Saturday, July 22, 2017

St Mary Magdalene

The highlight of the day, and it truly was that, was the privilege of ordaining Caleb Roberts to the priesthood at Emmanuel, Champaign. Fr Caleb is the new curate there, and the first curate in the Diocese of Springfield almost within living memory. There was a good turnout from among the priests of the diocese and it was a glorious liturgy.  

Now moving into vacation mode, where I will be until August 23. So ... I'll catch you back in this part of cyberspace then.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday

  • Task planning at home. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Conferred with the Archdeacon at some length about about an ongoing issue in one of our parishes.
  • Conferred with Paige a bit, making sure she's on track in her work as my vacation begins.
  • Met for nearly an hour with two clergy members of the Standing Committee over the same issue referenced above.
  • Spoke by phone with a priest of the diocese ... over the same issue that has dominated the morning.
  • Refined and formatted the draft Mission Strategy Report form that all Eucharistic Communities are now required to submit annually. Vetted it by email with a select group of rectors to get their input before going live with it.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Wrote out notes to clergy and spouses with August nodal events (birthdays, wedding anniversaries, ordination anniversaries).
  • Met with the Administrator and the Archdeacon over some detritus from yesterday's Finance Department meeting.
  • Friday prayer: Lectio divina on today's office OT reading.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Scanned and otherwise processed accumulated hard copy.
  • Responded to those who had replied to a message I sent to the clergy earlier in the week asking for volunteers for the position of Ecumenical Officer. (It looks like we're going to form a four-person Task Force rather than appoint a single EO).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday

  • Email processing and task planning at home.
  • Reported at 9:15am to an orthopaedic surgery center for a steroid injection in my tailbone joint. It has been getting progressively more painful to sit for extended periods of time for the last couple of years. X-rays indeed revealed a "displaced coccyx." The only working theory is that it's a delayed response to an accident that I suffered ... wait for it ... 30 years ago! Not implausible, says the doc. The procedure has only a 50% chance of working, I'm told. If it does, it does. If it doesn't, I'll be sitting on donut-shaped objects for the rest of my life.
  • Against medical advice, I went right from the clinic to the office, where I was only a few minutes late for the regular semi-annual meeting of the Finance Department. The work on our plate was the preparation of a 2018 operating budget for presentation to Council next month and to Synod in October. The canonical revisions have thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into established practices, but we were adjourned by 12:45--not a bad morning's work.
  • For the rest of the day, I sort of *did* take medical advice and worked from home. A big chunk was taking my prep for preaching the readings for Proper 18 (September 10 at Trinity, Yazoo City, MS) to the next level-- a succinct message statement. Another big chunk was just staying in front of the email tsunami. With my vacation approaching, demands/requests seem to be ramping up. And the third big chunk was a FaceTime conversation with a priest from outside the diocese who sought my counsel over an important work of discernment he is engaging in.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday (St Macrina)

  • Task planning at home. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared to preside and preach at the midday Mass. The process, for various reasons, got a little longer and more convoluted than it usually does.
  • Substantial phone conversation with one of our parish clergy over an ongoing pastoral matter.
  • Dealt with some complications in a couple of my own health insurance claims.
  • Took a first prayerful pass at the readings for Proper 23 (October 15 at St Matthew's, Bloomington). Getting what appears to be an egregious head start because of a) my upcoming vacation, b) a House of Bishops meeting in Alaska in September, c) a board meeting in early October, and d) diocesan synod the following weekend. Life is busy. Planning required.
  • Celebrated and preached the Mass for the lesser feast of St Macrina.
  • Lunch from McD's, eaten at home.
  • Sat with the Administrator and Archdeacon for our annual ritual of "elections and appointments." The countdown toward Synod means this is the time to ensure that we have at least one person running for each of the elective offices, and names in the queue for the appointed ones. 
  • Wrapped up the homiletical task I had begun the morning.
  • Attended to a routine personal organization chore. It's the sort of thing that will probably never become an emergency, but makes my life more efficient if I don't let it go for too long.
  • Spent more quality time with Gnosis, the database system. Not as productive as the time I spent with it yesterday.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday

