Sorry it's been a while! Here is some of what I've been up to.
I had the privilege of hearing Dwight at Province IV Synod in the Spring of 2012. He is passionate and insightful about the Church today and will, I am confidant, give us all new energy and vision as we seek to respond to God’s call to us in these challenging times filled with new opportunities.
Earlier this week, on Monday – Wednesday, I was with Bishop Councell as we met at Christ the King Retreat Center in Greenwich, New York with the Bishops of Province II (these are the Bishops of the New York and New Jersey dioceses as well as the Bishops of Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of Episcopal Church in Europe – the overseas bishops were not able to be with us for this meeting). It was terrific being with this group of Bishops who work in the same region of the country. Our host was The Right Reverend Bill Love who was a gracious and generous host. The centerpiece of our time together was a presentation by Whitney Kunilhohm, President of Scripture Union/USA and author of The Essential Bible and The Essential Jesus. Like The Reverend Marek Zabriskie and The Bible Challenge, Whitney is fostering a movement to encourage Christians to read the Bible daily and to do methodically and in community. I support these efforts. Too many people in the pew do not know their own story. Engaging in the Bible Challenge or following the guidelines of Whitney Kunilhohm is a great way to become immersed in the Scriptures and into God’s story. For more information see http://www.essentialbibleblog.com/ and http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/what-is-the-bible-challenge/.
While the presentation was valuable, the greater value was networking with the other bishops and hearing of the great things they are doing in their dioceses. They will be a tremendous resource to me as I begin my own episcopate. It was also touching to see their great affection for Bishop Councell as he prepares for his retirement.
On Thursday, October 10, I met with the Fresh Start Group. These are clergy who are either new to the Diocese or who have been in the Diocese but have been assigned to a new church. The intention of Fresh Start is to help clergy identify the challenges and dynamics of change and to assist them in facing these challenges in a productive and healthy way. The Reverend Neil Turtain and The Rev. Karin Mitchell are the Fresh Start leaders and do a fantastic job.
On Thursday, we had a farewell luncheon for Richard Grant who has been a terrific part of the finance team at Diocesan House. He is leaving to pursue a career in photography which is his true passion. We all wish him the very best.
On that same Thursday, I was also part of a conference call of Bishops Against Gun Violence. This group was formed after the Newtown shootings and involves more than 20 bishops who recognize that something must be done to stem the tide of gun violence in this country. A major event is being planned for April in Oklahoma City. The Presiding Bishop will be in attendance. The Archbishop of Canterbury will also be in this country and will attend the event. Gun violence is a plague in this country that particularly affects our urban communities. As Christians, I do not believe we can stand idle while some 30,000 people a year die as a result of gun violence. I hope and pray you agree and will be proactive in advocating for reasonable gun reform legislation.
On Thursday, October 10, members of Diocesan staff and I joined the clergy and people of Camden and Woodbury for a joint Convocation. This was the fourth Convocation held so far in the diocese. There was a very solid turnout and lots of energy and spirit. I am grateful to Canon John Sosnowski, Canon Phyllis Jones, Canon Debi Clarke and Communications Director Jonathan Elliot, as well as Susan Stokes, who have been part of the :"road show" with me.
Fall Convocations have provided another opportunity for me to listen to the people of the diocese. Each meeting of Convocation has been framed in prayer and worship. During our prayer service, I have engaged attendees in a sacred conversation in three parts. I have begun by asking those present what their hopes and fears are for the diocese as we begin this new era of my episcopate. Each person was asked to put one hope and one fear on an index card. Many of these were read aloud. Consistent themes have emerged - fear of decline, of closing churches, the absence of young people, concern that I will become absorbed by minutiae and bureaucracy, fear that the diocese will not pay attention to the northern end of the diocese, or the southern end. We have collected all these hopes and fears and are collating them in one place so that we have a record of them to remind us what is important to the people of the diocese.
After hearing the Hopes and Fears of the people of the Diocese, I asked those attending to share with me the Good News of the Diocese of New Jersey by telling me about the places God was working in their parishes, missions and communities. There was a lot of gospel news as people told me about the tremendous ministries going on throughout the diocese: lots of feeding programs, participation in several places in Family Promise which shelters homeless families with children, growth in many places and especially among young people, collaborative ministries and especially around Hurricane Sandy relief. Again, we collated this information so that we can build on this good work and energy.
Lastly, at each Convocation, I have been sharing “Ten Guiding Principles for My Ministry in the Diocese of New Jersey.” I am placing these in a separate blog entry. I understand these principles as “bedrock” for how I, and we, will move forward together in the diocese. So far, they have met with very enthusiastic response, although one priest suggested that I should have included the Five Marks of Anglican Mission in my principles. It is a point well taken. I absolutely uphold the Five Marks and am putting them in a separate blog post as well. They are a guiding light for our ministry as well.
Beyond the Camden/Woodbury Convocation, I have attended joint meeting of the Northern/Watchung Convocation, the Monmouth Convocation and the Atlantic Convocation. The Trenton Convocation will meet on October 23 and the Burlington Convocation will meet on October 24.
That's it for now. I'll post more of what I've been up to reaching back to the "missing weeks" in the next couple of days!