Showing posts from 2021

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Ten years ago, minus about six weeks, I served as the supply priest for Trinity, Lincoln six days before my consecration as Bishop of Springfield. Today I was there for the final regular scheduled canonical parish visitation of my episcopate. (I have a few more gigs on my calendar: March 7 in Mattoon, the Chrism Mass, the Triduum at the cathedral, May 30 in Cairo, and June 27 back at the cathedral--May 2 is available and not yet spoken for--but the every Sunday routine of my life for the past decade (in a larger sense, for the last 32 years) is at a major flex point.) As much as it could have been in the midst of a pandemic, this morning at Trinity was luminous. We confirmed eight adults, six of them qualifying as "young." My homily had to compete with the sounds of active young children. (I would much rather do that than have no kids in church.) Trinity is one of the exciting points of light in my ministry in the diocese. I took my time getting out of Lincoln because I wante

Saturday (St Charles, King & Martyr)

Substantive phone conversations with the rector of Lincoln, the President of the Standing Committee, and the Canon-to-the-Ordinary. Attended the live-streamed memorial service for a former clergy colleague, and continuing friend, with whom I was in serious conversation about coming to the diocese less than a year ago, who died quickly of COVID at age 66. Then, earlier than I actually needed to, but wanting to get out of town ahead of the snowstorm, I packed up and headed south to Lincoln, where I had time to do some significant reading before hitting the sack.

Sermon for Epiphany IV

Trinity, Lincoln -- Mark 1:21-28 It’s still very early in the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. At approximately thirty years of age, he left the carpentry shop he had inherited from Joseph, went down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, heard the approving voice of God the Father, and got anointed by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. He formed the nucleus of his band of followers, his disciples—the brothers James and John, and the brothers Andrew and Simon, and according to John’s account, Nathaniel. Now he’s ready to go public in a fresh way, and really get things rolling. He walks into the village of Capernaum, finds the synagogue, and starts to teach. St Mark tells us that the people who were gathered there that day “were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes, of course, were their usual teachers, but I’m not going to get into what this little comment implies about the quality or content of thei

Friday (St Andrei Rublev)

 The day included: Two substantive phone conversations with Canon Evans. A screening interview with a potential candidate for one of our parishes in transition. A mentoring session with one of our postulants. An Ignatian meditation on the daily office gospel reading. Processing a not insignificant number of emails and text messages.

Thursday (St Thomas Aquinas)

Did the finish work on Sunday's homily (Trinity, Lincoln) ... followed up on mission strategy and ordination liturgy planning ... email dialogue with the Communicator on a couple of issues ... otherwise, some emerging domestic concerns diverted me.

Wednesday (St John Chrysostom)

The main work of the day was to make a day trip to Springfield for the purpose of attending the closing of the sale of our former home there. Ten years and one day since was closed on its purchase--possibly in the same room; certainly in the same building. Bittersweet. I leveraged the opportunity to do a small bit of shopping at Meijer (of which we are bereft in Chicago), stop by the office for a couple of things, and make a visit to Illinois National Bank to deposit the proceeds of the home sale. Back home (leaving Springfield in accumulating snow, but finding a clear road north of Lincoln) just before 4:30, having had substantive phone conversations en route with Canon Evans and with a priest from outside the diocese by way of pastoral care.

Tuesday (Ss Timothy & Titus)

 Highlights: Started liturgy planning work for March 7 ordinations to the transitional diaconate. Moved the ball down the field re jump-starting the Department of Mission. Attended a one-hour Zoom meeting of my House of Bishops table group. Reviewed materials submitted by a potential candidate for one of our parishes in transition. Arranged for a video interview. Plus ... staying on top of incoming emails and small administrative tasks. 

Sermon for Epiphany III

  Christ the King, Normal -- Mark 1:14-20 Two weeks ago, we celebrated the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry, as he went down to the Jordan River, along with throngs of his fellow Palestinian Jews, to be baptized by John the Baptist, and he heard the approving voice of the God the Father and was anointed by the Holy Spirit. His response to the Father’s call and the ministry he then gave himself form the pattern for our response to God’s call and the ministry God wants us to give ourselves to. Last week, then, we looked at the compelling story from the Old Testament of the Lord revealing himself to the boy Samuel, and how Samuel came to “know the Lord” and went on to do great work for the Lord. Our experience of Christian worship and service will be dry and lifeless and boring until we also come to “know the Lord” personally, and are moved to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” Call, vocation, ministry—these things have not only personal implications for each of us indi

Thursday (St Agnes)

