Sunday, October 25, 2009

Still full of grace

I got on the plane in Indianapolis just as my name was put into nomination as one of the four candidates for the fifteenth Diocesan Bishop of Connecticut.

For the next two hours I read and listened to music. When the plane touched down at IAH, I immediately turned on my phone. There was a text from my shepherd, Marian: Ian is 20 votes shy of election. Then there was a voicemail, from Ian, saying that one of his first post-election acts was to give me a call. The Holy Spirit spoke and the people of Connecticut listened and acted--The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas was elected Bishop.

Of course I was sad. Of course I was disappointed. But as the afternoon and the rest of the day wore on I received many wonderful emails, phone calls, more texts and even had a vase of roses delivered to me before the afternoon was over. I was clearly called to continue as rector of St. Mary's in Cypress. The conversations that I had had with the people of Connecticut were rich and fruitful; the gift of the process was what had been most important.

Today at St. Mary's there was applause and many, many words of joy from the parish. I realized that I felt lighter than I had in months--and not from those 24 Weight Watcher pounds lost since July. I had been most willing to serve God in Connecticut, but carrying the possibility of that very challenging call (because I wasn't the one called to do it) with my day to day ministry in Texas had been more difficult that I had realized.

I am sorry not to be moving nearer my daughter and to a beautiful part of God's creation. I am disappointed not to be living in a place with seasons. I will miss my relationship with the wonderful people of Connecticut. But I am at peace and feel joy rising. It is a very good place to be.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A week of grace

I'm off to the monastery on Monday. It's the first session of study as I prepare to become an oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

I've been going to the monastery at least yearly since 2003, but this is my first time not as part of the Eli Lilly Congregational Excellence grants, Women Touched by Grace. It couldn't happen at a more perfect time.

When Sister Antoinette was graciously trying to find a time for those of us who lived away from Indianapolis to come and study, this was the only week that we could all come. When I was made a candidate for Bishop of Connecticut, I thought that there would be a conflict.

Convention starts on the final day of our retreat. In the Diocese of Texas, my experience had been that all candidates were present for the election, and I assumed that I would go travel for the Connecticut Diocesan Convention. I soon learned that most dioceses only have candidates canonically resident in the diocese attend, and that they are separated from the electing body to prevent, I imagine, politicking.

So Ian (from Massachusetts) and I will not be present, and Jim and Mark will be sequestered in the balcony.

On the morning of the election, I'll sing Morning Praise with the sisters of Our Lady of Grace and the 15 or so us preparing to become oblates.

I'll be at the airport as the first ballot is cast, and perhaps while I am somewhere in the air between Indianapolis and Houston, the 15th bishop of Connecticut will be elected.

If I can't be in Connecticut, it's a very good place to be.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Picking apples in Connecticut

I'm back in 90 degree Houston after one Blessing of the Pets, two town hall meetings, a three hour jaunt into the countryside to pick apples with my daughter, a walkabout four rooms full of folks, all within a five day trip to the Diocese of Connecticut.

Before, between, and after the Thursday and Friday evening and all day Saturday meet the candidate events, I had time to explore areas of Connecticut that I hadn't seen in my two prior trips to the state. It was the beginning of fall color, and Connecticut was even more beautiful than I expected.

I rented a car on Sunday and met my daughter at the Fairfield train station. We drove out to one of those pick your own orchards, and I got two bags full of macoun and liberty apples (some of each are in the oven baking as I write this for our covered dish supper tonight at St. Mary's). Lisa had read that one of the best places to eat pizza in Connecticut was in Fairfield, so we had an early supper of very yummy pizza at Pepe's back in town. After taking Lisa back to the train station, on the hour or so long drive back to my hotel in East Hartford, I pondered whether God would call me to serve in such a gorgeous part of God's creation.

The hospitality I received on the walkabout weekend was off the charts. Delicious food was beautifully served. At Grace Episcopal in Old Saybrook, the table where the four candidates sat as we answered questions was thoughtfully prepared with cold water, paper, and pencils for each of us. In Southport at Trinity Episcopal, the rector handed each of us small prayer crosses as he greeted us.

