Dear Grace Church,

On Sunday morning I shared my secret dream of a perfect retirement – of enjoying regular evenings out at the local pub engaged in lively and meaningful conversation “just this side of tipsy”. Well, I have no such place set aside in Des Moines as yet – not even our living room. But St Helena? Now there is a surprising possibility!

The provocation to reveal my fantasy came from the challenge at the end of Amy’s sermon for all of us to imitate her daily promise to herself during the upcoming sabbatical, namely, to wake up each day asking what her soul was seeking today. It is an exercise which does not need to be assumed alone and could benefit from the back and forth of lively conversation. That I can do and would enjoy doing. And so, I make my own invitation to you all not be a stranger over this summer together. There is a lot to talk about. Our souls have been and continue to pass through some “interesting times”. How is our own Emmaus walk going and have we experienced yet the opening of our eyes to see Jesus’ companionship as we talk and go along the way?

I once was traveling back to the United States from Cape town in South Africa. My initial flight was canceled, and my travels were rerouted from an anticipated three flights to five! On the first couple of flights the persons sitting next to me chatted about their lives, and then asked me what I did for a living. At the mention of the word “bishop”, the conversations ceased. And so, on the third flight, I decided on attempting a different tack. My neighbor was journeying back from the Indian Ocean with a team that had been seeking to discover oil fields. Their efforts had failed and now they were heading out to the Caribbean for another probe. Eventually the question came my way– and what do you do? Well, I said, I really admire your work; you are what I would call working on the front line, seeking ways to keep our economic-industrial complex moving, along with people seeking to cure diseases, or providing for our food and water. I wouldn’t put myself there. I have more of a secondary tier vocation or profession. For I am sure there comes a time when amid your labors you take a pause and say to yourself – “I wonder what this life is all about?” Now that’s when you give me a call. I spend my time working on that question! The conversations flowed from that moment.

Recently one of the members of Grace introduced herself on a zoom meeting as finding at Grace a community with which to enjoy the sharing of her life’s journey. It conjured up one of my favorite prayers from Evening Prayer: “O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your presence: Send forth upon us the Spirit of love, that in companionship with one another your abounding grace may increase among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

That is what I would pray for these few months together to be about. There is a randomness about finding myself in your community, and yet I found all of that perspective swept away while presiding over the Easter Day worship. The gift of the local Christian community struck me as that place where the Spirit manifests in personal lives and as such is recognized, enjoyed and entered whether you are from St Helena, or Des Moines or any other part of the globe. To quote Jesus: “Where two or three are come together, there I am in the midst of you”. That is what will make these coming months work. Let us enjoy its reality and its gift together.

-Bishop Alan