Showing posts from December, 2012

Homily for the First Sunday after Christmas

Emmanuel, Champaign--  John 1:1-18 ; Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7; Isaiah 61:10-62:3 St Anselm was a medieval Archbishop of Canterbury who was, and continues to be, renowned as one of the major theologians of western Christianity. One of his treatises was simply titled  Why God Became Man . At this time of year, that’s an appropriate question, one we do well to ask ourselves, over and over again, because, even though we know the answer—in part, thanks to St Anselm—we stand in constant need of being reminded. Why do we have Christmas? Why do we celebrate the Incarnation? Here’s the deal: Even though God loves us, and created us in His image, and wants us to share the very essence of His life and being, we, as human beings, are alienated from God. We are cut off from God. There’s a gulf between us and God that makes the Grand Canyon look like a line in the sand. We are therefore unable to enjoy the life that God created us to have. We are incapable of experiencing our full humanit

Saturday (St Thomas Becket)

Generally took this as an "off" day (with the usual components of sleeping in, leisurely reading of the morning paper, working out on weights and treadmill, and running errands). Also managed to get a significant amount of reading done, which is rare and welcome. However, I did spend about an hour trolling the internet for web-based church database management software. We need to bring the way we manage such things in the diocese (and probably in a lot of our parishes) into the current century. Seriously. It relates to the words "one church" in our mission strategy vision.

Holy Innocents

Usual AM routine; Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Handled a small batch of emails. Churned out a rough draft of a homily for Epiphany (Sunday, 6 January, at Trinity, Jacksonville). Appointment with Fr David Peters, a chaplain in the Army reserve and canonically resident in the diocese, though physically resident in Austin, Texas.  Lunch at home. Leftovers. Usual weekly scanning/filing chore. Produced a substantially finished set of working notes for the first of my four adresses at the diocesan ECW retreat in February. It will need some minor tweaking, but it's essentially in the can. Friday prayer: Discursive meditation, Ignatian-style, on one of the daily office readings for the feasts of the Holy Innocents. Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

St John, Apostle & Evangelist

Customary Thursday morning weight and treadmill workout. In to the office around 9. Morning Prayer in the catedral. Re-engaged the learning curve on our data projector, and introduced it to my new MacBook, in preparation for my 11am meeting. This was not without a bump or two, but was ultimately successful. Polished an printed a working script for my sermon this coming Sunday at Emmanuel, Champaign. Met for over two hours (including over lunch) with representatives of both the Spiritual Vitality Team and the Strategy Resource Team as we try to keep the fire not only lit but turned up high under our evolving Mission Strategy for the diocese. It was a very good meeting. Stuff is happening. Grabbed an extra 2000 steps on my pedometer by walking down Second Street to South Grand Avenue and back, in about 15 minutes. Bracing. Met for some 90 minutes with a non-parochial priest of the diocese discussing potential scenarios for deployment. Put some substantial meat on the bones of a

St Stephen

Slept in just a little, and indulged an a "soft" morning. Morning Prayer in my study at home. In the office around 10. Reviewed some administrivia with the Archdeacon. Processed a fairly substantial batch of emails. Lunch fro MickyD's, eaten at home. Invested some serious prep time ahead of tomorrow's joint meeting (weather permitting) of the Strategy Resource Team and the Spiritual Vitality Team. Felt good about the result, but it consumed some time. Wrote out my customary milestone event (birthdays and anniversaries of clergy and spouses) cards for January. Brief devotions (Angelus) in the cathedral around 4:30, then home, where I read the evening office in my study. Brenda informed me that not only was I cooking dinner, but she told what I was to cook! So I threw together some Chinese-style chicken stir fry. Spent a good part of the evening prepping for my participation in the "conciliation" meeting week after next concerning the Title IV action

