Friday, January 28, 2011

Home again, home again

By now - Friday afternoon - most of the nominees, all of the shepherds and Transition team members should be home.  There's some concern about snow in the Northeast but we have said our prayers for safe journeys and sent everyone on their way.

Yesterday, we left Johnson City and headed for the Cathedral in Knoxville.  There, Dean Ross had a lively discussion with the nominees about the ministries of the Cathedral.  I think we all learned a lot.  Then we headed just down the road to the Diocesan House.  Annie vonRosenberg and Laura Nichols had arranged lunch for us and the staff.  The transformation of the conference room into restaurant was stunning!  We used real china and silver, tableclothes on all six tables and stemmed water glasses.  Charlie and Annie had made cookies in the shape of the the diocesan seal, complete with a modified "drawing" of the actual seal in yellow and purple piping.  All of the staff welcomed us with big smiles and open arms. 

After lunch, the nominees had several discussions with various people and then retaped their presentations since one of the mikes malfunctioned on Tuesday night.  Those should be on the search website by now (  and I hope you will take a look at all of them.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting to Grace Point, seeing all of the buildings (we opted out of a hike ;-) and then driving down to St. Timothy's Signal Mountain where we had another gracioius welcome and a marvelous dinner.  Then Father Choyce celebrated Eucharist for us and we went home to the Doubletree to bed.

I can't begin to thank all of the people who made this week a real success.  I do have to start by thanking Gaines Campbell, Kathryn Mathewson and Norma Mills.  These three, the walkabout subcommittee, made all of the arrangements, listened to my fears and allayed them.  The kind people of Thankful Memorial, St. Paul's Chattanooga, Christ Church, St. Martin's, St. Peter's, St. Paul's Athens, Resurrection, St. Barnabbas, St. James Greeneville, St. John's Johnson City and St. John's Cathedral opened their churches to us with love and grace. 

And then there are the shepherds: Jocelyn Bell,  Erik Broeren, Chris Harpster, Kate Jacobs and Claire Keene who put their regular lives on hold for a week to make this pilgrimage with their nominees.  Without the good faith and willingness of the five nominees to be a part of our discernment, of course, none of this would have happened. I have to thank the spouses for also being willing to walk with us.  All too often, it is easy to concentrate on the nominees and forget that there are five other lives that have been affected.   Thanks again to the Search Committee for their incredible work.

Finally, I want us to remember the parishes where our nominees serve:  Holy Innocents, Beach Haven NJ; St. Martin's, Metairie LA; St. Stephen's, Houston TX; St. John's, Elizabeth NJ; St. Peter's, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island FL.  Regardless of who is elected, each of these parishes has had to make adjustments on our behalf.  Thanks to all of them.

So the walkabout is over.  Now we move on to the election in two weeks.  Please continue in your prayers, refer often to the website and know that the Fourth Bishop of East Tennessee will be a good fit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Running for the bus

Much of the last week has been spent in two of these big white vans.  Over the four days we have been together, there has been good conversation, laughter, silence, a little confusion - especially when vans go different directions to the same place.  But I believe friendships have been formed that won't be easily forgotten or set aside.  You see, when we gather in the Lord's name and to do the Lord's work, relationship happens.  It doesn't matter that these folks are all standing for the same election.  What I have heard them all say is that it matters what the Holy Spirit calls delegates and clergy to do.  And, meanwhile, they have become friends.

This was our last walkabout meeting tonight.  St. John's did a good job of keeping us warm in a building without a boiler.  They fed us well and made us welcome.  Remarkably, all of the nominees managed to have as much energy tonight as they did Monday night.  This after a day of driving in rain and/or snow and visits to two churches other than St. John's.  We had coffee this morning at St. Barnabas, Jefferson City - a Lutheran/Episcopal worshiping community.  They have done a masterful job of renovating an old house into a real house church, pews and all.  Then we travelled to St. James in Greeneville for lunch and a stirring rendition of Drop Kick Me Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life.  What fun!

And now, once again, we are ready to turn out the lights and go to bed.  Tomorrow, we will be on the road once again and driving all the way back to Chattanooga with stops to be made between here and there.  Keep those prayers coming just a little longer!

Good night!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet....

We have had drizzly rain on and off all day today but it wasn't enough to dampen the spirits of our walkabout crew.  After piling all of our luggage in Chris Harpster's van as well as in the back of the two big white vans, we left the Doubletree in Chattanooga and headed for Athens.  The folks at St. Paul's Athens greeted us warmly and were more than happy to show us their church, tell us the story of how they decided to turn the back of the nave into the front (and vice versa) and then send us on up Route 11 to Loudon.

Resurrection Loudon fed us three great soups - I am getting the recipe for the golden chicken for our own soup suppers - and then sent us on up the road to Knoxville, where we took the nominees to see The Church of the Ascencion, site of the new bishop's ordination in June.  After a few wrong turns - I swear two thirds of the drivers simply decided it was time to go home to Kingsport! - we all made it to our hotel and out of the vans long enough to check emails and/or take a nap.

And then we headed to Episcopal School of Knoxville where faculty, students and staff made us feel like we were part of their family.  I hadn't been to ESK in several years and was really impressed with the size of the campus but mostly with its beauty.  These are buildings that invite you to be engaged in learning.  At Evening Prayer, the middle school singers sang two songs for us and we all sang Lord, make me a Sanctuary together.  Then the presentations and question and answer portion of the evening took place with perhaps a little more chaos than the previous evening but within the time frame we had set for the whole event, always a good thing.

