Monday, October 27, 2008

St. Andrew Lecture, 2008

Our good friend Dr. Jeremy Bonner has posted the text of his presentation on his personal web log. Again, with greatest appreciation from all of us at St. Andrew's--and especially from all in attendance at the lecture. Click on link below.

St. Andrew Lecture, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Pastoral Note

Abbey Church, St. Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan


I'll be away from Pittsburgh and St. Andrew's from Wednesday, October 22, through Monday, October 27, on my annual Fall Retreat at St. Gregory's Abbey, in Three Rivers, Michigan. St. Andreans with a longer memory will remember that I lived in this community for a month during my sabbatical, in February of 2004.

St. Gregory's Abbey

I'm thankful that our deacon, the Rev. Jean Chess, will be available, should any pastoral emergencies arise, and that my good friends and colleagues, the Rev. John Paul Chaney (Rector of Seeds of Hope, Bloomfield) and the Rev. Dr. Norman "Chips" Koehler (Assistant Chaplain, Presbyterian Senior Care, and Assistant Rector, St. Thomas, Oakmont) will be presiding at Wednesday and Sunday morning services while I'm away.

Please know that this great parish family will be in my thoughts and deepest prayers during these days of rest and reflection.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twenty-Third after Pentecost, 2008

The Children of Israel Marching through the Wilderness, artist unknown

October 19, 2008 XXIII Pentecost (RCL Proper 24a) Exodus 33: 12-23

Fifteen years ago or so the Vestry and people of St. Andrew’s Church were going through the process of preparation for the calling and election of a new rector, and a part of that process, as some of you no doubt remember, was to assemble what is called the “Parish Profile.” That Profile really had two purposes. The first was to try to collate in a series of documents and descriptions and verbal snapshots an overview of the worship and ministry and all the varied activities of the parish, and an assessment of current resources, pledging statistics, budgets, records of reserve funds and endowments and trusts, a review of the physical properties, buildings and grounds. Which is really quite a daunting task, if you think about it. But even more important than that, and perhaps more of a daunting challenge, there was a need in and through this document to convey what you might call the “spirit” of the congregation. Its deeper character, themes of identity, values, goals, hopes and dreams.

And of course St. Andrew’s not a huge place, in terms of congregational size, but as we all know, in 1993 and of still in 2008, a place of much diversity—so many differences of background and perspective. Then and now quite a challenge, because either what you do is oversimplify, reduce, exclude, or you find yourself become so broad and general as to be saying essentially nothing helpful and meaningful at all. Older, younger, traditional, untraditional, liberal, conservative, multi-generational Pittsburghers and recent transplants, Democrats and Republicans, Evangelical, Bible-based spirituality and Catholic sacramental spirituality and a little Zen spirituality, and not much spirituality at all—and old-fashioned and modern, contemplative, action-oriented, white collar and blue collar, urban, suburban. I could just keep doing that all day long, and we’re just talking about three or four hundred people at most, and a lot of them related to each other. Pretty amazing.

So how to get at that? I mean, it sounds like a cross-section of random folks in line at the Giant Eagle, not like a “community,” a church family. And yet here we are, and to say that there is in all this a sense of deeper intuition that there is something—something that makes St. Andrew’s, St. Andrew’s. How to get at that, how to put it into words, and without making some of us feel left out of the definition?

And those of you who were here in 1993 will remember that in the midst of a prayerful and actually pretty-intense conversation about all that, with strategic plans and profiles and all the rest, there emerged a single image which at least at that moment seemed to capture something down deep, and unifying, and clarifying. Not the only image that came up, but the one that got the most traction. The image of the “journey.”

Understanding that the journey is something that is special, unique, private, and personal, for each one of us, as we grow and change, evolve, reform, transform in our own special moment and context of life. Related to our past, our families of origin, the cultures and heritages, the values that have shaped us, and no two of us alike in terms where we’ve been, where we are now, or where we’re headed. And yet also, this sense that the journey is something that we take together. That we’re going somewhere, together.

