Showing posts from January, 2013


Even sad duties bring relief when they are accomplished. Today was already set aside on the calendar for Archdeacon Denney and me to travel to Paris (not  that  Paris, but the one you can drive to from Springfield) and deconsecrate St Andrew's Church. The mission was dissolved and worship ceased there during Advent of 2011, there being only two regular communicants remaining, and we recently received a purchase offer on the building. (Not what we might have gotten for it some years ago, but a fair price in today's market.) My predecessor nine times removed, Bishop George Seymour, took title to the land sometime in the 1880s. The original church was razed and the current one built in 1966. As recently as the 1990s the congregation had parish status. But rural Illinois has not exactly boomed, even during boom times, and St Andrew's was never one of the larger churches in town. So it just dwindled away. We can ask ourselves a lot of "what if ...?" questions, but what

Wednesday (St Charles the Martyr)

Processed a long batch of emails while still at home, then had a longish phone conversation with the conductor of next week's clergy retreat. MP in the car on the way in. It was nearly 10 before I arrived. Between other tasks, much of my day was consumed with preparing for a Commission on Ministry meeting a week from Saturday. We are introducing several new potential ordinands to them and I want it to be as smooth a process as possible, which required a bunch of ducks to be gotten in a row via telephone and email and personal conversations with the Archdeacon. Approved drafts of the clergy retreat worship booklet. Produced a working script for this Sunday's homily at Trinity, Lincoln. Talked with Fr Evans about this Sunday's visit and some business related to our companion diocese relationships. Lunch at home. Administrivia. Descended into successive layers of technology hell as I tried to complete online (as it is required for the first time this year) a United Th


Had breakfast with my old friend, Bishop Little of Northern Indiana. Then it was back to the Province V Bishops meeting for the balance of the morning. We discussed matters of pastoral policy. We're all in slightly different places on a range of different questions, and we all benefit, I believe, from one another's differing perspectives. It's good for us to have a community of accountability in our ministry of oversight.  We adjourned right before lunchtime (for which we were on our own). As it turned out, Bishop Ousley of Eastern Michigan also had a train to catch. So we took the CTA Blue Line together to the Loop, then enjoyed Italian beef sandwiches--a Chicago classic--at Al's Beef on E. Jackson. Then back to Union Station to await our respective rides home. It was fun to hang out. Unlike yesterday morning, this time the Wi-Fi on the train was fully functional, enabling me to be a productivity machine the entire way. It's amazing how fast that trip see

Monday (St Thomas Aquinas)

Caught the 6:32 Amtrak departure from Springfield (it actually arrived early) to Chicago for a short meeting of the bishops from Province V. Despite the lack of a wi-fi connection (a decal on my window said "Your seat is a Hot Spot") I got a pretty fair amount of work done on my laptop. Time efficiently spent, and much less expensive than driving. After negotiating the CTA Blue Line from Union Station to a hotel near O'Hare without incident, I was able to check in to my room and process some emails. Then it was the rest of the afternoon with my bishop colleagues. Our agenda for these things is always rather informal. We discussed administrative changes in the national church office, the situation in South Carolina, and some ecumenical concerns. We had a splendid dinner at Carlucci's, the restaurant attached to the Marriott.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

I intentionally try to schedule visits to my closer-in parishes during the months with the highest potential for disruptive weather. This morning reinforced that strategy. With freezing rain coating the pavement, it might have been difficult or impossible to reach some parts of the diocese. But with a little extra caution, St Luke's right here in Springfield turned out to be eminently doable. And we ended up with nearly a full house. St Luke's is an eminently vital eucharistic community, and it was a joy to share word and sacrament with them.

Sermon for Epiphany III

St Luke's, Springfield -- Luke 4:14-21 Of all the jobs around a parish church that have to be filled by a lay volunteer, the most challenging has got to be that of Junior Warden, or, as we say in the Diocese of Springfield, Parish Warden or Mission Warden. This person’s area of oversight is usually the physical plant, so he or she gets the phone call when the basement floods or there's a fire in the kitchen or the furnace won't come on. I've known many Junior Wardens who have performed in an exemplary fashion—and are even still Christians when their term expires!—but I would guess that even those good ones have embraced the position more as an opportunity to serve than for the inherent rewards of the job itself. It is a daunting responsibility. Not all of us will get to put in time as a Junior Warden. I, for one, have gone so far as to get ordained so as to be permanently disqualified! But many, if not most, of us have had the experience of taking on a leadersh

Conversion of St Paul

Brief devotions in the cathedral; MP in the office (the cathedral is cold!). Consulted various commentaries on the readings for the First Sunday in Lent, did some active listening, and emerged with a basic message that I trust will evolve into a sermon before I stand up to preach in the cathedral on February 17. Hand-wrote notes to clergy and spouses with milestone events in February. Lunch at home. Did some more liturgical prep for the clergy retreat. Consulted some sources in preparation for the annual Chrism Mass (aka Liturgy of Collegiality) and laid plans for a few changes to recent past practices. Friday personal prayer: Meditation on the passage from Acts narrating the conversion of St Paul. What a stunning and completely sovereign act of God--the same God who is still capable of such sovereign acts. How many "enemies of the cross of Christ" will one day be disciples--yea, apostles--of that same Jesus? Took care of some personal organization and website mainte


