The one I brought with me, and which I indeed wore on my first day in London, was nowhere to be found when I packed. It cost me all of one pound.

With that work accomplished, I surveyed my options, and decided to keep walking west on Victoria Street, through a very busy retail district, until I spotted Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey), the seat of Roman Catholicism in England. It's a Byzantine-style edifice from late Victorian times, fairly attractive, in my opinion. My inner musicologist-of-yore remembers it as the intended performance venue for the Mass in G Minor of Ralph Vaughan Williams, which I analyzed pretty near to death in my 1975 master's thesis. As it turned out, there was a Mass in progress when I walked in (alas, not to the setting by RVW). They were right at the beginning of the Great Thansgivingm and I stayed through the Our Father, so I got to hear some of the new translation of the liturgy that has raised a few eyebrows of late.

By that time, I had still not solidified my London exit strategy, as there were three different rail options from which to choose. So I scoped out the situation at Victoria Station, then at Charing Cross, and headed back to the Hilton Metropole thinking that I would try for the high speed service from St Pancras, though I wasn't sure whether my British Rail pass would be honored on that line. Oh ... while I was at Charing Cross, I grabbed a pasty--a traditional puffed pastry pocket sandwich, only mine with an Indian twist, filled with curried beef. Yum.

After retrieving my luggage from the Hilton, and as much as I adore riding the Tube, I made a practical decision, given the weight and size of my suitcase, to take a taxi to St Pancras. It was not easy to find someone to ask about the validity of my rail pass. The person at the information booth admitted to having no idea, and pointed me to a nearby ticket window. I waited in line, and then was told by the agent that, no, passes are not honored on high speed lines, but that her company had nothing to do with that service (trains in Britain were privatized during the Thatcher years, even though British Rail retains some coordinating functions ... apparently like selling passes to Americans on the Internet). She referred me "past the Starbucks and up the escalator." I couldn't spot the Starbucks, but I did spot another ticket sales area, and the agent there told me that my pass certainly would be honored ... and then pointed out the Starbucks. So I lugged my bag up the escalator and approached another agent who was guarding the gate leading to the train platforms. She confirmed the good news I had received most recently downstairs, and did so with consummate cheer and customer-friendliness. Maybe it's my charmingly exotic and disarming American accent. So I caught the 13:42 departure for Canterbury and points beyond. The trip took an hour, which I am told is about 30 minutes faster than the "regular" train does it.

A little while later, I was settling into my room at the Cathedral Conference Center. I have a spectacular view of the cathedral tower right through my window. At 4 o'clock (or 16:00--they seem a little schizoid about that here), the bishops involved in the program for which I am here began to gather in the designated room for tea. I already knew that the face of Anglicanism is no longer white and English-speaking, but now I've seen it firsthand. I haven't met everyone yet, but I have so far encountered colleagues from Ghana, Tanzania, South Sudan, Japan, Malawi, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Pakistan, Canada, and, of course, England. I am indeed the only American. I greatly look forward to my interaction with these people.

We adjourned to the cathedral for Choral Evensong,sung with beauty and precision by the cathedral's choir of men and boys. Then to the refectory for dinner, after which we were dismissed with no evening program, given that most if the attendees are only beginning to recover from jet lag.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

About my technical difficulties: The issue is that, when I'm on a iPad, Blogger's default is an HTML field on which to post. So, if I want to do any formatting, it looks I have to add my own HTML tags. Not gonna happen. However, I'm writing this post directly in Blogger, rather than first putting into Evernote and then copying it over. So, if you see paragraphs, that idea worked. If not, it didn't.

For Mass this morning, some sleuthing by the Archdeacon had already pointed me to St Gabriel's, Pimlico, which was an easy Tube ride followed by about an eight minute walk. I was looking for a particular liturgical ethos, one that might be described as "family Catholic." I was not disappointed. The building is Victorian, as is the whole neighborhood, an, while it needs some repairs, it is quite lovely. The liturgy was rich without being fussy. It kind of reminded me of Holy Trinity, Danville, so ... Danites, take a bow. The congregation numbered around 60, which means that vacant seats well outnumbered occupied ones. But there was a good proportion of children--about a dozen, I would say--and it is evident that great care is being taken for their spiritual formation. During the coffee hour, parishioners told me that the congregation has gown significantly since the current vicar arrived, that he's very much focused on the church reaching out to everyone who lives in the geographic parish. People of the Diocese of Springfield: Take due note that your bishop is not the only one who talks this way!

The weather was still balmy for January, and I was feeling energetic, so I decided to make my way back to my hotel on foot, about 2.5 miles. As it happened, the most efficient route took me right past Buckingham Palace and through Hyde Park, so, other than having to dodge hordes of picture-snapping tourists for a while (OK, I did take one picture when the guys in the funny hats walked by--and now you're wondering where I get off talking derisively about guys in funny hats), I had no complaints.

Lunch was at a Middle Eastern joint that occupies a very classic looking old English pub location. Chicken Shwarma and tabouleh. Yum. But when I asked for water, the server gave me a blank stare. His English is limited, but it's English English that he knows, so when I revised my request to wo-tah, he understood me perfectly. Smart guy. Along those lines, if all I had to go on were snippets of conversations that I overhear on the street, I could be forgiven for wondering where I really am. Moscow? Beirut? Paris? Madrid? Hong Kong? This is a cosmopolitan city.

Next up was 3:15 Choral Evensong at St Paul's Catherdral. For you church music geeks: Responses by Kenneth Leighton, canticles by Basil Harwood, anthem by William Boyce. What a gift choral evensong is. And what a setting. Being turned out on the street only briefly, I returned through the west door once again for a 4:45 organ recital by Simon Johnson, the principal cathedral organist. Bach, Messian, and Franck.

But wait. I'm not done with church yet. A couple of short Tube rides put me at All Saints, Margaret Street, one of the world-class Anglo-Catholic shrine churches, for 6pm Evensong and Benediction. What I participated in there was surely of the same genus as what took place at St Paul's--Evensong is Evensong--but it's an entirely distinct species. This isn't the venue for an explication of the differences. Suffice it to say that I appreciate them both, for different reasons. Honorable mention at All Saints goes to the choir's rendition of Maurice Durufle's Tantum Ergo at Benediction.

