Before I was a priest, my favorite color was purple. I loved Laura Ashley clothes and had quite a beautiful variety in all shades of mauve and cerise and lavender and purple. However, once I was ordained priest, I had to put aside all my lovely purple clothes. You see, in the Episcopal Church, only bishops wear purple, and I discovered very early days that if I wore something purple, I’d get ribbed about aspiring to be a bishop. So I gave away all of my purple clothes.
Of course there was Lent every year. During Lent, purple became fair game for everyone. I still chose not to wear purple outside of worship because little remarks would be made. Priests never want anyone to think they are “running” for bishop.
Three years ago, however, dioceses started contacting me about being in bishop election processes. I had served delightedly in my home parish of St. Mary’s for over ten years, and truth be told, I had no desire to serve in any other parish. Truth be told, yet again, people had been approaching me for about five years about considering being a bishop, and so this time I said, “Why not?” and entered into those processes with some fear and trembling. Truth be told, yet again, in the most private piece of my heart, I had a sense of call, of yes, being called to serve Christ’s Church as a bishop. Or at least being willing to serve Christ’s Church as a bishop.
I was a candidate in one diocese and a very near candidate in another and figured I was done. When my own diocese called for the election of a bishop suffragan, I pretty much paid it no mind–I didn’t want to put my parish through another episcopal search process and, anyway, my diocese already had a woman suffragan–what likelihood was there that they would elect a second?
But then people started approaching again. People who I respected alot and people who certainly saw me in a way I didn’t see myself. I threw up obstacle after obstacle to God for over six months, but finally knew in my heart of hearts that if I were to be obedient to God, I had to allow my name to be put forth as a candidate.
So part of what I’m doing on this Lenten retreat in Tybee is spending time in prayer and reflection and writing answers to the questions posed for the diocesan search process. When I get back home, I’ll tell the parish that once again, to be obedient to God, I have to walk this purple pilgrim path. It’s not a career move. It’s not something that I aspire to do. It’s simply a yes to God.