Sacred Spaces of Transformation

Sacred Spaces of Transformation

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lent 2017

My brothers and sisters, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The season of Lent approaches, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about our journey together. It is my hope that we will all pursue a holy Lent. Lent is a time of preparation; we prepare ourselves as individuals, and as a community of faith, for our journey with Jesus Christ. Nothing is as important as our walk with Jesus. Lent is a time of intentionality and fasting. Our Lenten discipline is a movement away from the temporal satisfaction of the world and toward the eternal heart of Christ. We open our hearts and minds to the presence of God.
I have traveled on the pilgrimage, been present with our laity and clergy, and heard the beauty of your stories, individually and corporately. I have felt the Holy Spirit calling me and us collectively to begin a journey deep into our faith. That calling will be characterized by Prayer, Proclamation, and Peace. We will be the people of God in the Diocese of Pennsylvania dedicated to going deep in prayer, being bold in the proclamation of the Gospel, and committed to bringing peace in our communities.
In preparation to walk with Christ in his obedience and suffering, I am inviting you to participate as a diocese in several ways. First, let's pray. I often hear people say they do not have time to pray or they need to learn how to pray once again. Just speak to God; gaze upon the Lord. Leave everything to God. Speak to God in the car, during those "transition times" when going from meeting to meeting. Pray, pray and then pray again. I have a feeling God wants to hear our voices.
I encourage you to center your life with worship and sacrament by seeking out a midweek or daily Eucharist service to attend regularly during Lent. We know the joy of our Sunday celebrations, and I also know that finding another opportunity to anchor your life to the celebration of Holy Eucharist will sustain you spiritually.
Second, I invite you to explore the practice of contemplative prayer. Specifically, I would like us as a diocese to pray the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner") as a way to center ourselves. To this end, I will make available prayer ropes to those who may want one, as a way of incorporating a significant tactile element to our contemplative life. I would also encourage you to join over 1200 of your brothers and sisters in the Diocese in reading scripture daily through the Bishop's Bible Challenge.
Finally, I invite you to read two books and watch one movie with me. I would like for us all to read and reflect on Fleming Rutledge's book "The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ." The second book is "The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life" by Brother David Steindl-Rast. The movie I encourage us to watch is "Of Gods and Men." A film based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibéhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996."
Our spiritual and communal journey is beautiful. The Diocese of Pennsylvania is filled with faithful and hopeful people I am blessed to serve as your servant and shepherd. You are a gift to the church, and we are sharing the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ. Know you are in my prayers and are deeply loved.
Faithfully yours,

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Playing Chess instead of Checkers.

We must know spiritual things spiritually. —1 Corinthians 2: 13

This past week a Priest kindly approached me.  “Bishop, can I say something in love, truth, and respect?”  I responded,  “Yes, of course.”  The Priest continued “We love you.  There are many of us who worried that you are working too hard. Great work has been accomplished during your first six months, but we do not want you to be overwhelmed with work and kill yourself.”  

I thanked the Priest, smiled, and we began the conversation.  I described how God has a way of speaking to the heart, continually reaffirming through people and places what I experienced and learned in prayer.  How two events over the last month led me to a healthy, transformative and holy place.  This holy place is the urging to be “Daniel” and live into the question “What is God calling me to do as your Bishop?”

The first sacred event was my time in Albuquerque over Christmas with Suzanne and Jude.  As many of you know, they are in Albuquerque while Jude completes his senior year in high school.  When I boarded the flight, I was tired.  There were numerous instances where I worked 18 days straight.  No weekends or days off.  Hours were from 6:30 am to 9:00 p.m.  I lived in a small apartment in Center City.  I was focused on our work.    

I eagerly awaited the time with my family.  Every moment spent with them is life giving.  I miss them and count the days until we are together. While in New Mexico, I prayed, sat in silence and exercised. Many may not know that I am a contemplative and teach contemplative prayer.   My priesthood and spiritual life have been formed by silence, prayer, monasticism and the sacred mystery.   I need silence with the Lord.  It centers my being and thought.  So, I prayed and listened.

