Archive for December, 2016

“Comites Christi”

December 26, 2016

It used to sort of irritate me that three holy days — the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents — come right on the heels of Christmas. Just as we make the psychological shift from Advent as the season of expectation to the all-too-brief twelve days of Christmas, we must pause to remember the lives of these particular saints. “With all the ‘open’ days in the Calendar,” I used to wonder, “why couldn’t these saints be commemorated on other days outside the Christmas season?”

But, reading Dear Henri, a recently released collection of the letters of Henri Nouwen, the late Dutch priest and spiritual guide to so many of us in the last decades of the twentieth century, I learned for the first time that these saints are sometimes referred to as Comites Christi or the “Companions of Christ.” This, not only because their celebrations fall close to that of Christ’s birth, but because they share certain qualities with him.

St. Stephen, the most famous of the seven proto-deacons selected by the apostles according to the Book of Acts, was also the first Christian martyr, the first Christian to have his life taken because of his profession of faith. Jesus is sometimes called “the King of Martyrs” but Stephen leads a centuries-long procession of faithful souls who have followed him in giving their very lives rather than deny the One they serve.

St. John, author of the Fourth Gospel, is identified in the church Calendar also as an “apostle.” Anciently it was thought that the same John mentioned in the list of the twelve apostles was also the author of the Gospel of the same name. More recent scholarship suggests that this was unlikely for a variety of reasons. But, if the word “apostle” is defined here in its generic sense as “one who is sent,” surely the one who penned the stunning words of the last canonical Gospel written would be worthy of the designation. The theologian who first articulated that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” surely deserves a place in the Christmas season.

As do “the Holy Innocents,” those young children who, tradition tells us, were slaughtered by King Herod in his frustrated attempt to eliminate one who might rival him as “King of the Jews.” Like those Hebrew babies similarly murdered in the story of Pharoh’s attempt to thin out the ranks of the children of Israel lest they become one day a mighty army of rebellion, the Gospel of Matthew’s Holy Innocents share, with Jesus the fate of being unjustly slain because of the fears and ambitions of a tyrant.

I don’t know why my theological education over these last seventy years did not include the identification of these “Christmas saints” as “Companions of Christ.” But I am grateful to my brother Henri Nouwen, now himself a member of the Church Triumphant in Paradise, for leaving behind so many beautiful letters for those of us who also might dare to call ourselves

Comites Christi


“I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About Mary Lately”

December 23, 2016

A number of years ago, I ran across a little article in the Des Moines Register by a woman named Cynthia Mercati with which I was quite taken. I put it in a computer file and often open it up around this time in the year and take another look. Let me share it with you:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary lately.  I don’t mean the manger/angels sweetly singing on high/Mary.  I don’t mean the blond, blue-eyed Mary I was taught about in Catholic schools…the only woman ever to give birth without mussing her hair!  No, the Mary I’ve been thinking about is the one we know only fragments about – but what fragments they are.  When she is told she will be the mother of God, this gutsy Jewish teen-ager declares that God “has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”

“If anybody was listening, they might think this girl was a social activist!  After her baby’s birth, Luke tells us that Mary ‘kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.’ Some folks think it was the shepherds and the sweet smell of the stable Mary was thinking about…but most mothers know what she was thinking: Why him? Why my son? Why couldn’t this great honor have been bestowed on the kid down the block? Why can’t my child just live a peaceful, uneventful life?  Yet by the time we see Mary at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, she is urging – some would even say nagging – her son to get on with his life’s work…”

“The Mary I have been thinking about was a single mother.  Somewhere along the way from Bethlehem to Golgotha, Joseph drops out of sight…Whatever happened, Mary ended up a woman alone.  No health benefits, no old age pension.  The Mary I’ve been thinking about lately would not fit well or easily into today’s celebrations of her son’s birth…Most likely Mary would put a crimp in all our modern festivities with our relentlessly grim determination to be cheery.”

“How, she might ask, can you possibly ‘keep’ this thing you call Christmas without thinking first and foremost of all the people who will spend this day, and all their others, with holes in their hearts?  The newly bereaved, the newly single, the jobless, the depressed, those the world deems misfits, and those the world views as ‘having it all” and who still can find no peace?  These are the people my son spent his time with, and gave his life for!  Any anniversary of this birth can have no meaning apart from pain – theirs…his…ours.”

Well, as I say, I thought it was a good piece and perhaps sums up for many of us why we find Mary such an attractive figure.  One who, from the brief accounts we have of her in the New Testament, would probably have been considered a saint no matter whose mother she was!  But, of course, as Christians we do know whose mother she was, and so she becomes an example for us in still another way.  Not only was she a strong woman who models for us what sensitivity to the poor and the marginalized looks like, but she also had a unique role in receiving…carrying…birthing…and nurturing…Jesus of Nazareth in this world.

And so do we! Because sadly, in many ways, Jesus Christ is as little known – or at least as little heeded – by people in the world today as he was in Mary’s time.  Our task, as Christian people, is to introduce the person of Jesus to those who know him not.  And the way you do that effectively is the same way Mary did – by receiving him, carrying him, birthing him, and nurturing him in the world today!

First of all, you need to “receive” Jesus yourself!  You can’t give away something you don’t have.  So you need – as our evangelical sisters and brothers are wont to say — to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Our Confirmation service asks us to do the same thing.  And you need to continue to “receive” him every Sunday in word and prayer and sacrament as part of a Christian community.

Secondly, you need to “carry” Jesus…with you… outside the doors of your church and into your daily life letting every decision you make be impacted and influenced by him. By asking, in every situation with which you are confronted, “What would Jesus do?” Yep, WWJD –what would Jesus do? That may sound a little simplistic, but it’s actually at the core of Christian ethics and moral theology — the imitation of Christ. To ask ourselves, in every situation, what would Jesus do?

Third, you and I need to “give birth” to Jesus in the lives of others by being willing to talk about him openly and without embarrassment.  In other words, to talk to your friends and loved ones, not only about your local church or your denomination or even about “God”, but about the personality and ministry of Jesus. That’s what our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, means by “the Jesus Movement.” To talk about Jesus, rather than only the church.

And finally, we need to “nurture” Christ in this world just as surely as Mary did. How? By taking care of his Body!  In the tradition, Mary cared for the body of Christ from infancy until she cradled that body when it was taken down from the Cross.  We need to take care of his Body today. The Body of Christ – the church!

Jesus needed to be fed and clothed, strengthened and encouraged, in his earthly life. And the church of Jesus Christ in the world today has precisely those same needs!  By your active participation in and support of your congregation and its outreach, you are exercising just such a “nurturing” ministry. Because the church is the Body of Christ just as surely as Jesus was!

So, like our friend, the columnist Cynthia Mercati, let’s all take Mary as our “companion” this Christmas.  Not only as an example of compassion and concern for the poor and marginalized, but as an example of just how it is that we can receive…carry…give birth to…and nurture Christ Jesus in the world today.  For, in the words of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…and …blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Re-Thinking Sanctuary Cities

December 20, 2016

I have been somewhat conflicted about the establishment of “sanctuary cities” so designated because of certain communities’ commitment to immigrants and to protecting even undocumented immigrants from forced deportation and other draconian measures enacted by the federal government. Conflicted because I just couldn’t see how a local municipality could simply refuse to obey federal immigration law no matter how much we may disagree with it. “If you don’t like a law,” my usual logic says, “change it.” But you can’t just disregard it.

In this, I am afraid I have fallen for the definition of “the word ‘sanctuary’ as Mr. Trump deploys it – a place where immigrant criminals run amok, shielded from the long arm of federal law…” (New York Times article, December 18, 2016). But this understanding of sanctuary, according to this same article, “is grossly misleading, because cities with ‘sanctuary’ policies cannot obstruct federal enforcement and do not try to. Instead, they do what they can to welcome and support immigrants, including the unauthorized, and choose not to participate in deportation crackdowns they see as unjust, self-defeating and harmful to public safety.”

My own community of Iowa City (home to the University of Iowa) is debating whether or not to identify itself as such a sanctuary city. So far the City Council has decided to adopt and support many of the policies and stances toward immigrants of such cities without actually claiming the politically volatile handle “sanctuary city.” This seems to me a reasonable first step, but I would now prefer that we go the whole way and bear witness to our compassion by going on record as a sanctuary city.