So all this means I heard three sermons today. It prompts me to observe the importance of preachers realizing that their medium is oral. What might be a splendid article, essay, or written meditation is probably not a good sermon. The human brain processes the spoken word differently than its does the written word. Issues of timing, cadence, and narrative all require more attention than most preachers realize. In my opinion.

I emerged from the Tube in the Leicester Square area hoping to find Chinatown and eat there. I know it's in that vicinity 'cause I saw it the other night. But it disappeared on me. So I settled for another Indian meal. Poor me.

Despite all the Tube riding I did, my pocket pedometer tells me I walked over 11 miles today, and more than a third of that was at an aerobic rate. I'm thinking that's generally a good thing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday

Let me first apologize for the general lack of formatting in these last few posts. I'm immensely grateful for my iPad, but it is a little cumbersome in some respects as it relates to my blogging software. There's evidently something I'm not getting. Another day in the country, this time seeing large swaths of the Diocese of Salisbury, where my friend Graham Kings is Bishop of Sherborne, one of the suffragan sees of that diocese. I took the train to the village of Tisbury, where Bishop Graham met me. After a few miles of hedgerows and roundabouts (I'm fairly certain roundabouts are unwholesome and contrary to God's will), we met up with Robert, his omincompetent lay chaplain/executive assistant, who took over the driving chores. I was treated to a pub lunch (a "gastro-pub", I was informed, which means the menu is upscale from the traditional fare) in a town the name of which I cannot remember. We all had the special: pork belly, mash, and black pudding (google that last one; I only had one bite).  Our destination was the parish church of St Lawrence in the village of Hilmarton. Like all other churches in the 1500s and 1600s, they once had a large Bible chained to a pillar at the rear. Published resources of any sort were scarce, and this custom at least allowed people to have personal access to the scriptures. Eventually it was shoved in a cabinet and forgotten about until the 1850s when it was rediscovered, liberated from its chain, and returned to a visible location, this time as a symbol, since most anyone who wanted a Bible was able to obtain one. Once again, it was all but forgotten until, just last year, which was the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version, somebody got curious, and it was discovered that Hilmarton Parish Church had its hands on an original edition (1611) of the KJV, complete with a couple of notorious misprints. So people from the four parishes of the united benefice gathered to celebrate this find, and for Bishop Graham to bless a newly-constructed lectern/display case for this special volume. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, including "tea and cake" in the church hall afterward. Our timing was not auspicious, so I had a ninety minute wait at the Westbury rail station for my train back to London. It was already 9pm by the time I got back to my room, so I decided not to go back out on the town, and had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday (St Fabian)

Slowly but surely recovering from jet lag. Most of the way there already. Got up at a fairly leisurely hour and caught the 9:50 train from Paddington Station (about four blocks from my hotel) to Oxford. The trip takes about an hour. My observation about trains in Britain is that they are very frequent, very fast, very crowded, they run on time, and while not by any means inexpensive, the fares are not unreasonable. Seats are tiny; leg room is minimal. Makes a coach airplane seat seem spacious. Did I mention they go fast? Even the freight trains go fast. Not what I'm used to seeing. I was met at Oxford by Fr Mark Clavier (son of Tony, who preached at my consecration). Mark is priest-in-charge of the United Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Steeple, and Tackley. Two of the three churches date from Norman times, and one as elements from the Saxon era (which is to say, some of those stones have been in place for more than a thousand years). The villages themselves have a combined population of about 2300, with a high proportion of retirees, followed by commuters, both to Oxford and even to London. Much of whatnI saw was a complete caricature of how an American thinks of English country villages, complete with the church warden in tweed with three working dogs on a leash. Before we went out to the countryside, however, we had a wonderful tour of Pusey House in Oxford, one of the icons of the Catholic revival of Anglicanism in the nineteenth century. The highlight for me was surely a glimpse of a page in sixteenth century missal in which one can see at a glance the successive tumults of that era just in whose names are scratched out and whose are added in the intercessions of the eucharistic prayer.  Lunch was in a pub at Steeple Aston. Interetingly, pubs share a certain unenviable position with churches in England: everyone wants them to be there--indeed, there is a sense of entitlement about it--but fewer and fewer people want to actually support them personally. Between the three parishes Mark looks after, average Sunday attendance is around 110, which means maybe 250 would be considered "active baptized members" by Episcopal Church standards. I expect I will have more to say about my experience of the Church of England when I get home and have something more than an iPad to type on--and pictures to post as well. I was fortunate to even a get a seat on the 4pm train back to London. After resting for a bit,I ventured back out by tube to the West End (Picadilly Circus, theatre district), finally deciding on fish and chips for dinner.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday (St Wulfstan)

The meeting of Province V bishops concluded at noon yesterday, so I was actually the first one to check in for my flight,mwhich departed a 5pm. How often does one even get to meet, let alone fly across the ocean with, a set of quituplets? They were four yearsold, and very well- behaved. British Airways deposited me at Heathrow shortly after 6am (that is, shortly after midnight central time). A little while later I was in my hotel room, grateful that the Hilton Metropole (Edgeware Road) had a room available for early check-in. After settling in, cleaning up, and arguing my way to a free internet connection in my room, I surveyed the neighborhood on foot (it's even more Arab that I remember it from my last trip in 2005), then entered the labyrinthine Underground system. After a couple of small false starts, I made it to the Westminster area, and to the offices of Watts & Company, purveyors of fine vestments for clergy and churches. They had a mitre ready for me to pick up ... so I picked it up.  Found a very nice place to grad a bite, after which I reported for a pre-arranged verger-led tour of the Abbey. It lasted two hours, and while not exhaustive, it was exhausting. My takeaway was the reminder that Elizabeth I and her half-sister predecessor Mary are buried together. They were not the best of friends in this world. Of course I stayed for Evensong! Was there ever any doubt? For geeks like me: Intoit Anthem from the nave (Tallis, If ye love me...), Byrd Reponses, Stanford Mag & Nunc (B-flat), Poulenc anthem (Videntes Stella). Surpassingly lovely. And they do this every day. Amazing. Came back to the hotel (braving rush hour train loads), freshened up, and ventured back out in search of dinner. Found some very tasty Indian cuisine. Pass the Garlic Naan.England is expensive, even with a much-improved exchange rate.  Now I lay me down to sleep. Tomorrow it's Oxford.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday (St Antony)

