Tag Archives: Episcopal Church

Day one of my silent retreat

This is my first post written when I was on a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemane in rural Kentucky, a Trappist Mono monastery and the home of Thomas Merton for all his years as a monk. I wrote the posts while there, but was disconnected from EVERYTHING (which was SO GREAT), and so I am posting them now and over the next few days. I also spent some time reflecting on my 20 year anniversary to the priesthood (December 14).

Retreat 2022 – Abbey of Gethsamane Nov 28 – Dec 2, 2022

I left home around 4pm on Sunday. Had a good first Advent at St. Simon’s, although still wondering where the people, especially families with children, are. Preached one of my favorite sermons and talked about how I am leaving, FINALLY, for this retreat and how much I need it. I think they got it. I had numerous very supportive comments after each service.
Had lunch with Jennifer before I left then hit the road, praying for her for the week as I drove away. It’s close to ten hours to the retreat center so planned to drive as far as I could then find a room for the night. With my lower back problems of the last 9 months or so, I didn’t want to chance a big flareup while away. So I stopped in Huntsville for the night – what a cool city! I was close in a search process here as our Delray Beach time was wrapping up, they ended up calling their interim (a friend of mine)! Who knew such things were possible? Well, every bishop that’s ever said no to me ended up saying “it’s ok now” to someone else. How can I not think it must have something to do with me? Anyway, would have been interesting to have been in this area, seems really nice. But certainly all worked out in wonderful ways for us.
The purpose in stopping was to sleep and to make enough of the distance up so I can get there as soon as possible Monday – best laid plans…
I failed in the sleep department, was up until almost 2am. Monday. Before leaving town for the retreat center in Kentucky, I went to Best Buy to get some cheap bluetooth earbuds as I left mine at home. Scored on that, then hit the road again.
By the way and thanks be to God and Nancy, my miracle worker Physical Therapist, my back is holding up quite well so far.
The trip from Huntsville to the Abbey of Gethsamane should have taken about 4 hours but due to construction on I-65 it took almost 5, and then I lost an hour moving into Eastern time zone. Still rolled into “Monkville” about an hour before supper and got unloaded and settled in. Let the silence begin!
It takes some time to adjust to being here, that’s for sure. We eat meals in silence, so dinner was quiet with some music playing. The monk in charge of retreatants (Guest Master), Father Carlos, has been here 35 years. He is from the Phillipines. On Monday and Tuesday evening at 6:30 he gives a brief talk (retreats are offered for Monday evening to Friday morning and Friday evening to Monday morning). Tonight’s talk was on seeking God. He made some nice points. He recommended always starting with Psalm 139:13 “I will thank you for I am wonderfully made”. Kind of resets us don’t you think? Then he reminded us where to be fed – Jesus says in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, whoever believes in me shall never thirst”. Such simple reminders of the truth of God should help recenter us as we seek to listen to God and follow God’s will for us. Fr. Carlos then made this profound statement – “when we make the church our comfort zone we (the church) become just another do good organization. Nothing wrong with doing good, but seeking God should move us from a comfort zone fully into Christ, shifting to THAT comfort zone should not be scary but, well, comfortable and also so much more meaningful.”

Following the talk I attended the 7:30 Compline service. I will have much more to say about the various prayer services the monks participate in (along with any retreatants so inclined) in a later post. After supper, back to my room. The rooms are all private, just a twin bed and desk/chair with a small area for your clothes and your own bathroom with shower. All you need. Despite my lack of sleep I was too wired to get to bed early, and it takes some getting used to to the intense quiet here! It’s so nice and so different. So I wrote this post and made some notes from one of the books I brought, and I prayed. A lot. I brought a directory of my parish and began going through it, praying for each of my folks by name. It was holy time. Then I prayed for my family, for the world, and for God to speak to me this week. More to come…

Sermon October 2, 2022 – Hurricane Ian, Psalm 137 and 2 Timothy 1.

I am attaching the YouTube link to our service at 9am on Sunday, October 2. Since many of our folks came to the outdoor service for the Blessing of Pets, which had only a very short homily, I was asked to post this one for those who missed the 9am.

You may find the service HERE.

The sermon starts around the 23 minute mark. But watch it all, our choir was so good today (as always!).

General Convention Post 3

Some members of our deputation showing off their Camp Beckwith shirts. It was Camp Shirt Day at General Convention

The legislative process at GC can sometimes drive me batty. Time is limited for debate and those wishing to speak queue up at microphones using an electronic queuing system for fairness. Most speakers are well prepared, knowing they only have 2 minutes (and asked often to slow down in order to allow the translators appropriate time). Also often we hear basically the same thing said by multiple people and when that occurs where there is no one speaking to the opposite side, I tend to get impatient as the will of the house is pretty obvious. But in reality, deputies speaking from their heart or from their experience regarding a resolution and its possible impact are at the core of why we are here. It’s a process (a lot of process in the process) and the diversity of deputies here is delightful to see. I am also very impressed by the number of younger deputies this convention and their willingness to speak to the issues in front of us. So I will resist yelling ”get off my lawn”, and see what I can learn from all the variety of people and opinions.

In her brief remarks after being elected President of the House of Deputies, Julia Alaya Harris said it was a victory for ”church geeks” everywhere. YES! She was speaking to the House but also to a large number of people watching online. She described herself as a church geek who loves the legislative process, canons, prayer book, and other things that make our church in some ways unique, and she also wanted to lift up her fellow church geeks and honor their passion for all things church. Thanks Julia! We look forward to your leadership.

