Speaking from Clergy Conference, Bishop Hughes shares the question on which the clergy are focused and with which all the clergy and laity will be living for months and years to come: In a dramatically changed world, who is God calling us to be as church, now?
This is Bishop Hughes from the Diocese of Newark. I say from the diocese of Newark because that is where I’m from, but today it's from Shawnee, Pennsylvania. I’m with the clergy of the diocese – a good 35 to 40 of them in person and another 50 that are online – and we are gathering to spend time at something that we call Clergy Conference. Many of you know about it but some have never heard of it. It's an annual gathering of the clergy in our diocese – it happens in dioceses all over The Episcopal Church – but it happens with our diocese every October. And it's a time for the clergy to reconnect with each other, it's a time for us to gather in prayer, a time for us to spend time thinking together, studying together, and to have some fun together. Right now there are groups of clergy that are out hiking, there are some that are out shopping at the outlet mall, and there are some that are reading or taking a nap, but they have a break this afternoon to have a little fun recovery together, and then tonight we get right back at study and prayer.
This week we are focused on what I think is a natural and needed step and what is also a bold step. And that is, to intentionally and intensely ask the question: How are we called to be church, now? After 20 months of COVID, a world that has changed dramatically, and a world that's not going to go backwards – how does the church – something, especially the way we live into the church is very much steeped in traditions that are hundreds of years old – how does the church manage to talk with people, now? How do we gather people in community, now? How do we share God's love, now?
So we've been asking those questions, and I don't think that we're going to have the answer by the time we finish at 12 o'clock tomorrow. But I think we will all – clergy, laity, this whole diocese – will all be living that for months and years to come.
I want to invite you to do your own bold asking of that question. How do you feel called to be church now? As I’ve said to the clergy this week, I don't expect us to have a plan or an answer when we leave, but I do expect us to be thinking, I expect us to explore, I expect us to imagine and to dream and to wonder and to seek God's discernment and where God might be leading us next.
Some things really seem very obvious. One is that we can't sit around being the most well-kept secret in Christendom waiting for people to find our churches. It's time for us to take the love of God out into the neighborhood, out into the community, out into our schools, into our boardrooms into our offices – that Jesus goes with us everywhere we go even when it's just the grocery store.
So I want to thank all the people who have made this week for the clergy possible. We're grateful for the families at home, for the wardens and treasurers and vestries that are tending to business at home. We'll see you soon, we'll be back tomorrow afternoon. But I want to invite us all to continue asking that bold question who is God calling us to be as church, now?