Christmas at the Cathedral


Christmas Sermon

St Paul's Cathedral As you might imagine, with the job I have, I spend forty or fifty nights per year in hotels or conference centers. From this experience, I have developed certain preferences for particular hotel brand names, and Sue Spring, our Diocesan Administrator, is aware of these preferences. One of the reasons, of course, is the loyalty reward programs that the various chains have, where I have earned Silver status in one of them, so I get a little bit of VIP treatment and two free bottles of cold water when I check in, and just a general feeling that I’m sort of club member rather than just a hotel customer—it’s the small things that count! So, one Saturday night a couple of months ago, I pulled into the parking lot of my preferred hotel chain in one of the towns in our diocese, a place where I had already stayed a couple of times before, and, just to be sure, pulled out my smartphone to have the confirmation number of my reservation ready if I needed it. To my

Fourth Sunday of Advent

This was a pretty cushy day, as far as bishops' days go. My visit was to Christ Church, Springfield, which is maybe three miles from home--one service at 10:15, preceded by an Adult Forum at 9:10. Lively exchange there, joyful worship in the church. Home by 12:30.

Sermon for Advent IV

Christ Church, Springfield --Luke 1:39-49, Hebrews 10:5-10 When I traveled to England earlier this year, I bought some of those special plastic bags that allow you to put articles of clothing in them and then squeeze all the air out and compress the contents so they take up a lot less space in your suitcase than they normally would. The same sort of thing happens when you download software over the internet—it comes in a “compressed” format, and before you can install the new program onto your computer, you have to “unzip” it, and let its contents expand into a usable form, just like you have to unzip the special plastic bag and fluff up the sweater before you can put it on. We actually see the same thing in nature, only in a much more complex and wonderful form. Imagine a simple acorn. It’s a small thing, kind of a nuisance, actually, if you’re trying to maintain landscaping in the vicinity of an oak tree. Yet, within each acorn is the genetic blueprint and the initial raw m

St Thomas

Usual morning routine, save for a delayed departure from home to the office because I spend 15 minutes looking for my keys. Apparently there's  not  an app for that. Devotions in the cathedral (lighting candles under the crucifix in the rear, silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Angelus--all part of the usual pre-MP routine); Morning Prayer in the office. In consultation with the Archdeacon, took care of a small but important administrative matter (prompting the Disciplinary Board to elect a President for the coming year--this, of course, is a body one hopes is never called upon to do anything). Put some considerable meat on the bones of a homily for Epiphany (which falls on a Sunday this cycle; I'll be at Trinity, Jacksonville). Spoke by phone with my friend the Bishop of Upper South Carolina about ... well, you can imagine. Made air travel arrangements to attend the spring House of Bishops meeting in March. I'm getting this sort of thing down to a system, wi

Thursday (O Clavis David)

Weight and treadmill workout before breakfast, but in to the office at near the usual time by foregoing reading the paper! Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Minor administrivia. Wrote a letter, via email, to some lay persons who have a particular stake in a decision I have made. Registered for the March House of Bishops meeting at Kanuga, a conference center in North Carolina. Met with the cathedral staff to discuss details of the three Christmas liturgies at which I will be presiding and preaching. Conceived and hatched a homily for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, which I anticipate delivering at the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, South Carolina, at the invitation of the rector and vestry. Went home for lunch ... and stayed there, in anticipation of some nasty weather. Investigated various alternatives for flow-chart (aka "mind-mapping") software than can run on a Mac. Found and downloaded a very promising and inexpensive solution.  Responded to a

Wednesday (O Radix Jesse)

Routine daily task planning at home; Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Prepared for my participation in this evening's regular meeting of the Cathedral Chapter. By statute I am a voting member, and it has seemed meet and right to actively share in the deliberations of the group during recent months of financial anxiety and transition. I think it is quite a significant milestone that tonight, for the first time in the memory of anyone there, the Chapter passed an operating budget in which current expenses are funded by current income. There is no more endowment and no anticipated bequests. They have worked very hard and made some very painful decisions. I commend them for their faithfulness. By the way, I am now at liberty to disclose that Fr Keith Roderick has accepted my appointment, with the concurrence of the Chapter, as Provost (priest-in-charge) of St Paul's, beginning March 1. Conceived and hatched a sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas Day (December 30, at Emma