Usual Thursday morning weight/treadmill workout routine. (Also happens most Saturdays and most Mondays.) Morning Prayer in the car on the way in. (I can do most of the canticles and prayers from memory; I looked over the readings when I got into the office.) Processed a batch of emails. Produced a complete but as yet unrefined script of a sermon for Epiphany IV (Trinity, Lincoln). Consulted with cathedral staff over liturgies of Ash Wednesday and Lent I, at which I am presiding and preaching. Lunch at home. Saw to a small but important task related to mission strategy. Did some personal organization maintenance of the "once every year or two" variety; namely, thoroughly going through the top and innards of the credenza behind my desk, throwing out a bunch of stuff and trying to impose some semblance of order on the rest.  Fleshed out an refined the second of four addresses to be delivered at the diocesan ECW retreat in March. Did a little more very short-form music

Wednesday (Phillips Brooks)

Task planning and some light reading at home over breakfast; Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Refined my homily for this Sunday (St Luke's, Springfield). Spoke at length via Skype video with Canon Ian Montgomery of the Diocese of Peru (he was in his office in Lima). Peru is one of our two new companion dioceses, and it was good to be able to develop a better mental map of the country and the work of the church there. It's time to start serious planning about sending a delegation from Springfield down there for an initial visit. Attended to various relatively trivial administrative and personal organization matters. Lunch at home. Worked a good bit more on a UTO grant application for our other new companion diocese--Tabora in Tanzania. We're trying to help Bishop Elias get funding for a new vehicle, which he desperately needs. Spoke by phone with one of our clergy over a rather sensitive pastoral/administrative matter. Scored some epically cheap Amtrak tickets for n

Tuesday (St Vincent of Saragossa)

Weekly and daily task planning, and some email processing, at home. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Aside from some brief consultations with the Archdeacon and Administrator, spent the rest of the morning clearing my desk, literally. Lots of reading, scanning, and task-creating. Lunch at home. Processed a batch of emails. Worked on liturgies for the clergy retreat. Worked on some issues around the process of discernment and formation for ordination. Began work on an "aspirational" liturgical customary for churches of the diocese, something that grew out of last November's conference for clergy and musicians. Evening Prayer in the office. In the evening, finished writing a book review for  The Living Church .

Second Sunday after Epiphany

After I send out my visitation schedule for the coming calendar year sometime each fall, there is a bit of shuffling and re-dealing. As a result, I ended up with no visit scheduled for today. At the same time, our son has an exhibition of his art going on in Chicago, and the show's opening reception was last night. So we decided to make it an overnight. This morning I got to sit in a pew at St Paul's-by-the Lake, Chicago. It was a privilege to worship in that devout and astonishingly ethnically diverse parish. Afterward I met for a while with the rector and a Nashotah House seminarian who is from St Paul's.

Confession of St Peter

Back now from a six day sojourn in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the weekend, I had a chance to spend quality time with the clergy, vestry, and people of the Church of the Holy Communion there. Holy Communion has for more than a century been the Angl0-Catholic shrine parish of the Low Country (and probably the entire state). They are in the uncomfortable position is holding great affection for and being largely in sympathy with Bishop Mark Lawrence and the majority of the diocese, which has severed its ties to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, but not being inclined to follow their friends in that move. It was a privilege to be able to offer them some pastoral care and encouragement.  While in the area, Brenda and I took the opportunity to indulge in a three day mini-vacation Monday through Wednesday. The weather was unseasonably lovely (70s every day), and it turned out we were there for Restaurant Week, so there were tasty deals to be had throughout that city&#


We had a wonderful time with the clergy and people of Holy Communion, Charleston over the weekend. I preached at both Masses yesterday and celebrated the principal liturgy, which included the baptism of a 10-week old little girl. What a joy that is. Holy Communion is one of the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina where there seems to be a consensus toward remaining in the Episcopal Church even as the diocese itself has formally departed. It is a painful place to be, since they love their bishop and the web of relationships they have with the diocese. My job was to be an encouraging presence. a sign that they are not alone in their awkward place. Brenda and I are now going to enjoy a three day mini-vacation here in Charleston and its environs (and enjoying the beautiful and unseasonable days in the 70s!). We fly home on Thursday. Appropriately, then, this space will go dark during that time.

Homily for Epiphany I: Baptism of Christ

Church of the Holy Communion, Charleston, SC -- Luke 3:15-16,22-22 ; Isaiah 42:1-9 As you might imagine, the work I did for 22 years in parish ministry, and now nearly two years in the episcopate, put me regularly in touch with the entire array of human need, from the trivial to the profound. You may not believe this, but, when clergy get together informally, we sometimes try to outdo one another in sharing our favorite Discretionary Fund request stories—those that are true, those that are obvious fabrications, and especially those that are clever fabrications.  And as if the human need I and other clergy actually have to face personally weren’t enough, all we have to do is turn on a news station on the radio, and the scale of human need seems incalculable. I sometimes have the sense of the whole world being one big need, one big problem, one big bottomless-pit demand.  The world is indeed a needy place; human need abounds.  There is hunger, there is pain, there is poverty, t


This was a travel day, and everything went smoothly--Springfield to Chicago, Chicago to Charleston, picked up rental car, drove to hotel in downtown historic district, wonderful dinner on King Street. Time for lights out.

