Showing posts from January, 2014


What's amazing to me about complicated travel plans is not how much goes wrong but how little goes wrong. Brenda left Springfield on the 6:30am northbound train, which actually departed at 7:15. About that same time, I drove off the Nashotah House campus after last night's glorious ordination of Ben Hankinson to the transitional diaconate. I met Brenda as she emerged from the train in Chicago Union Station right around 11. We drove out to O'Hare, parked in "Economy Lot" F, took a shuttle bus, then an airport train to the United terminal, and checked in. My boarding pass was marked "TSA Pre," which means I get through security very quickly. Alas, Brenda's was not similarly marked, and it seemed to take forever for her to get through, at which time we were barely more than 20 minutes from scheduled departure, still a good way from our gate, and Brenda's feet hurting from a regrettable choice of shoes when she left home. But when we got to the gate,

Tuesday (St Thomas Aquinas)

Still hanging up at Nashotah House, where I'm working with a task group of the Board of Trustees as we try to reform and beef up our governance structures. It's the ATS that has made this urgent, but they have done us a favor, as the institution will be much stronger as a result. Walking across the beautiful campus in sub-zero temperatures is ... invigorating.

Monday (St John Chrysostom)

Braved my way north 200 miles  through the bitter cold to Nashotah House, where I'm engaged in board-related business until Thursday, when, in the evening, it will be my joy to ordain Ben Hankinson to the transitional diaconate. In the meantime, there's no wifi where I'm lodging--this is being banged out on an iPhone--so dispatches will be succinct. Stay warm.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

... except at St Paul's Cathedral, Springfield, where it was the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, observed as their patronal festival. It was my joy to preside and preach at a single 9am liturgy with a nicely fullish-feeling church. The brunch served afterward in the Great Hall was superb.

Sermon for the Conversion of St Paul

St Paul's Cathedral, Springfield- - Acts 26:9-21 We all have lots of stories we could tell, about lots of things. These stories are the way we mentally organize our experience of the world, whether it’s the story of my drive to the cathedral this morning from my home, or the story of the birth of my first child, or the story of the rise and fall of Russian communism. The stories we tell provide the vocabulary and the grammar and the plot by which we make sense of ourselves, make sense of our relationships, and make sense of the world around us. Those who study such things have a slightly more sophisticated name for these stories—they’re called  narratives . We all have networks of large and small narratives. Sometimes narratives are “amplified” to serve a purpose. As the federal government tries to call attention to the new Affordable Care Act, they have seeded the media and cyberspace with a certain narrative about that law; and, of course, the opponents of the Affordable


While still at home, posted the teaching  video I've been working on t o the diocesan website, and edited a b log post I wrote yesterday  evening and launched it into cyberspace. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Processed a few emails. Produced a rough draft of a homily for the feast of the Presentation, to be delivered February 2 at Holy Communion, Charleston, SC. Lunch at home--leftovers. Processed some more emails. Having perceived a need for me, as the one who sits at the top of the pyramid, to be more personally conversant regarding diocesan finances, I spent a good bit of time looking at a recent Balance Sheet, asking some questions, and making some notes. Yes, we are blessed to have competent and dedicated people who take care of these details, and I don't need to learn to do their jobs. But it behooves me to be more knowledgeable than I have up to this point been. Friday prayer-- lectio divina  on the part of Isaiah 45 appointed for Morning Prayer on tomorrow

Thursday (Phillips Brooks)

Thursday early AM exercise: weights and treadmill. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Attended to some travel details on behalf of a Pakistani priest who will be visiting us in the diocese next month. Got started on uploading the video I edited yesterday. It took all day and then some. I must be doing something wrong. Spent the rest of the morning straightening and cleaning out the credenza behind my desk. This is an annual chore. It's not glamorous work, and might even seem frivolous. But it always seems to yield a hidden treasure or two--things tucked away rather haphazardly, and then forgotten. In any event, I can safely say I'm more organized now than I was 24 hours ago. Lunch from Chi-Town--Italian beef--eaten at home. More scheduled maintenance, this time a semi-annual tightening up of my general document files (in my case, all in Dropbox). Ditto what I said above about feeling more organized. Processed the hard-copy in my physical inbox--mostly scanning. This was s

