Tuesday, April 6, 2010

He's gone

This past week I heard a story from one of our Sunday School teachers who was preparing her children to do a dramatic renactment of the disciples discovering the empty tomb on the first Easter morning. One little girl was drafted to be an angel. Even though she was far from enthusiastic in her role, her teacher made sure that she knew her lines, "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, but he is not here. Behold he is risen and gone before you."

When the time for the performance came, the little angel's mood had not improved much. She sat in the set of the tomb, her halo askew, her foot tapping anxiously. When the disciples arrived and asked their question, "Where is Jesus?', the little girl shot back dimissively--"He's gone."

In one important sense she was right. On Easter Day we make much of the empty tomb, but the tomb is just a sign pointing us to the Risen Lord, who is not here, but has gone before us. He IS gone, and that is GOOD news! Our Gospel reading on Sunday focused on Mary, and her utter disregard about the empty tomb. Peter and John took it as proof, and that was enough for them. But Mary stayed, weeping, looking for Jesus. Mary reminds us that Easter is not about the event of the empty tomb, as miraculous at that may be, but about a relationship that we can have with the Risen Lord.

One of my favorite writers, Barbara Brown Taylor, talks about growing up back east where every year as a young girl she would find the shells of cicadas, an insect that leaves a hard larva casing behind on its way to adult bug-hood. She was fascinated by those hard brown lacquered shells that she would find around her house--what happened to their occupants? Then she realized it it was these same insects whose voices she heard singing in the high in the tree tops every warm summer night. She never saw them, but she could hear them, and sometimes the chorus was nearly deafening. The shell only pointed the way to the living animal And so he warns us, don't pay so much attention to the empty tomb that you forget to talk with the gardener.

Many people came to church this past Sunday looking for the empty tomb and for "proof" of the resurrection. But our churches, with all their glorious worship, are themselves empty tombs, pointing towards a greater reality, that of the Risen Lord. That same Lord offers to us the same kind of relationship that he did to Mary. Jesus is gone, but the Risen Lord lives in us forever! Alleluia!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Working People

Barbara Brown Taylor is one of my favorite authors. In a recent piece she writes about the some simple folks in her little town and how they live out their faith. She has in mind Studs Terkel who spent his long career documenting the lives of ordinary working people. http://bit.ly/dgW8i4

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Thoughts March 22.

How lucky we were today to have time with two of the best future church thinkers in the country!

This morning Phylis Tickle gave her view of where the church is in this moment of history. Her thesis is that the emergent church reflects an emergent culture in which our informational, economic, political, and sociological structures have changed forever. This is reflected in the way we are already doing church, and will effect us even more in the future. There is no going back.

After lunch Diana Butler Bass lead us through the numbers. It was somewhat comforting to learn that ALL Christian denominations have lost members, meaning that we are part of a changing culture and that no one in the church can be blamed for not doing something. The culture is changing and is the mood is reflected in the saying, "Spiritual but not Religious". She outlined ways in which the church can be more responsive to the energy of the spiritual side of this equation and less anxious about the organizational piece. Even emergent congregations are going to need structure and tradition. It is not a choice between one or the other, but finding a way to synthesis both approaches.

In keeping with a more modern approach, I "tweeted" through both talks and was gratified that so many in the internet world were following what I had to say. Several other bishops were doing the same thing.

The finish off this mind-expanding day, my class of 2004 had dinner together in a cabin on the far side of the lake here in Camp Allen. The food and comradarie were great.

Here we are together in a class picture. From left to right:
O'Neil, Colorado
Wolf, Kansas
Howard, Florida
Councel, New Jersey
Burnett, Nebraska
Hollingsworth, Ohio
Robinson, New Hampshire
High, Suf. Texas
Miller, Milwaukee
Lillibridge, W. Texas
Smith, Arizona
Brookhart, Montana

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sabbath Day

Today was our Sabbath Day, which meant that activity was at a minimum.

We started with church, and afterwards I took the opportunity of getting a picture of myself with Mary Glasspool, the newly elected Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles who is generating controversy, since she is a partnered Lesbian woman. I am her "90 Day Companion" appointed to show her the ropes of being a new bishop. She is a delightful person who will be a great addition to this body.

This afternoon I made my annual horseback ride along with about 10 other bishops. My horse, "Junior" was pretty tame. He followed directions but did not want to go faster than the other horses.

Tonight was our "fireside chat" with the Presiding Bishop. This was the chance we have to informally talk about what is on our mind or raise questions. There was some energetic discussion about the failures of the General Convention process, the need to find ways of liberals and conservatives to work together, and a host of other issues. A moving moment came with we welcome Bishop Duracin of Haiti and heard (through an interpreter) his experience of the earthquake in Haiti.