All went according to plan, though the train was 20 minutes late getting Springfield. Kept up with the usual email along the way that I would have gotten if I'd been in the office.Beginning with lunch, met with the Bishops of Province V, potentially 18 in number, including retired assistants, but with six missing for various reasons. Dinner with my colleagues from Northern Indiana and Fund du Lac.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday

I usually let this space lie fallow on my weekly sabbath, which is normally Monday. But in view of what the next two and a half weeks hold for me, a few words might be appropriate.

Tomorrow morning I board a train for Chicago, where I will attend a meeting of the bishops from Province V (all of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the eastern half of Missouri--15 dioceses in all). Then, late Wednesday afternoon, I catch a plane from Chicago to London, where I will stay for four nights, with day trips to see friends in the Oxford and Salisbury areas. Then, a week from today, it's off to Canterbury, and the main reason for the trans-oceanic trip--namely, a program for new bishops from around the Anglican Communion offered by the cathedral each January. I will probably be the only American there, and I very much look forward to a time of learning, making new connections, and being refreshed by participating in the daily worship of that great sign of Anglican identity and heritage.

So, while I am planning on having internet access virtually everywhere I go, my posts here may not be as regular as usual. I do, however, expect that I might "tweet" with some frequency (and if we are friends on Facebook, my tweets automatically appear there). You may follow me on Twitter @BishSpringfield.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

This was a rare Sunday with no parish visitation on my calendar, so Brenda and I took the opportunity to be pew-sitters in the closest Episcopal parish out of the diocese that we could think of, which turned out to be St Paul's Cathedral in Peoria. I was not in clericals and hoped I might fly under the radar, but I was quickly busted by a couple of people who recognized me. After the liturgy, we were very graciously received and had a wonderful time talking with both the laity and clergy of that congregation.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday

  • Met at 9:30 with Fr Tucker, coordinator for the liturgies at the clergy pre-Lenten retreat next month, just to get on the same page.
  • Attended the meeting of the Commission on Ministry at 10. We interviewed two nominees for ordination to the priesthood. One of them was born the year I was ordained, which makes me feel a little ... ancient.
  • The COM meeting ended at 1, and the Standing Committee convened in the same room with nary a break, with four of us involved in both groups. After some routine canonical matters (consenting to three episcopal elections), the group went into executive session to serve as the Bishop's Council of Advice. I was very grateful for their wise and supportive words about a couple of challenging situations.
  • The Standing Committee meeting ended at 3, after which I came home and ... had some lunch!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday (St Hilary of Poitiers)

  • Processed some emails at home. Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Spent the rest of the morning, and part of the afternoon, writing an article for the Nashotah House alumni magazine, requested recently by its editor pro tempore.
  • Went up to the Lincoln Museum to buy a gift that will end of in the hands (and the suitcase) of an as-yet-unidentified Anglican bishop who will be attending the same program to which I am headed at Canterbury Cathedral week after next.
  • Friday prayer: Ignatian-style discursive meditation on the first of Jesus' "signs" in John's gospel--the miracle at Cana.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday (St Aelred)

  • First snow accumulation of the season.
  • Usual morning routine, save for an extended commute time due to snow and wind. Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Processed a small batch of emails.
  • Met with two lay persons from one of our Eucharistic Communities to discuss their role in the larger mission of the diocese.
  • Took care of air travel (and airport parking) arrangements for the March meeting of the House of Bishops (at Camp Allen in the Diocese of Texas).
  • Began to make specific plans for the broad topic of each session in the Lenten series I am giving in Alton.
  • Lunch at home.
  • Resumed work on the Lenten series.
  • Got distracted periodically by various administrative exigencies and some matters related to next week's travel plans.
  • Survey the readings for Lent and Palm Sunday, and plotted my sermon preparations tasks for that season.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday

  • Usual routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Administrative chores pertaining the clergy deployment, the ordination process, and filling out the cast of characters for the Title IV clergy discipline process that we hope we never have to use.
  • Refined and printed a working text of my homily for the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple (aka Candlemas), to be delivered at St Paul's Church, K Street, Washington, DC on 2 February.
  • Completed a rough draft of my sermon for Epiphany VI (12 February), to be delivered at the Chapel of St John the Divine in Champaign.
  • Met with one of the finalists for Vicar of St Michael's, O'Fallon, along with his wife and daughter, and the Archdeacon, in my office for a few minutes. (Then I took him to lunch while the wife and daughter were otherwise entertained by the Bishop's Warden of St Michael's, seeing the Lincoln Home.)
  • Off quickly after lunch to a dental appointment. Yes, I need to floss more. Isn't that what everybody hears?
  • Attended to a couple of small but important administrative chores.
  • Refined and printed a working text of my homily for Epiphany V, to be given at St Mary's, Robinson on 5 February.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • I could not be more pleased with the progress of recovery from my ankle injury. I'm walking normally now (not tap-dancing, but walking), and the pain is less all the time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday (William Laud)

  • Usual routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Got started processing the accumulated items in my hard-copy inbox, and ended the day just finishing the same thing before going off to get my hair cut. In the meantime, I had several short conferences with the Archdeacon, substantive phone conversations with two rectors, a priest from outside the diocese requesting my help with something, a potential candidate for one of our vacant clergy positions, the Bishop's Warden of one of our vacant cures, and a member of the Bishop's Committee of one of our missions. So I guess the day was productive, though I don't have much to show for it by way of checked-off tasks.
  • In the evening, out to dinner with Brenda and an old clergy friend who is in the area looking at another of our vacant positions (not one of those alluded to above). 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Epiphany I: Baptism of Christ