Many journeys, yet also, inextricably, one journey. The sense of connection, companionship. Not just a random assembly of individuals whose lives accidentally intersect in this physical space, but a people called to be together, to care for one another, to inspire one another, to push and prod and annoy and frustrate one another. To lift up the fallen, to rebuke the backslider, to encourage the faint-hearted. Like a great big family on a long car trip. At any given moment some having a wonderful time, some bored, some wanting to stop now for lunch, some calling out “are we there yet?” The whole experience.

Many journeys, and one journey. And with this sense that as we travel together we need to do so with a spirit of respect for differences. Some go to bed early and get up early, others sleep late, some travel best at night, others are morning people. Some aren’t even sure that this journey is the one they want to be on. Trying our best not to be too frustrated with each other when we don’t quite fit together perfectly. To keep a sense of humor. Cultivating even across all those differences a kind of deeper affection that is sometimes difficult to explain to those outside the family. The one place in the world maybe where Obama people and McCain people are still enjoying each other’s company. If that’s even possible to imagine any more.

In any event, with all this rolling along, and I think also of all the divisions that have just fractured our diocesan family over these past weeks, some parishes so painfully being torn apart—thankfully not so much a part of our experience here. Some strongly felt differences, as you might imagine, given that roster of categories describing who we are, but not the catastrophe we’ve seen some other places. That we have been able to find in ourselves a kind of resilience, a kind of spaciousness, so that the tensions haven’t overwhelmed us. That’s where the grace comes in. The miracle of it all. God’s hand in our midst, which I really believe we have known and felt as a blessing.

It has been very helpful for me, that during these past few weeks in our Sunday lectionary we’ve had this great Biblical image of the journey also before us in the story of the Exodus. This a people who before they went down to Egypt in the time of Jacob and his sons, were not much more than vaguely related clans of nomads and wanderers.

But in this great story, as we have been reading it these weeks, the people who were nomads and wanderers undergo this remarkable transformation. In that common experience of rescue from slavery, the parting of the Sea, the destruction of their enemy; and sustained by miracles: in those moments of starvation, when manna rained down upon them from heaven; in their hour of thirst, when water flowed out of the desert rock; and most of all in that dramatic encounter at the Holy Mountain, when in fire and smoke and so much drama there was a new Covenant, a new relationship, a new identity established. And then in that most horrible back-sliding moment of all, with the Golden Calf. Betraying the one who had given them life and purpose and direction. Somehow, in all that: still, even still, to be God’s “chosen people.”

Soft clay in the hands of the potter, hard granite under the chisel of the sculptor. And then gradually, transformationally, they are not wanderers and nomads anymore, not escaping slaves anymore. God’s people, and on a journey, on his journey, with a purpose and a destination, all of them together, the fast and the slow, the old and the young, wealthy and poor, high and low, all of them together, on the journey to the Promised Land. Off track as they may be from time to time. Not just drifting from one watering hole to the next. On a sacred journey. A quest. With purpose and direction, all of them together. We used some of that imagery in our Adult Education series last year—about how “nomads” become “pilgrims.”

I love this moment in the story, in Exodus 32, up there on the mountain, when Moses says to God, let me see you. Let me see you. I yearn to see your face, to know you, to see your power and glory and beauty and wonder with my own eyes. This deep spiritual yearning. Yearning for reassurance, for inspiration, for illumination. His desire personally, and Moses here speaking on behalf of all the people as well, at the heart of their journey. And speaking for us, on our journey. I yearn to see you, with my own eyes. Your power and glory and beauty and wonder—with my own eyes. And he receives an answer to his prayer. Not exactly what he expected. It never is. And not the end of the story and the fullness of revelation--but a glimpse, a hint, a foretaste.

Which is our privilege as well, here in this place, this gathering of friends, in the life we share and the work we have to do together, in the good times and in the hard times. Sustained along the way by miracles. Manna from heaven, water from the rock. Glimpses of the Father, Christ’s living presence, his Cross, his resurrection, his continuing life among us, in the Bread and Cup, in the Word, in one another, along the way of this journey, all of us together, on our way to the Land of Promise.

