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.