Tuesday (O Adonai)

Weekly master task planning at home; Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Revised, printed, scanned, and emailed a courtesy letter to a Brazilian priest trying to get a visa to study for a semester at SIU Carbondale. ICE is a bear to work with, we have discovered. Worked on, and essentially completed, travel and lodging arrangements for a trip to Charleston, SC next month. I have been invited to celebrate and preach at the Church of the Holy Communion there on January 13, and we're going to parlay that work into a very brief winter break in a warmish climate by extending the stay until the following Thursday. Met with a seminarian who has roots in this diocese but is currently "unattached" formally to any diocesan ordination process. We discussed various options. Finished tying together some loose ends from my travel arrangement activity. Dashed down to McDonald's for some drive-thru McNuggets, which I consumed in the car  en route  back to the office. Loaded the

Third Sunday of Advent

Out the door at 7:30 headed for Carlinville and the regular 9:15 celebration at St Paul's. Our aim was to get there even a little earlier than usual, as Brenda had been tapped to play the organ prelude, and she hasn't played an organ for nearly two years! It went well, though, as was always the case when she and I worked together and priest and parish musician, I didn't get to hear most of the prelude because I was busy getting ready for the service. We preached the word and celebrated the Eucharist, with minds and hearts never too far from those grieving unspeakable losses from Friday's mass killings in Connecticut. I've written a bit about that subject here. It was a particular joy to confirm four young people--two sets of siblings--at St Paul's. And the food and fellowship there is always a delight.

Sermon for Advent III

St Paul's, Carlinville -- Luke 3:7-18 Have you ever been, as the song says, “late for a very important date?"  Maybe you forgot to set your alarm and overslept.  Maybe the gates went down at the railroad crossing just as you got there.  Maybe there was a wreck on the highway that backed up traffic for a mile and a half.  Or maybe you were just forgetful, or, worse than that, just inattentive to the passage of time or to how long it would actually take you to get from point A to point B.  And now you're late ... to an appointment with an important client, or to a crucial job interview, or to pick up your child who's waiting in the rain outside a deserted school, or to the beginning of a play or a concert or a movie.  I know that when I find myself in a situation like this, I can physically feel the waves of fear and shame and anger wash over me:  fear at the prospect of an opportunity squandered, shame at being so careless as to not notice the time, and anger,


Took a day trip by train to Chicago to attend the birthday party of our granddaughter Charlotte. She's four.

Friday (St John of the Cross)

Usual AM routine. MP in the (cold) cathedral. Discussed some administrative/pastoral issues with the Archdeacon. Read, evaluated, and responded to a tentative plan for a major conference sponsored jointly by Nashotah House and The Living Church. Can't say anything about it yet, but it has the potential to be very exciting. Began work on the third meditation (or four) for the diocesan ECW retreat I am conducting in February. Broke away from that to have lunch with Bishop John Roth, my ELCA counterpart. We discussed a broad range of topics, but focused on our cooperative work in Cairo. On the way back to the office from lunch, I turned on the radio and heard about he massacre in Connecticut. The observance of Holy Innocents Day has been thrust upon us early this year. "Rachel weeping for her children ...". Returned to working on the retreat address. The material is based on St Paul's letter to the Philippians, and I am really enjoying working closely with the tex

Thursday (St Lucy)

