Showing posts from December, 2020

Christmas Homily

Springfield Cathedral -- Luke 2:7 During the first nearly eight years of my time as Bishop of Springfield, Brenda and lived in a spacious home in Leland Grove, as some of you know. It had four bedrooms, including a former master suite, bearing that title before the current master suite was developed over the garage. I can’t say we used those bedrooms very many times, other than when our children and grandchildren were visiting us at Christmastime, but it was nice to be able to say, at least, “We have a guest room,” and we did, in fact, use the former master suite a few times for people other than family. Now, of course, we live in a 1500 square foot apartment that has three rooms that are classified as “bedrooms,” but only one actual bed! So, on those rare occasions when we want to have overnight company, they stay up on the third-floor apartment, our daughter’s, where there are all of two beds. Yet, not having a guest room doesn’t necessarily prevent the exercise of hospitality. Have

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Up and out of my Effingham hotel room at the quite reasonable hour of 0815, having already had time for Morning Prayer and email perusal in my room, in order to arrive at St Thomas', Salem half and hour ahead of their regular 0930 liturgy. I presided and preached (as "supply" this time, since they're in transition)--again, with everybody observing very strict pandemic protocols. Afterward, we had a short plenary meeting into order to get the same conversation going in Salem that I had already initiated in Mt Vernon and Centralia involving a vision of a shared future for those three relatively proximate congregations. I was back home right at 4:00. In view of the impending holidays, when routines get trampled, I'm going to go dark in this space for a couple of weeks, until January 5 (the evening wen I expect to be ordaining Carter Aikin to the priesthood in Carlinville at a very small "invitation only" service). My plan is to be at the cathedral on Christ

Sermon for IV Advent

  St Thomas’, Salem -- Luke 1:26-38 , 2 Samuel 7:4,8-16, Romans 16:25-27 Many of you are probably familiar with the comic strip Dilbert. I read it every day. It seems to capture the realities of work life in corporate America in a deliciously cynical way. A while ago, I read an interview with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, and he is indeed a cynic of the first order. He’s a cynic even about himself, and without knowing it, he’s become an influential theologian—a PR man for the Christian doctrine of original sin. Adams seems a pleasant enough fellow, and obviously has a great sense of humor, but he has a very dark view of human nature. He sees very clearly that every person has a streak of fundamental dishonesty and selfishness that is often repressed but is always itching to come to the surface. Dilbert is so popular, I would suspect, because a great many people share Scott Adams’ cynical outlook on life. Cynicism is rampant in our culture. And one of the fruits of cynicism, quit

Saturday (O Radix Jesse)

Attended to domestic concerns (chores and errands) until it was time to pack for an overnight and a 3pm southbound departure. Arrived at Effingham's Hampton Inn about 7:15, having prayed the evening office in a rest area, dinner from KFC drive-thru south of Kankakee, and gas in Mattoon. Once I was checked in and unpacked, I grabbed a vigorous 5,000 steps, just to get me to my daily goal. 


  Did the finish work on this Sunday's homily--which included sending a copy off by email to a Marine officer who will deliver it as he presides at Morning Prayer with his family ... in Okinawa. Perused my backlog of Christmas sermons, and selected one that can be convincingly refurbished for use this year at St Paul's Cathedral. Both the top contenders worked the "room in the inn" theme, so that's what I'm going with. Attended a 75-minute Zoom meeting of the House of Bishops "Table 10," with the Bishops of Spokane and South Dakota, and the Assisting Bishop of Long Island. The Bishop of Southwestern Virginia and the retired bishop of Arizona are part of this group as well, but circumstances conspired against their attendance. Did an Ignatian meditation on the daily office gospel reading for the day ... plus the usual afternoon walk with Brenda.


The first major project of the day was the drafting of my regular "column" in the Springfield Current that will appear around Epiphany. The second was working through a stack of Advent Ember Day letters from our postulants and candidates, and responding to each. In addition, I worked some more with the postulant whom I am coaching on learning to preach (he's coming along quite well), and read and responded to a detailed report from one of our interim clergy on the parish he is tending to.


 Big stuff: Finished the pastoral letter on tithing, diocesan assessments, and giving to the national church. It's now up on the website. Carefully perused the materials of some aspiring potential candidates for one or more of our parishes in transition. Smaller stuff: Participated substantively in a theological discussion among authors for the Covenant blog. I'm sometimes intimidated by the group because the majority of them have PhDs and are way more current on their reading than I am. But sometimes I feel like I've got "skin in the game" on a particular subject, and this was one of those occasions. Administration and pastoral care via sundry emails. Descended into the customer service hell of Comcast and Ameren (the actual phone function on my phone had stopped working, and the gas was inexplicably shut off at our Springfield home, which is, praise God, under contract, but the inspector couldn't do his work). Both issues were successfully resolved, but not