Wednesday (St Vincent of Saragossa)

Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Attended to some details and wrote an email in connection to next week's ordination of Ben Hankinson to the transitional diaconate. Hand-wrote notes to clergy and spouses with February birthdays and anniversaries. Lunch from KFC, eaten at home. Followed up with a long-delayed project of chasing down a lead for a company that might be able to help us move our database management at the diocesan level out of the Middle Ages. I'm cautiously optimistic. Followed up on another long-delayed project: Finding a convenient way for churches and others who didn't get around to ordering a formal portrait of YFNB to be able to do so, not that my late brother is no longer able to fulfill that function. A substantive step in the right direction. Edited video of Session 4 (of 5) from last Lent's series  Reading the Bible for Dummies . Hope to have it available on the website tomorrow sometime. Began to flesh out plans for *this* year's Lente

Tuesday (St Agnes)

Weekly task planning at home. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Edited and refined my homily for this Sunday (Conversion of St Paul, celebrating the cathedral's feast of title). Met with the Provost and the organist to begin the process of planning music for the liturgies of Holy Week. Lunch at home. Leftovers. Followed up on some tasks emanating from the morning's meeting. Produced a first draft of a homily for Epiphany V (9 February at Trinity, Lincoln). Spoke by phone with the Rector's Warden of one of our parishes over an emerging and potentially sensitive issue. Attended to some administrative details related to the coming youth pilgrimage to England. Made an important first step on what will be an extended project to recast a vision for diaconal ministry in the diocese. Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The roads were not horrible this morning, but they were dicey enough that I was glad I didn't have to drive very far for my Sunday visitation, Christ Church in Springfield being less than three miles from my home. Presided and preached at their two regular services, and spoke to a lively adult class between them, giving an account of our November trip to our companion Diocese of Tabora.

Sermon for Epiphany II

Christ Church, Springfield -- John 1:29-41 How’s your day going? We hear that question from time to time, don’t we? So, what’s your definition of a good day? I’ll tell you mine: A good day is when I feel like I’ve been efficient with the tasks that were set before me and effective with the people associated with those tasks. Most of the time, that happens, so most of my days are “good days,” though certainly not always. Our lives are complex and elaborate. With the internet now, we pretty much have information on anything we want information on within a matter of seconds. Then it becomes a full-time job just to organize and keep up with all the information. It commands our constant attention. It invites us to define “success” in very short-term categories—tactical categories, we might say—things like getting the bills paid, completing a project at work or school, accomplishing a particular household chore, remembering to channel our anger and express our positive feelings appropri

Confession of St Peter

Aside from my usual weight and treadmill workout in the morning, it was a relaxed day at home. I did process a thick handful of emails. In the evening, fulfilling a desire and intent to get back into regular blogging, I  posted these thoughts.  Have a look. 

Friday (St Antony)

Morning Prayer in the cathedral. With the exception of breaks for brief consultations with staff members over sundry issues, I spent the morning--till about 12:30, actually--plotting out my sermon prep from Lent through Pentecost. This involves taking stock of where I'm going to be on any given Sunday, looking back through old sermons written for the same propers to determine whether previously-used material can be repurposed, or whether I need to start from scratch--each of which generates a different set of tasks that have to be assigned to particular dates ... it's complicated, but if I do this about three times a year, it makes everything else much less stressful. Lunch from KFC, eaten at home. Communicated by email with Bishop Chakupewa in Tabora over the possibility of trying again for a UTO grant. Cleanout the downloads folder on my laptop. Would the world have stopped if I didn't do this? Of course not. But it's been on my to-do list for several months, and


Regular Thursday weight and treadmill workout. Morning Prayer (short memorized form) in the car on the way in to the office. Interacted on a listserv over the draft of a liturgical customary that I posted there yesterday. There were some very helpful comments that will enable me to refine the document. Produced a rough draft of a sermon for the Feast of the Presentation (February 2 at Holy Communion, Charleston, SC). Interacted more with the listserv. Lunch from the Chinese place next to TG (the name of which I forget at the moment), eaten at home. Attended to some administrative work relative to clergy deployment. Sketched some of the broad strokes of the Lenten teaching series I have been invited to give at St John's, Decatur. Shopped online for a couple of albs. Two of the alb-styles that I like to have on hand are worn by decades of use. It's time to replace them. Attended via email to a couple of tasks relating to the diocesan mission strategy. Evening Prayer in