As is becoming a Thursday habit, I began the day with a weight and treadmill workout (which I also try to do on Saturdays and Mondays). Processed a bunch of emails while at home. Morning Prayer at home. In the office around 9:30, where, in addition to fleshing out the skeleton of a sermon for Advent IV (Christ Church, Springfield), I spent most of the rest of the day writing two fairly long and substantive letters (emails, actually) that come generally under the category of pastoral care--one to a cleric and one to a layperson, both in the diocese. Both addressed decisions I have made that these individuals and others have found upsetting. Both required a good bit of thought and very careful wording. It would be tempting to think that, with all the demands on my time and attention, it was "wasteful" to spend as much time as I did addressing the concerns of only two individuals. Perhaps. But I had a good feeling afterward. I felt like I was actually doing my job, for what


Usual AM routine; Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Wrote a note of congratulation and appreciation to a retired priest of the diocese about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination. Wrote a letter to a Brazilian priest who is planning to take part in a graduate program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale this spring, the purpose of which is to help him and his wife secure travel documents from the U.S. government. Wrote a substantive email to a lay leader in one of our parishes regarding an emerging issue there. Traded several emails with a travel agent in an effort to make flight reservations for the Title IV "Conciliation" meeting to be held next month in Richmond, VA. Two other bishops and I are representing the five others who are respondents to a clergy misconduct complaint regarding statements we made to secular courts regarding the polity of the Episcopal Church. Planned and scheduled the individual tasks associated with two upcoming major p


Master weekly task planning at home, which was itself a substantial task! Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Prepared the cathedral chapel for the 12:15 Mass, at which I would be celebrant and preacher in the Archdeacon's absence. Took care of a small but highly-important and time-sensitive administrative act. Spoke by phone at some length with a former member (moved out of the area) of one of our parishes in an effort to gain further insight into an emerging issue there. First formal interview with an individual in the early stages of discerning a potential call to the priesthood. Presided and preached at the regular Tuesday 12:15 liturgy in the cathedral chapel. Lunch from McDonald's (McRib!), eaten at home. Processed a batch of emails. Sent an email related to the youth pilgrimage tour to England in June 2014. Took an incoming call from the Dean of Nashotah House. Took an incoming call from the Rector's Warden of Emmanuel, Champaign with the news that they hav

Second Sunday of Advent

Out the garage door at 7:25, gassed up, then headed south on I-55 through the mist and fog, exiting at Raymond and completing the trip to Salem via two-lane roads via Hillsboro, Coffeen, Vandalia, Sandoval, and Odin--even more familiar with rural Illinois, and wistful that these are all places where we have never had a church (though I suspect we may once have had work in Hillsboro and Vandalia). Arrived at St Thomas' Church at 9:35, ahead of the scheduled 10am regular Sunday Mass. It's a small congregation (attendance runs in the 30s), but they are "players" in the community and so were able to arrange the presence of a quite fine brass quintet to enhance our Advent worship. (I'm an old french horn player from school and college days, but haven't played since 1973. When I mentioned this to the quintet horn player, she handed me her instrument and invited me to see what kind of sound I would make. I'll only say that playing a french horn is evidently not

Homily for Advent II

St Thomas, Salem -- Luke 3:1-6 , Philippians 1:1-11, Baruch 5:1-9 I have a daughter who was a psychology major in college, and two nieces who are currently majoring in psychology. So, while my own experience in the field amounts to one undergraduate intro course in 1969, I’ve picked up a few tidbits about what the life of a psychology student, and one of these tidbits is that, at some point along the way, you are given the opportunity to spend quality time with furry rodents with long tales—lab rats. No doubt, some college students think that rats are cute, and others think them repulsive, but they had both better keep their feelings to themselves, because part of that exercise is to learn the discipline of scientific research, and part of that discipline is that the researcher does not get personally involved with his or her subjects. The idea is to create certain conditions, and then stand back and watch how the rats respond. You set up the maze or other test of intelligence an

Saturday (Conception of the BVM)

On the road at 9am to Trinity, Mt Vernon, arriving just before noon, where, with the liturgy beginning at 1pm, we ordained Bill Howard to the Sacred Order of Priests. Once again, there was an excellent turnout of clergy, and the church was packed. What a happy occasion. The post-liturgical festivities in the parish hall were so engaging that we didn't get out of there until nearly 4, which put us home in the neighborhood of 6:30. A full day.