People of faith have a long history of providing sanctuary for people – from the “cities of refuge” named in the Book of Leviticus to churches and monasteries historically being understood as places where accused people might flee and at least buy some time to be sure appropriate legal protections were enforced and that they were to be treated fairly under the law.

And, since it is our role to try and shape society to reflect, however imperfectly, the values we hope to find in the coming Kingdom of God, attempting to influence our local communities to welcome and protect immigrants would be a good way of “doing unto the least of these” as we have been commanded to do.

Another Troubling Appointment…

December 16, 2016

Another troubling appointment has been made by President-elect Donald Trump. For U.S. ambassador to Israel, he has selected one David Friedman. Among other things: Friedman is the President of an organization (the American Friends of Beit El) which supports the continued building of Jewish settlements in the disputed, occupied territories most of the world believes belongs to the Palestinians; he opposes the two-state solution which would provide a homeland for the Palestinian people; and he supports moving the capital of Israel from Tev Aviv to Jerusalem (a position Trump himself has advocated).

Why are these bad ideas? Israeli settlements provide “facts on the ground” which makes is ever more difficult to negotiate land for peace in any eventual  peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Giving up on the two-state solution which has been the constant position of the United States (and, additionally, by virtually all Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith communities) for nearly half a century. It is the only way forward for a just and secure peace in the region. Finally, moving Israel’s capital to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv risks further politicizing the Holy City of Jerusalem which many of us believe should always remain an international holy place, a city which the three Abrahamic faiths call sacred.

It is hard to fathom what kind of international outcry would result from these actions should they be taken or the depth of anguish sown in the hearts of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim alike. If frustration at the slow pace of justice and peace in the Land of the Holy One has led to violent outbreaks and multiple “intifadas” in the recent past, one can only view with apprehension the future under a President Trump and Ambassador Friedman.

As if these matters were not serious enough, like so many of Trump’s appointees thus far, Friedman is completely unqualified. A bankruptcy lawyer, he has absolutely no diplomatic experience and has long been identified with Israel’s far right and openly critical of pro peace, pro Israel organizations like J Street who he has likened to Jews who aided the Nazis in the Shoah (Holocaust)! This is an “ambassador?” I cannot imagine what Donald Trump was thinking when, out of an incredibly rich store of qualified candidates, he appointed this naive and deeply biased individual to represent the United States in this most volatile part of the world.

My fear is that he was not thinking. No one questions the fact that the President-elect is smart. But, if you refuse to receive adequate foreign policy briefings and to take advantage of the collective wisdom of Republican and Democratic administrations which go back at least to the Second World War, you cannot possibly make good decisions.

The appointment of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel will hardly make the headlines or catch the attention of most Americans. But it will speak volumes around the world to the dangerous path this country is about to take. Dear friends, never have we needed to pray together these words from Psalm 122, and to pray them with fervency:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:/May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls/ and quietness within your towers.

For my brethren and companions’ sake,/ I pray for your prosperity.

Miss Them Already!

December 14, 2016

I shared a Facebook post yesterday with a stunning picture of Michelle Obama and words about what an intelligent, classy, and scandal-free family we have had in the White House over the last eight years. Had a lot of “Likes” and agreements, but a surprising number of hateful comments one of which stated that he couldn’t wait until the Obamas “slithered out of the White House.”

I responded that I could understand disagreeing with Barack Obama or even believing that he had been a bad President, but saying (as he did) that the Obamas were “hateful, arrogant and crude” was beyond the pale! Anyway, my original caption on the post was “Miss them already.” Today, I realize that it is not only the First Family that I will miss, but so many of his Cabinet members and appointees who have made me so proud representing us around the world.

Today, I watched Samantha Power lambaste Syria and Russia on the floor of the United Nations with a powerful speech. She said, of their brutal siege of Aleppo,”Is there nothing that can shame you? Are you truly incapable of shame? No act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin…?” And much more. I was so proud of her…

I have had similar moments of pride watching Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of State John Kerry and so many others in the Obama Administration. And I have compared them, in my own mind, with the embarrassment I used to feel when we were represented to the world by the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft and so many other sterling members of the last Republican Administration.