Once in a while, a day just gets away from me, and this was one of them. A chink of the morning was already blocked out to take Brenda to an orthopedist about an ongoing issue (something they actually call "trigger finger"). I had a list of other things to accomplish, but I just got bombarded by a torrent of emails, about evenly divided between ministry-related things and personal stuff. So most of what was on my list is still on my list. Fortunately, none of it was terribly time-sensitive. To be honest, as I prepare to scale down my operational tempo in only ten days, as a prelude to full retirement at the end of June, my "work"-related to-do list is kind of drying up. While it's nice not to have the stress, it kind of fills me with sadness. One of my recurring monthly tasks is to take a look at my scheduled visitation for the coming month, make sure I'm clear about the service time, and that I've made contact with the priest. I have no visitations sche

Wednesday (St Fabian)

Communicated by email with the Standing Committee--blessedly, not about a matter of conflict between them and me (still potentially a matter of conflict--just not between them and me!).  Worked with the Communicator in getting some of what she needs for a video project she's working on for me. Various tasks related to the Department of Mission, and jump-starting the Mission Strategy Report process (after a COVID-driven hiatus). Did some refurbishing work on a vintage sermon text for Epiphany IV (the 31st at the Trinity, Lincoln). Did some significant reading. Took a brisk walk on some snowy sidewalks.

Tuesday (St Wulfstan)

Today's "big rock" was an Ad Clerum letter to the clergy on sundry matters, including how to observe Ash Wednesday in a pandemic, some words about the Chrism Mass, which I hope actually happens this year, and a bit about my change in status at the end of the month, as I step back from many of the routine duties of my office and enter a period of transition to full retirement at the end of June. Attended to a couple of small administrative matters, got the ball rolling toward the ordination of a couple of transitional deacons in about six weeks, and had a Zoom meeting with one of our senior seminarians. 

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

During the last nearly eleven months, clergy and lay leaders have had to up there game in the area of video production, and it's interesting to see the various adaptations they have made. Trinity, Jacksonville has "gotten it" with respect to lighting and good-quality audio. This morning's regular 10am liturgy was both live-streamed and recorded. Besides Fr Brooks, the organist, and YFNB, there was only one person physical present in the congregation, but a great many more, I was assured, watching virtually. Trinity was the first parish Brenda and I worshiped in following the move to our Springfield home in late January of 2011, so, once again, a flood of memories: Fr Mallotke's funeral, a synod Mass, the ordination of Fr Brooks, meetings with the vestry and search committee, and ten regular annual visitations. This is a bittersweet time.

Sermon for II Epiphany

Trinity, Jacksonville --John 1:43-51, I Samuel 3:1-10 One of the forms of play that we all engaged in as children is a guessing game. Something is a secret—usually the location of a hidden object or person. One or more of the players know the answer to the secret and one or more of the players try to guess the answer. Those who know the secret are allowed to assist those who don't by saying "You're getting warmer" if they're moving closer to the goal and "You're getting colder" if they're straying further away. With the help of these clues, the riddle is eventually solved, and the next round begins. As I reflect on my day-to-day experience as an adult, I'm aware that I am profoundly influenced by variations on this essential children's guessing game. The clues—"You're getting warmer /You're getting colder"—are more subtle, making use of various code words and symbols, but the basic rules of the game are the same. Secrets


Attended and participated in the final session of the regular winter meeting of the Communion Partners, via Zoom. Took steps toward arranging a meeting with the leaders from three Eucharistic Communities that are in discernment about sharing a single full-time priest. Responded substantively to some recent correspondence from the Standing Committee. Did the finish work on my homily for this Sunday (Trinity, Jacksonville). Did a Lectio Divina on the Old Testament reading from tomorrow's daily office lectionary. Exchanged substantive emails from the postulant whom I am coaching in learning to preach; he is coming along very nicely and it is a joy to work with him. 

Thursday (St Kentigern)

Attended and participated once again in the Communion Partners winter meeting via Zoom for two hours in the morning. Caught up on a substantial amount of reading. Interviewed another potential candidate for one of our parishes in transition and communicated via email with the relevant search committee. Made arrangements to meet (by video) with the wardens and interim rector of that same parish to refine some of the details of their process. Touched base with Fr Richmond regarding some of the details of my visitation to Christ the King, Normal this weekend. Took the usual brisk afternoon walk.

Wednesday (St Hilary of Poitiers)

Once again, attended the morning session of the virtual winter Communion Partners meeting. In the afternoon, I had a Zoom interview with a priest who has expressed interest in one of our parishes in transition. Followed up with an email to the relevant search committee. Beyond those things, I attended to a pastoral/administrative matter in one of our parishes, did cosmetic surgery on a vintage sermon text for Epiphany III (January 24 in Normal), lifted weights and took a walk, and did some task plotting for re-engaging diocesan mission strategy post-pandemic.

Tuesday (St Aelred)

Today's first "big rock" was a two-hour Zoom meeting of the Communion Partners (bishops and rectors). This is in lieu of our regular winter in-person meeting, which happens in Florida. Naturally, I'd rather be in Florida, but I'm glad we're still able to have the conference, which is spread out in two-hour segments all week long. The second big rock was a follow-up visit with the oral surgeon who removed a lesion from my tongue last week. (It all looks good--lab report say no cancer.) The office was clear downtown. In order to save money on parking, I took public transit (very easy to maintain appropriate distancing), which took a little longer. Beyond these two things, I was able to craft what I hope is a pastorally-sensitive and substantive email response to a letter I received from the Mission Leadership Team of one of our Eucharistic Communities. 