Bruce Robison

Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Andrew Lecture, 2008

Fort Pitt, where services from the Book of Common Prayer were read in November, 1778.

I've been passing around the following announcement of what I think will be a very timely Adult Programs Presentation this week at St. Andrew's.


2008 St. Andrew Lecture
Friday, October 17, 8 p.m.

In a season of uneasiness in the wider Anglican world, and as that uneasiness is felt with special emphasis here in Pittsburgh, the Adult Programs Committee of St. Andrew's Church has invited historian Jeremy Bonner to join us as our Featured Speaker for the 2008 St. Andrew Lecture.

Dr. Bonner is the commissioned author of the soon-to-be-published, Called Out of Darkness Into Marvelous Light: A History of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, 1750-2000.

The title of Dr. Bonner's presentation at St. Andrew's, Episcopal Dawn, Anglican Sunset: A Scholar's Reflections on Pittsburgh's Episcopal Experience,is intended to draw upon his work as author of the recently-completed history of the 250 years of Anglican and Episcopal Church presence and ministry in Southwestern Pennsylvania as a framework for reflections on the present crisis and as a context for thoughts about what the future may hold.

Jeremy Bonner received his PhD in history from the Catholic University of America in 2001 and was subsequently the J. Franklin Jameson Fellow in American History at the Library of Congress from 2001 to 2002 He is the author of The Road to Renewal: Victor Joseph Reed and Oklahoma Catholicism, 1905-1971 (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008) and over the past three years has completed a manuscript history of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. His published work has appeared in the Journal of Morman History and Anglican and Episcopal History, in which his most recent scholarship features as "The Pittsburgh Paradigm: The Rise of Confessional Anglicanism in Southwestern Pennsylvania, 1950-2000."

For over a decade the St. Andrew's Lecture has featured speakers addressing topics of significant concern in our community. Please invite your friends, and join us on October 17.

St. Andrew's is located at 5801 Hampton Street, between N. Highland and N. Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street and four blocks south of the park, in the East End Pittsburgh neighborhood of Highland Park. Call 412 661-1245 for more information.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Twenty-Second after Pentecost, 2008

The Adoration of the Golden Calf
Nicolas Poussin, 1634

October 12, 2008 XXII Pentecost (RCL Proper 23A)
Exodus 32: 1-14

Fascinating how the image and theme of unfaithfulness permeates this ancient story of the birth of a people, a nation, a civilization, a tradition of faith. These stories certainly not passed down from generation to generation in an effort to polish an image or reputation.

To know who we are it almost seems first and foremost through our brokenness, our inability to get it right, our deeply ingrained habit it seems always to run off headstrong in the precisely the wrong direction. Headstrong, stiff-necked, stubborn, self-indulgent, impatient. So were our ancestors, so were our fathers and mothers, so are we. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Certainly there are moments of heroism, idealism, men and women of dynamic faith and confidence and power. We have that in us too. But we would not kid ourselves. To know us, you must know us in our sin, in our weakness.

Perhaps we beg the camera to find our good side, for once, but it seems as we read these lessons through Exodus week by week only to tell us the truth about who we are, where we come from, even if that truth isn’t always what we would want to hear. That if we are blessed, if we are healed, if there is anything good in us or for us, that comes about not as a result of our having deserved it, having earned our way there, but because--because it is his property always to have mercy.

Fifteen minutes on our own, and we were squabbling, stirred up by fear, rumors. Making idols. Creating delusional, fictional realities, a world of make-believe. Unwilling to trust. The story of our lives.

And of course we have Moses here in one of these set scenes that the early Christian readers of the scriptures saw as a prefiguring of the work of Christ, placing himself between a Just God and a humanity that seems without a prayer, hopelessly lost. Interceding for us.

And then the overflowing of grace, a moment of relaxation, forgiveness, hope, a promise of a future. That wonderful petition in last week’s collect: “Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy.” We don’t deserve it, don't deserve him, and he could certainly do better than us. But because there is one pleading for us: grace, mercy, and redemption.

One of the Biblical and poetic names for God’s heavenly throne: the “Mercy Seat.” That mercy planted in us grows day by day and generation by generation, in our hearts. That we would be a people not confident in our own power, not full of ourselves, but full of the spirit of the one who has saved us and set us free. To grow in us as joy, prayer, thankfulness, deep understanding and compassion, peace, and gentleness. To have confidence not in ourselves, but to rest always in his power and his love.

Not to say that there isn’t a lot of good work to do. Certainly this moment in the life of our suffering church and our suffering world will call us to new tasks with enthusiasm and dedication and open hearts. What kind of people are we called to be? To what life are we to aspire?

To know that it is his work and not ours, that it will be done in his time and in his way, for his purposes. There is a freedom in that—and something I think quite precious and wonderful to share with the world.

To be invited into his presence, his loving embrace. To be lifted up into his goodness, his purity, his holiness, his generosity. No need to be mean, though it may seem to rise up in us and around us. No need to be angry. No need to be afraid. No need to run for the exits. No need to fabricate false gods and easy answers to avoid hard questions and ambiguities. I’d just leave myself to meditate again on the passage I highlighted from Philippians 3:10 last Sunday. Paul from prison, to those who would carry on after him in life and ministry: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

If it were up to us, if it were about us, if we were going to figure out how to move through the tangled woods on our own, we’d be in big trouble, no question about it. Our track record is not good at all. We’ll be stranded in the desert, lost in the wilderness of our own brokenness. Luther on the character of humanity, without the work of Christ: incurvatus in se. Turned in on itself. Ever more tightly bound up. But it’s not just about us. Not just up to us. The story keeps going on from here after all. Continuing toward the Land of Promise.

It’s all his. This life, this world, this church, our lives together. It’s all his. All about him. His gift, his generosity. His standing for us, his interceding for us. And from him grace and freedom and new life.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Twenty-First after Pentecost, 2008

St. Paul at Philippi, Johan Staradanus 1674

October 5, 2008 XXI Pentecost (RCL Proper 22A)
Exodus 20: 1-20, Philippians 3: 4b-14, Matthew 21: 33-46

Friends, Grace to you, and Peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. This first Sunday of October and the 21st Sunday in this season of Ordinary Time after Pentecost most years might seem pretty much just in the midst of things in the pages of our calendar and the rhythms of life, but as we gather this morning I think we would all be aware that at least in the life of our wider church, the times are anything but “ordinary,” and the customary rhythms of the fall season have an aspect of unpredictability and turbulence to them as well.

Just read the morning paper. Our mothers might have said that good Episcopalians would expect to find their names in the newspaper in birth announcements and on the weddings page, perhaps occasionally on a published guest list for a charitable fundraiser, and then finally with the obituaries. But clearly we haven’t been paying attention to our mothers for a while--and in the context of our diocesan convention yesterday and news stories and of course much continuing controversy all around, perhaps we come to church this morning with a sense of instability, even anxiety, and certainly uncertainty about the future. Which is natural, given what has gone on—but which at the same time we need to find a way to understand and then offer up in the spiritual offering that we bring as we lift up our hearts and come to the Lord’s Table this morning.

A friend of mine once said, “nobody wants to go to a church in trouble.” And certainly I don’t know too many folks who wake up on Sunday mornings and say, “You know, my life is so calm, so serene, that I think what I need now is a good dose of conflict, stress, and disorder.” Most of us get enough of that the other six days of the week, thank you very much. And so, this morning, not “Welcome to Stress Central,” but: Grace to you, and Peace. The good message we have for the world: Grace and Peace. The good and generous gift of our Lord’s presence this morning, and it is all good, all the time. That’s where we need to be, first in our lives and at the center of our lives.