Now, shaking my head every day at the next outrageous appointment by President-elect Donald Trump, I fear we are in for another four years (please, please….only four years!) of embarrassment on the domestic and foreign stage. I can only hope that Congress will step forward and be not only a moderating influence but provide a “face” for the US government in which we can feel some pride.

Actually, Senator Rand Paul (for whom I actually have a lot of respect, even while sometimes disagreeing with him strongly) has begun to do just such a thing by vocally opposing ridiculous Trump appointments like John Bolton as Deputy at the State Department.

Even if such Senators and Representative do step forward with some regularity, such figures will get much less attention from our sensationalist media than Donald Trump’s outrageous Tweets and, undoubtedly, those of his Cabinet. Ah, if we just had four more years of the Obama Administration…

Miss them already!





A Timely Psalm

December 12, 2016

You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness/ against the godly all day long?

You plot ruin, your tongue is like a sharpened razor/O worker of deception.

You love evil more than good/ and lying more than speaking the truth.

You love all words that hurt/ O you deceitful tongue.

Oh, that God would demolish you utterly/ topple you, and snatch you away from your dwelling, and root you out of the land of the living!

The righteous shall see and tremble/ and they shall laugh at him, saying,

“This is the one who did not take God for a refuge/ but trusted in great wealth and relied upon wickedness.”

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God/ I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

I will give thanks for what you have done/ and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

Psalm 52 (Monday in the 3rd Week of Advent)

God is king….Caesar is not

December 8, 2016

Most Christians would have no difficulty identifying Jesus’ central message as being about the kingdom of God. Most of his parables have that as their theme, his sermons proclaim the nearness of that kingdom, and his famous prayer includes the phrase “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Unfortunately most Christians also probably believe that the kingdom of God is the same thing as heaven and that Jesus’ parables, sermons, and prayers have to do with us leaving this earth when we die and joining him in heaven for all eternity. Actually, the kingdom of God has very little to do with that.

The kingdom of God describes the Jewish hope that, one day, God would judge the world, set things right, and reign over this world in justice and peace. The entire Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament), particularly the second half of it, looks forward to that day when God’s kingdom would indeed come, and that God’s will would (finally) be done, on this earth, as it is presumably right now, in heaven.

The Jews had always been conflicted about the wisdom of having a king in charge of their common life lest that blur the fact that God was their king, not anyone else. In fact, they had decidedly mixed results with kings at least after the golden days of King David. They had every reason to believe that only the king-ship of God would usher in that state of being which they all longed for. God was king. Not anyone else.

By Jesus’ time, oppressor had followed oppressor of the Jewish people until the most recent manifestation of such oppression – the Roman Empire. While Jesus was likely not a political revolutionary after the fashion of the Zealots, he was very clear that – in his mind – God was king…and Caesar was not! His proclamation of that state of affairs, including the suggestion that he represented the coming kingdom of God, that he was himself a “king” but a very different kind of “king,” is probably what got him crucified. Jewish heretics got stoned by their own people. Crucifixion at the hands of the Romans was reserved for political dissidents.

Christians today must also stand up for the truth that God is king and that Caesar (or any other kind of Empire) is not. As we enter this new phase of a Trump Administration in the U.S. and other expressions of nativist, xenophobic regimes around the world, perhaps it will be easier for us to see the need for such clarity. When political regimes which appear to be advancing kingdom values like justice, peace, equality, and compassion are “on the throne,” it is easy for us to become complacent.

However, today, with a blustering, bullying billionaire about to assume the mantle of the Presidency and with his appointments so far of more billionaires and generals to his innermost circle of advisors, the Cabinet, it may actually be easier for us to heed the Advent warning: “Keep awake!”

Be awake to the fact that God is king…and Caesar (by whatever name) is not!

Sacred Water / Sacred Land

December 6, 2016

Many of us are rejoicing that the Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. We have many Episcopalians who are members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Scores of our clergy and lay people have made the journey to stand in solidarity with these heroic “water protectors” in recent days. This pipeline cuts diagonally across the entire state of Iowa where I live and endangers both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers should there be an oil spill.

I am aware that many believe that transporting even this particularly dirty oil through a pipeline is actually safer than by rail or trucks, but the difficulty in cleaning up an underground spill, leaching almost immediately into the ground water is much more difficult than cleaning up a spill above ground, however challenging that may prove to be.

