Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday

Big stuff:

  • Substantive phone conversation with a colleague bishop over what I guess might be termed a "human resources" matter.
  • Deep dive into Matthew 10:40-42, consulting various commentaries, in preparation for preaching, in an as yet undetermined venue or medium, on the Sunday of Proper 8, June 28.

Less big stuff:

  • Routine phone conversation with Canon-to-the-Ordinary Mark Evans.
  • Phone conversation with a priest of the diocese.
  • Various and sundry email exchanges on a range of topics, some requiring quite careful attention.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thursday (Christ the High Priest)

Big rocks:

  • Met (first by Zoom, then by phone after our connection crashed) with one of our new postulants to discuss the shape of his theological formation.
  • Engaged and completed two significant Communion Partners projects.
  • Attended a video meeting of Communion Partner bishops.

Smaller rocks:

  • Dealt by email and text with a handful of ongoing pastoral-administrative issues.
  • Attended to a routine end-of-month personal management chore.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday

Big rocks:
  • Attended the regular Wednesday (video) one-hour gathering of Province V bishops.
  • Attended a special "Fireside Chat" of the whole House of Bishops with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
  • Prepped, recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared my regular weekly word of pastoral greeting to the diocese.
Smaller rocks:
  • Took a first prayerful pass at the readings for Proper 9 (July 5), when I hope to preside and preach at St John's, Decatur. Made notes.
  • Responded to a generous handful of emails requiring pastoral or administrative responses.
  • Read the penultimate chapter in the book the The Living Church has asked me to review.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tuesday (St Augustine of Canterbury)

This and that:
  • Dealt with an array of relatively small administrative matters by email and phone.
  • Rehabbed an old homily for Trinity Sunday toward use at Trinity, Mattoon on their feast of title.
  • Hosted a Zoom meeting of a Communion Partners subcommittee on staffing and fundraising.
  • Analyzed what offices need to be filled at the next synod (probably virtual): some by my appointment, some by election. Created a spreadsheet to be used in consultation with Canon Evans.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday

For most of the morning I wore my metaphorical mitre and wielded my metaphorical crozier in the midst of emails and long phone calls as the holder of the office I hold, with brief attention to some domestic concerns. (An almost four-year old granddaughter whose birthday is tomorrow can usually command some attention.) During the afternoon I mostly took care of my person (a very long walk, getting in just before a raucous thunderstorm), with brief attention to diocesan issues (email is forever). 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday

Some days one feels extremely busy from start to finish, but, in the end, there aren't that many concrete accomplishments to document. I did do the finish work on my homily for this Sunday (not to be given at St Michael's, O'Fallon), and then set up, recorded, edited, and uploaded it to Vimeo. Hannah will see that it "drops" on the website tomorrow afternoon. I also recorded a video greeting to the people of St Michael's, and I am given to understand that it has already been shared with those of that community to have internet access. Beyond that, I attended to an array of small administrative matters and got sucked into devoting some unwelcome  and substantial attention to an ongoing pastoral matter. I did manage to sneak in a bit of my rota of special devotion on Fridays--watching/listening to a series of Ascensiontide hymns on YouTube. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascension

A little of this, a little of that:
  • Reached out by email to leaders of some of the parishes that didn't get visited in March, April, or May because of the virus quarantine, inquiring about possible summertime visitations, under Phase 3 restrictions.
  • Celebrated the Eucharist for Ascension, with Brenda.
  • Attended to a small administrative chore in connection to the diocese's PPP loan application.
  • Took a first pass at the readings for Proper 8 (June 28), when I hope to actually preach somewhere in person, though the venue remains indeterminate.
  • Worked a good bit around, about, and for some who are in the ordination process, making inquiries, clearing paths, clarifying ambiguities, etc.
  • Worked another good bit trying to reconnect with Eucharistic Communities that are lacking settled clergy leadership, and are therefore suffering inordinately from the quarantine. 
  • Took a long and hard walk--for the sake of health in body, mind, and soul.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday (St Alcuin)

  • Took part in the regular weekly video conference of the Province V bishops, followed by a phone conversation with one of them.
  • Set up, recorded, edited, and uploaded my regular midweek greeting to the diocese.
  • Communicated by email with two new postulants and one new candidate in the ordination process.
  • Got established with a local dentist: Thorough exam, cleaning, and treatment plan for an "issue" that was discovered.
  • Routine processing of emails as they arrived.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tuesday (St Dunstan)

Today was mostly devoted to processing a very thick stack of emails that have arrived over the last two or three days, most of them having to do with the reopening directions that were promulgated yesterday. To their credit, local clergy are trying to apply the protocols creatively and adaptively to their concrete local situations, but want to make sure what they have in mind doesn't run afoul of the instructions that apply to all.  This included a substantive phone conversation with Canon Evans. I also did some work on refurbishing a "vintage" homily for Pentecost, which I anticipate will actually be delivered--and I feel like I have to pinch myself to say this--at St Paul's in Alton. Read another chapter in the book I will eventually review for The Living Church. Late in the afternoon, I squeezed a robust walk in before Evening Prayer with Brenda and cooking dinner. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Saturday

The really big rock: A Commission on Ministry meeting (via Zoom) of over three hours. It was productive but exhausting, We (I say "we" because I have seat and voice, but no vote) conducted three interviews, and did so well, I would say. Rested, lunched on leftovers, took a very long walk, caught up on email, did a Bowflex workout, caught up on some emails, and--bemasked--made a visit to a grocery store for the first time in two months. It was a surgical strike, and we found what we were looking for. Then Popeye's drive-through for dinner.  

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday

  • Spent most of the morning creating a sermon draft for Easter VII from my developed notes. This is homily I will not preach at St Michael's, O'Fallon.
  • At 11:00, chaired the regular May meeting of the Diocesan Council, via Zoom. There were minor glitches, but it certainly could have been much worse, technologically. It was the largest Zoom meeting I've ever participated in, much less hosted. We did all the usual business (finances, mostly), discussed the draft reopening protocols that Canon Evans and I have been working on (as a result of which some modifications have been made), and I dropped a bit of a bomb by announcing the suspension of my plan to retire in thirteen months and rescinded my call for the election of my successor--all until such time as the work of discernment and election can be carried out in an environment not compromised by a public health emergency. 
  • The meeting adjourned at 12:15, after which there was a minor "flurry" of texts and emails.
  • My daughter-in-law drove me to the Mazda dealer where I left the YFNBmobile yesterday for both routine scheduled maintenance and the replacement of the right sideview mirror, a casualty of the size of urban garages. Stopped at McD's drive-through on the way back for a very late lunch.
  • Dealt with a handful of small administrative matters by email.
  • Read a chapter in the book I'm reviewing for The Living Church.
  • Spent a "holy hour" (well, not *quite* an hour, but trending thereto) in contemplative prayer in our domestic oratory.
  • Made the tweaks in the reopening document that were suggested by members of Council.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Thursday

  • Took the YFNBmobile to a local Mazda dealer for some routine maintenance--and the repair of a sideview mirror that got into an altercation with my garage. The maintenance was longer overdue, so it just needed to get done. I'm not doing any significant driving these days--occasional forays to fast food drive-throughs, mostly--but it's unclear when I'll be able to get to Springfield on a weekday to get the work done there.
  • Attended briefly to some Communion Partners business.
  • Corresponded with the head of the diocesan Cursillo secretariat. Obviously, the June weekend won't take place, and it's difficult to imagine even the alternative September dates being feasible, given the restrictions that will no doubt still be in place then.
  • Attended to a pastoral issue regarding one of our clergy.
  • Got to work refining, editing, and formatting my homily for this Sunday, which won't get delivered at St Andrew's, Edwardsville.
  • Worked on still more refinements to the reopening document, which I plan to introduce to the Diocesan Council tomorrow, as well as preparing some other materials for that meeting.
  • Lunched more than an hour on the late side on some brisket tacos that I had delivered via GrubHub. We were out of leftovers, and our favorite  Chinese carryout place nearby has bitten the dust for the time being, at least, as have a couple of other walkable fast food options. That's how bleak it is.
  • Beginning already in mid-afternoon, I set up, recorded, edited, and uploaded both the homily that I had refined in the morning, as well as a word of pastoral greeting to the folks at St Andrew's, Edwardsville.
  • Took care of a couple of small administrative matters.
  • Evening Prayer alone, as Brenda was upstairs visiting with Hattie and her Aunt Sarah.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wednesday