The Old Testament and Gospel lessons read this morning are rich in many ways--and especially as we have been walking with Moses and the Israelites across the Sinai and come now to this critical moment of covenant at the Holy Mountain. But as this past week I and so many of us have been in prayer over the events of the wider church, it is the reading from St. Paul that has called to me and fed me, and that I would highlight today, as we might ask what word there is for us, to guide us and keep us and sustain us as we now move into what I guess will be a new chapter of the story of our life in the church. And most of all, just this one phrase, which I have come to again and again, the very first part of the 10th verse of the 3rd chapter of Philippians: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

In this I think most tender and beautiful of Paul’s letters, as he writes from prison as friend and pastor to this most beloved of his congregations, near the end of his life, but in the midst of theirs, and at the very beginning of the life and mission of the church, pouring out his heart in a testimony of personal faith, this phrase then as a kind of mission statement, which is for them as well to adopt and incorporate into their lives. Just to let those words surround us, enter into our thoughts, our hearts. “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

So yesterday our diocesan family fractured. News all over the media. Good and faithful people, on all sides, broken people, on all sides, struggling in an ocean of differences and disagreements, conflicting loyalties and misunderstandings, pushing apart. Tragically. Those for whom Christ died, on all sides. With lots of complications to come, perhaps like the untangling of a messy divorce, with many layers of expectation and woundedness and perception and misperception. Someone said, “at last, it’s over.” But that of course is not the case, by a long shot.

Both groups now needing to find a way to move forward, but still profoundly enmeshed, emotionally, spiritually, and with all kinds of continuing entangled relationship—healthful and destructive. Reminding us of the famous line from William Faulkner. “The past isn’t dead and buried. It isn’t even past.” Our past is also our present, and it will be our future as well, and it seems to me a dangerous thing to pretend otherwise. It is a mess, it has been a mess, and it’s going to be a mess for a good long while. But this again, to say this first--Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

A lot of people have asked me about our future, here in the parish, in our diocesan life, in the wider church—and frankly up to this point I don’t think I’ve done all that well in the crystal ball department, so I’m not going to get into much of it now. I do know with the commitment of our Vestry, which I share, and which we understand to be the general desire of our wider parish, that we will continue in our life and ministry in this parish as a part of the family of the Episcopal Church-- and I know that I and many of us will have roles to play as we now begin the long process of rebuilding a common diocesan life.

Somebody said the other day, “it’s like trying to rebuild the engine on a 737—at 30,000 feet!” But a process that good people are working on, and that I know over time will work itself out in good ways. There is already an outline of the diocesan process, and there are copies on the Welcome Table and lots more information on what is now the new diocesan website, which is also referenced on those copies.

In any case, what we might have reason to restate this morning as our first point of focus, our over-riding goal now, for sure: that St. Andrew’s will continue to be St. Andrew’s. A place of where we dedicate ourselves to knowing Christ, and to serving in his name. Here today, receiving gifts and contributions for the United Thank Offering, which has for generations now been one of the mission and ministry highlights of the Episcopal Church, sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women. And here today as well, as over in Brooks Hall Wes Rohrer of our Outreach Committee and our Youth Group seek our support as they will walk next week in the annual CROP Walk, to address concerns of hunger both locally and around the world. Honoring the God who let manna fall like rain in the desert, honoring the One who fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish at the Sea of Galilee.

St. Andrew’s: people growing in him, growing in hospitality and grace and generosity, thoughtfulness, creativity, and care, meaningful and heartfelt worship, as in this service this morning—and with this gift of the Mass setting being sung by our Choir today. Wow—just so very beautiful. Here we are: an extended Christian family, with all kinds of differences and eccentricities, of course, and sometimes conflicting concerns, but also with a sense of deeper affection, good humor, and friendship.

There is a lot of strange language being used about the Episcopal Church these days, and what our decision to continue in that church might actually mean. Following the media and listening to the comments that have been in the air could be confusing. Drives me crazy, actually. But for a certain simple clarity I would quote from the letter my colleague and friend Jim Simons, the Rector of St. Michael’s in Ligonier and one of our key figures now in our reorganizing diocese, wrote to the Post Gazette the other day, as some of you may have seen this already, in response to a previous article making a number of claims, some true and some not true, about the Episcopal Church. Jim wrote, “We proclaim Jesus as Lord and we recite the creeds, without reservation, and with full knowledge and acceptance of what they mean. Our Book of Common Prayer reflects these beliefs. We believe the Episcopal Church continues to minister to the poor and needy, worship in spirit and truth and proclaim the saving power of Jesus Christ. We wish to stay and be a part of that faithful witness.”

We would be clear about that, even as we would honor the integrity and good and faithful intentions of those, some dear friends, who have chosen a different way forward at this time. My prayer is that they also will find that way to be one that will “proclaim the saving power of Jesus Christ,” not just in words, but in the fullness of their lives.

“I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.” Know him not only as an affirmation of doctrine, or as a symbol of generic spirituality, but as a living and personal presence in my life and our lives. Know him, as his death on the Cross accomplishes in us so deeply a renewal of life, with forgiveness, the healing of our brokenness. The Medicine of the World.

Know him, as from his Empty Tomb he is raised above all to accomplish the reconciliation and restoration of all God’s creation. Know him, as he works through us day by day, in the experience of prayer, in gifts of charity and compassion and in a deeper sense of his loving heart, and as by the gifts of the Holy Spirit we become his Body, his hands and his heart in the places of our lives.

“I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.” An old saying I think from the 12-Step movement: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Not to lose sight of it, not to lose sight of him, which might be easy to do in the confluence of institutional and political excitement. Instead: a daily process of growth. To learn, and to learn again.

What does it mean to be a member here, to be living in this corner of his church? To be fed on the Word, as the grace of that Word governs and shapes and blesses us. To be fed by the broken Bread and in the Cup with his Body, and so to become his Body. A daily process, and a great mystery: lifting up the offering of our hearts as we approach him again this morning. With so much broken, so much misdirected, to have this hunger and this yearning in our hearts. “I want to know Christ,” again today, more, and more, and more. Keeping the main thing the main thing: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

Bruce Robison

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pastoral Note, Following Convention

I sent this message by way of the e-mail distribution list of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh.

Dear Friends,

I returned home a bit earlier this afternoon from diocesan convention at St. Martin's Church, Monroeville. The 143rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and my 15th since being received as a priest of this diocese in the summer of 1994.

For me the "highlight" of convention was a wonderful sermon preached at the Convention Eucharist by my friend the Rev. David Wilson, priest-in-charge of St. David's Church, Bethel Park, and President of our diocesan Standing Committee. His gracious and Christ-centered words I think spoke deeply to all of us. Certainly they did to me.

I would also simply share with you that I was sitting near the front of the church, and after receiving communion, administered on "my side of the church" by old friends Mary Hays, for ten years now our diocesan Canon Missioner, and Geoff Chapman, Rector of St. Stephen's Church, Sewickley, simply rested in a prayerful meditation as I watched so many dear friends and colleagues come forward also to receive. During the singing of one of the communion hymns I heard my voice catch, and I realized that I was crying. A very tender moment, and one that was extended for a good long while. And as I looked around, I saw that there were other tears.

In any case, as you may have heard already (and will be much news in the media), with something of a sense of inevitability at this point, in a majority vote by orders (clergy and lay) our convention approved today the second reading of an amendment to our diocesan constitution intended to sever the constitutional relationship of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to the Episcopal Church. Two objections were made to the validity of this effort prior to the vote, both of which were overruled by the Chair after consultation with the Chancellor. The actual vote was about 80% - 20% among the clergy and 65% - 35% among the laity.

Following that approval, a canon was adopted to "align" the diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America.

Since actions of convention do not come into effect until the convention adjourns, the members of convention were invited to remain in their places, singing a hymn, after adjournment, as members of the diocesan Standing Committee held a brief meeting. They then announced that in response to their invitation Archbishop Venables, of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, had appointed Bishop Duncan as his "Commissary" or I guess we would say "deputy" for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. (While Bishop Duncan's deposition ended his ability to function in the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church, he will now resume that ministry actively within the realigned "Southern Cone" diocese and congregations.)

