To our Friends near and far,
I write from Florence, where I've come to serve for a few weeks as the parish awaits the arrival of its new priest-in-charge. The chance to serve as an occasional supply priest in our congregations is one of the unusual tasks—and great blessings—of being a missionary bishop.
In many of our congregations throughout Europe, worship is once again suspended entirely by order of national or local authorities. Here in Italy, the government yesterday announced a ban on travel between regions beginning on December 21—effectively a way of stopping families from gathering for the holiday. We will have a year that just a year ago seemed beyond belief—one with no Easter and no Christmas. And we know it's probably the same where you are, too.
Yet this year has brought new blessings in unexpected ways. We've learned that there are people around the world who care about our churches and tune in to their offerings of worship, fellowship, and formation. The leadership of our congregations has been relentless in keeping our people connected, gathered, and hopeful.
Most of all, we've been sustained by your prayers, your encouragement, and your support. I'm grateful every day for the gifts so many have made to ensure the Convocation—this incredible experimental outpost of the Episcopal Church—can be a resource to its congregations, its clergy, and its people.
Some years ago, I began the practice of gathering together the year's sermons in a small volume at the close of every church year, chiefly to say thank you to those who had made it possible for me to do the work I am blessed to do. Needless to say, among the many things that got changed this year was the ministry of preaching; all of a sudden I am producing four-minute videos instead of twelve-minute sermons.
Still, I have many people to thank, and so here, as a small gift from the Convocation to you, is Welcome to the Mountain—a collection of the sermons from the year just past. You can download it for free as a .pdf or an EPUB—either of which should work on your laptop or tablet reader. In it you'll find active links to the audio and video recordings that were, in many cases, the first version of what later became a sermon. (Maybe the movie really was better than the book?)
This is our great season of holy expectation—of looking forward, confident that God's promises will be fulfilled. Have we ever looked forward more eagerly—or been more keenly aware of how much hope we place on God's faithfulness us? We will come out of is dark vale, and by God's grace, we shall be better prepared to hear and follow God's call in the changed world that lies ahead.
See you in church—