Susan and I traveled to Door County, Wisconsin in late July for our summer vacation. While we were there, along with a chance to unwind, take long walks, read books, and enjoy cooler weather, we also celebrated that it had been two years since the East Tennessee bishop election. In that time since the election, it has been a real joy for us to put down roots in East Tennessee and listen to you and dream and plan for common ministry.
The past two years have also included a time of transition and change in the diocesan staff. Recently, we added Mary Embler as Diocesan Administrator with Kirby Purjet’s retirement and this week we announced that Vikki Myers will retire as Diocesan Communicator this coming fall season. Our diocesan staff represents both change and continuity, with Laura Nichols having served as Executive Assistant for three bishops while others of us are either new to East Tennessee or to our roles in the Diocese.
So, I wanted to make you aware that the staff will have a retreat day on September 11th with the Rev. Canon Matt Stockard leading the retreat time. Canon Stockard has recently retired as the Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of East Carolina. He brings a great perspective on diocesan work with a diocese roughly our size and I am confident he will be helpful to us as we ask how best to support ministry in our parish churches in East Tennessee. Please keep Canon Stockard and the diocesan staff in your prayers as we reflect on our work and set priorities for the coming days.
For me, I am now increasingly aware that all structures change. To resist that change is not really an option for us. What we do not want to lose is our connection to each other. In fact, as members of the Body of Christ, we are encouraged to deepen our connection to each other. The challenge is to deepen the connection without confusing deepened connections with defending existing structures.
As Episcopalians, we practice an Anglican expression of the Christian faith. One way I have heard Anglicanism defined is that we attempt to place catholicity onto a local context. In other words, the ancient Faith received, but the means by which we flesh out that comprehensive story will include a local accent. That story of God is ancient and new, possessing deep roots while also open to the Holy Spirit doing new things in our midst.
It is good to be in East Tennessee. I am grateful for the good and faithful Episcopal folk who have gone before us in these holy hills. The present moment has been given to us by God to steward wisely.