As I drove away I looked in my rear view mirror and wondered how long it would be until I returned. I was exhausted and yet I felt exhilarated by the experience I was leaving. The relationships, the passions, the hearts and hands so faithfully loving and serving God were nothing short of truly inspirational.
I love being out and about in the Episcopal Church of Minnesota. I am blessed to witness and encourage those hearts and hands of Christ throughout this great state. My only sadness is how much time passes between my visits to our faith communities.
Historically and canonically a bishop is to visit every faith community once every three years. With roughly 110 communities, that works out just about right. However, a lot happens in three years. Not to be in your midst to encourage and support the mission and ministry of a community feels too long. It seems too long both from my perspective and from many I have heard from.
To this end, during the 2011 calendar year I will be trying four-day Bishop’s Area Gatherings. Regional Deans working collaboratively with local leadership and resourced by the Missioner for Mission are in the midst of planning our time together.
Each area will self-determine how the four days are spent. Possibilities include: meeting with clergy and other leadership; bringing in other resources to assist with a particular area of ministry such as communication; area or local confirmations; and/or spending time with local or civic leaders. Each area will be responsible to structure and plan the schedule. One of the goals is to have time with as many faith communities as possible.
I am excited about this new approach. My sense is we will “tweak” along the way and then do a full review at the end of the year. I appreciate the hard work of those who are involved in the planning and I look forward to being with you for an extended period of time.