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The Present

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Thomas Merton

Dear friends,

The quote above from Thomas Merton is one of my favorites. Merton reminds us that the past is past and the future is always uncertain. What we have is the present. The day laid out before us by God with its real blessings, opportunities, tears, and challenges. To my mind, Jesus is the very best spiritual guide and the embodiment of staying present in the moment. What we know is that he was attentive to the needs of those in front of him, pushing back on those who did not understand his message to prioritize love; he offers images and stories, food and forgiveness in the immediate present reality of his encounters with people.

In the church, I've observed that we sometimes get focused on "the way things used to be" and very busy planning lots of activities for an imagined future, when, as Merton reminds us, we need to not lose sight of the opportunities and blessings of the present. This posture of hope right here, right now, is a spiritual discipline and something I pray we as a community might continue to cultivate and embrace in our life together.

Being present means caring for those in our community who are here right now; learning each other's names across generations and then having real conversations about our actual lives and where we find hope; deepening our joy of being together in worship and fellowship and service to the world. I agree with Merton when he said that this focus on the present takes courage and letting go of assumptions and old ideas, and even well intended plans; so that we may be open to receiving something new from God. Merton says that this kind of "courage is the form taken by love."

So here is Good News in our present life in the Episcopal Church. Some hope right here, right now! Bishop Sean Rowe was elected on the first ballot in the House of Bishops, and confirmed by the House of Deputies on Wednesday to serve as the next Presiding Bishop. He will begin his 9 year term on November 1, 2024. Bishop Rowe’s remarks following his election on Wednesday quoted extensively from Merton. I appreciated that PB-elect Rowe named clearly some of the challenges we face as a church in today’s world (he calls it an "existential crisis") and he encourages a spirit of love and forgiveness and an attentiveness to the present. He invites us to live in the present, with courage and hope. Hope grounded in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Rowe is the youngest person elected to the PB role since the beginning of the Episcopal Church in 1789. At 49 he is no youngster, but he will bring a fresh perspective from his years of experience serving collaboratively as Bishop in both Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York. He is already living the reality of the changing church and will no doubt bring that openness to his leadership.

May we give thanks today for the ministry of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for bringing us through the past 9 years with a message of the Way of Love and may we welcome Bishop Rowe to lead us into what is unknown, by the grace of God, and may we embrace each day with courage and love.

Your sister in Christ,


PS - Because the Episcopal Church world is small, both Fr. CJ and I have slight connections to Bishop Rowe. The Diocese of Northwestern PA is where CJ grew up, and I know +Sean from Longport, NJ where he typically serves the summer chapel there the two weeks before I do my September weeks!

To read more about the PB elect, click HERE

Photo at the top: Bishop Sean Rowe and other members of the House of Bishops walk to Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral the morning of June 26, where Rowe was elected the next presiding bishop on the first ballot. / Photo by Randall Gornowich

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