Message from the Bishop, July 2017

Message from the Bishop, July 2017

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace and peace to you. I hope that your summer so far has been blessed with the gift of sabbath.

Recently, in the midst of a joyful Eucharist at St. Michael's, Alturas, I was blessed to receive David Cohen as an Associate of the Community of the Transfiguration. As you may recall, I am also an Associate (in addition to being an Oblate of the New Camaldoli Benedictines). While we greatly miss having the Sisters living among us, the Community of the Transfiguration presence continues - and continues to grow - here, and that is cause for rejoicing.

At Clergy Conference, I shared with you what I once heard Justin Welby tell a group of bishops: There has never been a successful effort at renewing the church which has not been rooted in the religious life. While there may be exceptions to that thesis, I think that overall it is pretty sound, especially if the definition is enlarged to include movements outside the monastery - like that of the Wesleys - which make use of such elements of the religious life as daily prayer, worship and study of Scripture, in the context of community engagement. I thank God that so many of you are involved with Community of Transfiguration, the Franciscans, the Order of Julian of Norwich, the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Order of the Holy Cross, or some other religious community. I encourage everyone to explore this possibility for themselves.

New popular interest in the Benedictine way has been sparked by publication and discussion of Rob Dreher's controversial new book, "The Benedict Option."  I'm not recommending the book, but I do recommended two fine reviews of it: one by David Brooks (New York Times 3/14/17), notable for his discussion of "orthodox pluralism"; the other by Steve Thorngate (Christian Century 5/24/17), describing our need to address a problem that goes beyond "pews that are vacant three Sundays a month and half-heartedly occupied the fourth. It's the broader cultural context: the West's sacral imagination long since displaced by nominalistic, the triumph of individual desire as an ethic, the loosening of communism ties of all kinds, the way moral therapeutic deism functions as priest to all this and rarely prophet."

A growing number of people in our diocese are becoming engaged with Benedictine spirituality through College of Congregational Development. I am pleased that Esther DeWaal's "Seeking God" is on the course reading list. It was reading that book at the time it first appeared (about 30 years ago!), together with an encounter with the author, that started me personally on the Benedictine way. I have recently begun re-reading it, and will be putting it forward as the Fall Bishop's Book. I hope that you will join me.

I pray that we will continue to be formed by the Holy Spirit as a faithful and effective clergy community. May we make good use of the religious life, along with all the best parts of our tradition, as part of that work of transfiguration.

Yours in Christ,


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