299 New Jerusalem

Wayne Smith's occasional blog of pilgrimages and journeys

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday afternoon

Until now I have put myself at the back of the queue for blogging, and I trust that the other bloggers in Lui have kept readers current on the events here. Debbie and I just walked over and found an available computer. She is patiently waiting while I check email and post a short note.

My time these days has been devoted to the Pastors' Conference, the responsibility for which I have shared with Dan, and, by extension, with Anne P. and Warren. They work with the same group of pastors and Mothers' Union Workers as Dan and I, and we all share the same space in the Cathedral.

Two aspects of our teaching will have me caught in reflection for some time to come. First, on Wednesday Dan and I made a presentation on stewardship to a group of forty pastors and workers, most of whom are subsistence farmers. The session was both challenge and blessing, to say the least, and we ended up devoting a second hour to the first we had planned. Second, we spent time Thursday and Friday (today) introducing computers to this same group, none of whom had ever sat in front of keyboard and monitor. I certainly know no fear in using the computer, but I have never even thought about how to show a group of fifteen what to do with one. My inner geek is humbled. But the pastors and workers were thrilled to get their hands on this tool which most people in the West simply take for granted.

Our team of eleven seem well, both exhausted and exhilarated by what we are all doing. For what it's worth, I have never experienced Sudan in such mild weather. The highs must be no more than ninety-five or so. Late November may be a good time to come here, a note for future reference.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On the way to Lui

Time to activate the blog again.

Here I sit in the Detroit airport, waiting the three hours before boarding a flight to Amsterdam. Then a flight to Nairobi. Then to Kampala. Then to Lui. This was to have been a five-hop trek, but it turned into a six-hopper, after our direct flight to Detroit was cancelled, forcing a diversion through Minneapolis. That first-person plural in the previous sentence refers to our little band of missioners from the Diocese of Missouri, nine in all. Two missioners from Blackmore Vale Deanery in Salisbury Diocese (that would be C of E) will join us in Kampala, all for the sake of a mission focused on education.

If the internet is up and available in Lui, I will to my best to post at regular intervals.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday: HOB has adjourned

We're done.

Most of the House meetings since my first one in March 2002 have left me with a sense of uneasiness and looming trouble, or at least incompleteness. Not this one. For whatever reason--and pray God, may it be the work of the Spirit--we seem to be moving toward one another. Whatever disagreement arose this time came largely without intimations of dire consequences or threats. Conflict will be a necessary part of the life in any community, but the good news is that it does not always have to become toxic-- not always an obvious axiom in my experience of the House.

Our pastoral letter this time, you will notice, is much more focused than the letters in the past few years. It addresses the economy, directly, and suggests some spiritual meanings and responses to the difficulties we face.

The election of a bishop for Ecuador Central, Luis Fernando Ruiz, was a matter taken seriously and prayerfully by the whole House, and a clear outcome came in the balloting. 

I will spare you the endless details of the meeting over the course of these concluding days, when the attention was given over mostly to business meetings presentations from Church agencies and committees. But one impression seems important. We had heard back-to-back presentations, first, about Latino ministries in the Episcopal Church , and next, about the ongoing process toward an Anglican Covenant. One bishop spoke with words resonating for me, when he remarked that he felt within him a burgeoning of energy, when considering the Church's mission among a growing population in this country, and a corresponding diminution of energy, when we turned to internal Church matters.

I depart this afternoon for Lubbock, Texas, where Saturday my home diocese, Northwest Texas, will ordain Scott Mayer to the episcopate. Sunday I will preach and preside at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Brownfield, a little community whom I served (and loved) my first two years out of seminary.

For the clergy of Missouri: we will be together for retreat next Tuesday, and my plan that first evening is to reflect with you on this meeting of the HOB, (a little reflection of my own, a little q & a) as well as whatever else might need attention, for our common life.

Monday, March 16, 2009

HOB: Sunday and Monday

A day of worship and welcome rest on Sunday gave me space for prayer, reading, exercise, and a restorative nap. The evening was devoted to a "fireside chat" with Katharine, our Presiding Bishop, who briefed us on such diverse matters as the primates' meeting, the renewing dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Quincy, budget development for the next triennium, the episcopal election in Northern Michigan, and other odds and ends. The energies of the House, as we responded in conversation, drew toward the current economic challenges and what they mean for the Episcopal Church and its dioceses. There is hardly the sense that going forward means business as usual, with only minor course corrections along the way.

Come Monday morning, we followed the usual routine of Morning Prayer and Bible study. But then came something entirely unusual (but canonical), in that we began considering the election of a bishop for Ecuador Central. I do not mean that we had the matter of consents to an election already held; we, the House of Bishops had been asked to elect a bishop, on behalf of the Diocese. The convention of any diocese in fact may ask the House of Bishops to elect a bishop on their behalf. (Canon III.11.1.b). They seldom do. Ecuador Central's Provisional Bishop, Wilfrido Ramos-Orench, addressed the House, explaining the depth of conflict and distrust in the diocese, making the appeal to the House of Bishops a reasonable one, even necessary.

The three nominees are:

Thomas G. Mansella, Diocese of Virginia
Servio Rhadames Moscoso, Diocese of New Jersey
Luis Fernando Ruiz, Diocese of Colombia

Each nominee made a brief introductory statement, in Spanish (with immediate translation), and then the House broke into three groups for questions and answers with each candidate in sequence. Balloting comes during the business session Tuesday evening. I am feeling both the weight of responsibility in voting and the hope for Ecuador Central, represented in the election before us.