Then there was the prayer, prayer, and more prayer. Never in my years as a Christian can I recall an event more saturated with prayer. Our chaplain, Rebecca, gave each candidate a prayer cross on Thursday evening, and Linda, the president of the Standing Committee, gave us another on Saturday morning. All of the meet and greet events were within the context of worship--music, prayer, and Holy Scripture. The walkabout in Southport was in the midst of a Holy Eucharist, and so that we didn't forget that we were still at Christ's table, each walkabout room had a small altar of chalice, paten, and candle to remind us. To be sure that it was not overlooked, persons were assigned to pray at strategic times during each of the events.

Finally there was the camaraderie of the four candidates. I have great respect for the other three candidates and my respect grew in the hours that we were together. In fact, at our first event, I kept finding myself so interested in listening to Ian's, Mark's, and Jim's responses to the questions asked that I kept forgetting that, oh yes, I was supposed to be thinking about my own answers (thankfully, I remembered this better at our Saturday morning event, but I do fear that the video of the Friday night event may reflect my listening skills better than my speaking skills). I felt no competition between the four of us; for me, it was clear that we were on the same side--united in our desire to do God's will. For myself, I am very willing to serve God and the people of Connecticut as the 15th Bishop, but I want even more for the person that God chooses to be the one who will be elected on October 24.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blessings on this first, Jacob and Lisa

Today is Holy Cross Day.
It is also the first anniversary of the marriage of my son Jacob to my daughter-in-law, Lisa.

Sending thoughts of love to Jacob and Lisa, and remembering a wonderful Sunday this time last year in Portland while Hurricane Ike raged back home in Houston.

Worshipping in the morning with my friend Laurie at the church where she serves as pastor, Mission of the Atonement in Beaverton, Oregon.

Celebrating and partying all afternoon and into the evening, and taking the first flight into Houston post-Hurricane Ike the next morning.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A transition plan

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!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Lark

I first heard of the music of Kate Campbell by a most unforeseen way. I was on vacation in New Mexico during the summer of 2001 with my best friend. My friend had gone to Starbuck's to get coffee, and listening to NPR on the way, she heard about a musician named Kate Campbell.

What grabbed my friend's attention was the song they highlighted--The Last Song. The Last Song imagines what the disciples did as they left the upper room and traveled towards the garden the night before Jesus' crucifixion.

After the supper was over and the table had been cleared away
When the last bottle was empty, there was nothing much left to say
Jesus started humming an old tune, everybody fell right in
They sang the last song, the last song

Matthew started singing the low part, John grabbed the high harmony
Their voices filled up the night air all the way to Gethsemane
Judas walked some distance behind them like he had forgotten the words
They sang the last song, the last song.

We immediately went on a quest to find Kate's music, and I have followed her--literally at times--since.

I've heard Kate play at a variety of venues including once at a concert we held at St. Mary's. I attended another concert in a small club one Advent and heard a new song, Jesus is the Way Home, that became the inspiration for the ever important Christmas sermon that year.

Last Easter Friday, I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, for a concert honoring Eudora Welty's Centennial. (An aside: I have been very surprised at the number of folks who have never heard of Eudora Welty, especially since she won the Pulitzer in 1973 for The Optimist's Daughter). That night, four Southern women, writers and singers, honored Miss Eudora with a concert of music that had been inspired by her--Claire Holley, Caroline Herring, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Kate Campbell.

The women sat on stage together and told stories about how Miss Eudora had influenced them and sang wonderful, wonderful songs. It was one of the best concerts I'd ever attended and a once in a lifetime event. It was worth getting stuck in Jackson the next day when my flight was cancelled due to terrible storms in Houston; it took a detour via Atlanta, a lot of prayers, and a $75 taxi ride from an aiport 40 miles away through flooded Houston streets, with even more prayers, to get home.

The singers, in interviews following, said the only negative part of the concert was that they only had that one magical night for all four of them to sit together and sing.

When the Decatur Georgia Book Festival decided that they wanted to honor Miss Eudora, her Centennial continuing, someone got the great idea to ask the four to do a repeat. After all, Caroline Herring lived in Decatur. My best friend got wind of it, and next thing I knew, I had plane reservations to Atlanta for a two day mini-vacation (thanks to our assistant priest, Eric+, for taking the Sunday morning services so I could go).

