Being in the bishop election process has been a huge learning curve. From discerning whether or not I was called to be part of the process in addition to whether or not God is calling me to be a bishop, from learning about Connecticut the state as well as Connecticut the Diocese--with a new list of parishes, clergy, constitution and canons, and simply ways of being church--my brain and my spirit are getting huge workouts.
Part of my process has been to talk to Bishops I know. I had a wonderful chat with The Right Reverend Greg Rickel, Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia, who was called to serve as bishop while he was rector of St. James, Austin in the Diocese of Texas. Greg was actually in two processes while he served as rector. He was not elected to be Bishop of Arkansas a year or so before he joined the process for Bishop of Olympia and was elected. He gave me some very wise counsel.
Greg urged me to have a transition plan for St. Mary's; actually two plans--one if I am called to serve as Bishop of Connecticut; another if I am called to continue to serve as Rector of St. Mary's. Our senior warden, Cindy Angle, agreed that planning is a good thing, and today I met with St. Mary's transition team-- the past (and present) senior wardens.
I was delighted when I began to send out invitations that all the senior wardens for the past twelve years I've served as rector continue to be active members of the parish. There was also one senior warden left at St. Mary's from before my call as rector.
This morning all but three of those senior wardens gathered at the rectory for homemade cinnamon scones and blueberry scones, fruit, juice, and fair trade, organic Panamanian coffee. Our curate, Eric, joined us, too.
We checked in about how the parish is doing with my being in the process in Connecticut. We then began to talk about what should happen at St. Mary's if I am elected and if I am not.
One of the things that came up in our conversation was clarifying what accepting the invitation to be a candidate for bishop means to me. It is not a career move; it is not about climbing the clergy ladder; it is not a job I "want" or something I aspire to do. I am in the process simply to be obedient to God. I believe that God wants me to be willing to do a new thing in a new place, and I am saying yes to God's invitation.
One of the past senior wardens saw this a perfect teachable moment to talk about the fact that all of us have a call from God and to have conversation about what it means to be obedient to God. Not only is it good discipleship, it also lets the parish know that I am not "running" for bishop because I want a better job. I am in the process because I believe God wants me to be.
We'll meet again after the walkabout in Connecticut the first weekend in October. At that time we'll finalize our plan for announcing whether I'm called to be rector of St. Mary's or bishop of Connecticut on Sunday, October 25. Meanwhile, I'm letting the parish know that we will have a plan.
I'll let them know that all the Senior Wardens past and present are there to listen to any concerns they have. I'll be teaching about being obedient to God's call, which may take you places you never imagined you'd go. Reminding them that following Jesus may mean that we must be willing to leave a place we love, serving a people we love.... or not!