Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Engaging a changing world with
an enduring faith in Jesus Christ

Bishop's Writings

A Statement On the Passing of the 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush

December 01, 2018

A statement from the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, and the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington

 Washington National Cathedral and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington join the nation in mourning and giving thanks for the life of President George H.W. Bush, a dedicated father, husband, patriot, veteran, and president. Our prayers are particularly with his children, President George W. Bush, Governor Jeb Bush, Marvin Bush, Neil Bush, and Doro Bush.

Across his 94 years, President Bush served his country with integrity, honor and distinction. He embodied the decency of his call to a “kinder, gentler” politics, and provided a steady hand to our nation as unprecedented winds of change swept across the globe. Facing the collapse of Communism and war in the Persian Gulf, President Bush’s leadership was defined by a sense of deliberation, humility, and thoughtfulness.

 His commitment to service and volunteerism remains an enduring testament to the rigor of his character and his gentleness of spirit. His unfailing support for the Americans With Disabilities Act was shaped by the compassion of his heart. Indeed, of his famed Thousand Points of Light, President Bush’s example burns brightest.

 His graciousness in defeat and his continued service to his country reflects the President’s depth of character and his sense of decency. Beyond the loss of a honorable patriot, we mourn the passage of a kind of politics that was rooted in the prophet’s call to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. How much this nation longs to reclaim those better angels of our nature.

 Yet beyond the political achievements and historic accolades, President Bush was committed most to his family and his faith. He and his beloved Barbara poured their love into their children and raised them in faith. President and Mrs. Bush were here at this Cathedral, on Sept. 29, 1990, as workers set the final stone in place after 83 years of construction.

 George and Barbara Bush’s example of mutual devotion, fidelity, and commitment is inspiring, and it should give everyone great joy to know that Mr. and Mrs. Bush’s love continues into eternity.

 Together with all the saints in glory, for the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush, we give thanks. From his commitment to civility and decency in our public life, we draw encouragement. And from his 94-year example of love, commitment, and character, we find inspiration to be the people he believed we could be.

 “Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, George. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.”

Why We Need Advent

November 29, 2018


The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:35-38

One of the great spiritual writers of our time, Richard Rohr, believes that there are at least two major tasks in every human life: the first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or outward identity; the second is to find the contents that the container is meant to hold.

We live in a culture that encourages us to fixate on the parts of ourselves that others can see, what are sometimes called the three A’s: appearance, accomplishments, and what we accumulate. There’s nothing inherently bad with any of these things. We need containers; with care, they can beautifully reflect our true self. But all too often we confuse our containers with what they are meant to hold. I know that I do.

This Sunday we begin Advent, a short season in the Christian calendar intended to help us prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, consider the cosmic implications of our faith, and experience the grace of God making possible what we cannot.

Yet even in the church, most of our Christmas preparations focus on what we might call Christmas containers, all that we do on the outside to make Christmas happen. We need those containers, or at least some of them, or there would be no celebration. But when we confuse our Christmas containers for what the containers are meant to hold, we risk missing the true gifts of this holy time. What a loss, for us and for our world.

That’s one reason why we need Advent. For this is a season of longing. We see the world as it is and long for the world that could be--where families need not flee for their lives, where poverty and war are no more; where no one need grieve the loss of one taken too soon. We see our loved ones struggle and we long to make their lives easier and more joyful, to watch their dreams fulfilled. We consider our lives and long for what we could be, our true selves, free from anxiety, guilt or pain.   

So much of what we long for lies beyond our reach. Sometimes we rail against our limitations; others times we live as graciously as we can in that space between our longings and our lives. Yet when we allow those longings to surface, we realize that no matter how hard we try to keep our expectations in check, hope is never far from us.

And thank God for that. Because then we are open to what God alone can do, what God is doing, where God’s grace prevails.

As best you can, then, tend to your heart this Advent. As best you can, seek out a place in this world where Jesus needs you and go to be his hands and feet. As best you can, try to fashion your Christmas container--and that of your life--to Jesus’ way of love. Such an offering would be worthy of the One who comes heralding the amazing truth that nothing is impossible for God.