The big rocks:
  • Attended the weekly Zoom meeting of the Province V bishops.
  • Substantive phone conversation with a colleague bishop following that meeting.
  • Worked with Canon Evans to further refine the reopening protocols we've been working on. Made three separate sets of revisions. Sent the draft off to my epidemiologist daughter for her comments. She eventually gave a thumbs up, with some minor suggested tweaks. I incorporated those suggestions into yet another revision, then sent the document off to the members of Diocesan Council, among whom it will be a matter of discussion at Friday's meeting.
  • Prepared, recorded, edited, and uploaded my now customary midweek video greeting to the diocese, in which I reflect on the anomaly of being a bishop who does not live full-time in the diocese he serves.
  • Read a chapter in the book I'm set to review.
  • Did a small bit of Communion Partners business.
  • Did my Bowflex workout and took an aggressive late-afternoon walk.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tuesday

The bulk of the working day was devoted to the drafting of the next set of guidelines toward dipping a toe in the water of reopening our churches for public worship. The territory of the diocese is all now in Phase 3 of the governor's schema, so the draft reflects that reality. I hope to share it with Diocesan Council on Friday and then, with appropriate amendments, publish it early next week. I also had a substantive phone conversations with a colleague bishop over a matter of mutual interest and with Canon Evans (and a briefer exchange with a priest of the diocese). Also scheduled Zoom meetings for Council, Commission on Ministry, and the Communion Partners subcommittee that I chair. It was a heavy start to a heavy week.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Saturday (St Gregory of Nazianzus)

Eased back the throttle a bit. Devoted some strategizing energy to a vexing pastoral-administrative issue. Drafted my next-due post for the Covenant blog (on the virtue of hope), took a good, long walk with Brenda. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Friday (St Julian of Norwich)

The highlights (and some of the midlights):
  • Attended the regular semi-annual meeting of the diocesan trustees via Zoom. Relative to the recent performance of financial markets overall, we're in pretty good shape. Our investment managers are doing a good job.
  • Edited, refined, formatted, recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared my homily for Easter V, which I will not be delivering at Redeemer, Cairo.
  • Recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared a word of pastoral greeting to the people of Redeemer.
  • Spoke by phone with one of our clergy on an emerging issue.
  • Responded substantively by email to another priest of the diocese.
  • Friday devotion: Lectio divina on the Old Testament reading in tomorrow's daily office lectionary.
  • Studied the governor's phased plan for reopening the economy in Illinois and made several notes toward the project I'm working on with Canon Evans to formulate diocesan protocols for resuming public worship.
  • Read a chapter in the book I've promised to review for The Living Church.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Thursday

  • Usual early-AM weekday routine.
  • Quickly processed some late-arriving emails. Scanned news sources for useful information in making reopening decisions. Downloaded the latest CDC guidelines.
  • Got to work creating a rough draft sermon text from my developed outline for Easter VI (not at St Andrew's, Edwardsville). This task consumed the remainder of the morning.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Moved the ball down the field a few yards with my seminarian financial aid planning project.
  • Reviewed and commented on a draft Conflict of Interest policy for the Living Church Foundation.
  • Performed my every-other-day brief Bowflex workout.
  • Hosted the third-day-in-a-row meeting of diocesan clergy, this time from the Northern and Northeastern deaneries. On the whole, I am amazed at the hard and dedicated work our fine priests and deacons of the diocese are doing under very bizarre invent-the-wheel conditions.
  • Took an aggressive 7 5-minute walk on a sunny but too-brisk May afternoon. I long for the arrival of summer.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wednesday

The big rocks (and some of the little ones):
  • Conferred with the Bishop of Tabora by email and affirmed what we both knew was the decision that circumstances have forced on us: Their triennial synod is indefinitely delayed, and my visit to the diocese to attend that synod is also indefinitely delayed.
  • Addressed some Living Church Foundation business.
  • Attended the weekly hour-long video conference meeting of the bishops of Province V dioceses.
  • Set up for, recorded, edited, and uploaded my weekly pastoral greeting to the diocese.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Processed a handful of late-arriving emails.
  • Led a second of three hour-long Zoom meeting of diocesan clergy--this one with those in the Darrow and Northwestern deaneries.
  • Processed some post-meeting emails from a couple of the attendees.
  • Took a modest walk through the neighborhood with Brenda.
  • Attended to a task that will help me develop a plan for financial aid to our seminarians for the next academic year.
  • Evening Prayer in our domestic oratory.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Tuesday

  • Usual early AM routine.
  • Created a meeting on Zoom for Friday morning, and sent the link to the trustees of the diocese (and our investment advisor).
  • Attended to a significant bit of Communion Partners business, creating future scheduled actions.
  • Got to work building out my homiletical message statement for Easter VII into a developed outline.
  • Took a break from this to lunch on leftovers.
  • Continued and completed the sermon task I had begun.
  • Hosted a one-hour Zoom meeting of clergy from the Hale and Eastern deaneries.
  • Took a long and aggressive walk.
  • Processed some emails (some in response to the Zoom meeting), surveyed the COVID-19 landscape (the most recent developments are pretty dreadful and discouraging) since I'm fielding more and more questions about whether and how to re-engage public worship.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Saturday (St Athanasius)

Beyond keeping up with several emails, the ministry-related accomplishment today was hatching a homiletical message statement for Easter VII (not of St Michael's, O"Fallon) from my notes on the appointed readings. Domestic and personal chores took up the rest of the day.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Ss Philip & James

The morning:
  • Took part in a two-hour Zoom meeting with some other bishops: some American, some Church of England, some African.
  • Did the finish work on my homily for this Sunday.
The afternoon:
  • Prepped, recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared for posting the homily that I had completed in the morning.
  • Prepped, recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared (for further sharing) a word of pastoral greeting to the people of Emmanuel, Champaign, where I was scheduled to visit this weekend.
  • Conferred by phone with Canon Evans on a range of issues. Took note of the change in the Governor's executive order classifying church operations as "essential" and fielding phone calls and emails from clergy of the diocese inquiring as to how this might change things for us. I suspect it will, but won't be making any policy decisions for about another week.
  • Took an aggressive walk with Brenda. Then we prayed the evening office together.
The evening:
  • Worked out on my Bowflex.
  • Read a chapter of the book I have agreed to review for The Living Church.
  • Prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday

  • Usual early-AM weekday routine.
  • Traded emails with Canon Evans on some ordination-process issues.
  • Responded to an email from a colleague bishop over a mutual concern,
  • Attended via multiple emails to a communications process issue.
  • Fleshed out my homiletical message statement for Easter VI (when I am supposed to be, but won't be, visiting St Andrew's, Edwardsville) into a developed sermon outline.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Attended to a routine monthly personal organization tasks tied to the turn of one month into another.
  • Hosted and chair a Zoom meeting of a Communion Partners subcommittee (on fundraising and staffing).
  • Opened the sermon preparation process for Trinity Sunday, which may actually happen at Trinity, Mattoon. Or maybe not. Living in hope.
  • Took an aggressive 65-minute walk.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.
  • After dinner: Wrote email greetings to clergy and spouses with nodal events in May. Scheduled for sending on the appropriate day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday (St Catherine of Siena)