 Big rocks: Attended a 2.5 hour meeting of about 50 bishops with executives of the Church Pension Group. There was no big breaking news. They're just seeing to their PR needs among the leaders of their constituency--not just doing the right thing, but being seen doing the right thing. CPG is a complex entity. Not only to they operate their core business, which is clergy and lay pensions, but they also run the health insurance plan for church employees (contracting with Blue Cross and CIGNA for plan administration), a property/casualty insurance company, and a publishing company. Made substantial progress in the drafting of a pastoral letter to the diocese on the subject of financial support: parishioners of parishes, parishes of the diocese, the diocese of the "national church." Things aren't always as simple as they seem, and there's some serious theology involved. I hope have the letter live on the website sometime tomorrow. Smaller rocks: Wrote a congratulator

Third Sunday of Advent

Broke camp in my office lodging. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Continued the gradual project of moving items from office to home. After a stop at Hardee's drive-through for some breakfast (I have to say, for a fast-food joint, they make exceptional biscuits and gravy), I was on IL-29 through Rochester and Taylorville to Pana, then down U.S. 51 through Vandalia and Sandoval and finally to Centralia. I am going to really miss driving through central and southern Illinois countryside as part of the regular routine of my life. Arrived at St John's-Redeemer a full hour ahead of their regular 1130 Eucharist. Presided and preached in an exceedingly disciplined environment with regard to COVID precautions. Afterward, there was a relatively brief meeting with the Mission Leadership Team (everyone masked and spread out all over the nave) to discuss their future in a post-Father Baumann world, which will arrive soon enough, though we don't know when with any precision. I was on the

Sermon for III Advent

  St John’s, Centralia -- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28, Psalm 126 Back in the early and mid-eighties, in the years just before I went off to seminary, I was deeply involved, as a lay catechist, in the preparation of adults for baptism and confirmation. It was a pretty intense process, and it was our habit to take each year’s crop of candidates on a brief retreat—a fasting retreat, actually—in the middle of the Paschal Triduum. We would leave for a nearby retreat center right after the conclusion of the Good Friday liturgy, and bring them back into town mid-afternoon on Holy Saturday, where everybody had just a few hours to recharge before coming back to church for the Easter Vigil, when the baptisms would take place. I still have an image burned into my memory from one of those years. We were on our way to the retreat, just a couple of blocks from the church. I was in somebody else’s car, not driving. I happened to glance up at a marquee promoting a hotel restaurant and lounge. All it said

Saturday (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Attended to domestic matters until 1pm, when it was time to pack for an overnight and head south. Arrived at the Diocesan Center around 5pm. Prayed the evening office in the cathedral. Went to the newly-opened Portillo's (the drive-thru was mobbed) for dinner, then to Meijer for an errand. Scanned the items that had accumulated in my physical inbox. 


  Went down yet another technology rabbit hole, this time in arranging for an alternative to Gmail. In due course, and as I begin to disengage from my diocesan email account, I will appropriately make known (not by announcing it in a blog!) a new personal email address. It's not that I hate Google; I just don't want to be quite as interwoven with them as I'd gotten. Took care of a couple of modest pastoral-administrative matters via email. Did the finish work on this Sunday's homily, Finished up my "thank-you" calls on behalf of Nashotah House. Did a Lectio Divina on tomorrow's daily office Old Testament reading from Isaiah 8. Late-in-the-day "touch base and catch up"  conversation with Canon Evans.


Absent the pressure of a burgeoning task list (see entries from the last two days), it was easy to lose most of the morning to a technology rabbit hole (migrating from Google Chrome to the Opera browser as a strategy for avoiding the pop-up ads I've been plagued with of late). So far so good. I did, however, manage to do some moderate surgery on a vintage sermon text for Advent IV in anticipation of deploying it at St Thomas', Salem before breaking for lunch. The PM was more productive (even extending into the evening)--I drafted the text for my next catechetical video in the "Seven Habits" series, which I hope to complete before I leave office. On a fine December afternoon, there was, of course, a walk, though Rosehill Cemetery, where one of my predecessors, Charles MacLaren, the third (and last) Bishop of Illinois, is buried. (When the dioceses of Springfield and Quincy were created in 1876, he remained with the Diocese of Illinois, which shortly thereafter changed

Wednesday (George Franklin Seymour)

I was speaking recently with a priest who is discerning a potential call to ministry as a bishop, and remarked to him very prosaically that one of the contrasts between the life of a parish priest and the life of a bishop is the month of December. I have found it every year to be my quietist month, save for the one that I'm on vacation. So, as I remember remarking last year at this time, my ministry-related to-do list is in ebb stage, so I'm filling more of my time with domestic concerns. That said, I did so some major and final work on a post for the Covenant blog scheduled to appear on Holy Innocents Day, read through the psych eval of one of our ordinands, communicated to the Lambeth Conference apparatus that they will need to transfer their invitation to my successor, made another "thank-you" call to a Nashotah House donor, and did my final "macro" sermon preparation task planning exercise--literally for the remainder of my episcopate. That is sobering.

