Today began with another spiritually rich Eucharist, leading into a moving meditation by Bishop David Bailey of Navajoland on the legacy of genocidal polices toward Native Americans.
After that we had Sabbath time for the afternoon. For me that meant a nap and some reading about Paul and the first 7 ecumenical councils of the Church, then a wonderful conversation with Bishop Neal Alexander, my erstwhile liturgy professor at General, my bishop in Atlanta, and now Dean of the School of Theology at the University the South. We exchanged stories, rehashed old times, and had a fruitful talk about how Nevada might provide better formation for our clergy.
Then I had another such reconnecting conversation over dinner with Bishop Doug Hahn of Lexington who was a fellow priest in Georgia. I made him laugh with my story of how Elias the schizophrenic preacher and prophet hitchhiker I picked up on I 75 prayed me up for the Bishop election in Nevada, and he reduced me to tears with his daughter Avery’s account of how her stroke had been a spiritual death and resurrection to new life In Christ. It turned out the protagonist of one of my Mercer University stories, Professor Bob Otto, had been his Sunday School teacher when Doug was a teenager at Vineville Baptist.
Along the way, one of the Bishops I respect most, the poet, Rob Hirschfeld of New Hampshire, overheard us and said he knew a priest from Macon. It turns out my old friend, the late Fr. John Buchannan (originally from Texarkana, 14 miles from where I grew up), had played a pivotal role in Rob’s vocation when John was a canon at the Cathedral in Paris. No 6 degrees of separation in the Episcopal Church. We are all connected by no more than 3 or 4.
We then had our large group fireside chat, a confidential meeting about whatever is on our hearts and minds. No we do not conspire or make decisions or plot strategies. It’s about the feelings. It’s a pretty personal thing.
Afterward I talked in some depth with a Bishop who is having great success in church growth and congregational development but catching hell from the old guard who miss the days of doom and decline. That is not unusual. I hope I was of some encouragement to my friend. I don’t have his particular set of problems, but talking with him nonetheless sparked me to think of ways I could address our Nevada challenges more creatively.