The highlights:
  • Attended a 2.5 hour Zoom meeting of the Board of Directors of the Living Church Foundation, of which I am the Secretary. In the eight years or so during which I have served this body, it has never been in as good a shape, in every respect, as it is at this moment. This is very gratifying.
  • Set up, planned, recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared two video presentations: One my now customary midweek pastoral greeting to the diocese, and the other a time of catechesis for those who were scheduled to be confirmed at Emmanuel, Champaign this Sunday--an event that, of course, will not occur due to the pandemic protocols. 
  • Developed my outline of a homily for Easter V (sadly, when I won't be able to visit Redeemer, Cairo) into a rough draft.
  • Attended to an ongoing and still-emerging pastoral issue via email.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tuesday

  • Regular weekday early AM routine. Got started on laundry.
  • Set up my first Zoom meeting as a host. (This one is on Thursday, for a subcommittee of the Communion Partners--a gathering that would have happening on Zoom even without the pandemic).
  • Traded emails with Fr John Henry in his capacity as chair of the Commission on Ministry, looking forward to *their* next meeting happening on Zoom, and discussing those who need to be interviewed.
  • Took a phone call from one of our clergy on a couple of technical questions.
  • Scanned a dubious internet domain-name notice that came to my home address, and sent it off to Sue for further investigation.
  • Executed and put back in the mail a land-conveyance agreement for a corner of the property at the daycare facility at St Thomas', Glen Carbon. It's a mutually beneficial agreement with a developer.
  • Scoured my archives for letters-of-agreement with clergy who are not rectors, for the purposes of aiding Canon Evans in the drafting of a new one.
  • Scoured various diocesan sources for financial aid to seminarians, toward the end of devising a comprehensive strategy for the coming academic year.
  • Dealt with a small administrative matter pertaining to the diocesan Zoom account.
  • Walked a couple of blocks up to the nearby Subway--wearing a mask, of course--to pick up some lunch for Brenda and me.
  • Reached out by email to a colleague bishop on an emerging matter.
  • Took Brenda on a modest walk, then took myself on an aggressive one. It is wonderful to be free of the boot contraption. I feel much healthier already. I do believe that if there is a silver bullet for health maintenance as one ages, it's exercise.
  • Arranged Zoom meetings for the clergy of the diocese next week--two deaneries at a time on three consecutive days--and sent out an email to them with the appropriate links.
  • Attended to a small (but significant) matter pertaining to our companion Diocese of Peru. The COVID-19 shutdown has essentially cut off all the cash flow by which they pay their clergy and school employees. Anyone reading this who is in a position to help financially, get in private contact with me.
  • Attended to a matter pertaining to one of our discerners toward Holy Orders.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.
  • Processed a couple of emails in the evening--something that happens from time to time: Questions from people I don't know but who evidently know who I am.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

St Mark

The morning accomplishment was the exegetical work on the readings for Easter VII. The afternoon (and into the early evening) accomplishment was the plotting of sermon preparation tasks from June through November. As I have described before, this is an inordinately detailed and time-consuming project. It involves, for each Sunday, looking in my sermon archives to see whether there is a "vintage" text that lends itself to being reconditioned. If there is, that involves plotting two actions in the two weeks prior to delivery. If there isn't, it means plotting six actions scattered over the six weeks prior to delivery. (I have an abnormally long homiletical gestation process, but it's what works for me.) Also squeezed in a phone conversation with Canon Evans and with the Rector of Alton.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday (Melanesian Martyrs)

There seems to be an actual weekly routine developing during the lockdown (I know many people complain about one day being indistinguishable from any other, so this is a good thing). Fridays are about doing the finish work on my Sunday homily, setting up for and recording a video of it, editing and uploading the video. Also: planning, recording, editing, and uploading a pastoral greeting to the Eucharistic Community that the pandemic is preventing me from visiting (in this case, St Thomas', Salem). I also had a substantive phone conversation with Canon Evans, and dealt administratively with some issues pertaining to a couple of our seminarians. As a Friday ("day of special devotion") prayer discipline, I did an Ignatian meditation on the gospel reading from the daily office lectionary. Also managed to squeeze a walk in before ordering takeout for dinner.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Thursday (St George)

Today's highlights:
  • 75-minute scheduled phone conversation with a colleague bishop who is savvy about organizational dynamics and processes, picking his brain about an emergent issue. Followed up with some task creation.
  • Continued to work my way through the clergy list, making phone contact just as a pastoral check-in.
  • Sat with my exegetical notes for the propers of Easter VI and eventually got them to cough up a homiletical message statement for the sermon I won't be giving at St Andrew's, Edwardsville.
  • Attended to a handful of smaller administrative and pastoral concerns. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Wednesday

The highlights:
  • Attended the weekly hour-long video meeting of the Province V bishops, followed by then usual phone conversation with one of them.
  • Spoke by phone at some length with Canon Evans and two clergy of the diocese on an emerging issue.
  • Planned, set up, recorded, edited, and uploaded by weekly video greeting to the diocese during this season of Coronatide.
  • Grew my homiletical message statement for Easter VI (probably not at Redeemer, Cairo) into a developed outline.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tuesday (St Anselm)

The big rock today was the drafting of a sermon text for Easter IV, which was to have been delivered at Emmanuel, Champaign, but will be delivered instead to my iPhone and then made available to any who want it. Prayed both offices, EP with Brenda. Attended to some Communion Partners business, and to two emerging substantive pastoral issues. In bright afternoon sunshine, albeit brisk air, I celebrated yesterday's liberation from the book device that I've had to wear on my right foot for the last six weeks by taking an honest-to-goodness walk (careful, of course, to keep my distance from any oncoming pedestrians).

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday in Easter Week

Devoted most of the day to domestic concerns (including my first try and biscuits and gravy, and smoking a pork shoulder). I did, however, spend a chunk of time in the afternoon with commentaries on John in preparation for an Easter VI homily (probably not at St Andrew's, Edwardsville).

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday in Easter Week

I can't deny that I'm getting better and more efficient with making videos (and I think the technical quality is improving as well), but it still feels like doing so consumes an inordinate chunk of time compared with the length of the final result. But a sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, and a word of pastoral greeting to St Paul's, Pekin (where I was scheduled to visit this weekend) are "in the can." (The sermon will post on the website tomorrow afternoon, and the pastoral greeting will be available to the people of Paul's about the same time. I also attended to some more Communion Partners business and traded emails with one of our postulants. As a spiritual practice, I went to YouTube and deeply listened to some hymns and choral anthems for the Easter season. Spoke by phone with Canon Evans. Squeezed in a workout on the Bowflex as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thursday in Easter Week

The big rock today was to sit with my exegetical notes on the readings for Easter V (when I will probably not be at Redeemer, Cairo) and coax a homiletical message statement from them. It sometimes feels like giving birth (well, obviously not literally, right?), but success was had in the end. Attended to some business pertaining to my trusteeship of the Putnam Trust, and to a Communion Partners matter. Not my favorite thing, but I also had to devote some energy and time to my 2019 tax return. There are snags. Since the sun was shining, and it wasn't horribly cold, and Brenda was eager for a walk, I indulged in one with her. I have hopes of being free of my "boot," and my restrictions, early next week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday in Holy Week

Two now "temporarily usual" Wednesday events were the "big rocks" of the day: a Zoom meeting of the bishops of Province V (followed by a phone conversation with one of them), and the recording of midweek video greetings to the diocese (including, of course, prep time, set up, and video processing before sending it off to Hannah). Also took my Easter IV sermon prep from "message statement" to the "developed outline" stage, as well as dealing with a Communion Partner issue. Throughout it all, I was trading emails with my tax preparer, who kept wanting more information. Plus ... it snowed. So I was not too bummed out about still being on lockdown.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tuesday in Easter Week