  • Celebrated and preached the 10am liturgy at Trinity, Jacksonville, wherein we duly celebrated the mystery of Our Lord's baptism, renewed our own baptismal promises, and blessed a new aumbry for the storage of holy oils. It was a joyous occasion, until ...
  • ... while retiring to the sacristy after administering the sacrament to change from a chasuble back to a cope, I failed to negotiate the steps between the two rooms. I managed to hobble back out and finish the service, grateful for a sturdy crozier which served as a cane during the final trip down the aisle. 
  • Upon arriving back in Springfield, we went right to the nearby urgent care clinic. Diagnostic result: Avulsion fracture of the right distal fibula. My ankle is in a brace for the next four weeks. (I can wear a shoe over it.) It's difficult to predict how these injuries heal. I'm hoping mine is on the fast track, as my intention is to be doing a lot of walking in London two weeks from now.

Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ


Mark 1:7-11
Isaiah 42:1-9
Trinity, Jacksonville                                                         
           
 We don’t hear about it so much anymore, but for a while during the ‘70s and ‘80s, one of the great themes in pop psychology in our society was “self esteem.”  It was said that a great many people simply have a poor self-image; they think ill of themselves, don’t ‘like’ themselves.”  I’m not qualified to jump into that subject in a direct way, except to make the intuitive observation, based on my own informal experience as a pastor, that a good many Christians do have a poor spiritual self image. 

By this I mean, actually, a spiritual inferiority complex.  “Everyone else’s spiritual experience is more real than mine—by comparison, I’m just faking it. Everyone else around me is spiritually more mature than I am. Others seem to have fruitful and satisfying prayer lives, but I feel like my prayers just bounce off the ceiling.”  I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but I am sure that there are some in this church this morning, sitting right here listening to me, who are saying in their hearts, “Bishop, you’re talking about me! I don’t have a very strong sense of who I am in relation to God, or who God is in relation to me, or what difference it all makes. I’m kind of going through the motions here: I’ve been baptized and confirmed and I receive Holy Communion, and I’ve even had my kids baptized and sent them to Sunday School. But there’s something missing.” 

When I use the first person—“I”—I’m not just putting words in someone else’s mouth. All these feelings are, at various times, true of me. But there’s one advantage I have over many of you, perhaps, and it comes from not being a cradle Episcopalian. It is, of course, highly preferable to be born in an Episcopalian family and never have to know anything else (!), but for those of us who were not so privileged, there is a consolation prize:  Many of us can remember the day of our baptism, because we were eight or ten or twelve years old when it happened. And we didn’t just have a few drops of water sprinkled on our foreheads. We took the plunge, and got thoroughly wet. It was an important and memorable experience.  So when I hear someone speak to me of the meaning of Christian baptism, I’ve got something tangible and concrete in my memory that I can call upon to make the teaching and the theology come alive for me. 

Now, in the proper context—that is, when a child is born to believing and actively practicing Christian parents—I support and encourage the baptism of infants. I had all three of my own children baptized as infants. It sometimes seems, though, the way we go about baptizing babies, the attitudes and assumptions that we bring to the event, impoverishes the experience for everyone concerned.  We have, as a church, certainly come a long way from the time when baptisms were routinely done in the  “drawing room” at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.  But, over the years I was in parish  ministry,  I got regular requests from non-church members to do such baptisms, and the attitude of that era persists even among church people. It’s still felt to be very much a private and family affair, at which others are now permitted to be spectators. And we still use just a token amount of water, hardly enough to remind us even of a bath, much less a birth or a drowning, which are the symbolic roots of the sacrament. 

It’s no wonder, then, that most of us have a very weak emotional and intuitive link with the event of our own baptism. It’s remembered with the same sort of genteel fondness that we associate with something like our first haircut!  And so it’s difficult to connect with preachers and teachers who get up and talk about baptism as the primordial Christian sacrament, the event which anchors our relationship with God and from which the entirety of our spiritual life flows. And we are left with a spiritual inferiority complex, a poor spiritual self-image. 

There is a form of spiritual therapy that was popular some time ago called “healing of memories.”  Healing of memories attempts to enable people to re-visit times in the past which are thought to be the source of pain in the present, and, conscious of the presence of Christ in those times, to respond to them differently than they were able to originally. Without putting too sharp a point on it, I would suggest that the feast which we keep today, the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, offers us the opportunity to heal the impoverished memories of our own baptism. 
 
You see, in his wisdom and in his love, the way God has chosen to save us, the means he uses to rescue us from the power of sin and death, is to configure our experience to the experience of his Incarnate Son. Jesus becomes a template, a pattern, a prototype:  what happens to him happens to us. Chiefly, of course, this is seen in the movement of dying and rising. Christ died—we die in Christ.  Christ rose from the dead—we rise with Christ. But the pattern plays itself out other ways as well. Today, in particular, Jesus’ experience of baptism becomes the pattern for our own. 

Jesus, as St Mark tells the story, came down from Nazareth in Galilee, to the banks of the Jordan River as it wound its way through the Judaean wilderness.  Until this point, Jesus had been obscure, the well-behaved son of a carpenter. It’s impossible to say, of course, how aware he was of his unique identity, his unique relationship with God the Father. But we do know that, before he went underneath the waters of the Jordan River at the hands of John the Baptist, he blended into his environment, and after his baptism, just about everything he said and did made him stand out from his environment. Before his baptism, Jesus was inconspicuous.  After his baptism, he was so conspicuous that, in a relatively short period of time, he found himself so at odds with the religious and civil establishment that they put him to death. Obviously, the baptism of Christ was a pivotal experience for him. It turned his whole life around. It was one moment that put all the other moments in his life in perspective. 
 