My best friend and I saw three movies, enjoyed an exhibit at the High Museum, and did some sale shopping (I wanted new shoes for the Walkabout in October). We got up early before my flight home on Sunday and had fine worship at Christ Church, Norcross, Georgia.

The highlight, however, was the concert. It was open seating, so my friend and I arrived two hours before the concert at Agnes Scott College to make sure we got good seats (we did!), and enjoyed nearly three hours of nonstop music with these very talented musicians. I didn't think that the concert in April could be topped, but it was that evening.

As I got lost in the wonderful music, I remembered that when I went to the first concert in April, I had had a call from Sylvia Ho three days earlier inviting me to be part of Connecticut's search for their 15th Bishop. I had never ever thought about being bishop of Connecticut, and I had never ever even thought of living in Connecticut. Now, less than five months later, I was hearing these four gifted women again, and I was now a candidate for the 15th Bishop of Connecticut, and I am definitely thinking about living in Connecticut.

I was struck, as I so very often am, by the mystery of the twists and turns of our walk with God. One of the songs sang by Claire Holley on both occasions says it best:

I’ve traveled far away......
now I'm gathered in the hands that formed the meadowlands...
I’m resting in the bounty of the Lord....
I’m believing in the bounty of the Lord...
my hope is in the bounty of the Lord.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Waiting with St. Mary

The video is done. Now we wait to have it posted on the Diocesan website.

This is a time of waiting. I had an email from a former diocesan bishop, and he wrote it well: now you begin a waiting period to see whether you are called to go or stay. Either way, it is always an honor to be nominated.

Waiting, of course, while things continue to be very busy in the parish. We transfer our celebration of the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin (August 15) to the Sunday nearest the beginning of public school. Since we are in the middle of four school districts, this can take some doing.

On that Sunday, we have one big Eucharist. We offer Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, respectively, at the times scheduled for our other Sunday Eucharists. With fear and trembling, of course, that someone will come really, really needing Eucharist at 8 or 5.30.

The day is all about Mary, all the time. We use the propers for Mary's feast day. We have a big, big blessing of back packs, students, and school staff at the offertory. We hand out tags for the back packs, a new one each year. On one side is some great art and our childrens' prayer: Good morning, God, this is your day. I am your child; please show me your way. AMEN

I can't remember where I found that prayer, but we've been praying it for several years. Parents tell me that they pray it with their children before they drop them off at school. I know it's the first prayer that comes to my mind when I wake up in the morning.

Another important thing we do on Mary's day is to sing. When Mary went to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, soon after finding out that she was pregnant, Scripture has the words of what we call the Magnificat as her response to Elizabeth's prophetic greeting. More scholars than not believe that what Mary said was in fact a familiar hymn. I picture Mary not saying the words, My soul glories in you, O Lord, but singing the words. If they were indeed a familiar hymn, then Elizabeth, I believe, would have joined in, too. To celebrate Mary's Day, we sing everywhere in the liturgy that we can--and then some.

This year to celebrate Mary's Day, we have party favors. Do you see the blue bags on the piano? Those are "bags of grace." The outreach ministry put together lovely blue bags for each of us to take home. In the bags were a book mark, a list of local places to get practical help, a bottle of water, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, fruit cup, Vienna sausages, and other tasty items. Being Mary's Day, when God especially invites us to lift up the lowly, each of us were invited to take our bag and share it with someone who might need a literal lifting up.

Finally, to honor this extraordinary Jewish mother, we have a meal. After the meal of Holy Communion, we leave the nave and walk to the Holy Family Center. The Children's Chapel is filled with good things to eat, and we conclude our celebration with a great feast.

It is a very, very good day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Filming in Farmers Branch

My part of the video is done. Now we wait to have it posted on the Diocesan website.

It was a gift to get to do the video in my brother's studio. I sat literally by the phone as a kind voice from Connecticut asked me the same questions as the other three candidates had responded to back in Connecticut.

I had not been to my brother's new studio, and I was very surprised when I made the exit from 35E on Valley View Road in Farmers Branch. I was in a familiar place. Turns out the studio was less than two miles from that Episcopal Church that a friend had invited my family to attend nearly thirty years ago, and the place where the Right Reverend Terwilliger had laid his hands on my head and asked the Holy Spirit to be more powerful in my life. Little did he know. Even more so, little did I know.