For your spiritual growth in the Way of Love teachings of the Episcopal Church this Advent, we encourage you to engage the following resources:
A curriculum for Advent published by the Presiding Bishop's office and written by two diocesan clergy, the Rev. Becky Zartman and the Rev. Jenifer Gamber.
 
Daily Advent reflections on the Way of Love, with images and brief biblical passages throughout the week, taken from the Sunday lectionary in Advent. These daily prompts will be posted on the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's FacebookInstagram and Twitter feeds.

Pain that Leads to Life

November 18, 2018

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs."
Mark 13:1-8    

Good morning, St. John’s! It’s wonderful to see good friends I’ve had the privilege of working alongside in my 7 years as bishop and to meet some of you for the first time. It’s a big day today: 21 people will be Confirmed or Received into the Episcopal Church at the 11:00 a.m. service, we’ll offer prayers of dedication for the renovated parish house. Please know how much I admire the wise-beyond-his-years leadership of your associate rector, Andy Olivo, the strong and steady hand of your interim rector, Bruce MacPherson, your gifted staff, committed and faithful lay leaders, and in particular, the vestry and rector search committee. I hold all of you in the highest esteem, you who are living, working, serving faithfully in the places to which you are called. I give thanks to God for all of you.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope that you have the opportunity to be with people you love, and in their presence consider the many blessings of your life. It’s always a good practice to take stock of our lives through the lens of gratitude. Practicing gratitude trains our eyes, ears and hearts to receive the gifts of each day and each year that we might otherwise miss. What has happened since last Thanksgiving for which you are truly grateful?

This time last year, I was invited to preach the Thanksgiving homily for the girls at National Cathedral School. I invited them to take up a gratitude experiment (and we wouldn’t tell the St. Albans boys). For the next 30 days, I suggested to them, at the end of each day write down 3 things from the day for which they were grateful. They didn’t have to pretend that they were grateful for things they weren’t, I told them. But even on the hardest days, see if there isn’t something for which to give thanks. At the end of the 30 days, let’s talk about what you’ve learned.

Right before Christmas break, the entire 4th grade class wrote me letters reporting on their experience. Here is a sample of what I received:

  • I learned that I had more than I thought.

  • I don’t think I will ever forget when you told us that good things come out of challenges; it’s not wonderful, but good.

  • I was really inspired to be more grateful, and it worked. I found myself less worried.

  • I learned that even among hard times you should try to find joy.

You might consider such a gratitude discipline in your household and reflect on what you learn.

Yet the past year, like any year, surely brought some manner of hardship and suffering, to which we are not immune, and for which we need not pretend to be grateful. For some, the hardships have been acute. Indeed, some things that can and do happen in a human life are so searing we never fully recover. If this has been your experience in the past year, or that of someone close to you, I offer my deepest condolence for your loss and pray that you are surrounded by tenderness.

I’ve just finished reading the extraordinary memoir of Dr. Elaine Pagels, whom you may know as the author of some of the most influential, and controversial, books on the history of religion in past 25 years. Among them: The Gnostic Gospels; Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origins of Satan; and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. She is one of my heroes, and thus when I saw that she had at last written a memoir, which she entitled, Why Religion?, I dropped everything to read it. In it, she writes for the first time about her personal suffering, an extended season of grief brought on by the death of her 5 year-old from a rare heart disease followed within a year of the accidental death of her husband.

In that devastating time, Pagels was overwhelmed not only by grief, but also with guilt, as if she were somehow responsible for their deaths. “Shaken by emotional storms,” she writes, “I realized that choosing to feel guilt, however painful, seemed to offer reassurance that such events did not happen at random. . . If guilt is the price we pay for the illusion that we have some control over nature, many of us are willing to pay it. I was. To release the weight of guilt, I had to let go of whatever illusion of control it pretended to offer, and acknowledge that pain and death are as natural as birth, woven inseparably into our human nature.” (Elaine Pagels, Why Religion: A Personal Story (HarperCollins, 2018).)

