Dear Friends in Christ,
What makes Grace an Episcopal Church?
There are a lot of answers to this question, ranging from worship to theology to practice. But most fundamental answer is in the name. We are under the guidance of an episkopos, which is the Greek word for bishop.
Most of us identify primarily with our parish, of course. But this place derives its identity from its connection with a wider church. We share liturgy and mission with 179 other parishes around the Diocese of Virginia (which—after both Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia became their own diocese—stretches from Northern Virginia down to Richmond).
At times, that connection can be challenging. We might have different concerns than churches in Culpeper or Gloucester. And it’s certainly tempting to keep our funds for local expenses rather than to share them with the diocese.
But we are so much stronger together than we would be alone. Some of that strength shows up in shared resources and programming. Do you love Shrine Mont camps? That’s the diocese. Are you grateful when your kid goes off to college and is met by a campus minister? That’s the diocese, too. Are you grateful to have clergy who go through careful discernment and formation? Also the diocese.
But many of the gifts of shared diocesan life are less tangible. Like any community, the diocese calls us out of ourselves, insisting that we change a narrower perspective for a broader one, offering us the chance of a more profound witness to the world.
This connection would be important at any time. But it is especially important right now, because we are in the process of choosing a new Bishop Diocesan (aka that head bishop) for our diocese. The Search Committee is currently holding listening sessions to put together a profile, and they will be sending around a questionnaire soon to gather even more information.
I encourage you to learn a little bit about the process and then to share your thoughts. (If you are thinking you are not “churchy” enough, then yours is exactly the voice needed.) Rushad Thomas, a member of Grace, in on the Search Committee. In addition, we have two delegates to Annual Convention, June Huber and Mike Jones. Any one of these individuals can talk to you more about the diocese and let you know what issues are important and hear your concerns.
And I invite you, too, to pray this prayer for the search:
Almighty God, Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who calls, guides and empowers us as your Church: Create in us discerning minds as we seek to elect a bishop in this diocese. So many issues are open before us; so many wounds that need healing; so many gifts that need celebrating. Bless and continue the good work begun in your name, and open our ears to the hurts and hopes around us; broaden our vision to see what we do not want to see; and enliven our hearts with honesty and compassion to do the hard work that lies before us. Guide us as we seek an inspirational leader and willing advocate to help us meet the challenges, and lead us to become the people you have equipped us to be in your service. All this we pray through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
Yours in Christ,