  • Usual weekly/daily task planning at home.
  • Read MP in my recliner while waiting for a repairman (who eventually gave us really bad news about our gas-powered generator that's suppose to cover power outages). Dealt with a pastoral/administrative issue and a Nashotah issue while this was all going on. At the office a little before 10:00.
  • Dealt with another pastoral/administrative issue.
  • Performed radical surgery on the text of a homily form Proper 16 (late August) that I gave several years ago, toward the end of preaching on that occasion next month at St John's, Albion.
  • Logged on to my Western Union account to wire some collected funds that we've been holding for the Diocese of Tabora. This bit should finish putting a roof on a priest's house so he and his family can move in and leave their rented digs.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers. Stayed there to work ahead of an 3pm dental appointment.
  • Attended to an ongoing Nashotah issue. (It's always something.)
  • Dealt with a pastoral issue via email.
  • Went and submitted my teeth and gums to the hygienist's pick axe. Didn't get scolded about anything, so ... that's a win.
  • Spent the rest of the afternoon wrestling with the database system (with ultimate success) for the purpose of sending an email to all 72 of our canonically resident clergy. It will be easier the next time, and easier still the time after that. Full-featured technology comes with a steep learning curve.
  • Evening Prayer in my chair.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Lord's Day (VI Pentecost)

Today was a rare Sunday on which I had no scheduled visitation, so Brenda and I attended the Divine Liturgy at  nearby St Anthony's Greek Orthodox parish. I feel like I've taken a bath in wholesome, life-giving, historic devotion and theology. We were warmly welcomed. And even though we could not receive the sacrament, the "bread of hospitality" (antidoron) made that welcome tangible.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday

It was a joy to spend my morning preparing, celebrating, and preaching the Mass for the diocesan Cursillo Ultreya. I continue to have hopes for the Cursillo movement here as a significant source of renewal and discipleship formation. After a long walk and some email chores in the afternoon, we attended a backyard dinner at the home of a St Luke's parishioner who had recently spent time in Brazil in connection with his work and established some relationships with some Brazilians, who are now visiting the U.S. and were in attendance. It was a chance to keep the small bit of Portuguese that I have alive.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday

Dedicated the morning to being with Brenda as she underwent some testing. (We're trying to chase down an elusive diagnosis.) Spent the afternoon in the office: pastoral care by email, Nashotah business, scanning accumulated hard copy, time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the fashion of a "holy hour" (only it was less than a full hour), Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday

  • Task planning at home over breakfast.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Took care of a couple of items of personal business via internet and phone.
  • Drove out to Decatur to meet Chris Gregory, a candidate for ordination to the diaconate, and Executive Director of Dove, a faith-based multi-church-sponsored social service agency. I got a tour of the their main facility and a lesser one, and to say I was "impressed" with the scope of what they do and the way they do it would be wholly inadequate.
  • Headed back to Springfield around 12:15, picking up some lunch from Hardee's and eating it at home.
  • Spent quality time with commentaries on Matthew, getting insights on the gospel reading for Proper 18, in preparation for preaching on September 10 at Trinity, Yazoo City, MS (a parish I look after under DEPO).
  • Took care of a couple fairly substantive administrative chores via email.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday

  • Still adjusting bodily to time zone whiplash, I was awake early and into the office before 8am. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Made preparations to preside and preach at the cathedral midday Mass.
  • Dealt by email and text with detritus from yesterday's Nashotah board meeting.
  • The Archdeacon having just returned from six weeks in Sicily, we had a lot to catch up on.
  • Met with the Communications Coordinator over a couple of website and database issues.
  • Left to take Brenda to a dentist's appointment.
  • Talked with Paige a little more about the website and processed more Nashotah-related email.
  • Surveyed the resources available to me for seminarian aid. Made appropriate plans. Wish I had more. Blessed to have some.
  • Celebrated Mass in the cathedral chapel.
  • Picked up some BBQ ribs at HyVee and lunched on them at home.
  • Spoke by phone with the Dean of Nashotah House. Followed up with some emails.
  • Responded to an Ember Day letter from one of our seminarians.
  • Responded pastorally by email to a letter from a lay communicant of the diocese.
  • Closely reviewed our recently-revised diocesan canons to spot any tweaks that may be desirable. There are a few, but none so urgent that they need to be dealt with while we're still catching our breath from the revision process. I set a reminder for next March to start vetting some possible changes.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday (St Benedict)

  • Back from our African sojourn. Began organizing tasks over breakfast at home.
  • Kept an 8am appointment with an orthopedist. I suffered an injury 30 years ago that resulted in a "displaced coccyx." and has, only in the last couple of years, begun to manifest as pain when I am seated in anything but a plush chair. So I'm scheduled for a steroid injection next week.
  • Arrived at the office/cathedral complex around 9:15. Took the time to peruse and cull some of the accumulated hard copy items on my desk.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Finished task organizing.
  • Took a phone call from the diocesan Cursillo Spiritual Director.
  • Responded substantively to an email from one of our rectors regarding an ongoing issue.
  • Exchanged emails with the incoming Priest-in-Charge of St Barnabas', Havana, who will also serve at Mission Strategy Consultant for the three northern deaneries of the diocese. 
  • Completed my registration for the September meeting of the House of Bishops.
  • Spoke briefly with the cathedral Dean.
  • Attended to some General Convention-related issues.
  • Accomplished a big chunk of my project of switching from one task management app (IQTell, which is folding) to another (Todoist).
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Worked some more on the software transition project.
  • Chaired a conference call meeting of the Nashotah House Board of Directors. For three hours. 2:00-5:00. Emotionally and mentally (mostly the latter) draining.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sermon in Tabora Cathedral

St Stephen's Cathedral, Tabora--Matthew 7:24-27

Ni furaha yangu kubwa kuwa nanyi tena katika Dayosisi la Tabora, katika Kanisa la Anglikana Tanzania. Mimi kuleta salamu na upendo kutoka wanaomwamini Kristo Yesu wa Dayosisi la Springfield. Bwana Yesu asifiwe! Sasa nitaendelea kwa Kiingereza.

(It is my great pleasure to be with you again in the Diocese of Tabora, in the Anglican Church of Tanzania. I bring greetings and love from the faithful in Christ Jesus in the Diocese of Springfield.  Praised be the Lord Jesus! Now I will continue in English.)

The gospel reading for this liturgy is one of my favorite stories from when I was a child in Sunday School. Our teachers even gave us a song, with hand motions:
The foolish man built his house upon the sand. (x3)
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down and the flood came up. (x3)
And the house on the sand went splat.
The wise man build his house upon the rock. (x3)
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down and the flood came up. (x3)
And the house on the rock stood firm.

Singing that little children’s song with you reminds me of another song that is familiar to me from many years ago. It has a chorus that goes like this: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

It is indeed Christ who is our rock.  Christ has been the “rock” of the people of God since even before Jesus was conceived and born. Do you know that passage from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 10? He’s talking about the people of Israel in the Old Testament, after they had been set free from slavery in Egypt and are wandering around the desert before they enter the Promised Land.
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
That rock was Christ. Even more than a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, God was in Christ, giving his people supernatural food and supernatural drink—water from the rock. But how do we see and know our “rock” today? How is Christ present to us in Tabora, Tanzania and in Springfield, Illinois in the United States? And where is Christ our rock present for us in those places?

Christ our solid rock, Christ the sure foundation of the house that will not be washed away by the storm, is present to us in and through his Body—what St Paul calls the “Body of Christ,” which is to say, the Church.