Even though I never left the apartment, the Triduum still felt like it drained me in something resembling the usual way. Learning to be a video producer is stressful! Anyway, that's why you didn't hear from me on Sunday. Having celebrated the Vigil with Brenda the night before, I too the day pretty much "off" and watched a lot of movies on Amazon Prime. So ... back in the saddle today, so happy to be adding frequent Alleluias to the round of prayers that happens in our domestic oratory. Much of the morning was consumed by an emerging domestic concern, in addition to which I dealt substantively with an also-emerging administrative concern, with emails between myself and three others. After a lunch (picked up from a nearby hamburger/taco fusion place with plastic sheeting between the customers and the counter, and no handling of credit cards by employees, and me wearing a mask) of hamburgers, I got down to creating a rough draft sermon text for Easter III, which has been developed with St Thomas, Salem in mind, though I won't be there to give it, of course. I then spent 30-40 minutes on the phone, continuing to work my way through the diocesan clergy list. Next I opened a sermon file on Easter VII, which may or may not be delivered in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist at St Michael's, O'Fallon on May 24. This far out, I don't think there's any way of predicting what the situation will look like then. I try to live in hope. Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Holy Saturday/Easter Eve

Every day the strangeness gets stranger. For 27 consecutive years, Holy Saturday for me has meant presiding informally at the short proper liturgy of the word with members of the Altar Guild of whatever church I've been connected to, and then "puttering" the rest of the day with various chores associated with getting everything ready for the Great Vigil of Easter. Today I did the proper liturgy on Facebook Live (with 44 in "attendance"--so, a record). And my puttering toward the Vigil was by way of scrounging for adaptations and workarounds, being devoid of standard ecclesiastical paraphernalia. I also made a video recording of my Easter homily, which will drop on the diocesan website early tomorrow morning. As soon as it was mostly dark, Brenda and I celebrated the Vigil. We even had an alcohol fire in a wok in our backyard, and an improvised Paschal Candle. I sang the Exultet. Only three prophecies, and no baptisms, of course. It took barely more than an hour. There are moments when the whole effort to maintain some version of our liturgical observances on a miniaturized scale feels kind of silly. But there are other moments when it feels tremendously sweet. For some reason, Form IV of the Prayers of the People has just come alive for me through this experience. So I think it's meet and right that we, collectively, make the effort. May it please God that we never have to do this again, but in the meantime, I am glad we are trying to maintain the façade. In such a recontextualized environment, we can see more clearly precisely how we have been formed by our habits and practices.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday

Once again, I was a video producer. With some input on spiffing up positioning and lighting from our Communications Coordinator (who has a degree in film), I recorded a Good Friday meditation (it required about four takes), trimmed the ends, uploaded it to Vimeo, and sent Hannah the link to take it from there. Brenda and I celebrated the proper liturgy of the day at noon. With a congregation of one in addition to the presider, we accomplished all four sections in 48 minutes, certainly a record in my experience--and this included the entirety of Hymn 166 for the Veneration of the Cross. Our domestic oratory is starting to feel prayed-in. I was then in the mood to make hot cross buns, but discovered we're out of yeast, so I made a (gluten-free, sugar-free) chocolate cake instead. Did some reading, Coaxed a homiletical message statement out of my exegetical notes for Easter IV. Prayed both morning and evening offices.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Maundy Thursday

Much of my day was devoted to simply ... observing the day. We have a mostly-dedicated room for prayer and worship in our apartment (I've actually always wanted a home chapel), but it's not very well-appointed, still very much a work in progress, which, under normal circumstances, is fine. But now it's being used for regular celebrations of the Eucharist, and with some extra bells and whistles needed for the Triduum. So there was a bit of work just figuring how to adapt things to these miniaturized and ill-equipped circumstances. The Lord provides! Mid-afternoon, Brenda and I had a Maundy Thursday celebration with all the requisite parts. I still have a deep sense that I'm doing so very much for and (spiritually) with the whole community of the Diocese of Springfield, even as we shelter at home outside the diocese. I'm grateful for this much. In other news, we noticed a moth problem in our coat closet recently, so another chunk of time was spent remediating that issue (which had the side-benefit of culling the closet of unused and unnecessary items); we'll have a big load for the thrift store when we're allowed to do such things. I also dove deeply into a commentary on John 14 in preparation for not preaching at Redeemer, Cairo on Easter V (May 10). 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wednesday in Holy Week

All the usual daily stuff, plus these highlight:
  • Attended the weekly videoconference meeting of the Province V bishops.
  • Checked in by phone with the Canon to the Ordinary.
  • Took care of some dangling Living Church Foundation business.
  • Recorded, edited, posted on Vimeo, and shared with the Communicator my weekly Coronatide greetings to the diocese.
  • Edited and refined my Maundy Thursday homily (not being delivered at Springfield Cathedral). Recorded it, which required several takes for various reasons. Edited the video, uploaded it to Vimeo, and sent the link to Hannah.
  • Developed my homiletical message statement for Easter III into an outline which can become the basis of a text.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tuesday in Holy Week

The major accomplishments of another day on lockdown: 

  •  Prayed Morning and Evening offices, plus intercessions. 
  • Developed my outline for a "Low Sunday" homily (not-at-St-Paul's-Pekin) into a draft text. 
  • Checked-in by phone with more of our clergy. 
  • Allowed myself to be interviewed by a fellow Living Church Foundation board member who is heading the group tasked with developing a strategic plan. 
  • Opened a sermon file on Easter VI (probably-not-at-St-Andrew's-Edwardsville): pray, read, reflect, make notes. 
  • Exploited the excellent (and not soon to return) weather for a modest and short (by usual standards) walk with Brenda.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday

Using boxwood clipped from plants in our front flower bed as surrogate palms, Brenda and celebrated the proper liturgy of the day, together with the Eucharist. Read and dealt with an email from one of our clergy. Did a bit of Living Church Foundation business. Read a teaching document from a seminary professor on how to think about the Eucharist in a time of social isolation. Spent time with family and attended to personal chores.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday (Martin Luther King)

Well, it isn't like the pandemic hasn't dominated our lives for nearly a month now, but, for me, the loss of the annual Chrism Mass, scheduled for this morning, brings the pain home in a fresh way, and it will only get more intense over the coming week. I am in profound grief over not being able to be and do what I am called to be and do. Today's major accomplishments, were the recording, editing, uploading, and sharing of my Palm Sunday homily and a word of greeting to the congregation of St Paul's Cathedral, Springfield. I also opened a sermon file on Easter V ( committing in prayer, taking a first pass at the readings, and making a few notes). In the evening, I adapted some materials for an at-home emulation of the Easter Vigil, which I will pass on to the clergy tomorrow, along with an extra Solemn Collect for use in the Good Friday liturgy, one that takes specific account of this time of plague.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday (St Richard of Chichester)

  • Usual AM preliminaries. Got started on four loads of laundry.
  • Attended to a small bit of Living Church Foundation business.
  • Established a Zoom (video conferencing) account for the diocese. It will be used a great deal, I expect, during this season of "coronatide."
  • Spent the rest of the morning wrestling my exegetical notes on the propers for the Third Sunday of Easter (when the church I will not be preaching in is St Thomas', Salem), finally resulting in a homiletical message statement for the non-occasion.
  • Lunched on leftovers. Continued with laundry. 
  • More sermon work: Quality time with commentaries on the readings for Easter IV, when I'm not preaching at Emmanuel, Champaign.
  • Decided not to waste 61 degrees and sunshine and, still against medical advice, took a modest walk (wearing my boot, of course).
  • For my Friday devotion, did a lectio divina on the daily office Old Testament reading for tomorrow.
  • Responded to a newsy email from a military chaplain who is canonically resident with us
  • Got some jambalaya for dinner into the oven, then read the evening office with Brenda.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thursday (James Lloyd Breck)

Much of the morning was consumed by discussions with the family with whom Brenda and I share a building about how I might approach the responsibilities of my ministry between Palm Sunday and Easter. It had seems prudent to me--an acceptably low risk--to travel to Springfield and be part of the live-streamed liturgies at the cathedral, with only about four people in a large church with circulating air, maintaining a ten-foot distance. It was my fervent hope. My children disagreed with my assessment of the risk. For the sake of these important relationships, I made the decision to stand down, and, with great sadness, informed the Dean. 

