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!
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