Tuesday (Immaculate Conception)

Some days it feels like even a very few tasks result in a quagmire of unproductivity. Other days, a number of action items that at first feels totally aspirational evaporate like morning mist. Today was one of the latter. I selected an agenda from the possible candidates that I thought would be challenging, but found myself mostly through it by early afternoon, so there was time for a long walk and some household chores. While my nose was to the grindstone, however, I had a nicely substantive phone conversation with Canon Evans and made some significant progress in the various clergy deployment irons we presently have in the fire. Also attended to a matter in connection with my membership on the Nashotah House corporation.

Second Sunday of Advent

Out of the garage southbound at 0645. Presided and preached the regular 0930 liturgy at St Christopher's, Rantoul. There were only five bodies in the room, but several more "attending" via Facebook Live. Back home around 1:30.

Sermon for II Advent

  St Christopher’s, Rantoul -- Isaiah 40:1–11, Mark 1:1–8                                                                                                    As are many of you, I’m a member of the Baby Boomer generation. When Baby Boomers were young children, they couldn’t build schools fast enough to keep up with our mushrooming numbers. After two years at one school in the Chicago suburb of Addison, shifting demographics had me being moved to a new school for the third grade. Indeed, the whole neighborhood was new, and the streets around the school were not even paved yet when the school year began. And as an eight-year old boy, of course, I would much rather have spent my days watching the heavy equipment work on the streets than be indoors learning cursive! First, the graders would level the street surface. Then dump trucks would deposit a layer of gravel, which would promptly be tamped down tight by steam rollers. Meanwhile, forms were laid for the curbs, and cement trucks poured

Saturday (St Clement of Alexandria)

Indulged in a "slow" morning ... did the finish work on tomorrow's homily ... did a Bowflex workout and took a long walk ... prepared an annual accounting (in an Excel spreadsheet) of personal and ministry-related mileage in the YFNBmobile for the diocesan treasurer ... attended to some tasks related to my continuing members on the Nashotah House corporation.

Friday (St John of Damascus)

 Big rocks: Worked on editing and revising a paper I am writing with a colleague bishop, as part of an ongoing Communion Partners project. Descended into the hell of customer service with Zoom regarding a billing issue. Of course, as a big tech company, Zoom is not really set up very well for this sort of thing. It was inordinately time-consuming. However, there was a surprising amount of progress. Identified, approached, and secured the acceptance of a cleric to full an unexpired term on the Commission on Ministry. Lesser rocks: Dealt with the usual array of email-generated tasks requiring an array of responses. Took delivery of my new iPhone (which I would rather not have had to buy, but I'm a victim of planned obsolescence), and got it set up and running. Took a brisk walk on a lovely afternoon. Spent a "Holy Hour" in contemplative prayer in our domestic oratory.


Spent most of the morning working through a tall stack of email-generated tasks--responding to people administratively, pastorally, or both. After lunch and couple of errands, I wrote a prayer for the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer website, concerning the governmental transition that our country is in. Then I worked on a long letter to canonically resident clergy and lay delegates to synod concerning an awkward moment in the 2020 synod a couple of months ago. There is often a small needle that needs to be threaded in order to satisfy the demands of both justice and charity. The letter will no doubt give offense to some, but I believe it serves the interests of transparency and accountability.

Wednesday (Channing Moore Williams)

Attended briefly to some Nashotah House corporation work. Reviewed and commented on another sermon draft from a postulant whom I'm coaching in learning to preach. Responded at some length to a message from the Bishop of Tabora. Followed up with some related administrative tasks. Responded substantively to a message from a potential candidate in one of our parishes in transition. Reached out by email to confirm this Sunday's scheduled visitation to St Christopher's, Rantoul. Did some cosmetic work to "contemporize" a sermon text for III Advent, in preparation for visiting St John's, Centralia on that occasion. Kept a phone appointment with yet another potential candidate for one or more of our clergy vacancies. Did a Bowflex workout and took Brenda on a long walk (through the nearby cemetery where one of my predecessors, the last Bishop of Illinois and the first Bishop of Chicago, is buried). Laid out a fairly detailed sketch of my next-due post for the Covenan

Tuesday (Nicholas Ferrar)

The morning was devoted to getting a 60,000-mile service performed on the YFNBmobile. While that was happening, I get my daily step quota in, and then some. The afternoon (beginning late) featured a Zoom meeting with the Standing Committee (for a change, not to discuss conflict, but to talk about more uplifting things). After that, I was feeling kind of drained, and not firing on all cylinders. There was a phone conversation with Canon Evans, a bunch of late-arriving email, and some coaching on sermon preparation with one of our postulants who is being forced to learn to preach "early" because he often finds himself a Worship Leader in a presently priest-less community. Then I had to turn my attention to replacing my phone, because it's no longer holding a charge. It's over four years old, which is a venerable age in smart phone years. #plannedobsolescence