Let me say that again: Pain and death are as natural as birth, woven inseparably into our human nature.

The gospel text for this morning comes from a part of Jesus’ ministry when he becomes sober, even grim, about prospects for the future—not exactly a place to turn for gratitude or consolation. It’s a foreboding word he speaks to us about buildings falling, wars and rumors of wars, and earthquakes and famines, a biblical tour of all the terrible things than can happen and do happen and are, in fact, happening in our world.

“Why do disasters still shock and surprise us?” Pagels asks, ever the scholar, even as she plumbs her own pain. She points out that our Judeo-Christian worldview is rooted in a vision of God who is all good, and who created, as stated in the Book of Genesis, “a very good world.” If so, what happened to this good world? “While the Buddha declared as his first noble truth that ‘all life is suffering’,” she writes, “Jewish and Christian theologians, on the contrary speak of ‘the problem of suffering’ as if suffering and death were not intrinsic elements of nature but alien intruders on an originally perfect creation.”

That insight alone made me wonder how much our response to our suffering determines what happens next, which is another way of asking what we are to do with the pain of loss. There’s little to be gained by running from it, though we can’t be blamed for trying. If we aren’t experiencing suffering ourselves, our understandable tendency is to imagine that we are somehow immune, until that bubble bursts. Sometimes the pain is so great that we are completely done in, at least for a time. But what happens when we realize that we’re still here, still alive, at least for now? How can we dare to breathe deeply again, accept what we cannot change, and learn what it has to teach us?

Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist writer whose books are worth having around you for the titles alone. Among my favorites: When Things Fall Apart, The Places That Scare You, When Pain is the Doorway, and The Wisdom of No Escape.

“There’s a common misunderstanding among all human beings,” Chödrön writes in The Wisdom of No Escape:

that the best way to live is to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. But a much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we’re committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.” (Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape (Boston: Shambhala, 2001).)

In The Places That Scare You , Chödrön writes:

There is only one approach to suffering of lasting benefit, and that approach involves moving toward painful situations, to the best of our ability, with friendliness and curiosity, relaxing into the essential groundlessness of our situation. There, in the midst of chaos, we can discover the truth and love that are indestructible. (Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You (Boston: Shambhala, 2002).)

Jesus, sounding very Buddha-like himself, at the end of the passage we have before us, took this line of thinking one step further: “In suffering, you will experience the beginnings of birth pangs.”

Birth pangs as a metaphor for suffering? Now that’s something that women who have given birth can speak about with some authority.

The first birth pangs, as any one of us will tell you, are meant to get your attention. You don’t do anything with those first pangs—the baby is a long time coming. When the first pangs come, about the only thing you can do is pay attention, practice breathing, and wait for the next one, which you know will be more painful than the first.

As it turns out, paying attention requires all your energy. There is no running away. Breathing—something we take for granted most of the time—becomes essential. So does getting ready. Location matters. Who is with you matters. You don’t need a lot of the stuff we normally clutter our lives with, but you need a few essentials, and a good back up plan.

The message of this sermon is this: When pain and suffering comes, as they will, allow the full range of emotions to wash over you. When the sky comes crashing down and you have no choice but to face how scared, sad or angry you feel, you needn’t pretend that it isn’t a catastrophe. But, in time, should a doorway open for you, remember Jesus’ words about birth pangs, and about life after death. Because if you’re open to such a possibility and paying attention to the pain with as much curiosity as you can muster, you’ll be far more likely to receive what it can teach you and embrace the life that awaits on the other side.

My sense is that in unsettled times, be they personal, for us as a community, or for all of us as a nation and a species, we are always tempted to avoid the real suffering we must live through by hanging onto to other forms of suffering that are not, in the end, redemptive. Jesus speaks words of warning about “false messiahs.” I think his words can also apply to what might be “false suffering,” suffering that is real, but leads us nowhere. Guilt can be a form of false suffering. So can the many treadmills of anxiety that we freely climb on, spinning us round and round, when the real task before us is to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and see what lies on the other side.