Enjoyed a major technological learning curve victory while still at home, as Session 3 of my Reading the Bible for Dummies teaching series from last Lent successfully posted to YouTube, and then to the website. Now if I can remember what I did when I try to do it again ... Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Took care of some administrivia--namely, printing out a form and signing it, indicating my consent for the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania to retire. Yes, sometimes my life is that exciting. Arrived at a central message and plotted the major moves of my homily for the feast of the Presentation--February 2 at the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, S.C. This part of the sermon prep process is probably the most difficult. I find it very laborious, and would compare it to giving birth if I didn't think virtually all women who  have  given birth would find that a little silly. Lunch at home. Leftover brisket tacos. Cleaned out, via scanning, my physical inbox. Finished p


Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Spent most of the morning handling a range of emails, some of which generated ancillary tasks. Met with the cathedral Provost to begin the process of planning the Holy Week liturgies. Lunch from TG, eaten at home. Refined and printed a working text for this Sunday's homily, to be delivered at Christ Church, Springfield. Worked on editing a video of one of last year's Lenten teaching series events in Bloomington. (Yes, a little behind on this project.) Did battle with iMovie. When it was time to go, iMovie was still winning. I then continued the struggle after dinner at home for most of the evening. Cautiously optimistic that I have made some progress. I hate learning curves. Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

First Sunday after Epiphany (Baptism of Christ)

Great visit to St Michael's, O'Fallon. Baptized one and confirmed a bunch (about 8, I think). 105 souls in the room. Under Fr Wetmore's leadership of about one year, the median age has decreased dramatically and giving is up. May their tribe increase.  After wrapping things up at St Michael's, we headed east on I-64 for Mt Vernon, where I had a brief but highly productive meeting with their vestry. We needed to talk about transition issues arising from Fr Tucker's intended departure for points east.

Sermon for Epiphany I

St Michael's, O'Fallon  --  Matthew 3:13-17 , Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-38 Those among us who have been to college, or who have sent children to college, have all probably run across a particular type of professor. This person is firmly convinced it is his or her job to “weed out” unworthy students. The class is made so demanding that only the brightest and luckiest can pass it, and a great percentage of students fail, even though they are intelligent and conscientious. A little bit of extra effort and consideration on the part of the teacher would have enabled them to master the material and pass the course, but that was considered outside the job description. One wonders what lies behind such behavior. Is it pure sadism? Incompetence? A sense of duty to let only a certain number into a particular profession? Whatever the answer is, it’s one thing to engage in such speculation about a college professor. It’s quite another to go through the same sort of mental gyration


Met in the morning with the task force charged with reimagining (and therefore eventually rewriting) our diocesan constitution and canons. I delivered myself of some broad stroke observations, with a few finer points laced in, and then left them to their work. It's a group of very smart people, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. After some exercise and reading (and a bit of napping) time in the afternoon, we packed up and headed for O'Fallon, where we blessed the home of Fr Ian and Kathy (and Sarah) Wetmore, along with some of the folks from St Michael's Church. A really lovely occasion. Looking forward to tomorrow's liturgy of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

Friday (William Laud)

Back to a more normal routine; Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Refined and printed a working text for this Sunday's homily, to be delivered at St Michael's, O'Fallon. Finished (finally!) a full first draft of  An Aspirational Customary for Celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in the Diocese of Springfield . Now on to editing and vetting before publication. Lunch from La Bamba (eaten at home). Reviewed my notes from last year's observance of Holy Week at the cathedral, in preparation for sitting down with the Provost and talking about this year. Laid out all the specific tasks I can think of in connection with preparing for this June's youth pilgrimage to England. Reviewed and mulled over some materials from  Renewal Works , a resource for spiritual vitality that I believe has great potential for our diocese. Took phone calls from two of our parish clergy. Small bit of administrivia in connection with one of my DEPO parishes. Evening Prayer in the cathedral.