Friday (St Ambrose)

Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Spent most of the morning processing emails. There were only a few to begin with, but they kept coming in faster than I could deal with them. Plotted my sermon preparation tasks between now and the beginning of Lent. Lunch at home. Placed a wax seal on the certificate for tomorrow's ordination. This is always a trial and error process, since we print several certificates. Applying wax is an acquired skill at which I am getting better, but it's still a matter of choosing the best result from several possibilities. Scanned and otherwise processed the accumulated hard copy detritus in my physical inbox. Made rough preparations for the second of four meditations for the ECW retreat in January. Prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. Evening Prayer in the cathedral. After a Mexican dinner out, Benda and I attended the Illinois Symphony Chamber Orchestra concert at St Agnes' Church.

Thursday (St Nicholas)

This was "one of those days." There's an emerging pastoral issue, with administrative implications, in one of our parishes that consumed most of my attention, most of it on the telephone. There was also another extended pastoral care telephone conversation with a member of another congregation. And the emails just kept streaming in. I did manage to get some work done on my sermon for Advent III (St Paul's, Carlinville) and write an Ad Clerum letter to the clergy. On days like this, I remind myself that people are not interruptions to my work; people are my work.

Wednesday (St Clement of Alexandria)

Some email processing and task planning at home. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.  Various time-consuming items of administrivia. Met with a priest from outside the diocese seeking pastoral care in the wake of the ongoing sad dissension and division within our own church. Spoke by phone with another priest outside the diocese in a very nearly identical situation. Lunch at home. Refined and printed a working draft of my sermon for this Sunday (St Thomas', Salem). More email processing and small administrative/pastoral tasks. Paid some attention to an important piece of the whole mission strategy puzzle. Planned some appropriate action items. Evening Prayer in the cathedral. In the evening, I cranked out  another blog post on the South Carolina mess .

Tuesday (St John of Damascus)

Weekly master task planning at home. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Conferred with the Archdeacon and the Treasurer over an exigent administrative matter. Met with the Trustees of the diocese, along with our investment advisors, for a regular update.  Met with Chancellor Kevin Babb to discuss some of the ins and outs of the ongoing Title IV case in which I am one of the respondents. Conferred by phone with Fr David Boase, President of the Standing Committee, over a couple of emerging issues. Began to process a fairly thick stack of emails. Lunch at home (leftovers). Re-engaged the email processing. Spoke by phone with a vestry member from one of our parishes regarding their search for an interim rector. Wrote an article for the  Springfield Current  that will be published next month. It will appear on the website January 7. Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Advent Sunday

Got to "beat down Satan under our feet" during the Great Litany at St Paul's, Pekin in the morning and sing my favorite seasonal hymns while presiding at Lessons & Carols at Christ Church Cathedral, St Louis in the evening (at the invitation of the Bishop of Missouri, of course, who had a schedule conflict). I love Advent.

Sermon for Advent Sunday

St Paul's, Pekin -- Luke 21:25-31, I Thessalonians 3:9-13 One of the great cinematic cliches that helps define the movie genre “western” is the arrival of the cavalry.  The wagon train has formed into a circle as a defensive measure. But the Indians outnumber the settlers and are attacking relentlessly, wave after wave. The settlers are fighting bravely, but they’re getting tired and several of them are wounded. They’re running out of ammunition, and don’t know how long they can hold out. Then, from a distance, a trumpet sounds. An American flag appears from over the rise, and the mounted soldiers in blue uniforms swoop down to chase the Indians away and rescue the beleaguered pilgrims.   That bugle call and that flag and those blue uniforms are signs: signs of hope, signs of imminent deliverance, signs of salvation close at hand. At least, that’s the way the story goes if you’re one of the settlers.  But what if you’re an Indian? That very same bugle call, and that v