I went on, then, to record on video my regular midweek greeting to the diocese. I ran into some unexpected technical glitches, so the whole effort of recording, editing, and posting ran well into the afternoon. Some of that involved waiting for stuff to upload, so I able to proofread the draft of the next issue of the Springfield Current, and get back to Hannah with some tweaks, while this was happening. Spoke by phone with three parish priests of the diocese, and the rector of my DEPO parish, just to keep in touch pastorally during what has been dubbed "coronatide." Caught up on some Covenant blog reading. Refurbished a "vintage" Easter sermon text for use ... via video recording ... this year. Prayed the evening office with Brenda.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday

  • Usual weekday AM routine.
  • Participated in a long email thread with the CtO, the Treasurer, the Chair of Finance, and the Administrator around the CARE Act provisions for non-profits to receive forgivable loans for the purpose of maintaining payroll.
  • Logged on to a now weekly (for the time being) one-hour Zoom conference between the bishops of Province V.
  • Following the meeting, took a substantive phone call from the Bishop of Eau Claire.
  • Took yet another substantive phone call from a couple of lay leaders in one of our Eucharistic Communities.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Had a 90-minute telemedicine appointment with one of Brenda's doctors. Even under normal circumstances, I would have appreciated this sort of thing instead of going into the office.
  • Consulted the Dean via email regarding Palm Sunday and Holy Week observances at the cathedral.
  • Endured Verizon's "digital assistant" toward the end of getting Brenda's new phone activated.
  • We are sharing more meals between the other family members in our building, and it fell to me to fix (with Brenda's active assistance) chicken enchiladas tonight. So I broke off from my task list a little early to see to that chore.
  • EP fells into the cracks tonight. Hate it when that happens.
  • After dinner, massaged my homiletical message statement for Easter II (a non-visitation to St Paul's, Pekin) into a developed outline.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday (John Donne)

After the usual preliminaries, the working day began with Canon Evans and I emailing and phone-calling in an effort to get a diocesan Zoom account established. It felt like the blind leading the blind at moments, as we found ourselves in a sort of bureaucratic traffic circle without any clear exit strategy. Time along will reveal how productive our efforts were. I then got to work on an Ad Clerum (letter to "in-charge" clergy) about how we "do" Holy Week and Easter under present conditions. (Operating in the background of all this, of course, is grief and anxiety over those same "present conditions" and what it's doing to our social fabric and our souls and multiple levels.) With a break for lunch, this effort took me to the mid-afternoon. Ran an errand to a doctor's office to pick something up (observing all prudent protocols). Worked out on the Bowflex (which I should be doing anyway, but right now it's my surrogate for walking). Wrote emails to clergy with nodal events in April and scheduled them to be sent at the appropriate times. (With the retirement of a part-time staff member who used to prepare and organize my note cards and envelopes so I could hand-write these message, I've moved to an electronic format. In any case, my handwriting was getting less and less legible, so it's probably a good thing.) Evening Prayer with Brenda. After supper, I did some refurbishing work on a "vintage" sermon text for Maundy Thursday.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Not much to report. House arrest continues. The big excitement was perhaps driving to Popeye's to get dinner from the drive-thru (interacting with a masked and gloved employee) Read a good bit, watched some old movies, attended to some routine domestic chores (periodic photo organizing, finances). Significantly, though, Brenda and I again did celebrate the Eucharist together. Here's what I wrote about it on Facebook:
I celebrated a private in-home Mass today for only the third time in my ministry of 30+ years. (The other two times were last Sunday, and Wednesday, which was a major holy day.) Under normal circumstances, that would be self-indulgent. I am not unaware of my privilege; since I'm ordained to do so in general, I *can* do so. But these are not normal circumstances, and I believe it behooves those who are so ordained to do as I have done. Some have suggested that clergy should fast from the Eucharist in solidarity with all the baptized faithful, since they are not similarly privileged. I *could* do that. When walking the Camino in 2016, I was without the sacrament for more than six weeks. I learned the art of spiritual communion, and grace abounded. But, today, I was scheduled to preside at the Eucharist, not in general, but concretely with the people of St George's, Belleville. My celebration at home was not *with* them, save mystically, but it was definitely *for* them, on their behalf, for their sake. That whole community was represented, recapitulated, in our domestic oratory (aka the back bedroom) by my wife and me. Doing so was our work, our "liturgy." We offered the sacrifice that must be offered perpetually, "until he comes." The Mass must go on.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday

The productive part of my day was consumed by video-recording, editing, and uploading a homily for Lent V and a special pastoral greeting to St George's, Belleville, which I had been scheduled to visit tomorrow. Technology still tries regularly to gut-punch me, but today I was mostly victorious. The unproductive (though quite enjoyable) part of my day was spent finishing a streaming production of Wagner's Twilight of the Gods, which I began last night, but it has a 4'45" run time! This came from the Met in New York, but was made available via the Chicago Lyric because they had to cancel their much-hyped production of all four segments of the Ring Cycle due to the virus, and this is the one I had not yet seen on stage. I understand that Wagner is possibly an acquired taste, but it's one I have very much acquired, so it was ... sublime. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday (Charles Henry Brent)

Another day under house arrest. They're all starting to feel the same. I had a Skype conversation with an individual who is seeking access to the ordination process. I participated in the recording of another podcast for the Living Church Foundation, this time as one of two guests, along with two hosts. We talked about how the context of the pandemic recontextualizes how we think about the Eucharist. It should be available for public consumption next week. I also opened a sermon file on Easter IV, where the place I won't be delivering it is Emmanuel, Champaign. Wrote a recommendation letter for a seminarian's scholarship application. Weighed in on an ongoing email conversation about the diocese opening a Zoom account. (We clearly need to.) Worked out on the Bowflex, since I'm still not allowed to do any serious walking. In other news, spent about 90 minutes of my life that I'll never get back wrestling with Verizon in an effort to upgrade Brenda's phone; her device is about 110 in cell phone years, and has apparently given up the ghost. Prayed both morning and evening offices. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday

  • Usual early AM weekday routine.
  • Took care of an administrative chore for the Putnam Trust (executing a trade proposal recommendation on the part of U.S. Trust, the fund manager). I've tried to avoid looking too closely at either diocesan or personal stock market holdings lately. I'm pretty confident it will all straighten out, and suspect that money managers probably have a higher level of anxiety than many of their clients.
  • Aside from keeping on top of emails as they arrived, and paying attention to general developments on the pandemic front, I spent the rest of morning, and the early afternoon, immersed in commentaries on Luke and I Peter, toward the end of sermon preparation for Easter III, when the church I won't be visiting is St Thomas', Salem. It's necessary work for a preacher to study a scripture text quite closely, but, for me, it's also a treat, so ... win/win.
  • Shot emails to our three Nashotah House seminarians. The campus is on lockdown, with no communal worship or communal meals and classes conducted remotely. Our student each live alone, so it's a kind of modified solitary confinement. Do hold David Knox, Danté Anglin, and Mark Klamer in your prayer. Took care of some additional business with one of them.
  • Made arrangements for a video interview with someone at the beginning of the ordination discernment process.
  • Took care of a routine personal organization chore, a calendar maintenance task generated by the coming transition from March to April.
  • Spent about 45 minutes with the ongoing basement organization project. It really will never end.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Annunciation