... and we're back. Out of retreat mode now and fully plugged in. The ad hoc undisclosed location worked pretty well, and I feel like I got the physical and mental rest, the spiritual challenge and refreshment, and the slightly more integrated prayer that are normally the expected fruits of a retreat. Very grateful.


Heading now into a time of personal retreat--about 48 hours. It was supposed to be at St Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, MI, but road conditions resulting from the polar vortex nixed that plan. So I'm retreating at an undisclosed location. I'm will be sans wifi, with only a 4G iPhone connection to the outside world. Going dark on social media. See you Thursday afternoon.

Second Sunday after Christmas

When I make my annual visitation calendar, I try to plug the closer-in churches into months when the weather could potentially be challenging. This morning was an example of why this is a wise thing. After it snowed most of the night, with blowing and drifting out on the highways, it would have been highly problematic to get anywhere out of town. But making it to St Luke's, barely three miles down South Grand Avenue from my house, in time for a 10:30am celebration, was eminently doable. Attendance was down, of course, but we still have what I would guess is around half the normal attendance for that liturgy on a normal weekend. So the feast of the Second Sunday after Christmas was duly kept, including a coffee hour with substantial food.

Sermon for Christmas II

St Luke's, Springfield -- Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 OK, indulge me for a little while, because we’re going to rehearse some really basic stuff—“Christianity 101” kind of stuff. This sermon will be short and to the point. First, God made the world. Whether you believe He did it literally in seven 24-hour days, or over millions of years through evolutionary processes, makes no difference. Either way, God made it. Second, God made human beings to have a special relationship with Him, unique among all creatures. We are made in God’s “image,” which means that we have the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong, to make rational decisions, and—most of all—to love and be loved. Third, we—meaning all of us collectively and each of us individually—we have screwed up big time. We have wasted the gift of being made in God’s image. We have inherited what is, in effect, a defective gene, one that causes us to put ourselves, our own big egos, in the number one p


Still in recovery from the post-Christmas bug. The cough is still problematic, but I feel pretty well otherwise. Brenda, however, is about three days behind me. Morning Prayer in my study at home. Got back into my exercise routine--weights and treadmill. Did some grocery shopping in anticipation of a lot of snow. The stores were mobbed. Responded to a sensitive email request. Worked on my sermon for the Conversion of St Paul (January 26 in the cathedral). Arrived at a central message and plotted the broad strokes of the delivery. Evening Prayer in my study. Processed a stack of emails, pastoral and administrative. Still waiting for the snow to arrive.


Morning Prayer at home. Began preparing for the Eucharist I had promised to celebrate for tonight's Youth Department lockin: identified the propers, printed out the readings, prepared for the Prayers of the People.  After tending to some relatively minor administrative details, headed out at 10:30 toward Decatur. Met with Fr Swan in his office at St John's. Then we went to lunch at Lock, Stock, & Barrell near the Millikin University campus. I'm doing the teaching component of the midweek Lenten programs this year, so this was an opportunity to sketch the broad strokes. Returned to the office a little past 2pm and continued with my liturgical preparations: setting up the room (the Great Hall at the cathedral), thinking through some of the physical details of the liturgy, and roughing out a homily in my head.  Processed some emails as they arrived. Brought to maturity a rough draft of the sermon that has been gestating for Epiphany II (to be given the 19th of this


Brisk start to the day behind a snow blower taking care of the 2-3 inches that piled up overnight. Dreading the bitter cold that is yet to arrive. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Took care of some administrative chores relative to clergy deployment. Addressed on ongoing pastoral issue via email. Refined and printed a working text of my homily for Christmas II--this Sunday at St Luke's, Springfield. Addressed, via email, a small issue concerning an upcoming parish visit. Began the work of exegeting the gospel reading for February 2, when the feast of the Presentation trumps the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, and I will be visiting my DEPO parish in Charleston, SC--Holy Communion. Lunch at home--yummy chili soup. Continued the exegetical work I began before lunch. This is a rich passage, and Joseph Fitzmyer's classic commentary is probably still the best out there in English. Scanned and otherwise processed the pile of hard copy items in my physical inbox. If you ev