The Bishop’s Visit
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Reddall is coming to “visit” on Sunday. (I say “visit” because she is coming to visit our empty building.) Usually the occasional visit of a bishop is a cause for celebration and pride. This one is a little strange.
Why is a bishop’s visit so important anyway? The bishop is the chief pastor of the diocese, and in a real sense the pastor of each congregation in the diocese. The image that most of us get in seminary is of the bishop of a city in the early church rising before dawn to have Eucharist with the presbyters of the city and then each presbyter taking pieces of the bread back to their homes for the house churches that would gather at dawn.
In some churches even today, a small piece of bread is broken off and dropped in the wine as an embodied memory of that image of unity in the bishop. We have the bishop’s chair tucked in an arch of our sanctuary for her visits as a specific memorial of our very real relationship.
This may seem like pomp and little more to you, but it has some very real implications in our life together. We are not a Congregationalist church. Our identity is not in the local body only, despite many people’s feelings. We belong to a diocese. Our life is intricately connected to Saint Luke’s on the Mountain and the Diocesan Mission work on the southern border, to Saint Barnabas down the street and Saint John’s in Williams. The sign of those relationships is our bishop.
This matters to me because I believe in the local church as an occasional sign of the work of Christ in his Body that stretches through time and around the world. We are less when we are only us. And I also believe that the local church can get weird and need the authority of the larger church to call it to account (with love and mercy, of course).
In my early ministry, I saw a number of instances where the hand of the bishop stopped abuse and checked error and offered new life and growth in places where the local community could not do so alone. I worked for the diocese here in Arizona and in California and served as dean for the bishops in Western Michigan and now here as well. I have seen how collaboration and collegiality have made the church stronger and more faithful.
So the bishop matters. Our bishop matters. I am glad she will be “here” on Sunday, and I encourage you to join us online. We are very proud of our local congregation. Let us celebrate our common life with our diocese and our bishop.
Wednesday Night Classes turn to the Holy Spirit. Our Wednesday night Adult Formation classes began the year looking at the theology of God, then of Christ, and now we turn to the Holy Spirit. These classes are designed for people to join in the conversation with little preparation, and though they often center on a single text, there is no required reading. Sign in and hold on as we explore our understanding of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Classes last one hour and all are welcome.
Beginning next week, Wednesday Eucharist will be Zoomed at 10 am as a Morning Prayer Office with specific prayers for the parish.
**Please note that at the direction of the Diocese, all church classes, services, and meetings will continue online through May 25, 2020.**
The Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona