The long process of electing the next bishop for our diocese is coming toward its conclusion which will happen with the election on June 25. As part of that process, the final four candidates have been in the diocese for a series of talks called “walkabouts.” These are held throughout the diocese and provide a chance for members of the diocese to see and hear from the candidates. For this election, at least, questions were taken in advance. In brief, what one would see and hear at a walkabout are first the four candidates together with all those attending for a short personal introduction from each candidate. Following are four breakout sessions, where each candidate appears individually to answer randomly selected questions from those previously submitted. After maybe fifteen minutes, time is called and candidates rotate to the next breakout session. Within the sixty to eighty minutes they are speaking to those four breakout groups, candidates average answering thirty or more questions in total. All this is without knowing beforehand what might be asked, without much chance at all to establish rapport with their audience, and without a break. I feel for and pray for these candidates. To get to this point has already been a long journey for them and even if they, as they do, speak of the blessing in the journey, this is a physically, mentally, and spiritually taxing experience. These public performances, done not just once, but multiple times and more than once a day in geographically distance locations. So I feel for and I pray for them.
I went to two of the walkabout gatherings: at Christ School in Arden on the opening night and the next day at noon in Waynesville at Grace Episcopal. Again, I feel for and I pray for these folks. Some were impressive, very impressive, on the opening night. Others struggled, maybe because of weariness, maybe because the format did not bring out their strengths. Regardless, all of them brought to these meetings cause for hope for our Episcopal church and the mission of God in the world. Good and creative things are happening in the parishes and dioceses where our candidates are from. The Gospel is being proclaimed in word and deed, the ministries of the church are bringing us into contact with groups historically underserved, and new ways of being the church are thriving along with the continuing vitality of our traditional ways of being. The energy, ideas, passion and love of Jesus shown by all our candidates were simply uplifting. I went the next day hoping that those who did not show their best at Arden would have a better day in Waynesville. In golf, a bad shot is sometimes forgiven and the person is given another try. We call that a mulligan. I play bad golf and know about mulligans. They are a form of grace and I believe God gives us plenty of those so we should extend them as well as receive them. I feel for and pray for our candidates and offer them grace - a holy mulligan, for all, but especially for those I thought struggled at bit at the walkabouts I attended. The Lord knows I need one and maybe you do as well. I have my favorite candidate and I encourage you to visit the diocesan website and review all their written materials, and that you do so with thanksgiving in your heart and with eyes full of grace for these folks who have been faithful in listening to the Holy Spirit.
Blessed be our God in his angels and his saints,