Over Christmas, Suzanne, Jude and I laughed, went fishing, dreamed and enjoyed being with one another.  We checked in, talked about the time apart and how we were going to live into our time in Pennsylvania.   There was also time with old friends, dinners and I allowed myself to breathe.  As one Priest in our Diocese commented; “You can relax because everyone knows the real you.”  

Did I also mention that I prayed, prayed and prayed?  During my prayers, something kept percolating in my thoughts, heart and head. It was reoccurring and quite clear; I needed to listen to that silent voice.  I finally began to set my mind to this awakening.  It felt good and right.  It felt like my call way back when.  There were many questions and reflections as I returned to Pennsylvania. 

During the third week in January, I traveled by train to attend the Episcopal College of Bishops program in Virginia.  Each new Bishop elected is required to participate in this intensive three-year course hosted by mentors and retired Bishops.  It is an extraordinary and invaluable program.  It educates Bishops on all aspects of an Episcopacy;  spiritual, administrative, relational, legal and personal.  In short, it provides many tools to live into my Episcopacy.  

The College allowed for sharing and asking questions.  I had a lot of questions - I have never been a Bishop. The time at the College provides the unique opportunity to bond and form a community with fellow Bishops.  I am blessed with an exceptional class of brothers and sisters  who are faithful, loving and supportive.  We will be together once again in June for a 5 day intensive session, and I look forward to our time together. 

In New Mexico and Virginia, God was present and moving.  What was arising in New Mexico came to fruition in Virginia.  This prayerful awareness is what I would like to share with you.  Over the past six months, I have worked to live into my call.  I did not want to disappoint you or let you down.  However, I came to the slow realization that I must go deeper in prayer, allow time for silence, be prophetic and take the “long view.”   

At the College of Bishops, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that what I thought was unusual, different or troubling was normal.  I was reminded that transformation is often difficult and spiritual diocesan endeavors are at times challenging.  I was affirmed by experienced Bishops the relational work in which we are engaging is, in fact, healthy and transformative. 

I found I did not have to do or know everything.  I was reminded that I am learning to be a Bishop and we are learning to live with one another.  More importantly I was encouraged to ask questions, seek answers, support, and direction.  This understanding was both a relief and empowering.  I found that I am not alone in learning.

I discovered that I did not have to overwork myself.  I was encouraged not to rush, or to feel the need to accomplish every goal within a limited amount of time.  We, (as a diocesan family), have time to plant and nurture the seeds of our collective labor.   It was emphasized that many goals or initiatives in any Diocese usually will take 4-6 years.  We have time; we have faith, prayer, hope and one another.  

Through prayer, I came to the awareness that my call as Bishop is beginning to unfold.  I am being led, (with your help and the blessing of God), to form my Episcopacy around prayer, proclamation, and peace.  (More on that in the months to come).  I want to continue to know you on a deeper level.   To listen, learn, discover and love.  To understand our collective joys, hopes, and prayers.   In the process, I hope you will come to know me as this faithful Hispano priest from New Mexico who feels incredibly blessed to serve as your Bishop. 

I will seek to take the long and balanced view and make every effort to model a life of prayer, and work. I want to set an example for our clergy.   Instead of rushing to the office at 7 in the morning.  I now take the time to sit in contemplative prayer, read scripture, exercise, and pray.  I now arrive with the rest of the staff, and we enjoy daily Eucharist.

Where previously I answered emails within 2 minutes of landing in my inbox, I wait until the next morning to respond.  I will be intentional to assure I am not over scheduled and will take my days off.  There may be some instances where we must say “no” to some events (I ask for your forgiveness in advance). We will allow some extra time on the pilgrimage.  Nine months instead of six months.  

