When I was elected Bishop of Springfield in 2010, my Letter of Agreement with the Standing Committee specified that I take a three-month sabbatical after five years of service. Believe it or not (and I, for one, have trouble believing it), five years have elapsed since my consecration as of this past March 19. So the time has arrived. Combining sabbatical time with my usual period of vacation, I will be away from my routine day to day and week to week duties between June 18 and October 15.
It is propitious that this sabbatical comes in the general neighborhood of the midpoint of my episcopate (still not thinking about pinning down a precise terminal year). So it will be an opportunity for me to a) get some mental and emotional rest, b) recharge my spiritual and intellectual batteries after five years of a rather relentless pace of work, and c) reflect on my role in what God has accomplished with us in the Diocese of Springfield over the last five years and listen intently for the voice of the Holy Spirit as to the sort of course we might chart for the next five. Know that I will continue to hold the diocese even more closely in my prayers during this time away, and I would hope that each of you hold me in yours.
The “big rock” in all of this is a plan to walk an ancient pilgrimage route that begins in France right across the border from Spain and then continues about 500 miles across northern Spain to the city of Compostela, where the cathedral church holds the mortal remains of St James the Apostle–hence, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I will begin this pilgrimage in St Jean de Pied, France on August 11 and conclude it in Compostela on September 18. (Significantly, I will turn 65 while on the Camino, so I’m doing it the “old man’s way” and arranging for a private room with a bath every night, and having my luggage moved for me from place to place, so I won’t have to carry a heavy pack.)
When I complete the Camino, the plan is to meet Brenda in Paris. We will then travel by train into Italy. The major destinations in Italy will be Venice and Rome. While in college, I became very enamored of the music of Giovanni Gabrieli, a 16th century composer who wrote works specifically for the cathedral in Venice, St Mark’s. I have also come to know that the Sunday liturgy at St Mark’s is exemplary on many levels, and I am eager to join it. So Venice will also be a bit of a pilgrimage for me. Then it’s off to Rome, perhaps picking up a look at Florence along the way; the details are not worked out yet. The allure of Rome is self-evident. The Anglican theological and spiritual and liturgical tradition is thoroughly grounded not only in our English heritage, but also drinks deeply from the broad stream of western Catholicism, and the source of that stream is Rome. While there, my plans include joining a retreat of some of the authors of the Covenant blog, of which I am one. We will be taking a fresh look together at the ecclesiology enunciated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
So I will be back in harness on Sunday, October 15, when I will make my annual visitation to Alton Parish, and back in the office the following Tuesday (just in time for the final run-up to Synod!). Archdeacon Denney will also be out of the country most of July and into August, so things will be quiet at the Diocesan Center. There’s no particular plan for “covering” my absence; all of my 2016 visitations to the Eucharistic Communities of the diocese are already squeezed into the available time, and others (Administrator Sue Spring, Archdeacon Denney, and Standing Committee president Fr Dave Halt should be able to handle such contingencies as might arise.) As we part ways for a season, I want you to know that I have seen multiple signs of the Holy Spirit’s movement in our midst, and expect to see many more. Perhaps, by my literally getting out of the way, we can have the disruptive manifestation of the power of the Spirit for which we have been praying!