Showing posts from March, 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 email

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 orda ined 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


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 (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 dev


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


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 thi

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 i

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 (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 (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 wi

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 t

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 (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.

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 (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 l

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 issu


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 contri


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 t

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 (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 journe


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 sc


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 conv


Regular early AM routine. Refined, edited, printed, and scheduled for posting my homily for tomorrow evening at the Solemn Mass in the Chapel of St Mary the Virgin at Nashotah House. Leveraged the fine weather and the fact of a doctor's appointment a bit short of two miles away (annual physical) and traveled on foot. Going there and back got me most of my step quota for the day. Pending lab result, it appears that I'm in pretty decent shape for a guy my age. Lunched (late) at home on leftovers. Did the same sort of homiletical finish work as before, this time on my sermon for this Sunday (Trinity, Mt Vernon). Sent a copy to a layperson in one of our communities that will be priestless this Sunday so he can read it there. Got the word that next week's scheduled meeting of the House of Bishops in Texas has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. (We will still "meet" online for a bit.) Dealt with United to get myself a credit toward future travel. Eve

Tuesday (John & Charles Wesley)

Usual early AM routine. Took Brenda to a doctor's appointment. Exchanged several emails with Chris Simpson, whom we are ordaining to the transitional diaconate on Saturday, nailing down details of the liturgy. Made an appointment with the Apple "Genius Bar" for later in the day. My laptop's display is starting to wig out, and it seems prudent to nip this in the bud. Communicated with our Nashotah seminarians toward the end of setting on one-on-one time with each of them when I'm on campus the day after tomorrow to preach. Reached out by phone to a priest of the diocese who has recently suffered the death of a close relative. Lunched on leftovers. Got to work on finishing my next-due post for the Covenant blog, which I began last week. Headed down via the Brown Line to the Apple Store in Lincoln Park. As I expected, my MacBook Pro needed to be sent to the shop. The good news is that it's still under warranty. Once back home, I had to resurrect the old

First Sunday in Lent

Up and out of my Urbana hotel room at 0800 heading east to arrive at Holy Trinity, Danville 30 minutes later. Presided, preached, and confirmed one adult at their regular 0900 liturgy. The parish seems to be quietly thriving under the pastoral care and leadership of Fr Richard Lewis. I was in the YfNBmobile pointed northward around 1145 and home in Chicago at 2:30. 

Sermon for Lent I

Matthew 4:1-11-- Holy Trinity, Danville On the first Sunday after the Epiphany each year, we are with Jesus as he meets John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan River and is baptized. Then we follow him around Galilee as he begins to go public with his ministry of preaching and teaching and healing, and attracts a band of followers. But we have skipped over something very important, something quite significant. The first Sunday in Lent each year, then, offers us an opportunity to go back and pick up that missing piece. Right after he was baptized, and before he began his public ministry, the gospels tell us, Jesus was “driven by the Spirit” into the Judean wilderness, for the express purpose, it appears, of being tempted by Satan. Actually, the temptations take place not all throughout our Lord’s retreat in the desert, but at the very end, just as he’s about to re-enter the real world. The Evil One tries to capitalize on the acute sense of need that anyone who had been alone in