  • Regular weekday early AM routine (personal devotions, intercessions, Morning Prayer, tea, breakfast, Facebook, crossword, task organizing).
  • Exchanged a couple of email with Hannah about various things that we've got going.
  • Prepped for and recording a weekly video greeting to the diocese.
  • Participated in a video meeting of the Province V bishops, which looks to become a weekly thing during this extraordinary season.
  • Worked on editing my video greeting (with a little help from my son upstairs), got it uploaded to Vimeo, and handed it off to Hannah. (It's now on the website.)
  • Celebrated Mass for the feast day with Brenda in our domestic oratory (which I'm going to have to settle on a proper name for, I think), which included, of course, a recitation of the Lord's Prayer, in keeping with the request of the Pope, the Presiding Bishop, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Lunched on leftovers, slightly on the late side.
  • Conferred by phone with Canon Evans over a few things.
  • Wrestled with my exegetical notes on the readings for II Easter and arrived at homiletical message statement that, barring a miracle, I won't be able to deliver at St Paul's, Pekin.
  • Too advantage of a beautiful early spring afternoon and, doing an end run around my foot doctor's orders, took a modest walk with Brenda around the neighborhood. The boot I have to wear actually makes me dial back my cruising speed to her natural pace.
  • Worked on developing a promised reading list for a postulant to the diaconate.
  • Evening Prayer fell through the cracks, as I got caught up in making chicken enchiladas for the other family members who live in our building, which we all ate together in our dining room.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday (Oscar Romero)

As bizarrely abnormal as all days are now, today felt at one level like a return to normal. Last week was hijacked by the pandemic and my need to keep responding to it pastorally. Most everything else got lost in the shuffle--at least mentally and emotionally, if not actually. So now we're all hunkering down at home--well, I work from home at least three days each week anyway, which accounts for why it feels "normal" to be organizing tasks and making my way through the list. Of course, like I said, the situation is not normal at all; it just feels that way to me on one level. Today I spent a lot of time *communicating* with the Communicator, toward the end of some special responses to our newly straitened circumstances. The Living Church Institute has begun a podcast, and YFNB is the first presenter--on the subject how to think about the Eucharist during a time of pandemic. It went live this afternoon. I also spent a chunk of time preparing a Palm Sunday homily, just as if I were actually going to be at St Paul's Cathedral to deliver. I will, instead, deliver it by video from our domestic oratory. It's important that we still, as far as we are able, do the things we do. Sadly, one of the things *I* do, as you know, is walk, but my foot injury from a week ago finds my right foot in a boot and instructions to avoid any unnecessary walking. I did make a foray to the grocery store nearby for some essentials, taking all due precautions, but even that made my adult children all squirrelly. They would prefer I stay indoors, or venture no further than the alley to put the trash out. Apparently, I am a man under authority.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fourth Sunday in Lent

This has been the strangest Sunday I have ever spent, and, while I fear there will be many, many more like it, I can guarantee that it will never cease to feel strange. Brenda and I celebrated the Eucharist together in our domestic oratory. It seemed meet and right to begin with the Great Litany, and many of its petitions leapt off the page at me like they never have before.  The other accomplishment was doing the exegetical work on a homily for the Second Sunday of Easter. Of course, it won't be delivered in the context where it was initially intended, but I've determined to keep up with all the sermon preparation work that I'd planned, even if only to produce a video. This is all really hard, and while I understand that my cabin fever will soon get unbearable, I expect to bear it anyway, knowing that there are tens of thousands of people whose lots in this is very much worse than mine. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday (Thomas Ken)

Today was a day for embracing technology to cope with the temporary "new normal" of highly restricted social and commercial exchanges. I did the finish work on a homily for Lent IV (tomorrow), which I will not get to deliver in a liturgical context, but instead of scheduling for posting, I recorded a video of it and posted that on the diocesan website. I also recorded a short pastoral greeting to the diocese. There will be much more of this sort of thing in the coming weeks. And toward that end, as I would anyway under normal circumstances, I took a first pass at the readings for Easter III, which is theoretically the date for my visitation to St Thomas', Salem. I'm not optimistic about that event actually happening, but the sermon will get developed nonetheless. One day at a time now.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday (St Cuthbert)

Events continue to unfold at breakneck speed. I was supposed to drive to Springfield early this morning and spend the weekend. Even without a visitation on my calendar, I had agreed to cover an altar on Sunday. Plus, I had a service appointment for my car. Then, between Brenda's ribcage injury and the rapidly evolving public health environment, I pulled the plug late last night. This morning I spent some special time in discerning prayer--using the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary as a vehicle--and then wrote my fourth pastoral letter to the diocese in a little over two weeks. I am not exaggerating when I say that directing the suspension of public worship in the diocese was the most agonizingly difficult decision I have made in my entire life. It stabs me in the core of my heart. But here we are. Within a few minutes of posting it, the governor of Illinois rendered much of what I said moot by imposing a stay-at-home order. There's no way to tell when this bizarre situation will end, but my suspicion is that it will be longer than we realize at this moment. But, even though we may not have Easter this year, Christ will be no less risen from the dead. So there's that. 

Working into the evening, I finished a draft of a homily for Lent V, which I now will not be delivering at St George's, Belleville. But I plan on making a video recording of it for the edification of all who wish to watch it.

Brenda is doing rather better than she was 24 hours ago. The ribcage pain is still there, but it's no longer incapacitating.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

St Joseph

Nine years ago today I was ordained and consecrated Bishop of Springfield. I could scarcely have imagined then the sorts of leadership challenges that this day, and the last couple of weeks, have put in my path. But it was well into the afternoon before I could contemplate such things. Brenda woke up with severe pain in her ribcage area, something that has been developing since Monday evening. So we spent the morning in the ER at Swedish Covenant Hospital. The good news is that the X-ray was negative for fracture, which, by inference, means it's a strained muscle. But, even pretty doped up, she's continued to be in a lot of pain much of the time. That pretty well wore me out, and it was into the afternoon before I was back from the pharmacy having collected her prescriptions, Of course, then, in the afternoon it was all-COVID19-all-the-time. I'm getting hammered from multiple directions, and it's difficult to know my own mind, let alone listen for the voice of the One tho whom I am alone ultimately accountable. But figuring out where my duty lies is clearly my cross to bear in this moment, and I intend to bear it as faithfully as the grace supplied me will allow. Jesu, mercy. Mary, pray.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday (St Cyril of Jerusalem)

Life is still pretty much dominated by that ^&(#$% coronavirus. Lots of email exchanges with clergy and laity, in and out of the diocese. The big accomplishment of the morning was the development of an outline for a Palm Sunday homily, even though there may or may not be a Palm Sunday liturgy in which to deliver it. The main accomplishment of the afternoon was the development of a teaching audio (essentially a podcast) on the significance of the Eucharist in a time of pandemic--this was done at the request of The Living Church. After dinner, I recorded it and sent the audio file off to them. I also participated in a video conference call with some Living Church Foundation contributors as we brainstorm over developing resources in response to this extraordinary moment. In the midst of it all, both offices got prayed, and I did a bit of household straightening. A looming challenge for me is how to get exercise while I'm on "footrest."

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday (St Patrick)

My life has been taken over by the coronavirus. No, I'm not symptomatic, nor is anyone I know. But the situation is evolving so rapidly that I've now had to put out three pastoral letters on the subject inside of a two-week period. Most of today was spent crafting the third, first with poring over the CDC website to make sure I wasn't missing anything (having decided to adopt the CDC as my benchmark for guidelines). Did some consulting by phone and email, and the letter dropped late in the afternoon. I did manage to get a little work done on a Palm Sunday homily, but not as much as I'd planned on. Email, text, and social media distraction on the subject at hand were never-ending, and it was just emotionally laborious in the first place that it kind of wore me out mentally for doing anything else. Anyway, it's done, for whatever it may be worth. Good Lord, deliver us.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Third Sunday in Lent

Because I was originally supposed to have been in Texas all last week for House of Bishops (which ended up being a virtual meeting via Zoom instead), I scheduled a "soft" weekend for myself, with no visitation, intending to worship in one of the local Chicago parishes. However, Chicago is one of the dioceses that has chosen to shut down as. response to the coronavirus, so that wasn't an option. So I made last-minute arrangements to celebrate the principal cathedral liturgy in Springfield, making a day-trip out of it. It was a lovely time, and I'm really glad I did it. As I would have imagined, attendance was down about 40% from normal. Everyone was cheerfully compliant with public health strictures: no hand-shaking, no passing of the offering plate, no intinction, general "social distance." Back home around 4pm.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday (Theodore James Holley)