Thursday (William Laud)

I returned last night from my two-day trip to Virginia to take part in a "conciliation" conference with respect to the Title IV disciplinary complaints that have been filed against made and seven other bishops. Sadly, I am constrained by several forces from saying anything more about either the process or the fruit of the meeting at this time. I know there is apprehension and speculation in many quarters, and it is immensely frustrating to me that I cannot say anything to allay anxiety and quiet speculation. Please be patient ... and pray for my own patience! Dealing with some of this detritus kept me up until the neighborhood of 1am, so I did not get a very energetic start to the day. Emails always accumulate when I travel (despite my attempts to process many of them on the go), so I had a good batch to deal with at home. I arrived in the office just in time to attend the 10am Standing Committee meeting. I very much value their ministry to me as a Council of Advice. Af


Today marked the beginning of my third cycle of parish visitations, and it was an honor to be with the good people of Trinity Church, Jacksonville. We celebrated the feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ in spirit and truth. The memorable sign of the times took place in the parish hall after the liturgy. There was a video loop with a musical sound track being projected on a screen at one end of the room. When it came time for me to "say a few words" to the group, the sound track, while turned down low already, was noticeably annoying. Fr Ashmore got up to turn it down, but ... nothing changed. I turned and saw a flummoxed look on his face. Then a lovely ten-year old girl calmly got up, walked over, picked some a remote device, and the sound went down. There was nothing more to say.

Homily for Epiphany

Trinity, Jacksonville -- Matthew 2:1-12, Ephesians 3:1-12 Today we hear from Matthew’s gospel about a very strange and mysterious encounter between God and a group of Persian (most likely Persian, at any rate, according to most scholars)—a group of Persian astrologers (there’s no concrete indication that there were three of them, nor is there any evidence that they were actually kings, though there’s nothing radically  wrong  with our traditional popular images of them)—we hear today from St Matthew’s gospel about these “Wise Men” or “Magi,” as they are often referred to, who felt an inexplicable invitation and urge to follow a strange and mysterious sign in the sky to an obscure village an hour or so (by camel, that is) from Jerusalem. But they didn’t really have a whole lot of solid material to go on, despite what we sing about the symbolic significance of their gifts We also sometimes feel a strange and mysterious sense of the presence and invitation of God in our lives. W


Usual morning routine; MP in the cathedral. Processed a small batch of snail mail that had arrived on my desk. Wrote an email to a colleague bishop on a matter of mutual concern. Prepared the readings and made mental notes for a homily at this evening's Eucharist with those gathered for a Youth Department-sponsored lock-in at the cathedral. Worked on planning worship for next month's clergy pre-Lenten retreat. Lunch at home--leftovers. Continued and completed my worship planning project. Made the final physical preparations for the Eucharist (which we celebrated in the Great Hall, so there was nothing routine about it). It involved several trips across the alley and back--as well as a drive home to retrieve some communion bread that Brenda had just baked for us.  Spoke by phone at some length with a sales representative for one of the church database service companies we have begun conversations with. Evening Prayer in the office. Answered an Ember Day letter from o


Usual Thursday morning weight and treadmill workout. Morning Prayer (short form) in the car on the way in. Arrived in the office a little past 9:00. This was "one of those days" when there were not only unscheduled distractions, but unscheduled distractions interrupting other unscheduled distractions (and sometimes yet another layer on top of those). It was hard to get traction on my planned to-do list. No tragedy. Not even a minor frustration.  Produced a working script of my sermon for January 13, which is set to be delivered at the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, South Carolina. Trying to lock this one down early since next week is heavy with travel. Take-out lunch from China 1, eaten in the office. (If you go there for the buffet, get there early. I arrived at 12:20 and it was cleaned out, so I had to order off the menu.) Met with Abby Yeley, one of the youth members of the Youth Department, to further develop plans for tomorrow night's Eucharist at


Task planning for the week at home, along with some general note-making toward the five retreat addresses I will deliver to the priests of the Diocese of Albany in April. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Dashed off an email note to clergy in charge of congregations on some liturgical technicalities related to the transition on the office of Archbishop of Canterbury and our new companion diocese relationships. I've been asked to celebrate the Eucharist for a Youth Department event this weekend at the cathedral. Any celebration of the Eucharist deserves careful planning, particularly when the occasion is outside of anyone's routine, so I spent some time on site developing ideas and communicating with key players. Spoke by phone at some length with a potential interim rector for St Andrew's, Carbondale. Replied to an Ember Day letter from one of our seminarians. Lunch at home--leftovers. Produced a working script for my homily this Sunday (Trinity, Jacksonville). Surv