A few years ago I attended a workshop with the wonderful Benedictine nun Joan Chittister. She spoke to us to of God, not as One who does things for us or to us, but instead as the One who walks with us, as an encouraging, beckoning presence. God is not a vending machine, she said, or a “Gotcha God,” waiting for us to fall short in order to punish us. God is the One who is always at our side.

One woman raised her hand to ask the question that we all ask at one time or another: “But how can we believe in such a God when there is so much suffering?” Joan looked straight at her with the deepest compassion and responded, “My dear, suffering is life. It’s simply life, the cost of life. It isn’t God’s fault. It isn’t your fault. It’s life. And life, while the greatest of gifts, can be hard. It can break our hearts, and often does. But my dear, God is with you. God is for you. God is your best friend. Never forget that.”

I leave you this day with what I hear in Jesus’ difficult words to us, words we may wish were not part of our Bibles, but in the end thank God that they are: be of good courage in the harder times. We never know when we might be called upon to do the hardest thing, what we fear most, or what catches us by surprise. But we can prepare for those times by how we live now—what we listen for, how we speak to one another and pay attention to the presence of God.

I don’t know that we ever become grateful for the hard things that happen to us, but I do know the gratitude for having come through them, gratitude, sometimes, for the person we become as a result of our hardship, gratitude that out of death something new can be born.

And so, St. John’s, Lafayette Square, continue being the church—the community—where you and others can grow in faith and love, give voice to your greatest aspirations; where you come to grieve and celebrate, and gather around the sacred stories and teachings of the Christian life. Together you can choose to face the realities of life with an open heart and a willingness to trust that no matter what happens, God is with you. Whatever hardship you are facing now, this is, Jesus says, but the beginning of the birth pangs. His life, death, and resurrection, his abiding presence with us, is God’s response to our suffering, with the most powerful promise of all: that there is life on the other side. For that, may we all give thanks.

Inner Terrain of the Ordained Life - Ordination of Transitional Deacons

November 17, 2018

The word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 4:1

Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
2 Corinthians 4:1

“I am among you as one who serves.”
Luke 22:27

Yesterday, as is our custom in the Diocese of Washington, I spent several hours with the four to be ordained and their spiritual mentor through the ordination process, the Rev. Robert Phillips. We met in our home, and after all of you had left, my husband said to me: “That has to be one of the best parts of your job.” And of course it is.

I hope you know what a privilege it is, not only for me, but for all of us to journey with you on the path of your discernment, education, and formation for ordained life. You are a blessing. Each one of you brings a particular richness of spiritual maturity and youthful exuberance, a joy for life and compassion born of the particular suffering that has marked you. As the wise Jewish doctor Rachel Naomi Remen reminds us all, “It is the wisdom gained from our wounds and from our experience of suffering that makes us able to heal. . . Expertise cures, but wounded people can best be healed by other wounded people. For the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise.” (Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom--Stories that Heal (Riverhead Books, 1996).)

You also bring to ordained life the experience of vocation in other realms, which gives you an appreciation for the breadth of call. You know that the experience, while distinct for those called to this peculiar path, is not unique. It was Walter Brueggemann who said that the great heresy of our time is the notion that’s possible, even desirable to live an uncalled life, with no other reference point than itself. (Walter Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination: Voices in Exile (Fortress Press, 1996).) You know that for the empty lie that it is. You know both the gift and the cost of a called life, a summoned life, which is the God-given potential for every human being.

When call is denied or ignored, we are diminished, stunted in our humanity. In its societal, collective expressions, the uncalled life is a manifestation of evil, as people are consigned to live lives too small for them, as cogs in the machinery of consumption or war, or as those easily thrown away, trapped in prisons of poverty and injustice. In the realm of personal choice, the uncalled life is among the greatest of self-imposed human tragedies.

You have been called to this life, among the ordained in this particular institutional expression of Christianity. For this, the first of two ordinations on your path to priesthood, I’d like to speak to you about the inner terrain of this particular call. I don’t believe that anything I have learned is necessarily unique to this call, but that is for others, called to labor in other vineyards, to determine.