Never in my more than 68 years have there been so many successive days so full of surprises. Iconic cultural and sporting events canceled and venues closed, schools closed, and now even whole dioceses calling off Sunday worship. Few among us would have thought any of this possible even earlier this week. The ground seems to shift from one hour to the next. I have made the decision to direct churches in the Diocese of Springfield to adhere to normal Sunday worship, with several precautions to preserve public health. (See the diocesan website for these guidelines.) Many of my colleague bishops are doing something similar; others are much more cautious. So, when my time wasn't being consumed by attention to these things, my emotional energy was, almost non-stop. In the midst of all this, I devoted most of my morning to an appointment with a foot doctor, following up on the initial I received over last weekend after falling while leaving the house a week ago. Doctor, then away to the lab for an X-ray, then back to the doctor. The sad upshot is that I'm stuck in an unwieldy boot for the next several weeks, as the images revealed two small fractures, and putting any weight on the foot impedes healing. So I'm deprived of my only real form of exercise. I need to take u0 swimming, Much of the afternoon was devoted to writing an article for the next issue of the Springfield Current, due to come out around Easter. I also worked my way through a stack of other deferred tasks, pastoral and administrative. Evening Prayer with Brenda. In deference to social distancing, we ordered dinner delivered.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday (St Gregory of Rome)

This was the third and final day of the reconfigured spring meeting of the House of Bishops. The presenter was the Revd Jennifer Strawbridge, an American who teaching New Testament in the UK. She was tasked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to convene broadly-representative task force of biblical scholars from across the communion and beyond to prepare Bible study resource for the Lambeth Conference, and her presentation was a sort of sneak preview of the fruit of her labor: The First Letter of Peter: A Global Commentary.  I was particularly pleased that the Archbishop chose I Peter as the focus for scriptural engagement at the conference, as it is some of my favorite material in the New Testament. Our table discussion groups were supposed to discuss some questions posed by the presenter, but we instead found ourselves mostly talking about our responses to the rapidly-evolving public health situation. It's a vexing situation, and, before the end of the afternoon, I found myself issuing another pastoral statement, and, this evening, a clarifying email to the clergy. There's a wide divergence of response among bishops in the Episcopal Church. I'm not going to judge any of my colleagues, even though I'm making a very different call than they are. Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm right. Time will tell. What we can all agree on is the imperative of praying earnestly for a rapid end to this plague.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday

After the usual early morning routine, and working on a few details of the Chrism Mass liturgy, I once again joined the virtual Day Two of the spring 2020 House of Bishops meeting. The presenters today consisted of a trio of (I must say, impressively young) members of the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff--Program Coordinators from his reconciliation team. Archbishop Justin has, from the time he took office (and before) been vigorously committed to the ministry of reconciliation among any who are, as the Prayer Book puts it, "at variance and enmity." To that commitment I must add my own pale shadow of the same. For many years, I have come to increasingly understand that reconciliation is not some aspect of the gospel, some adjunct of the gospel; it is the gospel. It's explicit all over the writings of St Paul and implicit throughout the rest of holy scripture. So, for the second day in a row, I was glad to see what the focus was, and our presenters made a solid contribution.

I am moved to add, however, that, for the most part, the Christian community deserves to hang its head in shame. We are so divided into our various brand names, and so divided even among those who share the same brand name, that it's amazing the Holy Spirit can get anything done at all by way of calling women, men, and children to become disciples of Jesus. The actual disciples of Jesus can't stop fighting. Just this morning, there was a reading at Morning Prayer from I Corinthians 6, in which Paul laments that fact that Christians sue one another in secular courts. A good bit of the Bible is difficult to interpret and apply. This is not one of those passages, and we who bear the name of Anglican in North America have a great deal about which to be embarrassed. 

It also became clear in the material that was shared with us today (especially a short film clip from a Palestinian Christian who is involved in reconciliation work with Israelis and Muslims) how important it is to be tell hard truth and hear hard truth. I'm afraid we have done very little of either in the Episcopal Church over the last couple of decades (at least). We are nowhere near able to articulate one another's truth in ways that the other can see himself or herself in the way we tell their story. We have made great progress, I can say--in some quarters, at any rate--in learning to speak to one another civilly and charitably. This is good. But we are still not able to deal with how people holding profoundly different conceptions of what the Christian faith is, what the gospel is, can begin to share the same institution.

Once again, with only a minor glitch, the technology worked well enough to permit another hour-long table group interchange. When we actually do meet in person, at a literal table, we will have been well-served by this experience.

In other news ... aside from keeping on top of the non-stop inflow of email, the main accomplishment of the remainder of the day was to wrestle with my exegetical notes for Matthew's passion narrative and come up with a homiletical message statement for my Palm Sunday sermon (at the cathedral in Springfield).

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday

A week ago, I expected to be making this entry from Camp Allen, outside of Navasota, Texas, which was expecting to host the regular spring meeting of the House of Bishops. The COVID-19 virus had other ideas, though, and the Presiding Bishop made the decision mid-week to cancel the in-person gathering. Instead, we are spending time today, tomorrow, and Thursday attending virtual sessions via internet. In essence, we're getting the planned content from outside presenters, and foregoing the daily Eucharist, meals together, and the informal interaction that is really the best part of these things. That said, we did manage to have an hour of virtual table group time (the table assignments having been uncharacteristically shuffled and re-dealt mid-triennium because of the number of new bishops who have been elected and consecrated). In my group, the Zoom technology worked quite well and we had a fruitful hour of discussion of the morning presenter's material.

After greetings from the Presiding Bishop (who admitted to discomfort not being able to see his audience), we were addressed by three people associated with Episcopal Relief & Development. The subject, as you might imagine, was the coronavirus pandemic. My two takeaways were: 1) there has never been any evidence that infection is communicated via the common chalice at Holy Communion--it's fingers and hands that are, along with airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes, the major culprits to be concerned about, and 2) while social isolation measures are advisable, the chances are that the exposure rate will eventually approach 100%. The silver lining of this somber prediction is that, since way more people are presently infected at this moment than we realize, the actually fatality rate is probably much lower than the 2-3% figure we're using to seeing in the media. 

The major presenter for the day was Professor Andrew Root from Luther Theological Seminary in St Paul, MN. He has researched and written extensively on the nexus between Christianity and culture, particularly the latter's long slide into secularity. In fact, he has developed a taxonomy of secularism that attempts to foster understanding among Christian leaders of just what the mission field these days is like. I won't attempt to summarize his paradigm, but I found it stimulating, and it was quite adequate grist for the discussion mill when it came time for table groups.  In all, we met this way from 10am until 1:30pm. 

After that, I was able to delve into my non-HOB to-do list, the major item of which was brining my homiletical message statement for Lent V (St George's, Belleville) to the "developed outline" stage. Also made more progress trying to develop a travel itinerary for a visit to Tanzania and the Lambeth Conference in July. (As of today, at least, the word from Lambeth is that the event is happening. But I guess that's subject to change.)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Second Sunday in Lent

Having survived the trauma of the time change (I jest; it's not a trauma at all), we were on the road southbound from Effingham at 0900, rolling into Trinity, Mt Vernon an hour later. Had a splendid time preaching and presiding at the Eucharist with this currently priest-less congregation. (It looks, however, that we will have a good number of Sundays covered by supply clergy for the foreseeable future.) Visited with folks over a spaghetti-and-meatballs luncheon. Headed toward home at 12:45, arriving at 5:15.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Saturday (St Perpetua)