I continue to be impressed by our nominees.  That's about all I can honestly say, though, since I do not want to be swaying anyone else's minds and hearts.  Having heard them all twice has been a great gift, though, one I wish everyone could have.  Still, I bellieve if you all read what has been published on the website and come to one of the walkabouts, you will get a good idea of who each of the nominees is.

So tomorrow, we hope the snow will be very mild and might even decide to skip us entirely.  We will take our time getting from one place to another even if it means blowing the schedule sky high.  Better to keep everyone safe than to make all the deadlines.  That said, the snow may slow us down but it will not stay us from our appointed rounds!

You are in my prayers as I travel outside of the parish and I know that you are praying for all of us making this journey around the Diocese.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pardon me boys....

We have spent today wandering from place to place in Chattanooga, finishing up at St. Paul's for the first of the three regional walkabout sessions.  We began the day with a visit to Christ Church, a beautiful church with a really good organ.  The treat was that the organist was there and playing when we arrived.  We convinced her to play Praise to the Lord and we all sang lustily.  It is a good acoustical space.  We heard from several members about the Christian Ed program and the beginnings of their discernment process for the next priest, their former rector having just retired.

Then it was back in the big white vans and off to St. Martin's of Tours.  This church has done some adding on in the last several years, expanding the nave and building space to house a pre-school.  The kids were in class so it was really fun to watch them.  The people were most welcoming and happy to tell us about their congregation.  It sounds like a good group of people.  In the entry, there is a board that listed all the newcomers, those who have recently gotten married and all of those serving in the military.  I wondered where we would put something like that at St. Christopher's.

Back again to the vans and across the Chickamauga Dam to St. Peter's.  We had a tour of the school (nursery to 5th grade), the nave and then were served a really good lunch.  I plan to get the recipe for the portabelo mushroom pasta!  One of the interesting things about St. Peter's is that the sanctuary is on the second floor.  It is a bright space full of natural light.  Over the door are two paintings done by a Russian artist of two scenes from St. Peter's life.  Fascinating!

After a few hours rest - yes, I did take a nap - we went down the street to St. Paul's where the staff, led by Donald Fishburne, did a marvelous job of taking care of us all, keeping us on time and providing us with a lovely evening service.  We began the service with a Taize chant as everyone entered and then joined in.  It really set the tone and opened us up to being quiet and listening for the Spirit.  The nominees all did brief - 3 minutes or less - presentations that helped us know what we might want to ask in the break out sessions.

And now we have eaten dinner, lingered over coffee and dessert for more good conversation, and begun packing for tomorrow's trip to Knoxville.  So it is time to turn out the lights and say our prayers.  Thank you all for yours!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Now the day is over

It is 9:30 of this first day together on the Walkabout and life is good.  All flights to Chattanooga arrived early, on time or at least not very late. The good people of Thankful Memorial Church welcomed us for a tour of their really lovely church and wine and cheese in the parish hall.  And then we were off to Hennen's for a very good dinner.
That's a lot of superlative language but it is how I'm feeling as we begin this five day journey.  There was lively conversation at all three tables at dinner, in the vans going and coming and in the lobby as people met, some for the first time and began to make those connections that remind us the Episcopal world is a small one.
I promised Vikki Myers that I would take pictures on this trip.  Well, I remembered I had my camera with me after every left Thankful and once again as I picked up my purse after dinner.  I'll have to do better tomorrow.
And now I think we are all ready to get some sleep.  Even for those of us who are local, it has been a long day.  So I will say good night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And we're walking, we're walking

Walking in the light of God.
Walking on eggshells.
Walking the walk, talking the talk.
Walking on water.
Jesus walked.   Oops!  That's Jesus wept.

Well, in any case, Sunday evening begins the official Walk About Week in the Diocese of East Tennessee.  We start in Chattanooga and end in Chattanooga.  While we are there, we will visit six churches.  Wending our way to Knoxville on Tuesday, we will visit three more and a school.  Making the great hike to Upper East on Wednesday, three more congregations will greet our bishop nominees and their spouses.  And, just in case we haven't seen enough at that point, we will stop at the Cathedral, the Diocesan House and Grace Point on Thursday.  Are you tired yet?

This really is an exciting time for our Diocese.  Five people are walking with us through the process of discerning our next bishop.  That means five families, five congregations and even five other dioceses have allowed us to disrupt their routine so that we might hear the Holy Spirit.  How gracious they all are! 

So many people have made all of this possible.  There's the Standing Committee, the Search Committee and the Transition Committee for starters.  But there are lots of people at all those churches who will greet the Walk About group, feed us and host the three "meet the nominees" events.  There are many on the diocesan staff who have helped us on this journey starting with Bishop vonRosenberg and his wife, Annie, who isn't even on staff but is pitching in.  I think it is clear to all of us that the Spirit is already moving, calling us to a new place and a new day which will be built on all that has come before.

So in our walking, we need to remember one more "walking" phrase:  And he walks with me, and he talks with me.  All of us who will be meeting nominees, caring for them and their spouses, showing off our churches and Diocese to them are walking with God.

It's going to be a great week!