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.