Have you ever had the experience of driving through unfamiliar territory at night, and during a thunderstorm?  You don’t really know where you are, you’re not exactly sure where you’ve been, and you certainly don’t know what lies ahead.  Father Ashmore and I, in separate cars, had that experience last June driving back from an ordination in Salem. It’s, at the very least, uncomfortable, and can potentially be downright terrifying. But, then, a burst of lightning illuminates the entire landscape for several hundred yards in every direction. It lasts for just a moment—probably less than a second—but in that moment you get a glimpse of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.  The darkness and the storm are not quite so menacing as they were before that momentary flash. 
 
Jesus’ baptism was, for him, like a flash of lightning on a dark night. It told him who he was: The voice from heaven said clearly, “You are my Son.”  It told him what he was about: The voice continued, “I have chosen you.” And it allowed him to see what was his destiny: The road that the momentary flash lit up was the road to the cross, and beyond that, the road to glory. Jesus’ baptism gave him an identity, a mission, and a destiny. 

And as we contemplate the mystery of the baptism of Christ, we find revealed to us the mystery of our own baptism.  The same flash of lightning can illuminate our lives too. At our baptism—whether we were ten years old and plunged beneath three feet of water, or ten weeks old and sprinkled with three drops of water—at our baptism, we were given an identity. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own for ever. We were adopted as sons and daughters of the most high God, with all the inheritance rights of natural born children. 

At our baptism, we were also given a mission.  God chose each one of us. The Father’s words to Jesus, “I have chosen you,”  are his words to us as well.  Each of us, at our baptism, received a unique combination of gifts, and we are called to use those gifts in ministry, within the church and in the world. 

And at our baptism, we were given a destiny, a future. As Jesus’ road led to the cross, so does ours. We are bidden to take up our cross daily and follow him. This is the hard part of the journey on which we were launched at our baptism. Just as the forces of evil conspired to divert Jesus from this road, so they try to pull us away. They must not be allowed to do this, and they cannot, as long as our eyes are fixed on Christ. He has already completed the journey, and blazed a trail for us which, if we will but follow it, will lead us beyond the cross and the grave to eternal life with him.  

My friends in Christ, I can address you in this way only because of the experience we have shared in the waters of baptism. The moment of that experience, whatever the circumstances, and however it was done and when ever it was done, is the most surpassingly important moment in each of our lives.  I commend to you a practice, one which is attributed to Martin Luther. By it, I remind myself each morning of my identity, my mission, and my destiny. As I get out of bed and my feet hit the floor, I make the sign of the cross and repeat the words, “I am a baptized Christian.”  May the lightning flash of the baptism of our Lord light up each of our lives this morning and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday

  • This being Christmas Day for Orthodox Christians on the Julian calendar, I accompanied the Archdeacon to Benld for the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos (aka St Maria's), an old and very beautiful church in the jurisdiction of what used to be known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) which, as of the last few years is back in full communion with the Orthodox Church in America after several decades of separation. The congregation was small--about 20--but the service was lovely. Fr Denney and I were singled out as honored guests during the announcements, and we got to sample some delicacies imported from Russia during the coffee hour.

  • In the afternoon, Brenda and I attended a "Twelfth Night" (transferred to "fourteenth afternoon") at the home of Deacon Tom and Elisabeth Langford, which, on account of the guest list, turned out to be a sort of warmup act for our visit tomorrow to Trinity, Jacksonville. A delightful event, which we very much enjoyed.
  • After a nap, I set to work on assembling the treadmill that I bought last Monday and had delivered on Thursday. As I go off to bed, it's still only partially assembled. Not a pretty story, but it includes a 25 minute online chat with an "expert." If I were a less charitable person, I would post a transcript of the entire conversation. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany

  • Usual routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed a batch of emails.
  • Wrote three (snail mail) letters to lay leaders in one of our Eucharistic Communities, hoping to be in clearer communication regarding some pressing concerns.
  • Once in a while, I get to play with hot wax (under the close supervision of Sue Spring, of course). This time it was to put a seal on the Letter of Institution for Father Mark Evans, who was formally inducted as Rector of Trinity, Lincoln this evening.
  • Tackled yet another project related to personal organization--tidying up the files on my hard drive (actually, in Dropbox). Like the physical world, the law of entropy applies to the cyber-world as well, and periodic maintenance needs to be done in order to avoid hair-tearing-out situations down the road.
  • Lunch at home.
  • Revised the forms that clergy and prospective marriage partners are required to complete when one or both of the couple have been previously married to someone who is still living. (They need the Bishop's permission to go forward.)
  • Met with a wood worker who's going to make some elegant holes in my desk while I'm away later this month so I'm not constantly juggling and running the wheels of my chair over sundry wires as I work there. 
  • My Friday prayer time consisted of meditating on the poetry and scripture in Ralph Vaughan Williams' 1954 Christmas cantata Hodie. I listen to this piece during the twelve days of Christmas every year, and it keeps on giving back to me, yielding nuggets of spiritual insight and closeness to Christ. It's just wonderful, and I feel grateful for the opportunity to just bathe in it all before putting it back on the shelf until next Christmas.
  • Performed a couple of minor administrative chores.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • To Trinity, Lincoln for the institution and induction of Fr Mark Evans as Rector. Trinity was the first congregation-in-transition that I worked with after becoming bishop (other than an emergency situation in another parish), so it was a blessing to see the fruition of all that labor.

Sermon for the Institution of Father Mark Evans as Rector of Trinity Church, Lincoln, Illinois


Matthew 2:1-12
Institution of Fr Mark Evans at Trinity, Lincoln


Tonight is about the completion of a journey, on many levels. The Wise Men from the east, “bearing gifts,” have “traversed afar…following yonder star…,” crossing “field and fountain, moor and mountain,” and now arrive at the destination to which the star has been leading them, and they lay their gifts at the feet of the infant Jesus before making the long trek back home. Trinity Church also marks the completion of a journey tonight, a journey that began two calendar years ago when Father Cravens announced his retirement. There have been no literal moors or mountains involved in this journey, though it may have sometimes felt like that to members of the vestry and search committee! Of course, Mark Evans has also been on a journey, a journey of discernment and formation and more discernment, moving from the world of finance, to being a seminary student, to being a priest and seminary staff member, and now to his first full-time parochial cure. Even the Diocese of Springfield, with its new bishop, is marking the completion of a journey tonight. For me, that journey has been of the nature of a learning curve, as this was the first parish-in-transition that it fell to me to work with as a bishop. So I probably owe a word of apology to Stacey Wachtel and Jan Dickerson for any rookie mistakes I may have made along the way. Thank-you for being patient with me!