The most moving moment yesterday was the approval, unanimously, of the merger of the Diocese of North Texas (formally called the Diocese of Ft Worth) with the Diocese of Texas, from whence it had been carved out decades ago. The Episcopalians of this diocese have been through incredible trials and tribulations, finally ending up with the vast majority of clergy and churches leaving the Episcopal church to align with another entity. Deputy Kate Sherrod, who has been so steadfast in her fight for her diocese, her church and her people, spoke to the importance of this day for her and so many others. Recently the Texas Supreme Court, in a decision that goes against almost 100% of all other court cases across the country when churches have voted to leave the Episcopal church but learned they could not keep their buildings or money, decided the break away diocese could not only have ALL the stuff, down to prayer books and vestments, they also could retain the name of the Diocese of Ft. Worth. Katie was in tears as she testified to the heartbreak and hardship, along with the delight in their reunion with the Diocese of Texas. Her haunting words were prophetic to me, saying ”the cost of inclusion is a heavy one”. The resolution passed with a standing ovation as the deputies from North Texas and Texas stood on the platform. To quote Presiding Bishop Curry from his sermon on Friday, this is one way we make ”plenty of good room for all God’s children.”

The evening session included two LONG debates, one on a resolution accepting the recommendation of a study group reorganizing how our archives are managed. It’s way too much to get into on here, but who knew so many people would speak passionately on this topic? I voted to support the 4 years of work of the study group. The other resolution which took a lot of time (and will have to be finished with this morning) had to do with resolution A048, which was offered by the legislative committee I serve on. Based on recommendations of a Task Force formed at the last GC, the resolution proposes much needed changes to how the budget for the church is developed, while keeping the authority for approving the budget with the GC. The budget process is currently very convoluted and recognizing this, the Task Force was formed to come up with a better approach. They have done so and I support their work. Our own deputy, David Quittmeyer was part of that process as a member of the Program, Budget, and Finance standing committee and David also supports what the task force has offered.

On a personal note, I was moved to tears as the PHOD awarded the Presidential Medal to Louisa McKellaston. Louisa is a young adult who works for the Diocese of Chicago and is chair of my committee. In addition, Louisa and her amazing family lived across the hall from the Knights our first year at Seabury Western seminary. She was a young teen then and made fast friends with my two daughters who were adjusting to this move and needed a friend. I am so proud of her! She has suffered through the tragic loss of both her parents since the last GC, her mother was my classmate and an amazing person and priest who died very unexpectedly and far too young. Her brother, Ian, is a star with the Chicago Symphony, their whole family being musically gifted. So proud of you, Louisa!

Time for the morning session soon. More to come. Two days to go! Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!

Me with Louisa after her medal award

General Convention – 1st post

Well, after writing a post earlier and having it lost in the internet ether somewhere, here goes a 2nd attempt.

I arrived in Baltimore for General Convention (GC) 80 late last night, storms in the area delaying our arrival a bit. This is my 6th GC and my 2nd as chair of the deputation from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. It is an honor to serve in this capacity. While I do have a lot of experience, obviously, at GC, this one will be so different and we are all curious as to how things will work.

Due to the ongoing threat of COVID 19, this GC has been reduced to 4 days, less than half of what we typically have. A lot of work has been done using Zoom and Microsoft Teams as legislative committees have worked on resolutions submitted and assigned to them since January, offering online ”hearings” for any interested parties to attend and comment.

To be honest, I hope this pre-convention committee work does not become the norm. I found it really difficult to attend every meeting, as life and work often would get in the way. When you are physically at GC, you have 100% commitment of time and energy to the work to be done, and while this lends itself to GC being exclusive to those who can afford, in time and money, to attend, I missed not just the opportunity to see and work with people in person, but also the ability to attend meetings and hearings of committees I am not on (I am a member, with Bishop Russell, of the Committee on Governance and Structure – try to stay awake as you read that title). I do not think TEC (The Episcopal Church) did a very good job of promoting hearings on resolutions by the various committees, several times I tried to find when a hearing was taking place (on Zoom) only to be unable to find the information needed. Clicking on a resolution which I knew had hearings coming soon often just displayed ”no meetings scheduled”. I know this is new to everyone and while I hold out hope we do not attempt this same approach at future GCs, if we do we MUST do a better job of advertising to all when hearings are occurring so those interested can ”attend”.

The other possible detriment to this reduced time is that most resolutions will be on the consent calendar, meaning they would be adopted (or rejected) in mass without any debate or discussion. Some of the resolutions we are dealing with are pretty important, involve lots of TEC budget money, make bold statements to the wider church, and change some important aspects of how we ”do” church, and I think many of these are worth the time of the over 800 deputies to discuss and perhaps improve.

That’s enough rant for now. I am headed to registration. Many thanks to Dwight Babcock, our diocesan administrator, for securing us rooms in the Hilton, which is adjacent via SkyWalk to the convention center, AND, more importantly, basically next door to Camden Yards, the Orioles ballpark. Some of us are attending the game tonight and I cannot wait! I have been to Camden once before, with 35 youth from the coast of Mississippi (seems like eons ago, they are all in their 20s and 30s now!) and next to Wrigley Field, it is my favorite MLB park. Go O’s!

Please comment if you have any questions or comments regarding GC, I would love to hear from you!