Whilst on the way to pray

The last two Sundays I’ve preached on the passages from Acts 16. I love those stories about the earliest days of the Church. I found especially intriguing the detour that Paul and Silas had on their way to pray (by the river? in Lydia’s home?) where they did indeed pray, but not in anyway they could have imagined when they got up that morning.

Of course, I talked about those places God takes us when we think we’ve got our day well-planned. Of course, because I preached about those surprising detours, that before I’d even signed the parish register after the 5:30 PM Eucharist, my plan of home for dinner and a little tv after a full day of work was not to happen. A friend of a parish family had suddenly died, and they had no church home. Could we help? Of course we could.

Thus the week was full with rearranging schedules, meetings with the man’s extended and estranged family, coordinating lay volunteers, and doing one of those funerals that I like to call “evangelism funerals”. I call them evangelism funerals not because we have an altar call or come-to-Jesus-moment, but because people who would never be in church, are. It’s a great opportunity to share Christ’s hospitality, love, and comfort. The parish does these funerals for strangers so very well. The Daughters of the King (our women’s prayer group) provides wonderful hospitality, and many others in the parish do their part in living Matthew 24. 34–36, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

I’m in the midst of another “whilst on the way to pray” moment in my personal life. Things are full of joy in the parish, and I’ve never been happier at St. Mary’s. I’m off to Portland next month for my first grandson’s baby shower, and my daughter has just quit her day job to work full time on her book.

But during Lent a couple of people approached me about being in another bishop search. I was not in any hurry to go through the process again, and was ready to say no, when Holy Spirit twists and turns ended up with a conversation on Maundy Thursday (of all days) that led me to know that I had to say yes. I was most hesitant because I did not want to put the parish through a search process again, but it appeared that all would be very private until right before the final candidates were named in August, and the election would be held soon after that in September. If I were not made a candidate, there would be no stress at all to the parish.

But it turned out not to be so private. Today the diocese posted on the diocesan website the names of the 15 priests who have been nominated by a member of the clergy and a lay person, have written nine papers, and submitted videos of those responses being made orally. The process is to be all public from the very beginning.

So here I am again in another bishop search. I know the process in Connecticut was the most challenging thing I’d ever done in ministry and one of the very best, too. I know how much I’ve grown and changed in the past year from being in the Connecticut episcopal election. I know that being part of this process is once again being obedient to God–being willing to change the direction of my life in order to serve God.

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