Dear friends in East Tennessee,
When I retired from serving as your bishop, so many of you were so kind and gracious to give me a monetary gift. I initially told some folks I thought Kammy and I would take a trip to the island of Iona in Scotland – a holy place that’s long been on my list. I still hope to go there someday, but I decided something more active sounded better. The Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Spain has also been on our list, and that seemed perfect.
We connected with a pilgrimage group in Rome, GA and chose the Camino Portuguese, which begins in Lisbon, Portugal. With reasonable ambitions, we began in Tui, Spain which made for a 120 km (90 mi) journey north to the cathedral where St. James is said to have preached and taught, where his remains are said to be, and where pilgrims have hiked for over 1500 years. People make pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela for numerous reasons: spiritual, physical, emotional, and just for fun.
My pilgrimage, my “camino” was all of those, and I intentionally prayed for my family and friends, and continually gave thanks for you – the Episcopal Church in East Tennessee. As I think back about our seven years together, there is one response that constantly rises up for me, and that is gratitude. Gratitude – for the hospitality and generosity you showed to me; for the deep, healthy, vital spirit of faithfulness in following Jesus that you consistently demonstrated; for the pleasure of working and serving God together; for the healthy and committed leadership of your clergy and lay leaders; for the amazing diocesan staff; and most especially for the pure, unadulterated joy of being in relationship with you. I will always be grateful for our time together, and treasure the love and laughter we shared. Thank you, thank you. I love keeping up through Facebook, email, and an occasional phone call. We’re always connected.
As for these days, neither the bus driving nor the ice cream truck driving has materialized. Instead, I’ve had the opportunity to focus on and rekindle the romance that Kammy and I share, and to spend quality time with our family – both children and notably our 10 month old grandson Houston – who we keep two days a week. Talk about pure joy; wow! One of our new family traditions is Sunday dinner. In our children’s growing up years, Sundays were always full, busy days for Kammy and for me, and we almost never sat down to dinner together. Now we can, and do and it’s a blast! There’s time at the gym, the beach, a bit of golf, a LOT of pickleball, and every other week Sunday supply at St. Cyprian’s, the African American parish a block and a half from our home. Life is good. Correction – life is great!
Thank you for the wonderful gift to Kammy and me of this Camino, and especially for all the amazing gifts you shared and continue to share with me. We are immensely blessed indeed. God bless you, keep you, and continue to live so powerfully in you!
Peace in Jesus,