It was actually the tribal youth who initiated this resistance movement, but thousands came to the camp to support them and millions around the world have rallied to their cause – which is to protect not only the water supply from potential pollution from an oil spill, but their sacred burial sites. Imagine the outcry if an oil company sought to dig up parts of Arlington National Cemetery for a “Washington Access Pipeline!”

President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior finally took the steps necessary to do the right thing in this matter. But many of us are extremely disappointed that the Administration waited so long to take action. This could have been done months ago rather than waiting until the winter began to set in with a vengeance. Hastier decision-making could have also avoided the few incidents of violence on the part of the young protectors and the predictable over-reaction by law enforcement.

What I am really concerned about, however, is that the tardiness of this decision does not give time for its implementation to settle in before the Trump Administration takes over in January. The President-elect has expressed his support for the pipeline on numerous occasions and reports are that Trump owns shares of stock in either Energy Transfer Partners and/or Sunoco Logistics Partners, the corporations behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Trump’s picks for Cabinet positions so far do not give great hope as to who he might appoint as Secretary of the Interior (who would have some say in whether or not to overturn this recent decision). And Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, will surely support any suggested roll-back of the Army Corps of Engineers’ move. A reversal would simply be one more example to Native Americans of broken treaties and promises reneged upon by the United States Government to the original inhabitants of this land.

We will be watching with interest to see how this turns out, Mr. Trump. In fact, you may rest assured that many will be watching everything you do in the upcoming months. We hope you will make the right decision on this one.

Evangelism Matters

December 4, 2016

A friend of mine, who is a bishop in this church, has done some research on church growth. He discovered that the average Episcopalian invites someone to church once every nineteen years! If that is anywhere near the case, then it is no wonder that we experience dwindling numbers in our pews and find it difficult to attract and keep new people!

I mean, we can point to all kinds of other reasons, or “excuses,” as to why we are losing members. Conflict in the church, difficulty in retaining our younger members, the increasing secularization of society which is affecting almost all the churches. But the point is, if we’re only inviting people to join us on Sunday morning once every nineteen years, it might be a good idea to start there!

My parents and I became Episcopalians because our next door neighbors, having heard that we were ‘looking around’ for a new church, offered a simple invitation: “You know, we are members of All Saints’ Church in Winter Park and we’d love to take you with us some Sunday. Or, we could meet you there and introduce you to some of the greatest people!”

After a couple of weeks we accepted that invitation, walked through the doors of that small but beautiful old, Gothic parish church…and never looked back! We fell in love with the liturgy and music, with the common sense preaching we heard from the pulpit, and with the pastoral care offered by the clergy and others when our family went through some trying times. And through those things we developed a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. All because someone invited us to church.

Years ago, there was a little “evangelism” or “outreach” poster which was distributed through the Episcopal Church Center in New York. When you first glanced at it, it looked like a chalice. But when you looked closer, it was one of those optical illusions and you began to see two faces in profile, looking directly at one other. The three words underneath? Go…listen…tell. I’ve always thought that was a pretty simple “evangelism” strategy for Episcopalians. Not high pressure, not guilt-producing, not very difficult.

Simply “go” back outside the doors of this church after services on Sunday morning and enter your week with an intentional mission to interact with people, to meet people. In your workplace, at school, in your neighborhoods, in the various organizations in which you participate, family members…even total strangers.

Then, don’t get too pushy or too high pressure (not that this is particularly likely for Episcopalians!) One of your goals is to invite them to church, or to give church another try, if they have fallen away. But first, you need to build a relationship. Or strengthen a relationship which is already there. The best way I know to do that is to listen! Listen to them…

Have you ever met someone that, when you were in a conversation with them, it was as though you were the only person in the room? Or the only concern or interaction they were paying attention to? That’s the kind of person we should all strive to be. Not people “tolerating” others or looking around to see who else we might talk to or engage in conversation. But really being ‘present’ to the one before us!

If you strike that kind of attitude, you will be surprised how much people will share with you, how much they will reveal, how much they will “let you in” on what’s going on in their lives! That’s not being pushy or invasive. You’re just listening! And people love to be really listened to. We live in such a fast-paced, highly technological world that I believe people are hungry for real conversations.