And I will spare you, and myself, the tedium of details of Monday afternoon's business session. You would have recognized it as a Church meeting--full of seriousness, punctuations of laughter, with the occasional parliamentary knot to puzzle over. Yes, you would have recognized it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

HOB Day 2

After morning prayer and table conversations, the House turned our attention to completing the conversation with Bishop and Brueggemann. We devoted the morning to this work.

Following Eucharist and lunch, we heard a sobering presentation about the economy from Warren McFarlan, a devoted Episcopalian from the Diocese of Massachusetts who serves on the faculty of the Harvard Business School. We have all heard the hard news about an economy gone very bad. But Professor McFarlan, in about an hour, sketched out the details leading up to the current situation, the depth of the problem, and how we might emerge from it. Honest talk without a tone of doom and gloom.

Then Rep. David Price, from the 4th Congressional District of North Carolina, addressed the House to give some perspective on the current political situation.

Then at six p.m. began twenty-four hours of Sabbath, the only commitment being the celebration of the Eucharist at ten a.m. on Sunday.

This respite comes at a welcome moment for me, because the last thirty-six hours have given me a lot to process. The paucity of detail in my writing suggests that I have not yet made sense of all that I have taken in. Grateful for the pause button.

I am a little stir crazy from all the sitting around, and would be glad to get outdoors for some exercise. The setting in the mountains of Western North Carolina is, theoretically, well-suited for the likes of this. I say theoretically, because it is pouring rain at present (Sunday morning) and about 38 degrees. This is my third visit to Kanuga in March, and this is the sort of weather I have found here every time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

HOB Day 1: Friday

We did in fact convene with the celebration of the Eucharist at noon, after which I was surprised (and delighted!) to see a friend from my Lambeth Bible Study group. Trevor Williams is the Bishop of Limerick, in the Church of Ireland, and he happens to be here as a guest of our House. At every meeting of the HOB in my time a bishop, and that would be since 2002, there have always been bishops from the other provinces of the Anglican Communion in attendance. Trevor is the first such guest with whom I have had a previous relationship, and I am very glad that he is here.

After the Eucharist, and lunch, the House convened in our usual and customary configuration--that is, in groups of five to eight, around tables. At my table this time is a guest, Bishop Blair Couch of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church. She with us as prelude to General Convention's ongoing consideration of full communion with the Moravians. What a wonder to hear about historic Christianity from another perspective.

When finished with preliminaries, housekeeping, and introductory conversations around the tables, we moved to hear complementary presentations from Bill Bishop and Walter Brueggeman. Bishop is a journalist and cultural critic; Brueggeman, a scriptural theologian and emeritus professor of Old Testament from Columbia Seminary. For the St. Louis connection, let me note that he is a graduate of Eden Theological Seminary and once served on the faculty there.

The title of Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, suggests the thrust of his arguments.

The the title of their presentations, as well as a theme for this meeting of the House: "A New Era of Engagement: Gospel Alternatives to Polarization." It is, let us say, a topic with currency, both in Church and in culture.

I tried very hard to summarize what they had to say, as well as the ensuing conversation with the bishops. Both presentations were rich, nuanced, and complex--and more than a little technical in language. I am not up to a summary, although I tried, but I do hope that their presentations will be made available online.

Friday, March 13, 2009

House of Bishops: Before the meeting begins

Here on the eve of the regular spring meeting of the House of Bishops, about three-quarters of the bishops have already arrived at Kanuga, the conference center near Hendersonville, North Carolina. For some years now, the planners have arranged various meetings for bishops before the House convenes. The arrangement makes for good stewardship, since it allows us to gather for other necessary meetings without extra costs for travel.

I arrived yesterday, for the ongoing training of those of us involved in the peer coaching process for new bishops. The College for Bishops, the teaching and learning arm of the House, has arranged a comprehensive program of formation for new bishops. No one teaches you about engaging in this ministry beforehand, and the current program, begun about six years ago, takes that fact into accout. There is a set three-year curriculum, including several week-long residentiary sessions in community with faculty and other new bishops. The College also appoints a coach for each new bishop, with the expectation that a relationship of learning and compassion will develop. And to this end, the coaches agree to engage in a continuing process of learning how best to engage such a relationship. So about thirty of us coaches met last evening and this morning for that work, led by David Rynick, a professional trainer in this field. The training is excellent, as is the process, and I am blessed as a coach to work with Greg Rickel, the Bishop of Olympia--who is, by the way, the preacher for Flower Festival this year.

This this afternoon I took a short course in blogging, offered again by the College for Bishops and led in this instance by Nicholas Knisely, dean of the cathedral in Phoenix and one of the pioneers in staking out a presence for the Episcopal Church on the web. It was very good, compressing a lot of information into a short period of time. So here I am, blogging again, as I am journeying once more on behalf of the Diocese of Missouri. Keeping in touch during these occasional pilgrimages is the purpose of blog, and I am trying to remain faithful.

Not least of all was the pleasurable time I spent on one of the enormous Kanuga porches this evening, in the company of eight or ten friends and colleagues. Rocking chairs, something tasty to drink, and a chill in the air, all shared among friends who see one another not nearly often enough: this is something I value greatly, and one of the reasons making me look forward to these meetings. Collegiality matters, and times for serious talk and laughter--both--are crucial for the life of community and sustaining relationships. I am glad to be here.

Tomorrow the House convenes at noon, and I will do my best to blog my experiences during this time together.