St Matthew’s gospel tells us that, after having followed the star to Jerusalem, and conferring there with King Herod, the Wise Men completed their journey when the star finally stopped over the nearby village of Bethlehem. And Matthew tells us that “when they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” Take a moment now just to absorb this, to rest in that instant of time when they realized that their long and arduous journey had reached its fulfillment. Now, on balance, I think I can still truthfully say that I enjoy travel, which I guess is a good thing, given what I do. There are certainly some aspects of travel that I enjoy less than I used to, but I’m usually excited about the prospect of taking a trip. But there are trips … and then there are trips. When I know precisely where I’m going, and exactly how long it will take me to get there, then, when I reach my destination, I may be glad to have arrived, but it’s really no big deal. However, where those factors are “to be arranged,” when the thing being sought is elusive, and where there are multiple side excursions down dead ends—have you ever had a trip like that?—then, when the destination is finally identified and in sight, there is great joy, great joy indeed.

Tonight, our job is to celebrate the fact that the star has stopped. The star has stopped. It stopped for the Wise Men over the place where the Holy Family was staying. It stopped for Father Evans over Trinity Church and Lincoln, Illinois and the Diocese of Springfield—and the particular people who populate those places. And it stopped for Trinity Church over Mark Evans, and his particular set of gifts and challenges. It’s a package deal. There are gifts that come with living in Lincoln, Illinois and there are challenges that come with living in Lincoln, Illinois. Trinity Church has some impressive assets and Trinity Church has some rough spots. I think Fr Mark and Sandy are aware of this, and tonight their work is to embrace the whole package and rejoice that the star has stopped right here and right now. And I also suspect that the members of Trinity are aware, at least in concept, that Father Evans is not the perfect priest, that he will disappoint some of the people most of the time, and most of the people some of the time, and that the job of Trinity’s members tonight is to embrace that package, and rejoice that the star has stopped right where it has, and over whom it has.   

The Wise Men invite us to emulate them, and rejoice that the star has stopped. Unlike the Wise Men, however, who left their gifts at the feet of the infant Jesus and returned to their own country, Trinity—along with the entire diocesan community—and Fr Evans and Sandy, get to hang out with one another until, in God’s good time, the star moves again. Tonight, Mark Evans and Trinity Church share the gifts they have brought to one another, and that sharing will go on as we discover who and what God has called us to become. I personally rejoice greatly that the star has stopped. I have stood where Fr Mark is standing tonight in three different parishes during my time as a priest, and I have participated in many other such occasions as friends and colleagues have begun new ministries. So it is an honor and privilege to be presiding at this service tonight. Mark, welcome to the flatlands! Welcome to the Diocese of Springfield. I look forward to your taking your share in the councils of this diocese, and I look forward to this Eucharistic Community moving forward in pursuing the mission of Christ’s church in Logan County. Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday

  • Hung out at home the first part of the morning to await delivery of the treadmill I bought on Monday (though if winter never actually arrives it may turn out that I didn't need it!). Read Morning Prayer, processed a load of emails, and worked on a sermon for Epiphany V (5 February at St Mary's, Robinson, just after I get back from my England trip). In the office shortly past 10.
  • Devoted the rest of the morning, and part of the afternoon, to preparing for my Lenten series presentations at St Paul's, Alton ("Patterns of Ministry"). This got me deeply into Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Kittel's Theological Wordbook of the New Testament, and the Interpreter's Bible Dictionary. It was fun to do that sort of close Bible study. It's been a while, and needs to happen more often.
  • Lunch with a young aspirant to Holy Orders, discussing his seminary plans.
  • The afternoon had me bogged down for an inordinate length of time chasing down, by phone and internet, some anomalies in the statement for one of the credit cards I use for business expenses.
  • Took care of some administrative chores relating to my oversight of the ordination process.
  • Conferred with the Archdeacon one some appointments I need to make to positions created by the new Title IV canons on clergy discipline.
  • Evening Prayer, then off to Decatur to preach and celebrate the liturgy for the Eve of Epiphany at St John's. 70 people on a Thursday night. What's not to like about that? Most of the congregation then adjourned to a nearby Italian restaurant for a lovely meal.

Sermon for Epiphany (Eve)


Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew  2:1-12
St John’s, Decatur (Macon County Parish)


 So … what’s up? Why are we here on a Thursday night? This isn’t usually a time for coming to church, so there must be something important to do. What’s on the agenda?

Good question. For one thing, at least, we’ve got a story—a story that is at the same time very familiar and very strange. Some mysterious figures that Matthew’s gospel calls Magi, from some mysterious location somewhere east of the Roman territory of Judea—which could potentially include an incredibly vast area—arrive in Jerusalem after following some mysterious star for some mysteriously unspecified length of time. (There’s a whole lot of mysteriousness going on here.) They ask around whether anybody knows where the baby boy is who was born “King of the Jews,” because they’ve been following the star in the expectation that it will lead them to that child. Well, this gets the attention of Herod, the Roman Empire’s puppet king of Judea, because he’s under the impression that he is the King of the Jews. So he tells the Magi, “Hey, when you find this kid, do me a favor and let me know, OK, ‘cause … I want to … you know … worship him too. Right? Uh, here’s my cell number. Call me any time.”

So the Magi say, “Sure. Will do, Your Majesty. Talk to you soon. Bye.” Only they end up not actually doing that, because an angel tells them not to. Anyway…they head on over to Bethlehem, which is really close, basically just a suburb of Jerusalem, and there they find Jesus, and they drop off some pretty impressive gifts, and then they’re mysteriously back on their way to the mysterious place that they came from and nobody hears a peep from them ever again. Very mysterious.