Conversations that last more than the 140 characters on our Twitter accounts! People are hungry for real friendships…friendships which mean more than what you “do” to people on “Facebook!” So, “go” from here back into your everyday lives…listen, really listen, to those you seek out or come in contact with. Then when it’s appropriate, when you can make the connection…tell.

Tell them about what have found here at Christ Church. Tell them about what keeps you coming here on Sunday mornings instead of having that extra cup of coffee and finishing the newspaper. Tell them (dare I say it?) about your faith! Now I know that can seem scary and so many of you feel that you don’t “know” enough to talk knowledgably about the Christian faith. Nonsense! I didn’t say deliver a theological lecture or even a well-crafted sermon to these folks. Don’t tell them about what you don’t know…tell them what you know!

Tell them how the music and the liturgy bring you closer to God on Sunday mornings (if it does). Tell them about the kind of Christ-centered community we have here. Tell them about some of the outreach our church is involved in. Tell them about a time in your life when a prayer was answered or someone here reached out to you in a time of need. Share what you do know about your life of Faith….not what you don’t.

So, go…listen…tell.  But then don’t forget to “pop” the question at the end! That’s where we often fall down as Episcopalians. Do, invite them to church. If you can, offer to give them a ride, or for sure, to meet them here so that they won’t feel alone. Go…listen…tell.

If you do that, you’ll stand in the company of one of the great biblical figures of the Advent season — John the Baptist. I’ve always thought John was the very model of an effective evangelist. He was certainly willing to Go…Listen…and Tell. He went from the safety and security of a loving home and perhaps even the Essene monastery where he was trained, and made his home in the Judean wilderness. He listened… Listen, you say? John the Baptist?

Well, our text today says that the “people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan , and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:5-6)  As a priest of this church for forty-five years, I don’t know how you can hear peoples’ confessions without “listening” to them! John the Baptist listened…because he cared about their burdens and about their sins.

And finally, John ‘told’. He told them that “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11) And that’s the final thing we can learn from John the Baptist. John didn’t convert anybody to Jesus Christ! He “prepared the way” and let Christ do the rest!

That’s our job as well, dear friends. We don’t have to convert anybody. That’s Christ’s job… and his Holy Spirit. Our job – as individual Christians and as the Church – is to “prepare the way.” To provide the conditions, the environment, the context for people to be baptized…washed…inundated with God’s Holy Spirit.

But, if you and I do not “Go…Listen…and Tell” people outside the doors of this church about Jesus, it just may be that – for some people – it will never happen! And the responsibility will be ours!













A Moving Advent

December 2, 2016

It is no accident that my wife has the word “pilgrim” as part of one of her email addresses. Both Susanne and I are pilgrims by vocation and by choice. I moved four times by the time I graduated from high school (not all that much by today’s standards). Counting seminary, I moved eight times in active ordained ministry. And, so far, we have moved three times in retirement!

Pilgrims indeed, especially when you figure in that both Susanne and I traveled extensively in ministry. In the nine years I worked for the Church-wide organization, located at 815 Second Avenue in New York City, I made trips to England, France, Italy, South Africa, Tanzania, Israel/Palestine, Egypt, Russia, Armenia, the Seychelles, Malta, Brazil, Cuba, and the Philippines, and countless cities and towns across these United States. I am comfortable living the life of a pilgrim!

Recently, we had decided to continue the “downsizing” process begun in retirement and found a lovely condominium in Iowa City. This is a great university town with all the things to commend it such communities have across the country and world — lectures, concerts, athletic events, a progressive culture Susanne and I both appreciate. (It is no accident that many in Iowa refer to Iowa City as “The Peoples’ Republic of Iowa City!”).

In addition, Susanne and her first husband lived here for many years, raised their boys here, and both she and I have many friends in this community. There are two great Episcopal churches here — historic Trinity Church nestled in the downtown area and New Song Episcopal Church, the latest mission congregation of the Diocese of Iowa which was begun during my tenure as bishop and of which Susanne was a founding member.

So, even though — in this season of preparation and expectation — we have just moved, it feels sort of like coming home.

But then, maybe that’s the way it always is for pilgrims!