If I'd turned right rather than left (no hidden theological meaning, please), and driven about two miles I'd have ended up at St. Andrew's, Farmers Branch.

What a nice God moment to have a circle of connection; certainly a T.S. Eliot moment:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't say pie!

When I began the interviewing process with the Diocese of Connecticut, my one piece of advice was, "Whatever you do, don't say pie." Being a Texan, I do pretty well avoiding the twang until I begin to talk about pie, and then I give myself away. I am definitely not from Connecticut.

Pie is a word easily to avoid in conversation except in my family which is passionate about the perfect blend of salty crust and sweet filling. My mother has the perfect crust recipe--oil, milk, flour, and salt--that requires no skill at all; just mix the four ingredients with a fork and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper.

When I was growing up, report card day was always an occasion for my mother's chocolate pie, unmatched in deliciousness to this day. It was the perfect gift--a bonus for a good report card; a sweet reassurance if the grades were less than good.

Pie continues to be a tangible sign of love for me--sacramental, incarnational, if you will.

When my son got married on Holy Cross Day last year in Portland, Oregon (I safe in Portland while Hurricane Ike blew and destroyed in Houston), the addition my family made to the wedding feast was groom's pie, that is pies. My two brothers and my sister-in-law rolled and stirred and baked eight pies in my son's tiny apartment kitchen the night before the wedding. A chocolate, a pecan, two sweet potato, a marionberry, two peanut butter, and a blueberry with the bonus of two big pans of Leslie's "mountain mama" for the eighty or so guests who would also be having dinner and wedding cake, too.

I carried a piece of marionberry home to Houston on the plane the next day, and it was manna as I sat in a house without electricity or water and cleaned up the damage left behind at the rectory.

Tomorrow I am making the five or so hour drive from Houston to Dallas to make my video for the Bishop Election website. My brother is a film maker, and he is graciously doing the shoot (with call in questions from Connecticut) to save the cost of a Connecticut trip.

After we post the footage at the airport and go out to dinner to celebrate, I'll drive another hour north to visit my mother in Chambersville for a couple of days. I'm not sure if we'll have pie or not, but I know my mother will make me one if I only ask. Pie is sacramental, incarnational after all. No matter how you say it.

My mom's pie crust (makes enough for two):
2 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup milk

Mix flour and salt. Mix oil and milk. Pour oil and milk into flour and salt and stir until combined into a dough. Can add more milk if dry. Separate into two balls (save one ball for another pie). Roll crust out between two sheets of wax paper and line a pie pan with crust.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A week away

I'm back from my summer trip to the mountains of Georgia to visit my best friend and her husband. I go every year around her birthday in July--especially good timing because it's always at least twenty degrees cooler at her ridge top home than Houston, and there are no mosquitoes.

I like to be gone over a weekend (or it's not really a vacation, is it?), and there is always conversation about where we'll worship. My friend is an active member of her local Episcopal Church, but it's an opportunity for her to go on a worship road trip. She only lives about ten miles from South Carolina, so we decided to travel and worship in another state.

Last Sunday we drove through the mountains to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and to the parish of Ascension in Seneca. Ascension has some of the best signage of any church I've visited. We had no trouble finding the parish off the main road and then where on the property to go for worship. Four folks were at the door to greet us and make sure we had everything we needed. In the pew backs, in addition to the usual Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal, the parish had laminated worship guides with everything except music and Scripture printed for those who were unfamiliar with the Episcopal book shuffle. The grounds were beautifully kept, and the buildings were clean and tidy. Ascension had received the memo about being a welcoming parish and followed through on each hospitality tip.

In these days when the Episcopal Church gets more negative press than positive, at least here in Texas, it's a delight to see one little parish being The Church. Too many times on my travels I've found Episcopal churches with locked doors--understandable, it's true, but with no hint about how to contact someone so one could get inside. Too many times on my travels I've attended churches that say they are welcoming (don't we all?), but are really only welcoming to those people who are familiar to them. Too many times on my travels Episcopal churches rush through worship with not a clue for those new to our style of worship of how to run and catch up.

