The life of a bishop really slows down during late Advent and in Holy Week. Parishes are completely and properly focused on their liturgical life, and no one has much time to consult with, let alone visit with, a bishop. The flow of e-mail slows, the phone stops ringing, and it gets very quiet at Loring House.
Having experienced the slowdown last Advent, I decided to spend Holy Week and Easter in Aroostook County. With the generous invitation and support of the Rev. Bob and Thelma Smith, I left for the County following the Clergy Renewal of Vows and Chrism Mass at St. Patrick’s, Brewer. Over the next five days I had the opportunity to worship and preach in each of the five congregations, most of them twice. I won’t describe here each of those services or try to thank all of the folks who so warmly welcomed and accompanied me. But I do want to share some of what I learned from that time.
It was wonderful to celebrate the services of Holy Week. Having spent the past eight years out of parish ministry, it was refreshing to be part of that rhythm again. And I enjoyed both the several Prayerbook services and the Good Friday ecumenical service in Caribou.
Meeting people before and after worship, sharing a Bible study and informal meals is a very different experience than a parish visitation. The formal expectations, the serious conversations with Vestries, the question and answer periods are replaced by casual and friendly chat. I learned a great deal about people and communities that I wouldn’t have otherwise have learned, and folks saw me differently as well.
The extended time in one place allowed for relaxed time with the clergy and for some touring the countryside and, even, for a long walk. Again, a different way of learning about people and places.
I returned home Easter afternoon both tired and refreshed, with a renewed appreciation for our state and church. I now can find my way around the County. And I know a number of faithful Mainers much better. I think it would be a good idea to do this sort of visiting in another part of the state before too long.