Thursday, March 28, 2013

Called to the Wall

 We started out, just as we had last year. Some came from as far as Trinity in Santa Barbara. The farthest came from Minnesota and New York.

People gathered at MacArthur Park where the first few stations were read. Prayers were prayed. The caravan began.

At Messiah in Santa Ana, more gathered. the pilgrimage continued with more stations, more prayers. Palms were added to the truck carrying the Salvador del Mundo -- an image of Jesus which made its way up from El Salvador, along the pilgrim trail, across the Mexican border, and ended up at Trinity
Episcopal Church on Melrose.  Those gathered for this event continued on to Chula Vista, St. John's Church. More people were gathered there. More stations, more prayers. The Salvador del Mundo traveled us, leading us down the freeway. People gawked, pointed, took pictures, prayed. It was quite a site -- this 6 foot statue of Jesus standing upright in the back of a pick up truck, leading a group of pilgrims to the border.

At St. John's in Chula Vista we were given simple sandwiches to eat and water to drink.More stations read, more prayers offered. We then started down the road to the border.

At the parking lot, we gathered. A large cross was carried by members of our pilgrim team, a smaller was carried as well. As we got to the beach, we stopped for more stations and prayers. We were walking our "Via Crucis" -- the way of the cross.

I remember last year walking along the beach in my chasuble and miter -- it was so hot! This year I wore only a simple alb and stole -- it was still so very warm. I thought about the people who have crossed the border, walking miles and miles -- not the 2 mile distance I had to traverse -- they with little or no water. Although my joints were killing me, I kept on. I knew this was my feeling the pain of others who have made this trek.

We stopped before we were to climb the short hill to reach the border wall -- and said the last stations, and offered more prayers. The waters of the Pacific on our right side, ahead of us a large fence that went down and into the ocean.

At the border, we celebrated the Eucharist -- on both sides at the same time. It was chaotic -- and wonderful. It was life-giving.
Celebrating the Eucharist this affirmed for me that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

On the other side -- and here is a picture of that side looking over towards the side we were on -- Mariachis sang with and for us all.

After the service, we all joined one another at the fence. People asked us to bless them, and they blessed us. I blessed a little girl, Liliana -- and she blessed me. It made me cry.

Tears of love, tears of sorrow were shed by many. Just as people shed tears for Jesus.

This was a very powerful Via Crucis. And we intend to repeat this Way of the Cross next year. I invite you to join us!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

House of Bishops

Well, here we are at the House of Bishops meeting in North Carolina. It is good to be with my brother and sister Bishops from every diocese in the Episcopal Church! I hear people ask "why do the Bishops get together twice a year?" After 3 years (this will be my 7th House of Bishops meeting) I truly understand why.

One of the things I have learned as Bishop is that our lives are very different than when we were serving as priests. In my congregation in San Clemente I knew everyone -- I could tell just by the way they were walking up the walkway on a Sunday morning whether or not there was something going on in their lives. That's what happens when you spend time with people week after week, day in and day out -- you know them, and they know you. I knew what to expect every Sunday from the Altar Guild, musicians and altar servers. I knew the community around us, and addressed issues that needed to be addressed within and around our parish community.

The other wonderful gift of being a parish priest is having a support group of fellow priests to meet with monthly -- it was a time to reflect on ministry, talk about our challenges and laugh and cry together. It is where I found sustenance for my work as a parish priest. That, and monthly meeting with my spiritual director!

Being a parish priest meant that, per my contract, I was to attend two weeks of continuing education each year. I so enjoyed these weeks -- refreshing/renewing my skill set in a seminary setting with my peers. This is a great gift that the congregations give clergy!

As a bishop, my life is not the same. Every Sunday is a "surprise" -- meeting new people, being in new spaces, celebrating at new altars. I don't know everyone as I did as a parish priest. I can't always read them the way I could read the members of my congregation. Every Sunday feels like a "first Sunday" in a parish -- those first Sunday's we spend in a new cure as clergy. This means the energy we expend as Bishops is greater -- any deacon or priest will back me up when I say that your first day(s) in a parish are exhausting -- and exhilarating! It is the same for a bishop when we do a visitation -- it is a first day. While I love it -- and I do love it -- it takes getting used to.

I am blessed to be serving with two amazing bishops in this Diocese -- Jon and Mary -- we serve as support for one another. Many bishops who are "alone" in their dioceses don't have the same kind of "support group" that we have in Los Angeles. Many live too far away from each other to form a regular support group -- the House of Bishops helps make that happen. Twice a year, we come together at round tables. We are assigned to these tables at the beginning of the triennium and remain with this small group for the three years between General Conventions. I was blessed during this last triennium to have been seated with a wonderful group of bishops, and I'm looking forward to being with my new group beginning with this meeting of the House.

But what to do about continuing education as a bishop? I have been told by some clergy that it would be intimidating for them if a Bishop took a continuing education class at seminary with them. Frankly I've never thought of myself as intimidating -- but I can kind of see their point. "We wouldn't be able to express ourselves freely" one clergy person told me. Hmmm.
As a Bishop my two continuing education weeks ARE the House of Bishops meetings. The House of Bishops in the two weeks we come together each year provides a learning opportunity not only from guest speakers who present to us on topics related to the theme of the meeting, but also from members of the House of Bishops themselves. Some of our greatest learning is learning from each other -- the sharing in this regard has been very powerful, and the learning deep and meaningful.

This House of Bishops meeting at Kanuga is focused on Godly Leadership in the Face of Loss. We will listen to and talk about gun violence, ...........and our own Jon Bruno will address the House on personal loss.

Friends in Christ, the House of Bishops is an opportunity for your Bishops to reflect with one another on the peculiarities of this calling and work. Our time together is relatively short and precious, and it has helped build strong relationships between diocese, which strengthens the Bishops our Church.
I look forward to being back in Los Angeles, renewed from being with my brothers and sisters. I wonder when I wander back to Los Angeles what new insights I'll bring back. I'll keep you informed!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kanuga Conference Center, North Carolina

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Of Starbucks and Converts

To all -- I meant to post this when I returned from the Church Pension Fund Board meeting, but fell behind. Here it is now --
It was one of those moments where I leaned forward and watched the screen carefully.
Here I was, on a plane flying back from my first Church Pension Fund Board Meeting. I was tired (being a trustee is a great deal of work, but it is very satisfying). I started watching "On Demand" television -- the UNDERCOVER MARATHON on USA -- Law and Order SVU and NCIS -- my two favorites. Whoo Hoo! What a nice way to travel back home on a night flight. I sat back, pulled out this iPad to work on a file and listen to/watch the shows.
Well, there are commercials. "No problem," I thought to myself. I haven't watched much TV lately (except for Downton Abbey), and definitely not TV with commercials. I lowered my eyes and worked on my file when the commercial started. I wasn't paying attention to it, I was working. Then it happened -- I heard the new STARBUCKS commercial -- something about it made my eyes look at the screen. It is the commercial for the new Starbucks Blonde coffee. Have you seen it? There is a young person introducing the viewer to the coffee. She talked about this being a milder coffee, and it's drawing new people to Starbucks.
At the end, the message was something along the lines of "if you've never tried us, or tried us before and didn't like us, come back". And then the real ending: "converts wanted".
Converts wanted. Starbucks. The Episcopal Church has much to offer those who have tried Christianity in other forms but found it lacking. Our arms are wide enough to embrace all -- indeed, that is exactly what drew me to this church. I was once a "convert" to the Episcopal Church, and happily so.
The Episcopal Church -- Converts wanted. Try us out. You'll like us!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Flying somewhere between New Jersey and Orange County