If I told you that I’d spent the week at the “Living our Vows Residency Conference” would you know what I mean?
Probably not, is my guess, and that’s no fault of yours.
If I told you that I’ve been in Richmond (VA) all week at “Baby Bishops’ School” would you have a better understanding?
Probably, but it’s not really a name that we are encouraged to use to describe our work at this top-notch, quality program. It’s a little degrading- to the program, its leadership and its earnest students- but used, I know, with affection and the intent of good humor.
Nonetheless, I’ve been out of town since Monday and will return to Mechanicsburg early this evening (if the holiday traffic cooperates.)
I’ve joked some about coming to this program so late- after all, I’ve been serving as bishop for nine months now and employed by the diocese for 12 months- isn’t it about time that I learn how to do my job?! And, rest assured, I have learned so much in this week.
I’ve learned specific things- about Canons, Organizational Systems, How to Talk to the Media, Mutual Ministry Reviews and even when to wear the hat and how to carry the stick… but those have been the fine details of a much greater learning.
Imagine your own particular field of study or work. Remember back to when you first started your studies or landed your first job. And then, imagine being surrounded by seasoned professionals, mentors, in your field who want nothing more than your success. Put those seasoned professionals, a bunch of your own newbie-peers and some qualified outside subject experts into a retreat setting with green grass, air-conditioned conference rooms, 4-star meals, daily worship with excellent preaching and… that’s “Living Our Vows Residency Conference.” Pretty great.
And so - I received some good, specific lessons about how to do some important parts of my job.
But I also began to build a network of mentors, bonded with my first-year bishops, gained the valuable perspective achieved by being out of my own context and learned about others’ contexts, for comparisons’ sake.
I learned that there are many ways to address the same situation. I learned about the importance and value of episcopal authority and how to use it to build up the Body of Christ. I learned about the need to be tender and loving and supportive of our people, our clergy and the churches that they have built.
Yes, I’m still going to fumble around with the hat and the stick (I am just not a hat person). And I’ll still need to think about decisions and get back to you ( because I like to process things fully and check my sources). But I feel strengthened and so grateful for my diocese and for the people with whom I get to exercise the privilege of this ministry.
I am happy to be headed home to all of you.
PS The "Living Our Vows Residency" combines bishops in their first three years from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada. All three classes meet at the same time but cover different curricula, twice a year for three years. My first-year colleagues include the bishops of Montreal (Co-Adjutor), Quebec, the Dominican Republic (Co-Adjutor), Dallas, the Central Gulf Coast, South East Florida, West Virginia (Assisting), and Eastern Oregon.