The first emotion to name is gratitude.

I asked each of the four yesterday to identify the moment when they were, at last, confident that this day would come, that they would, in fact, be ordained. As each spoke, the gratitude in the room was palpable. There’s almost always a companion response of disbelief, as it feels too good to be true. You are called to this, and it’s amazing because it’s not about how marvelous you are--although, as the poem I asked you to read yesterday boldly states, “you are more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach.” (“Santiago,” by David Whyte. Pilgrim @2012 Many Rivers Press) That’s true about you, but so is everything else--the whole catastrophe of your existence. All of it is swept up into this call. That’s the amazing part, and how could we not respond to God in gratitude?

Now I know that sometimes we clergy speak of our call as something we resisted for years, said no to for years, and then finally acquiesced to, sounding a bit as if we were doing God and the church a favor by saying yes. But I’ve never been persuaded by that narrative, and whenever I hear people talk that way in the early stages of the discernment process, I discourage them from going forward. Honestly, you need to want this life in order to thrive in it. In the years when I was newly ordained, serving full time in a parish and raising two young sons, I remember thinking “I would not wish my life on anyone else. But nor would I trade it for anyone else’s.” Even the hardest moments, there is gratitude for the call. And when we forget that, and catch ourselves whining about how hard the work is, it’s best to step back and ask what else is going on.

In my first year in seminary, we had a visiting Church History professor who stepped in for one of the VTS faculty on sabbatical. He said something that I’ve never forgotten--not about Church History, but the nature of this vocation: “If you find yourselves complaining about how hard this work is, especially during Holy Week, or at Christmas, or other intense seasons in the church’s life, perhaps this is not your call.” “Never complain to your people about how hard you work,” he said to us. Which doesn’t mean you can’t complain to anybody, mind you. We all need places to release tensions and to vent. But not to those whose work is actually much harder than ours and who give countless hours apart from what they do to earn their daily bread, sacrificially, in service to Christ through the church.

Gratitude for this call, then, gratitude for the experience of call, is fundamental. And, as I’ve indicated, it’s important because of how hard the work can be, and even how hard it can be to find a place of work that also sustains our daily living.

Thus another dimension of the inner dimension of this terrain is heartache.

This call will break your heart. There’s no avoiding it. First of all, count on making a lot of mistakes, some of them quite spectacular. You will break your own heart in the ways you fail. Moreover, the church is filled with human beings--imperfect, broken, sinful human beings, just like you. They, too, will break your heart. To complicate things further, no matter where your vocational path takes you, this is a challenging time to be a Christian leader, and the challenges in the Episcopal Church are real. It’s helpful to know in advance, I suppose, that your heart will be broken, but in my experience  advance knowledge doesn’t really buffer the impact when it happens. That’s one reason why we all need support systems. There is no shame in asking for help. Nor is a broken heart the end of the world--in fact, as I said earlier, you broken heart will help heal other broken hearts.

Yet another dimension of the inner terrain of this call is the need to cultivate resilience, and persistence, or what some in leadership circles are referring to nowadays as “grit.”  

At the heart of this call is leadership. We are called to lead a certain group of people, be it a congregation, a student body, a family within a congregation, a group of colleagues, or a diocese. We are called to lead others from where we are now, as a body, to where God is calling us, toward a preferred future or a necessary sacrifice. That process, by definition, invokes resistance. Resistance, let me hasten to say, is not all bad; nor is all change good. As a result, those of us called to lead have no choice but to live and move and have our being in what I heard one leader recently describe as “the messy middle,” that place where nothing is clear, where what you thought was a God-inspired idea goes nowhere, where those who called you to lead them are now resisting you with everything they’ve got, and it occurs to you that working as a barista in your neighborhood coffee shop seems like a more fruitful place for ministry than the church.  

The last dimension of the inner terrain of this call I’ll mention today is the capacity to dream.