Tomorrow we have presentations on the Emergent Church which I am especially looking forward to. Watch for tweets @azbishop.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lots of talk

Many hours of talking today.

In the morning we tackled a paper by the Theology Committee that attempted to present the arguments for and against same gender marriage side by side. Theologians from both the conservative side and the liberal side were on hand to make their case and answer questions. The reception was less than thrilling. One bishop pointed out that there was nothing new in the arguments, stuff we have heard 20 years ago. Still, I guess that it is a good thing that we are still at the table exchanging views.

Henry Parsley, the retiring Bishop of Alabama, closed with a plea for "Comprehension for the sake of truth, not compromise for the sake of peace." I thought that was quotable.

After lunch we had a discussion about the Episcopal Identity Project and their report called, "At One Table." This is the result of many years study about how clergy and congregations perceive themselves, and what they consider to be the most important aspects of their identity. We focused this afternoon on two theological areas which congregations especially did not rank highly, "incarnation" and "salvation." The HOB has been criticized for not giving enough time over to theological conversation, so we had lots of opportunity to do that today, although, as you might expect, a couple of hours was not enough time to go as deeply as some would like.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stand about

The full House of Bishops finally got underway this afternoon. Our main item of business was hearing from 8 candidates for the position of Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Chaplaincies (now that is a mouthful!). Instead of a "walk-about", this was a "stand-about." All of the candidates were excellent. Robert Certain, whom Arizonans will remember as the sometime assistant at St Barnabas in Scottsdale, is one of the candidates.

These presentations were separated by the opening Eucharist in the "chapel" (it is a Texas-sized chapel, bigger than any of our Arizona churches!), with a sermon by the Presiding Bishop. She challenged us to think about new ways of "doing church" many of which we will find scary. Next week we will hear from several experts in the area of "emergent" faith communities.

I am enjoying the regional dishes in the refectory. They have included fried catfish, hush puppies, fried okra, and something new to me, Texas caviar, which is a kind of bean salad with chilies. Arizona needs to develop some of its own regional crusine, other than Prickly Pear jelly!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Intentional Listening --March 18

The attached photo shows the cross in the middle of Camp Allen. It is a popular place to be, not just for prayer but because it is one of the few places here where you can get good cell phone reception! If you look carefully you can see Bp. Skip Adams (Central New York) and Jim Curry

(Suffragan, Connecticut) checking in with the home front.

Today was given over to peer coaching. This meeting was required of those who, like myself, will be serving for a three year period as a "mentor" to a new bishop. Our consulant, David Rennick, was with us recently in Arizona, where he worked with our presbyters at their annual retreat at Chapel Rock.

Doing this is such a powerful experience. I am always amazed at the effect that just a short period spent with a trained listener can make. It is such a gift to have someone listen attentively and deeply to your hopes and dreams and not try to solve your problems, but simply to be with you. What we learned will easily translate into all the pastoral situations we are in.

The numbers are increasing tonight, since we get started with the whole group tomorrow afternoon. There about 8 candidates for the

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arrival at Camp Allen--March 17

It was an easy trip from Phoenix to Camp Allen, which is about an hour's drive from the Houston airport. Lovely early spring weather here--blue sky, puffy clouds, and just cool enough for a jacket.

I always enjoy Camp Allen. The facilities are great and so is the hospitality. It is also an easy trip from Phoenix.

I am here one day earlier than most, since I am part of a College for Bishops' mentor group. Each new bishop is assigned a mentor for three years. When I was new, my mentor was Bishop Alexander of Atlanta. Its now my turn, and I will be working with Bishop Brian Prior of Minnesota. That training starts tomorrow. Tonight there were about 15 of us. We had wine and cheese and dinner together, but it seemed rather quiet in the big dining room.

There was news today that Mary Glasspool has received all her needed consents. I believe that she will be arriving tomorrow and I look forward to meeting her.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Off To Camp Allen

It seems that I only activate my blog when I am attending a church gathering. Tomorrow I leave for the Spring House of Bishop's meeting which meets at Camp Allen, TX outside of Houston. (www.campallen.org).

The meeting will be for about a week and will focus on a number of business items as well as hearing presentations about the "future church." I am looking forward to it as time of fellowship with my Episcopal colleagues.

I plan to post an update on this site each day, and this year, I will be making use of Twitter. To follow me on Twitter go to #azbishop. I will also do my best to post some pictures and perhaps video each day as well. I will aim to give you all a sense of what we are doing and my thoughts and reactions along the way in keeping with constraints of confidentiality of those participating.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions at the end of each post! Please pray for me and my brother and sister bishops as we gather together.