Sunday, January 29, 2017

Playing Chess instead of Checkers. Contemplation, reflection and my Episcopacy.

This is on my desk to remind me.
We must know spiritual things spiritually. —1 Corinthians 2: 13

This past week a Priest kindly approached me.  “Bishop, can I say something in love, truth, and respect?”  I responded,  “Yes, of course.”  The Priest continued “We love you.  There are many of us who worried that you are working too hard. Significant work has been accomplished during your first six months, but we do not want you to be overwhelmed with work and kill yourself.”  

I thanked the Priest, smiled, and we began the conversation.  I described how God has a way of speaking to the heart, continually reaffirming through people and places what I experienced and learned in prayer.  How two events over the last month led me to a healthy, transformative and holy place.  This holy place is the urging to be “Daniel” and live into the question “What is God calling me to do as your Bishop?”

The first sacred event was my time in Albuquerque over Christmas with Suzanne and Jude.  As many of you know, they are in Albuquerque while Jude completes his senior year in high school.  When I boarded the flight, I was tired.  There were numerous instances where I worked 18 days straight.  No weekends or days off.  Hours were from 6:30 am to 9:00 p.m.  I lived in a small apartment in Center City.  I was focused on our work.    

I eagerly awaited the time with my family.  Every moment spent with them is life giving.  I miss them and count the days until we are together. While in New Mexico, I prayed, sat in silence and exercised. Many may not know that I am a contemplative and teach contemplative prayer.   My priesthood and spiritual life have been formed by silence, prayer, monasticism and the sacred mystery.   I need silence with the Lord.  It centers my being and thought.  So, I prayed and listened.

Over Christmas, Suzanne, Jude and I laughed, went fishing, dreamed and enjoyed being with one another.  We checked in, talked about the time apart and how we were going to live into our time in Pennsylvania.   There was also time with old friends, dinners and I allowed myself to breathe.  As one Priest in our Diocese commented; “You can relax because everyone knows the real you.”  

Did I also mention that I prayed, prayed and prayed?  During my prayers, something kept percolating in my thoughts, heart, and head. It was reoccurring and quite clear; I needed to listen to that silent voice.  I finally began to set my mind to this awakening.  It felt good and right.  It felt like my call way back when.  There were many questions and reflections as I returned to Pennsylvania. 

During the third week in January, I traveled by train to attend the Episcopal College of Bishop's program in Virginia.  Each new Bishop elected is required to participate in this intensive three-year course hosted by mentors and retired Bishops.  It is an extraordinary and invaluable program.  It educates Bishops on all aspects of an Episcopacy;  spiritual, administrative, relational, legal and personal.  In short, it provides many tools to live into my Episcopacy.  

The College allowed for sharing and asking questions.  I had a lot of questions - I have never been a Bishop. The time at the College provides the unique opportunity to bond and form a community with fellow Bishops.  I am blessed with an exceptional class of brothers and sisters who are faithful, loving and supportive.  We will be together once again in June for a 5-day intensive session, and I look forward to our time together. 

In New Mexico and Virginia, God was present and moving.  What was arising in New Mexico came to fruition in Virginia.  This prayerful awareness is what I would like to share with you.  Over the past six months, I have worked to live into my call.  I did not want to disappoint you or let you down.  However, I came to the slow realization that I must go deeper in prayer, allow time for silence, be prophetic and take the “long view.”   

At the College of Bishops, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that what I thought was unusual, different or troubling was normal.  I was reminded that transformation is often difficult and spiritual diocesan endeavors are at times challenging.  I was affirmed by experienced Bishops the relational work in which we are engaging is, in fact, healthy and transformative. 

I found I did not have to do or know everything.  I was reminded that I am learning to be a Bishop and we are learning to live with one another.  More importantly I was encouraged to ask questions, seek answers, support, and direction.  This understanding was both a relief and empowering.  I found that I am not alone in learning.

I discovered that I did not have to overwork myself.  I was encouraged not to rush, or to feel the need to accomplish every goal within a limited amount of time.  We, (as a diocesan family), have time to plant and nurture the seeds of our collective labor.   It was emphasized that many goals or initiatives in any Diocese usually will take 4-6 years.  We have time; we have faith, prayer, hope and one another.  

Through prayer, I came to the awareness that my call as Bishop is beginning to unfold.  I am being led, (with your help and the blessing of God), to form my Episcopacy around prayer, proclamation, and peace.  (More on that in the months to come).  I want to continue to know you on a deeper level.   To listen, learn, discover and love.  To understand our collective joys, hopes, and prayers.   In the process, I hope you will come to know me as this faithful Hispano priest from New Mexico who feels incredibly blessed to serve as your Bishop. 

I will seek to take the long and balanced view and make every effort to model a life of prayer, and work. I want to set an example for our clergy.   Instead of rushing to the office at 7 in the morning.  I now take the time to sit in contemplative prayer, read scripture, exercise, and pray.  I now arrive with the rest of the staff, and we enjoy daily Eucharist.

Where previously I answered emails within 2 minutes of landing in my inbox, I wait until the next morning to respond.  I will be intentional to assure I am not over scheduled and will take my days off.  There may be some instances where we must say “no” to some events (I ask for your forgiveness in advance). We will allow some extra time on the pilgrimage.  Nine months instead of six months.  

I will endeavor to be present, reflective and place emphasis on wisdom and gratitude.  While I will watch over the financial and administrative aspects of the Diocese, we will empower the staff and allow them to be creative and resourceful.  The office will continue to be accountable, responsive and faithful.  However, we will also overlay everything in prayer and live in the sacred present.   

I will seek to live into being healthy, thoughtful and a faithful apprentice of Jesus Christ.  I most likely will be clumsy and stumble in the process.   I will continue working to let go of ego, hurriedness, impatience.   More importantly, we will go deeper in love, outreach, congregational growth, community and into the heart of Jesus Christ.   I need your help and prayers, but I have a good feeling we will prayerfully build up the Kingdom of God. 

We have had a remarkable time in our six months together.  We are building a community based on relationships, trust, transparency and goodness.  The pilgrimages have been extraordinary, and I have come to know you in profound and holy ways.  Through this process of reflection and discovery, I found I am surrounded by a loving community in Pennsylvania who has supported my call, embraced my journey, and welcomed me with a heartfelt embrace.  Thank you.  

Together we will build up the Kingdom of God so we can invite all of God’s beloved to “Come and See” this sacred place where no one is excluded and Jesus Christ is present. We have an amazing future and I have this glowing hope.  These are truly sacred spaces of transformation.  I pray I will be a Pastor to the Clergy and a Shepherd to all in our Diocese.   May God bless you and those you love, this day and forevermore. 

(PS.  The Priest mentioned in the opening was pleased by our conversation.  The questions was asked:  “This is wonderful news, how will you tell the diocese about this prayer, outlook, and journey”  I responded, “I guess by individual conversations.”  The Priest replied - “put it on your blog.”  Ahhh, thank you for sage advice.)

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