The Bishop’s E-pistle: Retreat

“Come away to a deserted place and rest a while…”—Mark 6:31

This was part of the Gospel reading two Sundays ago; it was a happy coincidence that it came shortly before I left Phoenix for a three day retreat with four of my sister bishops in Colorado.  I do not always experience what I entered a retreat expecting, but it is always time that is refreshing. 

This year:

I am reading (some of the) stack of books that have accumulated on my desk over the past year.

I am praying the Daily Office without pressure to finish up quickly so I can do the next thing.  And I am going through our congregations, one by one, and praying for each of you—your congregation, your ministries, your wider community, your clergy.  I am lifting up that which I know is difficult right now—places where there is conflict, scarcity, loneliness, and grief. And I am lifting up that which I know is rich and fulfilling—places where there is joy and love and new hope at regathering and seeing the faces of those we love once again.

I am breathing fresh air, and blessed by the beauty of God’s creation around me.

I am sharing stories, laughter, and wisdom with my colleagues.  What is Jesus calling our churches to be, do, and reflect at this (hopefully) transitional moment out of the pandemic?  How have the traumas of the last 18 months affected us as leaders and as human beings? How have they affected our congregations and clergy—and what are we each doing in our own contexts to encourage, to inspire, and to unite our flocks?  Away from my desk, I feel like I can see and hear so much more clearly what God desires for me and for the Diocese.

I know that time of retreat is a privilege. I am only able to claim this time because I have childcare (Nate is visiting his dad) dog care (my cousin) and staff members who are continuing the ministry of the office of the bishop.  I am vaccinated and able to travel in a reasonably safe way (with my mask!). I have a line item in our budget, and annual retreat time listed in my Letter of Agreement as your bishop.  I am grateful for this time—and for the time at our various children’s, family, and adult camps that we provide for people at Chapel Rock each year.  Retreats are not—or should not—be the province of clergy only.

In Mark’s Gospel, it describes that the disciples are so exhausted that they do not even have time to eat. But then, after the disciples and Jesus go away and rest, the next story is the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. I do not see that as a coincidence.  The disciples were run down—physically and spiritually hungry. But instead of just keeping on, they rested—and then they and 4,987 other people were able to eat and be satisfied. Jesus feeds us—and those who follow us—when we are able to be channels and vessels for his Spirit.  If you, too, are feeling exhausted and unable to even find time to eat—I pray that you will find a way to come away to a deserted place, or at least different place, even for a few hours, that you may find rest.