In the parish where I've served for nearly twelve years, when I arrived they described themselves as a welcoming parish. However on the Sunday my daughter visited for the first time, not one person spoke to this young single woman....not one. When I said something to the parish afterwards about the oversight, the response was, "But if we'd known she was your daughter we would have welcomed her." This was not a good response. I hasten to add that today we strive not only to be welcoming, but inviting, too.

There's a line in a familiar hymn that my former bishop quoted frequently: We horde as precious treasure that which you so freely give. We in the Episcopal Church have been given extraordinary, precious treasure, particularly in our worship, particularly in the words of the liturgy and in our open table. I believe that there are many people who are starving for the treasure we have been given so abundantly. I am passionate about figuring out ways to share that treasure especially with those who don't even know that it's what they are searching for.

Where have you worshipped that you felt especially welcomed? What did they do that made you feel welcome?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tuesday Night Book Group

One of the tricky pieces of being single and a parish priest is finding a life outside the church. In Benedictine style, I've found that I have to be very intentional to make sure that all parts of my life are lived in balance.

Early in my days in ordained ministry, I made a "first on the calendar" rule. Unless there was an outstanding reason otherwise, whatever appointments I made first were the ones I kept--no changing at the last minute for some more attractive opportunity. I learned early that I had to schedule "me" appointments or something that seemed more pressing would override times for fun and rest.

One of the appointments I am religious (no pun intended) about keeping is a day of Sabbath each week. I also take every day of vacation, every day of continuing ed, and every day of spiritual development that is part of my ministry agreement with St. Mary's. This was rather novel for the parish in the beginning days of our life together. No rector had ever done that before. I am now largely told (though I'm sure some people would rather I were around all the time) that the parish appreciates the way I take care of myself. I am told that the parish knows that they can only be as healthy as I am.

One of ways I care for myself is my monthly book group. Several years ago a friend and I decided to start the group. We were an interesting assortment of women from the beginning because she and I traveled in different circles. We are very loosely organized--choosing books only a couple of months ahead and the same for whose home will host the group.

The top shelf of the bookcase in my bedroom is now full with the books that we've read over the past three years. I love looking at those books because many are ones I'd have never read if someone in the book group hadn't offered it as a monthly suggestion.

I am struck each time we gather that the book group is one of the few activities in my life where we don't pray aloud as part of our gathering. I noticed it especially this past month when we decided to do something different for our July meeting because we didn't think we'd have a quorum. We decided to keep our date on the calendar but have dinner together instead.

As six of us sat around the table with salads, pizza, and wine, I saw these women in a new light--a brilliant young woman who works for a nonprofit; a woman from the East Coast who works with people from different cultures helping them to be at home in the United States; a woman who is a pilot and a bit of an entrepreneur; a clinical psychologist; a stay at home mom who has put the same excellence into her parenting that she did into her career. Our three other members, a woman with a Ph.D. who is originally from India; our senior member whose delight for life and intellect is greatly admired; and a church leader and grandmother with great curiosity and a caring heart, were with us in spirit. As we talked about our common lives, I realized that even without the shared experience of reading the same book, we were now friends and a community.

I especially realized this with the words of interest from the group gathered that night about my candidacy for bishop. I would never have imagined their interest and support. One of the great costs of discipleship if I am elected will be leaving these women and our monthly time together. However, they have put the consecration date on their calendars and say they will be having a serious road trip to join me if I am elected.

Our next two books are Olive Kitteridge and The Space Between Us, although our change in schedule has us a bit confused about which is the August book and which is the September, and at whose house were we planning to meet? A series of emails will straighten this out before the second Tuesday of the month.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In memory of Sue+

My friend The Rev. Sue Scott died earlier this week after a longtime battle with cancer. Her Burial Eucharist was today at 2.

I first met Sue when we were students in seminary, both of us seeking ordination. In Sue's very remarkable life, she was ordained in the Southern Baptist tradition, no small task for a woman. She went on to earn her doctorate and initially expressed her ordained ministry primarily as a pastoral counselor and hospital chaplain. Emotional and spiritual healing of families and individuals was her passion.

Sue was diagnosed with cancer and during a time of remission became an Episcopalian. She and was eventually ordained an Episcopal deacon, then priest. It was right after her ordination to the priesthood that her cancer became active again. I have an image of all those holy hands being laid on her making her a priest in Christ's Church and unbeknownst, as the Spirit will do, bestowing God's healing, too.

