Easter occurs very late this year, so Lent is also beginning later—certainly later than it did last year, when it fell on Valentine’s Day—and what a paradox that was! This start to Lent also feels rather paradoxical, because yesterday the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona ordained and consecrated its new bishop, Jennifer Reddall, and the mood was anything but somber.
Henry and I had planned to attend the consecration in person, but he’s not well, so we stayed home and watched it online. Even from that relative distance, I appreciated the opportunity to be present for the consecration simply as a member of the congregation, having been the diocesan staff member responsible (along with a great cadre of volunteers) for logistical coordination of two bishops’ ordinations in Massachusetts in the early 2000s. I’m glad for the chance to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in the life of this portion of the church. I’m glad there’s so much energy and hope here at this time.
There are days, however, when I do despair about the long-term viability of the church. As with humans, institutions calcify with age. They become less flexible, more rigid, and less able (it seems to me) to respond to the Spirit’s nudges. I am praying that Bishop Reddall will respond to the nudges of the Spirit, to the best of her ability, as she leads this portion of Christ’s flock.
When I find myself feeling pessimistic about the institution of the church, I remind myself that there is nothing I can do to change that. Instead, I can work to change myself and my response. So, I do what I feel I am called to do.
I’m leading a pair of Lenten retreat days at churches in this diocese, doing my part to help the stories and experiences of Holy Week come alive and have deeper meaning for people. I’ve created additional opportunities for spiritual enrichment, like my online retreats and this blog. I edit the work of other spiritual writers in the hopes that their messages will be clearly communicated to a spiritually hungry, hurting world. Henry and I are doing what we can to support our Venezuelan friend so she doesn’t fall into despair as she waits in detention while her homeland’s challenges grow increasingly severe.
This Lent, I am focused on not falling into despair. What about you? In what ways do you need to shift your perspective away from what lies outside your control, and take action on what is yours to do?
At dinner last night, with a party of mostly strangers, I looked across the table and just asked the question, “what brings you hope these days?” It made for a very interesting conversation with several people joining in… I had asked the question selfishly, to ride piggyback on other people’s mental health. It turned into a time of wallowing in a mud bath of shared delights. And we all left the party the better for it.
How lovely, Barbara! I love the mud-bath image, too; delights are much better when we share them. Thanks for sharing this one with us!
I’m in the midst of closing on my home and it’s one hiccup after another! Because I’m using my VA loan option, there has been a mountain of additional paperwork. The seller had the flu and was hospitalized. My financial wire transfer was delayed. On and on. And I find out there has been another offer waiting in the wings! It’s been a difficult three weeks.Talk about needing to trust God’s grace! And by that grace, it will come to an end tomorrow and I will get the keys.
I’ll send out another big email to lots of you guys with details and my new permanent address soon. Miss you dearly and love you deeply. Nila
Ah, Nila, it certainly does sound like you’ve had some challenges! I’m glad you’ve persevered and the end is in sight. I am praying that everything does finally go through smoothly tomorrow, and that you are able to move in and become settled in your new home base….