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?

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