The Standing Committee also announced that a special convention would be held for the Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Southern Cone on Friday, November 7, and Saturday, November 8, for the purpose of "electing a diocesan bishop" (presumably Bishop Duncan). The convention was then sent out, to lunch and home, with a dismissal sentence.

Although this convention was an incredibly sad and difficult event, it was led with dignity and restraint, and my own impression is that members on both sides of the critical question conducted themselves with grace and gentleness.

What of the future?

This we will speak about, learn about, and engage together in the coming days, months, and years. As you know, the Vestry of St. Andrew's has expressed with clarity that our parish will continue as a parish within the Episcopal Church, and will not recognize or participate in the organization of the "realigned diocese."

On leaving St. Martin's this afternoon canonically resident Pittsburgh clergy were asked to take certificates licensing them as deacons or priests of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Southern Cone Province, and I declined to receive the one with my name on it. As I have indicated to you, I will remain a priest of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.

Again: much sadness, and a sense of profound loss. I personally have expressed my deep respect and love for many dear friends and colleagues who have chosen today to walk in a different direction--and my hope and prayer that in many ways the spirit of friendship and shared ministry that we have known in the past may be able to continue. But of course there will be changes, and it will be necessary to move forward to the new challenges that await us without being overly-encumbered by what lies in our past. We'll have to figure that out as we go on.

I am glad to note that those clergy, laity, and congregations of Pittsburgh intending, like us, to remain in the Episcopal Church, have prepared carefully over the past months for this possibility, and I am confident in the strength and vision of our ordained and lay leadership. I will myself do what I can to support the reorganization of our diocese, and I know St. Andrew's will have an important role to play. I will again especially highlight the good work and leadership of two St. Andreans, Mary Roehrich and Tom Moore.

I would also note that the leadership of the Episcopal Church and the Presiding Bishop have been engaged, supportive, and respectful in their work with us thus far, and they have promised their continuing support as we make the decisions locally that will reconstitute the orderly life of our diocese.

As of Monday morning there will be a new office, mailing address, and phone number for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the "Across the Aisle" website will soon become our official diocesan website. You may wish to click on that link and bookmark the URL for future reference. There is information on the site now that may answer many of our questions about how the reorganization will take place. An important feature, on the "front page" of the site, is a letter from the Rev. Jim Simons, Rector of St. Michael of the Valley Church in Ligonier. As a member of our diocesan Standing Committee Jim will have a key leadership role in the coming days, as the diocese begins to reorganize according to our continuing Constitution and Canons.

In conclusion, I ask for your continuing prayer and spiritual witness. That we would continue in love and prayer with old friends from around our diocese--and especially Bishops Duncan and Scriven, and their families, and the clergy and people of all our congregations: those that will be in continuing fellowship with us in the reorganized Episcopal Diocese, and those that will now come into a new and different relationship with us in the "realigned" diocese. We would pray that God will shower his blessings richly upon the lives and ministries of all these friends, and upon all of us, with forgiveness and the gift of renewal in him. And that by our words and our examples all of us might be true and holy servants of our Lord Jesus--and most especially in these difficult days ahead.

At St. Andrew's, on Sunday morning, October 5, at the 10 a.m. "Coffee and Conversation" hour, our clergy and lay deputies will share their impressions of convention, and we are all invited to attend.

Affectionately, and in Christ,


Friday, October 3, 2008

The Eve of Convention, 2008

The Annual Diocesan Clergy Association Ball in the Fall Dinner Dance

This evening, October 3rd, our diocesan Clergy Association, with our co-sponsors, the diocesan Clergy Spouses' Group--and with Bishop Duncan once again most generously supporting the cost of the dance band!--will gather for an evening of dining and dancing with good friends . . . . Susy and I look forward to it every year!


A Prayer for Diocesan Convention, Pittsburgh, October 4, 2008

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels: Send down upon our Bishops and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.