A week ago, I expected to be making this entry from Camp Allen, outside of Navasota, Texas, which was expecting to host the regular spring meeting of the House of Bishops. The COVID-19 virus had other ideas, though, and the Presiding Bishop made the decision mid-week to cancel the in-person gathering. Instead, we are spending time today, tomorrow, and Thursday attending virtual sessions via internet. In essence, we’re getting the planned content from outside presenters, and foregoing the daily Eucharist, meals together, and the informal interaction that is really the best part of these things. That said, we did manage to have an hour of virtual table group time (the table assignments having been uncharacteristically shuffled and re-dealt mid-triennium because of the number of new bishops who have been elected and consecrated). In my group, the Zoom technology worked quite well and we had a fruitful hour of discussion of the morning presenter’s material.

After greetings from the Presiding Bishop (who admitted to discomfort not being able to see his audience), we were addressed by three people associated with Episcopal Relief & Development. The subject, as you might imagine, was the coronavirus pandemic. My two takeaways were: 1) there has never been any evidence that infection is communicated via the common chalice at Holy Communion–it’s fingers and hands that are, along with airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes, the major culprits to be concerned about, and 2) while social isolation measures are advisable, the chances are that the exposure rate will eventually approach 100%. The silver lining of this somber prediction is that, since way more people are presently infected at this moment than we realize, the actually fatality rate is probably much lower than the 2-3% figure we’re using to seeing in the media.

The major presenter for the day was Professor Andrew Root from Luther Theological Seminary in St Paul, MN. He has researched and written extensively on the nexus between Christianity and culture, particularly the latter’s long slide into secularity. In fact, he has developed a taxonomy of secularism that attempts to foster understanding among Christian leaders of just what the mission field these days is like. I won’t attempt to summarize his paradigm, but I found it stimulating, and it was quite adequate grist for the discussion mill when it came time for table groups.

In all, we met this way from 10am until 1:30pm. After that, I was able to delve into my non-HOB to-do list, the major item of which was brining my homiletical message statement for Lent V (St George’s, Belleville) to the “developed outline” stage. Also made more progress trying to develop a travel itinerary for a visit to Tanzania and the Lambeth Conference in July. (As of today, at least, the word from Lambeth is that the event is happening. But I guess that’s subject to change.)

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