Her cancer was once again in remission, and she served as a priest until last fall when her cancer once again lifted its final ugly head. Our bishop, Andy, writes eloquently of what may have been Sue's last celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Sue loved her family dearly, most especially her husband, children, and grandchildren as well as her family in Christ, and we loved her back with the same great affection.

I know Sue's soul rests in peace. May God's comfort and care be with all of those of us who miss her so dearly.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why House of Grace?

Sometime I was fooling around with my name and discovered that my first name, roughly, in Hebrew means house and my middle name means grace--a sort of House of Grace. I don't think that was my parents' intent when they named me years ago, but that understanding of my name has become my personal vocation--in all that I am and all that I do to be a place where God's perfect love abides.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

So if you'd told me ten years ago........

I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. When I was in elementary school, I read a book, Her Own Way, about a missionary to China, Lottie Moon. I loved that book and read it over and over and decided that I, too, was being called to be a missionary. That was the only serious option for church work in the 60's for girls in the Baptist tradition. But the discernment was correct--I was being called to be a missionary, but not in anyway I could have imagined then.

I joined the Episcopal Church in the late 70's during the great Book of Common Prayer of transition. I fell in love with God and became very active in my little mission church. In the early 80's, while I was attending a Bible study, I heard an Inner Voice saying quite clearly, "You will be a deacon."

Thus began the twists and turns of seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church. My diocese did not have an active (permanent/vocational/perpetual/real) diaconate. I floundered around for several years trying to figure out what God had told me to be and to do, and I did finally end up as a postulant for Holy Orders, the first ever in my diocese seeking ordination as a deacon. But midway in seminary, the Holy Spirit did another twist, and after a weekend of prayer and tears, I knew that something had shifted inside of me, and my call was to serve as priest.

The bishop was delighted at my change of heart (he didn't see any value in an active diaconate), and I was ordained a priest in the early 90's.

To add to the surprise and wonder, one day, early in my priesthood, my then-husband Jay, who was not prone to receive prophetic messages, came in from mowing the yard and said, "I just heard the strangest thing, if heard is the word I can use. You are going to be a bishop." We had a very good laugh over that, and I forgot all about that conversation until a few years ago when I was asked to run for bishop in my home diocese.

I declined but over the next few years kept getting nudges and suggestions. Which is the roundabout way that I've ended up a candidate for Bishop in Connecticut.

One more word about that call to be a deacon.

In the 2000's, my diocese got a new bishop who was passionate about an active diaconate. He and I had served on the Commission on Ministry together and knew that I shared his passion for the diaconate. There was probably no other priest in our diocese who knew more about the diaconate from all that study and pondering I'd done back when I was trying to figure out what God was calling me to do. My bishop made me chair of the task force that became the committee creating an active diaconate in my diocese. It was the most difficult task I'd ever done for God, and that we were able to accomplish that mission in such a short time is more a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit than any ability on my part.

What preposterous or unlikely thing has the Spirit led you to do?

So it begins

I am a sixth generation Texan (depending how you count the generations; my mother lives on land in north Texas that has been in her family since the 1840s). When I was made one of the candidates for Bishop of Connecticut, I decided that I needed to find a way to become better acquainted with the people of the state that God may be calling me to serve as bishop. Thus this blog. I hope that it will be a way for all of us to get better acquainted with the larger Church, in particular that part that calls itself Episcopalian.

We'll have some random ponderings from this Texas priest as I explore what God has in store for the parish where I now joyfully serve and the possibility of new friends made through the discernment and election process.

There is a prayer that I am praying that is adapted from one written by Jeanne Vogel, OSB, one of the Sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana. The parish I serve prayed it for two years everytime we gathered for worship as we discerned and listened for what God was calling us to do. Yes. Two years. Things rarely move fast at St. Mary's.

I've shared the prayer with the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. I'll share it with you:

Our God, the time is now and we are here.
We know that you have always called people to do special tasks when the time was ready and the need was great.
What would you have us do now?
How can we serve you best by using the gifts and talents you have given us?
Show us how you want us to serve the people of God who cry for peace and justice, who lack life’s necessities.
Please help us know what you are calling us to do here and now.
We are listening, God.

Please join me as we see what God has in store.