My "bishopping schedule" varies between empty, which are the periods when I can get on with being rector of St Paul's, Prescott, AZ - and totally insane. The period after Easter tends to be totally insane as Churchmen have a habit of fixing meetings by the date of Easter, or in the early part of May so that we can contrive to miss both Easter and Ascension. Most years it spreads out a little, but with Easter being early this year everything has fallen in April. In the past ten days I have flown to Springfield, Mo, on the way to Branson; Charleston, SC, for a FACA meeting; back to Phoenix; and then out to Charlotte, NC, for the UECNA House of Bishops and National Council. As usual this sort of travel is exhausting, but as the matters I was dealing with were mainly positive, satisfying as well.
The first trip was out to Branson. Now I know other folks contrive to fly directly into Branson, but that never seems to happen for me. As usual, it was to Springfield, MO, via Atlanta courtesy of the tender mercies of Delta. Also as usual there was some sort of a problem - this time an FAA snap inspection - which led to a 3.5 hrs late arrival in Springfield, and an unscheduled night there. Having been duly collected the next morning, I was taken to Branson, and had a very happy time dedicating their new Church Building. The Very Rev. Jim McTaggart, the Rector there, his vestry and congregation have worked tremendously hard for the last nine years to get to this day. and it was quite an occasion. As is usually the case, there was quite a bit of laughter. On of my pet peeves it the way in which as a society we distract ourselves from the important with the trivial - cue someone's cellphone going off! As usual for St Joseph's there was quite a bunfight afterwards and I enjoyed meeting friends old and new in the congregation.
As I do not particularly care to be a "hit and run bishop" I stayed for Sunday service and preached again, this time on the Epistle for Low Sunday. They had an extremely good turn out - I counted 36, including children - and I told Fr McTaggart afterwards that he would soon be needing some more pews! Again a gang of us went and ate - this time at the Olive Garden. I am not sure about the old orthodox proverb about "a bishop never hearing the truth or eating a bad meal" - but so far the second half has been fairly accurate!
Monday morning Fr McTaggart took me back to the Springfield Airport and I caught a flight back to Atlanta, and then on to Charleston, SC. The Charleston connection was - you guessed it - late, but contained no less than three bishops. Two were identifiable as such - but one was in mufti! The episcopal invasion of Charleston was for the Federation of Anglican Churches in America meeting, which is held at Cummins Seminary, Summerville, SC, the Tuesday after Low Sunday.
FACA was created to continue the process begun by the Bartonville Accords of 2000. The general idea behind them was to promote communion, co-operation, and fellowship between traditional Anglicans in the USA with an eventual view to bringing the fragment together. Depending on what else is going on, enthusiasm for FACA as grown and waned, but I believe that in the long term it will prove to be very important in linking the strands back together. Approaching the topic of Anglican unity in a top-down, jurisdiction orientated way has tended to increase, rather than decrease the mischief. The tendancy of mergers in the continuum has been "two in; five out" producing much of the alphabet soup we see today.
The meeting itself was good and positive. There was an awful lot of discussion of ecumenical outreach to/from Rome, Orthodoxy - both the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Missouri Synod Lutherans. It certainly seems that orthodox Christians are increasingly looking at ways in which to help one another and present a united front in the face of an increasingly secular West, and the need to re-evangelize large parts of Europe and North America. There was also a lot of good and positive stuff from within the traditional Anglican world, with cooperation and resource sharing between jurisdictions becoming more common.
After FACA it was home to Arizona for a coupel of nights, not for a break, but to teach a couple of classes in my own parish. After that it was back to the airport - this time at a sensible hour, not 06:00 to fly to Charlotte, NC for National Council and the UEC HOuse of Bishops. However, I will save the upshot of those meetings for another post.