Although I've had ample time for it to sink in, I still find myself somewhat surprised to be one of those candidates. Until six months ago, I had presumed that past blotting of my copybook would preclude me ever being a candidate.
It has been very strange to be a part of this process. From time to time I found myself imagining what I might do about certain things were I to be elected. It was not a helpful place for me to dwell. But difficult in a different way was planning future activities in the parish, aware that I might not be the priest to see those things through.
A friend sent me an email yesterday with some excellent advice should I become bishop. The thing is, it is equally good advice should I not become bishop and remain a simple massing priest. I share it here as he has written it to me, with certain identifying bits and pieces appropriately redacted.
I think you would be a good bishop. God has certainly refined you in the fire over the years. May I ask you to do one thing if you are chosen? Love your people, Malcolm. Love your people and love your clergy. Shepherd them. Do not drive them before you like cattle. In a sense whatever you do as a bishop is irrelevant. (In my humble opinion.) It’s who you are as a bishop that is essential. And whether you’re bishop, pastor or housepainter, you already are who you are, created and called by God, formed by the Holy Spirit, refined in the Spirit’s fire, conformed to the Image of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Please don’t think I have it in for all episcopoi or even for the archbishop that has been given to me. The man who ordained me, ,was a saint. What shone through his shy demeanor was immense love and humility. Whether he was “conservative” or “liberal” ultimately didn’t matter. He cared for us. He loved us. That kind of love cannot be faked. He literally breathed it with every fiber of his being. , too, before him, loved us. was “liberal”, was “conservative”. Ultimately, none of that matters. I could give a rat’s ass in what “direction” my diocese goes or what “great plans” anyone has for it. Maybe I once believed that was important, but I don’t anymore. Malcolm, love your people with all your heart, be their shepherd, be a father to them. Shepherd and father may sound archaic but, dammit, that’s what we need!
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.
Good advice for anyone who has the cure of souls.
By the end of tomorrow, someone will be the Bishop-elect of Qu'Appelle. I ask your prayers for whoever it may be.