Ten years ago, minus about six weeks, I served as the supply priest for Trinity, Lincoln six days before my consecration as Bishop of Springfield. Today I was there for the final regular scheduled canonical parish visitation of my episcopate. (I have a few more gigs on my calendar: March 7 in Mattoon, the Chrism Mass, the Triduum at the cathedral, May 30 in Cairo, and June 27 back at the cathedral–May 2 is available and not yet spoken for–but the every Sunday routine of my life for the past decade (in a larger sense, for the last 32 years) is at a major flex point.) As much as it could have been in the midst of a pandemic, this morning at Trinity was luminous. We confirmed eight adults, six of them qualifying as “young.” My homily had to compete with the sounds of active young children. (I would much rather do that than have no kids in church.) Trinity is one of the exciting points of light in my ministry in the diocese. I took my time getting out of Lincoln because I wanted to give the storm in the Chicago area a chance to abate. I finally hit the road at 12:15, and conditions were much better than I expected, matching “normal” travel time all the way until I got into the alley behind my building, ten feet from my garage, where the AWD YFNBmobile got mired in snow. After a little bit of shoveling, I was able to get it into the garage
I know there are people who actually read this blog, and even make it part of their regular routine. So I feel bad about calling it quits abruptly, but … I’m calling it quits abruptly. As of midnight tonight, I will be sharing ecclesiastical authority with the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Springfield. They will tend to all the ordinary administrative and financial stuff, along with leadership, mission, and vision. I am required by my mediated agreement with them, after they sought my resignation last October, to confine my ministry to the ordination process, clergy discipline, and clergy deployment. I have told the clergy I am also available for pastoral care as they see fit to seek it. I had hoped and worked for a seamless transition, as is normative, between my ministry and that of my successor. I may be retired on July 1, but I won’t feel retired until there is another bishop elected and consecrated. I will retain a sense of burden for the welfare of the diocese until I know it’s in the steady hands of a bishop. But circumstances (mostly Brenda’s illness, but also the pandemic and my conflict with the Standing Committee) conspired to foil the aspiration of a seamless transition, so we have to embrace the messiness for a season.
So I will enter now a period of transition (a “terminal sabbatical”) leading to my full resignation and retirement in five months, at the end of June. The purpose of this blog was to give the baptized faithful of the diocese a sense of having an “ownership stake” in my ministry among them, by sharing the day-to-day shape of that ministry. There are, of course, details that I have not been able to share, but I have tried to err on the side of candor rather than secretiveness. Some, indeed, have protested that I have been too candid. In any case, though, that time is now past. The percentage of my days that I spend doing diocesan work will drop considerably. My life will become necessarily more private. This is as it should be. The purposes for which this blog was begun no longer pertain. So I’m laying it aside as of pressing “Publish” on this entry. I’ll still be in cyberspace. I’m on Facebook, usually several times a week, and occasionally on Twitter. You’re more than welcome to follow me in those places. My Instagram account is pretty much fallow. I will undoubtedly re-enter the blogsphere again at some point, but I don’t yet know what shape that will take or when it will happen.
It has, as they say, been real. Really, it has.