The way my foot felt when I got out of bed, I wondered whether the day would be salvageable. But the activity of the morning routine managed to calm the pain down to a manageable level. We drove from Bloomington to Lincoln, arriving at Trinity Church about the 75 minutes ahead of the scheduled 1100 ordination of Chris Simpson to the transitional diaconate. The liturgy went splendidly, the sermon by Canon Mark Evans was exceptionally good, and the congregation was joyful when it was announced at the reception that, upon ordination to the priesthood, Chris will succeed Mark at Trinity. A doctor in the congregation had a look at my foot and recommended I get it X-rayed, so, while en route to Effingham for the night, we stopped at an urgent care clinic in Decatur. The radiologist's use of the term "boney irregularity" meant that I walked out with a huge therapeutic boot, and instruction to follow up with a podiatrist, not an outcome I had hoped for. So we completed our journey to Effingham, checked into the Hampton Inn, grabbed dinner at Friday's, and all will be well.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Friday

The day began with residual trauma and ended with new trauma. Somehow, we managed to leave Wisconsin last night without Brenda's purse, which contains her phone. So I woke up and immediately started working all the available technology ("Find My iPhone")--which actually worked, and her purse is being sent to us--and getting an unused iPad set up for her use in the interim. The concluding trauma was that, on the way out of the house in the early evening to head to Bloomington for the night, I fell on our back stairs. My right foot is painful and swollen. Tomorrow afternoon, after an ordination in the morning, I'll have time to seek medical attention. In the meantime, I cannot say that I was running on all cylinders today. I journeyed down to the Apple Store to retrieve my laptop, which is great to have back, but the chore was a time-hog. I finished and submitted a writing project to the Living Church, wrote emails to clergy and spouses with nodal events in March and scheduled them to be sent on the appropriate day, and tied up a couple of administrative loose ends. Here's hoping for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday

The work of the day consisted of a day-trip to Nashotah House, where I was the invited guest preacher for their solemn celebration of of the Eucharist. It's always a delight. I leveraged the opportunity for some quality face time with our three residential seminarians, all of whom are ensigns of hope for the future of the diocese. I took them all out to dinner following the Mass. Brenda and I arrived back home at 10:45. A good day.

Sermon at Nashotah House

Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, Nashotah House--Matthew 7:7–12

I don’t know this for certain, but one of my claims to distinction might be that I have the longest period between my visit to this campus as a prospective student and my actual matriculation as a member of the residential community. It was more than eleven years. I made my prospective student visit in June of 1975, but various circumstances conspired to prevent me from beginning my seminary formation until the fall of 1986. But I still remember that occasion, nearly 45 years ago, when I was ushered into the office of Dean John Ruef for my interview. I was all of 23 years old. Here I was, on a campus that was already legendary in my mind because of the stories my own parish priest had told me of his time here in the 1940s, and while Dean Ruef was not in any way unkind, his countenance was, in my perception at least, a bit severe. I was more than a little intimidated. I remember virtually nothing of the content of that conversation, save for this tidbit: “If you come to Nashotah House,” Dean Ruef told me, “you will learn to pray.”

He was quite right, of course. My time here as a student solidified the anchoring of my practice of prayer in the Thorntonian triad of Mass, Office, and private devotion, and these things have become the veritable “operating system” of my life, always running in the background no matter what other “app” I’m trying to use at the moment. But another quantum leap for my in my practice of prayer happened rather more recently, in the late summer of 2016, when I walked the ancient pilgrimage route across northern Spain to end up in Santiago de Compostela to venerate the relics of the Apostle James. I did a lot of spontaneous praying during those 38 days, initially because, quite frankly, there wasn’t much else to do. If I didn’t have anybody else to walk with, which was usually the case, Jesus was still my constant companion. Along the Camino, I significantly deepened my practice of intercessory prayer; I prayed constantly for people and about situations. I had a sense of carrying these people and situations with me into the presence of God; I even understood my backpack as a sort of sacramental sign of this “burden” I was bearing before the throne of grace, very much a priestly act, in the generic sense.

So, all of this autobiography is simply by way of providing some useful context for how prayer is treated in the snippet from Matthew’s gospel, a snippet from the Sermon on the Mount, actually, that we heard read a few minutes ago. To be candid with you, I’ve always found this passage rather disturbing. It appears to offer a sort of unconditional, money-back guarantee that we get what we pray for. God is a profligate dispenser of “answers” to prayer. Yet, this flies in the face of actual experience. More than once have I stood at a hospital bedside, next to unspeakably frightened family members of the person in the bed, and implored God for a miracle. I once had a parishioner whose only child had committed suicide only a month earlier suffer a massive stroke. I stood there next to his wife and we prayed our hearts out that the Lord would restore him to health. Yet, I presided at his funeral a few days later, and his widow was alone. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Yeah, right. Whatever.

There are, of course, some stock responses to the obvious exceptions to “Ask, and it will be given to you.” Some would say, “Oh, you have to be sure you pray persistently.” Indeed, in other contexts, Jesus seems to encourage us to nag God, to pester God with our petitions and intercessions. While on the Camino, I pestered God every day about a whole list of people, a list that grew as I moved along, thanks to my nightly connection to the internet. Indeed, one of those about whom I nagged God underwent a spectacularly successful back surgery and was relieved of years of chronic pain. Another continued to get sicker, and died soon after I finished my journey. I was persistent in my prayers for both. Did my prayers “work” for one and “fail” for the other?

Others have said, “Yeah, God answers prayer, but you have to be sure that what you’re asking for is in accord with God’s will.” Well, that certainly sounds like a bit of a cop-out, doesn’t it? God will do whatever he’s going to do anyway, and if we just happen to pray along those lines, then chalk that up as an answer to prayer. Now, I don’t want to completely belittle this response, because I think there’s actually some truth to it at a deeper level. But without getting to that deeper level, it’s just too ... slick.

Still others erect a qualifying condition focused on the quality of the faith of the person doing the praying. If we set this gospel passage alongside the epistle of James, that makes a certain amount of sense. So, if we don’t get what we ask for, we can always say, “Oh, well, I must have not had enough faith. I must have doubted too much. That’s why God didn’t answer my prayer.” This has the advantage of not compromising God’s dignity, because it’s our fault, not God’s.

Well, as is invariably the case, it’s a good idea to look at the material surrounding the actual liturgical pericope. As I mentioned, tonight’s reading is part of the Sermon on the Mount. But, more specifically, it follows a command of Jesus that we not judge others, lest we be subject to judgment ourselves. And it concludes, of course, with the proverbial Golden Rule, as I originally learned it in the King James Version: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So it’s a bit of a hermeneutical sandwich, with the injunction to not be “judgy” as the bottom layer and the Golden Rule sitting on top, with the arguably troubling material on petitionary prayer as the main content of the sandwich.

As the New Testament scholar Robert Gundry argues (that is, he who taught at my undergraduate alma mater when I was a college student)—as Dr Gundry argues, “The purpose of Jesus’ teaching on prayer here is not to offer a comprehensive hermeneutic on petitionary prayer,” but to “buttress the Golden Rule ... [which] demands a Father-like graciousness” that “forestalls the judging prohibited at the start of this section.” Or, to put it more succinctly, authentic prayer broadens the scope of our concern. Prayer, it turns out, is not primarily about what we pray for. We are indeed instructed to pray for things, to pray for specific outcomes. I pray every day for a whole list of sick people. I pray for their healing, for their health and wholeness. I pray by name for each of the postulants and candidates from the Diocese of Springfield, with a conscious awareness in God’s presence of the particular challenges each one faces. I pray for this institution, for those who lead it and those who bear the burden of governance—again, aware in the presence of God of those things that stand in the way of its complete flourishing. But the outcome of my prayers, if one can even use such language, is of marginal importance alongside of the effect that such a habit of prayer has on the health of my own soul—resting on the foundation of eschewing the judgment of those whom I am in no way qualified to judge, and crowned with a habitual disposition of generosity toward others, behaving toward them as I would have them behave toward me.

And I practice this habit, this garment, of prayer, confident in the love and grace of a “Father who is in heaven” to “give good things to those who ask of him.” I learned to pray at Nashotah House. I learned to pray on the Camino. And the effect of my prayers is measured not in the outcomes of what I prayed for, but in whatever progress I may have made toward being able to look into the face of God and not be turned to dust.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.