In the catechism of my church, the Episcopal Church—that is, the Anglican Church that is based in the United States—in our catechism, the Church is defined as the body of which Jesus Christ is the head and all baptized persons are the members. All Christians want to be connected to Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ is the head of a body, and it’s impossible to be connected to a head without being connected to the body. I can say that my hand is connected to my head, but it’s not a direct connection, is it? I can only say that because my hand is connected to my arm, and my arm is connected to my shoulder, and my shoulder is connected to my neck, and my neck is connected to my head. We cannot be connected to Christ without also being connected to the Church, because the Church is the body of Christ.

It is only through the Church that we are connected to the Apostles, who are the ones to whom Jesus gave his very own authority—the authority to bind and to loose, the authority to forgive and to withhold forgiveness. Our connection to the Apostles is through their successors, whom we call bishops. Baba Askofu Elias and Baba Askofu Daniel share the terrifying responsibility—yes, a responsibility that is terrifying, but also wonderful—we share the responsibility of passing on to you the faith of the Apostles, which they received from Jesus. It is the ministry of a bishop to guard that faith, to resist any attempt to deny it or distort it. The pastoral staff—the crozier—that bishops carry, is a sign that we represent Christ the Good Shepherd, taking care of his sheep. It is only the Church that is connected to the apostles that is built on the solid rock, the rock which is Christ.

It is only in the Church that we have the creeds—the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The creeds are the measuring stick by which we know that we are being faithful to the gospel as it has been handed down to us through the Apostles.

And it is through the Church that we have access to the Holy Scriptures. I mention the Bible last, after the ministry of bishops and the creeds, not because it is of least importance, but because it is of the greatest importance. The Bible is our ultimate standard of authority in the Christian community. But it is through the Church that we know and understand the Bible. The Bible itself says that it is not something to be interpreted privately, by individuals, but always in the context of community, with respect for how our ancestors in the faith have understood the words of Holy Scripture. We understand the Bible most clearly when we read the Bible together, and always in conversation with those who have come before us. It is only in the community of the Body of Christ, rooted in the creeds and under the oversight of the Apostles, represented by the bishops, and in communion with the church throughout the world—which, for us as Anglicans, means communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury—it is only together in all of these ways that we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be with us to lead us into all truth.

And we must always remember that Jesus our rock, the sure foundation on which we want to build our house, is the same Jesus who suffered and died on the cross, and commanded us to take up our cross daily to follow him in the way of sorrows, being made like him in a death like his that we may be made like him in a resurrection like his. Standing on Christ the solid rock means that we are ready to share what Jesus endured—the Cross. It means that we are willing embrace whatever Jesus calls us to embrace, and to do so with humility and patience. Those who promise riches in this world, those who tell us that it is our right and our destiny to be wealthy in this world—these people are imposters. They are false Christs, deceivers of God’s people. Why? Because they ignore the cross. And the path to the glory of the Kingdom of God lies through the cross and only through the cross. There is no getting around it.

We are ordaining people today to the diaconate and to the priesthood. Baba Askofu Elias, acting in his capacity as the representative of the Apostles, will share the ministry of the Apostles with them. It will be their responsibility to share with him in tending the flock of Christ, of guarding the faith of the creeds, of calling people to a life of discipleship and service. It is their job to join in making new disciples, in baptizing, in teaching and preaching and proclaiming good news, and, as priests, to represent Jesus himself in the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who are ordained today will make solemn vows and promises to do all these things, and to do them in communion with, and under the oversight of, their Apostle, their Bishop. In this way, they are helping build a house on the solid foundation of Christ the rock. They are not building on the sand of false promises, but on the firm foundation of Christ our solid rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rains came, and the flood rose, and the house stood firm. Let us be wise. Let that be our house, the house that endures the flood. Bwana Yesu asifiwe. Amen.