On Being – And Ceasing to Be – Your Bishop
At the annual convention of the Diocese of New York last month I called for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor, by which I also announced my intention to retire. That announcement sets in motion periods of transition both for the Diocese of New York and for Margaret and me and our family. These transitions are now beginning, and will be completed in the early spring of 2024, when the next bishop is installed as the XVII Bishop of New York, and Margaret and I will resettle in rural New England, not far from our younger daughter and her husband and children.
In my address I noted that just several days before our convention I had turned 68 years old, and at the time of the 2024 handover I will be 70 years old, just about a year and a half before the mandatory requirement of ordained ministers in the Episcopal Church. I also observed that in October I marked twenty years working for the Diocese of New York, half of that as Canon Pastor under Bishop Sisk, and half as Bishop. I also said that in that same week I observed the tenth anniversary of my own election as Bishop Coadjutor to serve with Bishop Sisk until his retirement. It feels for many reasons like the right time. I am not ready yet to lay down the responsibilities you called me to, but I believe I will be when the time comes.
The process of retirement for the Bishop Diocesan of a diocese as large and complex as New York is a complicated process of many steps. The election of the Bishop Coadjutor is scheduled to take place in our cathedral on Saturday, December 3, 2022. The consecration of the Bishop Coadjutor is scheduled to take place on May 20, 2023. Those dates have been chosen in consultation with the cathedral and with the Presiding Bishop, and are fixed and immovable. The Committee to Nominate the Bishop must complete its work before those dates. After he or she is consecrated, I will assign to the new coadjutor parts of the jurisdiction of the diocese, working alongside me, as well as with Bishops Allen Shin and Mary Glasspool. The installation of the XVII Bishop is scheduled to take place on or about March 16, 2024.
In August, Margaret and I purchased a house in New England to which we will move in retirement, which we like a lot, and which will have adequate studio space to allow me to return to my earlier occupation, now as avocation, drawing cartoons in my retirement. We are beginning to anticipate that next chapter of our lives, and are finding that there are many things we are looking forward to. Chief among those things for me is the chance for us to rediscover each other in a time of fewer other obligations and responsibilities. In March we will have been married for 45 years, which is a good long time. I joke that the months of COVID when we were confined for long periods to our home became a kind of training for retirement. We discovered that we still love each other, we still like being around each other, and it feels like a grace to imagine growing old together. And to do that where I can watch the stars and trace the constellations in a place where the sky gets very dark at night. That also feels like a grace to me.
Before Bishop Sisk called me to New York to serve as his Canon Pastor, I had been a parish priest for a number of years. I liked it. I felt then, and still do, that it is in the parish that the real miracles and wonders of the church take place. When I was Canon Pastor, I assumed that when Bishop Sick retired I would return to parish ministry for the final chapter of my career in ordained ministry. Indeed, when I was nominated for Bishop, my chief anxiety about that was the realization that if I was elected Bishop my dream of one day returning to parish ministry would never be realized. And I was right about that.
But I found that there were compensations in being Bishop that have enriched my life in immeasurable ways. So much of the work is all about supporting clergy and lay leaders and congregations in the ministry and mission of our almost two hundred churches across the vast diversity of this diocese. I have worked with two talented bishops who have become good and close friends, and with an amazing staff, and together I can see and name things we have done in this diocese which have lifted up the lives of our churches in ways that are profoundly satisfying. But the great good gift of the episcopate is getting up every Sunday morning (except for pandemic time) and going off to another one of my churches to administer the sacraments and meet with the leadership and preach to the faithful and be reminded all over again of why I love parish life, and to receive the blessing and invitation to come into that life in all of these places and cultures and to see across all of the great differences of our churches the myriad facets of God’s mission and give thanks for it all and for everything. It is that—my dear priests and deacons, my beloved people, and the miracles that are my churches—above all else, that I will miss when I retire, and it is that which I will give, the most precious thing I have, as gift to the next Bishop.
We have much work ahead of us over the next two years, and then the diocese will continue, with new leadership, and see and discover all that God is holding out for this church in the near and far times to come, among a people well equipped with courage, strength and faith to face and meet the challenges and joys of each new day. God bless us every one, and the wonderful Diocese of New York.