One of the privileges of being a diocesan bishop is that I get to “see the whole board.” The great majority of the clergy and baptized faithful in the “one church” of the Diocese of Springfield are understandably focused on the particular Eucharistic Community to which they are connected. Sometimes I miss the continuity of being grounded in a local parish, but that nostalgic yearning is more than amply compensated for by the joy of being in touch with what’s going on from Pekin to Cairo, from Carbondale to Rantoul.
At a recent visitation, I was asked what it is I’m seeing from my unique vantage point that I find encouraging. Here’s my list:
- We’re slowly starting to “get it” with respect to the necessary cultural shift from an attractional model of mission to an incarnational model. Eucharistic Communities are seriously engaging the process of developing a local mission strategy. These are baby steps, but they are baby steps in the right direction.
- Everywhere I go, there seems to be a nucleus of adults and youth who are serious about Christian discipleship and spiritual growth. People are reading the Bible, learning to pray, and serving the world in the name of Jesus. This is exciting.
- Within the last year, four clergy households in the diocese have welcomed newborn children. There may once have been a time when that would not be remarkable, but it’s been a very long time since it’s happened in our midst, and it says something about the decreasing median age of our clergy families.
- We’re operating in the black financially. Yeah, this is kind of a mundane fact, but, alongside most dioceses of the Episcopal Church, it puts us in rather elite company. We’re not “in the money,” but neither are we in financial crisis, which is significant in an era when many dioceses are looking at consolidating with a neighbor.
- We are free of fractious conflict. This isn’t to say that we are in complete agreement about everything, but we are not at each other’s throats, or anywhere close. This is nothing to sneeze at.
- We are blessed with lay and clergy leaders at a diocesan level who serve in their various capacities with dedication, competence, humility, and humor. The Diocese of Springfield is a healthy community.
Do we have room for growth and improvement? Without a doubt. Do we face daunting challenges? Absolutely. Will God’s prodigal grace be more than sufficient for our needs? I am so persuaded.
Faithfully in Christ Jesus,