Now I guess it’s my job to say something about what this all means. Lucky me! Matthew starts with the Magi, but I want to start with the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Other than that they’re in Bethlehem, we don’t know precisely where they are. In our collective popular imagination, we’ve run Luke’s story about the shepherds and the angels and the manger together with Matthew’s story about the Magi, and put everybody into the same crèche scene. It could be that the Magi showed up some time later and by then some of the local hotel rooms had cleared out and nobody was sleeping in a barn anymore who didn’t properly live there. We don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter; that’s one mystery we don’t have to solve. There they are, the three of them, a family: the man who laid his male ego aside and agreed to raise as his own a child whom he did not father, the young woman who put her reputation and her whole future at risk when she accepted the vocation of being the God-bearer, and the infant who was himself the creator of the universe, “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,” as we sang twelve nights ago. Joseph and Mary had made gifts of themselves to Jesus, gifts of their own lives, and the infant Jesus was himself God’s gift of his own life to and for the world. Yes, there’s some mysteriousness here, but also a lot of clarity. Some astonishing emerging clarity.

Now let’s look at the Magi. That word—magi—is just a straight letter-for-letter transliteration of the Greek word Matthew uses. It’s the same root from which we get “magic,” so some have called these mysterious figures magicians, and some have called them astrologers. Most of our English translations of the Bible use the expression “Wise Men.” And there is a strand of Christian tradition that calls them Kings, as in “we three kings.” Ah … that raises the question of how many there were. We tend to assume there were three, because we’re told about three different gifts that they brought, but we really don’t know. There could have been two, or 23, or 87, or whatever. What we do know is that they were foreigners. They weren’t from around there. The spoke with an accent. To put a finer point on it, they were Gentiles—non-Jews in a very Jewish land. This may not strike us as particularly remarkable because…hey…most of us are Gentiles ourselves. But to Matthew’s original Jewish readers, it was a bombshell. Jews at that time tended to have a pretty possessive attitude toward “their” God and their covenant with that God. They were the special chosen people, and every other nation was second or third class in comparison. So, for the infant Son of God to receive worship and gifts from these unclean Gentiles was no small scandal in a Jewish mind. The implications were dangerous. The implications were that God loves and is interested in all people everywhere, equally and without ethnic distinction. Because the Wise Men were Gentiles, the gospel is universal. The salvation of God can include you and me, even if we were not born children of Abraham by blood. This is really big. Again, there’s still enough mystery here to go around, but things are also getting ever clearer. God is acting. God is acting through his chosen people, the Jews, in order to save all people.

Finally, let’s look at the gifts the Wise Men brought—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The ancient antiphon for Evensong on this feast day explains the meaning of these gifts quite well: “From the east there came wise men to Bethlehem to worship the Lord; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him precious gifts: gold as to a mighty King, incense as to the true God, and myrrh to foreshadow his burial.” Gold because the infant Jesus was a king, incense because the infant Jesus was God, and myrrh because the whole point of his life would not be understood apart from his laying it down in death. Mysterious still? Yes. But the clarity is continuing to emerge. The veil is being removed. Something marvelous is being revealed.

What does it all mean? The feast of the Epiphany—the word “epiphany” means “showing forth” or “manifestation”—the feast of the Epiphany means that we have access to God. Jews still have access to God, and Gentiles now have access to God. God has revealed himself. We can never know all there is of God, but what we need to know, God has told us. He has spoken his “word” to us through that “Word” becoming flesh, becoming one of us. In writing to the Ephesians, St Paul declares that his own purpose is “…to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for long ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known …”.

Yes, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding the Epiphany. The circumstances of the Holy Family are mysterious, the Magi are mysterious figures, their gifts are cryptic symbols. But at its heart, the Epiphany does exactly what the word means—it reveals, it shows forth, it manifests, it takes that which was hidden for long ages and makes it known, makes it accessible, makes God accessible. Even in his newborn vulnerability, Jesus was the human face of God, and the Wise Men were wise indeed in their recognition of the fact, in the worship they offered, and in the gifts they left behind. Our opportunity now is to emulate them, to emulate Mary and Joseph in offering our whole lives, beginning tonight at this eucharistic altar, offering our whole lives to the one whom we know to be the dear desire of every nation and the joy of every loving heart. Amen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday

  • Usual morning routine. Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Completed and refined my sermon for Friday night's Celebration of a New Ministry with Fr Mark Evans and Trinity, Lincoln.
  • Began a long-deferred "scheduled maintenance" task: Updating, correcting, and purging my Contacts (all of which are stored in the visually ho-hum but workable contacts section of Gmail).
  • Lunch at home.
  • Resumed the Contacts task. Somewhat arduous and time-consuming (a lot of data entry), but important. (My technology wish list for the office would include a single database in the cloud that would continuously sync across all platforms for any authorized user. In other words, I'd like to have the diocesan directory that Sue Spring updates as a Word or PDF file on an occasional basis seamlessly integrate with my contact manager.)
  • Took a phone call from one of our rectors with some concerns about our emerging diocesan Vision for Mission. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to expound, clarify, and advocate on this.
  • Completed and refined my homily for this Sunday (Baptism of Christ) at Trinity, Jacksonville.
  • Drafted a homily for my guest appearance on Candlemas (February 2) at St Paul's, K Street (Washington, DC).
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday

  • Out of the house early to get Brenda to a 7:30 oral surgery appointment. The procedure was mercifully quick and we were back home before 9:00. Got her settled on the couch with her pain killers and made it in to the office around 9:30, having said Morning Prayer in the car.
  • Debriefed with the Archdeacon on some currently pressing concerns in three of our parishes.
  • Refined my homily for the Eve of the Epiphany, this Thursday night, at St John's, Decatur.
  • Lunch at home; the patient was fast asleep.
  • Wrote an article for the next issue of the Springfield Current.
  • Usual Tuesday scanning chores, which included drafting a hard copy letter in response to one received from a lay person.
  • Took a substantive phone call from a colleague bishop in another diocese around a couple of issues that will come before next summer's General Convention.
  • Surveyed my February visitation schedule and made a few mental notes.
  • Sent out an email in connection with one of the boards on which I serve.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Holy Name

Good day at the cathedral. It's always a joy to preach, preside, and confirm at the home church of the Bishop of Springfield. Today we confirmed one and received two adults at the main liturgy. Considering that it was New Year's Day, attendance was actually quite good.

Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus


Philippians 2:5-11
St Paul’s Cathedral 


In the secular calendar, today is, of course, New Year’s Day. But in the church, our new year started five weeks ago at the beginning of Advent, so that’s not what today is about here. In most years, the Sunday after Christmas would be styled, appropriately enough, the First Sunday after Christmas—how’s that for stating the obvious? But not this year. Why? Because January 1, in our church calendar, is the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and the feast of the Holy Name is on the list of a privileged few occasions that, when they happen to fall on a Sunday, trump whatever else would have ordinarily been observed on that Sunday. So here we are, celebrating the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, on the eighth day of the Christmas season, at least, if not technically on the First Sunday after Christmas. Got all that straight?!

The feast of the Holy Name invites us to share mystically in a very special moment—a very Jewish moment, as a matter of fact. On the eighth day of his life—do the math here and count back to Christmas—on the eighth day of his life, Jesus, like all other little baby boys born to Jewish parents, was circumcised. He was made a child of the covenant, the covenant between the Lord and the Hebrew people, a covenant going back to Abraham, established some 2000 years earlier. And on that occasion, he was formally given a name, as Joseph fulfilled the instruction he received from the angel Gabriel when he was informed of Mary’s pregnancy: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Actually, to be quite literal, he was named Yeshua, which was, in fact, a rather commonplace Jewish name at the time. There are two pathways that the name Yeshua has taken into the English language. One of them went through Greek, then through Latin, and ended up in English as ‘Jesus.’ Now, those of us with northern European roots think of this as an absolutely unique name—a holy name, in fact—and we find it, at first, rather odd when little boys in Spanish-speaking cultures are named Jesus. But … do you know anybody named Joshua or Josh? Well, that’s the other way the name Yeshua ended up in English, more directly from the Hebrew, without going through Greek or Latin.

The original Yeshua, of course—the original Joshua—was one of the heroes of Israel, Moses’ hand-picked successor, the one who, after Moses’ death, led the people in completing the journey they had begun under Moses, finally crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land some forty years after escaping from Egypt through the parted waters of the Red Sea. So it wasn’t “just another name” that Jesus was given, even if it was a pretty common one. Yeshua means “the Lord saves.” Joshua in the Old Testament was a savior. He led his people into the fulfillment of what had been promised to them when they followed Moses out of slavery. When the angel told Joseph what to name that child that had been conceived in Mary’s womb, he didn’t keep the reason for the name choice a secret: “for he will save his people …” —not from a tyrannical king this time, but—“from their sins.”

So what we celebrate today is the naming of Jesus. It is a sad reality, I think, that, because of where our culture is in its evolution, we are poorly-equipped to understand the significance of this day. We have lost the sense that a name actually means something. That’s nothing new, of course; we began to get away from it several hundred years ago, and started giving names to babies that had some significance within a family or within an ethnic group. Certain names go in and out of fashion in different generations. When I was young, the boys were David and John and Paul and William and Edward and Charles and James—some usually shortened to Dave and Bill and Ed and Chuck and Jim. The girls were Carol and Linda and Judy and Kathy and Susan and Pamela and Nancy. Right? Those are the names of the Baby Boomer generation! Anyone named Charlotte or Elsa had to be an old lady. Now those happen to be the names of my two granddaughters! So fashion changes, and many are now just making up names because of how they sound, or inventing unorthodox spellings for conventional names. Names are seen as a means of self-expression, with a high value placed on uniqueness and originality.

It was not always this way. Names used to have meanings. Often, parents would hold off on naming a child for several days or weeks until the child somehow “revealed” his or her name. We still do that many times with pets, interestingly, but not with people! It’s an old movie now, but I remember being struck when Dances With Wolves first came out. Kevin Costner’s character was given a name by the Native Americans who observed him, and that name was based on what they saw him do as he interacted with wild animals—Dances With Wolves.

The culture in which Jesus was born, when it comes to names, was more like that Indian culture than it was like ours. Naming a baby boy on the eighth day of his life was a big event, because it wasn’t just about the name, it was about what the name means, which is to say, it was about who and what that child would become. Jesus was named Jesus because his whole purpose in life was to reveal and manifest and implement the salvation of God.

And not just the salvation of any God, generic God, conceptual God, but of a very particular God—the God, in fact, who has a proper name. That’s something else that has gotten lost in translation, not only for us English speakers this time, but pretty much for Christianity in general. The ancient Israelites did have a generic word for ‘god’, and the ‘god’ they worshiped was certainly included in that category. But the ‘god’ they worshiped also had a proper name, and it didn’t sound anything like the generic word. Now, a pious Jew would be rather reluctant to actually try to pronounce that name—to do so is considered sacrilegious—but it was probably something like Yahweh (or, as it was once rendered in English, Jehovah). In English translations of the Bible, this name is usually rendered “the Lord”, which is itself kind of a generic expression, so we don’t get the full impact of God having a proper name.

And because of that, unfortunately, we miss something of real significance, real importance. The God in whom we place our trust, the God on whom we set our hope—our hope for a better year this year than last year, our hope for a more just and prosperous society; our hope for healing in body, mind, and spirit; our hope for the restoration of fractured relationships, our hope for world peace and the redemption of all creation from the power of sin and death—the God on whom we set our hope is not just any God, not a generic God. He is “the Lord”; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who took our mortal flesh and assumed into his own being our human nature in the person of a particular baby who was given the name of Jesus on the eighth day of his life because his destiny was to be the savior of the  race whose member he had now become.

Sadly, many of our neighbors in the world know the name of Jesus only as an expletive. But we know that name of Jesus as the source of our hope, because Yeshua is not just a good name for a nice Jewish boy. It has a meaning. It means “the Lord saves.” And God himself has given him that name, which is above every name, because at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.