First Sunday after the Epiphany

Out the door at 0715, in time to arrive at Emmanuel, Champaign in time for a "private" (limited to confirmands and immediate family) 1015 Eucharist with confirmation and reception. It was a sweet experience, chastened as it was by pandemic safeguards that were over-the-top stringent. I left with some very touching gifts, arriving home around 2:30.

Sermon for Epiphany I

  Emmanuel, Champaign -- Mark 1:7-11, Isaiah 42:1-9                                                                                              Today we keep the feast of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus comes down to the Judean desert, along with hundreds of others, to hear an eccentric preacher named John, and to step into the muddy waters of the Jordan River and be baptized. He wouldn’t have stood out from the crowd. Jesus wasn’t famous yet. He was just an unknown carpenter from an obscure Galilean village. Yet, as we know, by virtue of his identity and by virtue of his destiny, Jesus was not just like all the others who came for baptism. He should have stood out from the crowd. Even the most skeptical of biblical scholars, even those of no personal faith, whose interest in the New Testament is purely academic, those for whom the crucifixion has no meaning, and the resurrection has no reality—even these skeptics do not doubt the historicity of today’s gospel account. Who


Did some fairly significant reconstructive surgery on a sermon text for Epiphany II, toward preaching at Trinity, Jacksonville on the 17th ... wrote a note (by hand, and dropped in the mail) to a colleague bishop who is an old friend and my first boss in ordained ministry 32 years ago, and who is terminally ill at home with palliative care--this was a bit of an emotional wrench for me ... brief email exchange with the Standing Committee ... met by Zoom for a mentoring session with one of our postulants ... since my ministry-related task list for the week was essentially completed, I devoted the afternoon to domestic chores (grocery shopping, preparing for a real estate closing, undecorating from Christmas, tending to Brenda).


Reviewed the materials of two potential candidates for two of our open clergy positions. This was not a perfunctory effort, but good faith due diligence, including looking at social media profiles and parish websites. One I eventually determined would not be a good fit for the diocese. The other merited some real-time contact, so those arrangements are in the works.  Made arrangements for one of our seminarians to potentially have a summer internship placement in one of our parishes. Did the finish work on my homily for this Sunday at Emmanuel, Champaign. Took the standard 75-minute walk with Brenda. Read and offered some detailed (and, I hope, constructive) feedback on a draft sermon text from the postulant in a priest-less parish who is doing most of the preaching there. He has the raw gift, so it's a joy to work with him in honing and developing it.    


On the road northbound from my Bloomington hotel room at 0815. Arrived home at 1045, and by the time I got the car unloaded (still moving gradually out of my office) and everything stowed, it was time to worry about lunch. The afternoon wasn't satisfyingly productive--checking things off my to-do list--but it was necessarily productive--processing a mountain of email that had hit my inbox while I was on the road yesterday and today. Exercise is a "big rock" in my life these days, as I age, so Brenda and I did get our walk in. I began the process of reviewing the CVs of a handful of clergy from outside the diocese who have expressed interest in one or more of our vacancies.

Tuesday (Eve of Epiphany)

... aaaaand we're back. The last two weeks played out just as I had predicted they would, save that Christ Church, Springfield indeed chose not to meet for a few weeks, so I didn't make my planned visitation last Sunday. Today, I got my work week organized, and handled a couple of pressing items by email. Then it was time to pack and head south, which took place at 11am. Hit my targeted 3pm arrival at the diocesan office, where I puttered for an hour (thee centerpiece of said putting being the signing and sealing of an ordination certificate) before hitting the road again, arriving at St Paul's, Carlinville an hour ahead of the scheduled 6pm ordination liturgy to make Carter Aikin a priest. It all came off quite smoothly, though severely straitened, with only nine people in the church, and singing restricted to the Veni creator and the Sanctus . But we got the job done, and the church will be blessed by Father Aikin's ministry for a long while to come. If I were 20 or

Homily for Carter Aikin Ordination (Priesthood)

  St Paul’s, Carlinville -- Matthew 2:1-12, Ephesians 3:1-12 In St Matthew’s version of the Annunciation, when the angel appears not to Mary, but to Joseph, in a dream, we read about Joseph’s experience of the Divine Presence as he was called to serve as a surrogate father to the incarnate Son of God. This is a kind of experience that many, or even most, people have at various times in their lives—an experience of a mysterious Presence, a Presence that, upon further reflection, is revealed to be God … Emmanuel, quite literally, “with us, God.” It is also from Matthew that we hear about a similar encounter between the LORD 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 th