This is the gift of hope, that often initially expresses itself in a vision for what the church could be, is called to be, and a deep desire in us to be there, in that hopeful place. I often tease clergy when they describe the church they would like to serve: you know, that healthy, multi-cultural congregation, with enough resources to afford a staff, ready to take risks, isn’t burdened by the weight and responsibilities of a building, and with lots of kids. I say, sure, we all want that church. Perhaps your call and mine is to bring hope and vision for that kind of church to the place where most of our churches are now and lead accordingly. 

For without such a dream, where would we be? God places God-sized dreams in the heart of leaders for a reason. They are to be cherished, cultivated, and worked toward, in full acceptance the journey toward their fulfillment is long, that we may not see the fruits of our labor in our lifetimes.

Those dreams also ask for our best efforts. Do not expect this work to be easy. But not only is it worth giving your life to a God-given dream, if you are, in fact, called to this vocation, as we believe that you are, you will find your greatest joy in its fulfillment, and even in failure. For as Marian Wright Edelman once said, “It’s better to fail in the work that matters than to succeed in mediocrity.” But when things get hard, promise me that you will ask for help. We aren’t meant to do this work alone.

In closing, I confess that I am not a bishop who can speak to you from personal experience of a balanced life. I have never known balance, as much as my heart craves it. I can speak to you of the joy, gratitude, heartbreak, necessary resilience, dreams of a called life. And of a relationship with Christ that is deeply personal, sustaining, and yes, as St. Paul tells us over and over again, the way of the cross.

Please take care of yourselves. You are among the generation of clergy coming into your own under the inspired leadership of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Take his teachings to heart. Live in your lives according to The Way of Love. Live into the  practices of a Jesus-focused life before you speak of them. But then live your call, and speak, teach, love, and lead.

Thank you for saying yes,

A Holy Interruption

November 15, 2018

Thus says the Lord: I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19

At last May’s clergy conference, Tony Morgan, founder of The Unstuck Church Group spoke to us of holy interruptions. When working with churches, he said, he prays for holy interruptions, something that catches our attention, challenges us to pause and assess, and then create a plan to respond. We don’t drift into greater health, he said. We must actively choose it.

I confess that “holy interruption” was not my initial understanding of Canon Paul Cooney’s discernment that it was time to bring his EDOW ministry to an close. But as I continue to pray, for him and for all of us, that phrase--holy interruption--keeps coming back to me. Prior to Paul’s announcement, I sensed that this was a pivotal time in our common life. It is all the more so now.

As we make our way in the coming weeks, a few things are immediately clear:

Given that Paul Cooney has served as Canon to the Ordinary for 17 years, his ministry portfolio is uniquely tailored to his particular skills and capacities. By necessity, the Canon to the Ordinary position will be different going forward.

Thus this is truly a time of interruption and assessment. I’m working with diocesan leaders and staff to discern how best to ensure that key responsibilities currently residing in the Canon to the Ordinary’s portfolio are not neglected. We’re taking stock of all staff responsibilities, to consider new configurations among existing staff before identifying new positions. Given the magnitude of this task alongside preparing for a diocesan-wide strategic planning process, we’re seeking external guidance and support.  

Please join me in prayer that God will continue to guide us in a thoughtful, collaborative journey toward God’s preferred future for all who call the Episcopal Church their spiritual home, and for all who might come to know, love and serve Christ because of our faithfulness.

It strikes  me that what makes an interruption holy has less to do with how it came about and more with our response to it. St. Paul reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) May we all remain open to the Holy Spirit’s living presence in and among us, so that this interruption may result in a renewed season of faithful and fruitful ministry.

On a related note, Holy Interruption is the theme for Diocesan Convention in January. Together, we’ll celebrate Paul Cooney’s ministry and pray God's blessings upon him. And we've invited Tony Morgan back to the diocese for a pre-convention event on Friday evening, January 25th. Tony will speak of the core principles of church renewal as outlined in The Unstuck Church and we’ll hear from EDOW congregations already putting those principles into practice. We will share registration information soon. You need not be a Convention delegate to attend Friday night's session. All vestry members and other congregational leaders are welcome!

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