I will endeavor to be present, reflective and place emphasis on wisdom and gratitude.  While I will watch over the financial and administrative aspects of the Diocese, we will empower the staff and allow them to be creative and resourceful.  The office will continue to be accountable, responsive and faithful.  However, we will also overlay everything in prayer and live in the sacred present.   

I will seek to live into being healthy, thoughtful and a faithful apprentice of Jesus Christ.  I know I will be clumsy and stumble in the process.   I will continue working to let go of ego, hurriedness, impatience.   More importantly, we will go deeper in love, outreach, congregational growth, community and into the heart of Jesus Christ.   I need your help and prayers, but I know we will prayerfully build up the Kingdom of God. 

We have had a remarkable time in our six months together.  We are building a community based on relationships, trust, transparency and community.  The pilgrimages have been extraordinary, and I have come to know you in profound and holy ways.  Through this process of reflection and discovery, I found I am surrounded by a loving community in Pennsylvania who has supported my call, embraced my journey, and welcomed me with a heartfelt embrace.  Thank you.  

Together we will build up the Kingdom of God so we can invite all of God’s beloved to “Come and See” this sacred place where no one is excluded and Jesus Christ is present. We have an amazing future and I have this glowing hope.  This is a sacred space of transformation.  I pray I will be a Pastor to the Clergy and a Shepherd to all in our Diocese.  May God bless you and those you love, this day and forevermore. 

(PS.  The Priest mentioned in the opening was pleased by our conversation.  The questions was asked:  “This is wonderful news, how will you tell the diocese about this prayer, outlook, and journey”  I responded, “I guess by individual conversations.”  The Priest replied - “put it on your blog.”  Ahhh, thank you for sage advice.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Jude and I have a father and son activity that we have enjoyed since he was a toddler - fishing.  Part of our fishing tradition is to eat breakfast at an old truck stop cafe on our way to the lake.  It is a classic, western, cafe.  We sat in the vinyl-backed chairs, ordered coffee, breakfast and talked about the fish we were going to catch.

I took a moment to look around the cafe and began to notice the people around me.  A young Hispanic woman was cutting the food for her five-year-old daughter.  They sat together, and the mother had a tired look in her eyes, yet she looked at her daughter with pure love.  Directly behind us was a family of 12 smiling, laughing, and pointing at the menu.  One son wore a t-shirt from a local synagogue, and the other wore a Santa's hat. 

Next to our table a Native American family of 7 was talking.  They had that graceful presence found in native people.  One of their grandchildren was running around the table poking his small finger into the back of his grandfather and laughing.  The grandmother wore her hair in the classic style.  She warmed the coffee cup with her slender hands and smiled a soft smile.  

Off in the other room, a bunch of old Anglo cowboys slapping one another on the back.  One was attempting to text on his phone, and another was scratching his head while studying the eggs on his plate.  All of them trying to tell bad jokes to the waitress.  The waitress was slinging coffee around.  She was in her 70’s and had dyed her hair a bright orange.  

I sat in this old cafe surrounded by people of all races and colors.   All of them are miraculous and stunning. All extraordinary children of God and they are my brothers and sisters.  My beautiful family in God and we are connected.  

I pointed this out to Jude, and he looked around, and we both sat in silence for a few moments and smiled.  As we begin this new year, let us look upon one another as beautiful, magnificent family members.   We are brothers and sisters who are blessed to share this place called earth for a short time.  Let us pray to embody this in our hearts and lives.  We need one another and let us seek to connect with one another.   

You are in my prayers as we end this year and begin a hopeful year in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Feast Of Holy Innocents

The feast of the Holy Innocents,

Today in our liturgical calendar, we hold in our heart the feast of the Holy Innocents.  The children who are put to death by the ego, greed, fear, and cruelty of King Herod.  He wanted to get rid of Jesus from his life.  Mothers were wailing, fathers were distraught, and a community was devastated.

In our prayers of reflection, let us remember the Holy Innocents of our community.  Those children who are being destroyed because of hunger, violence, bullying, societal pressure, poverty, drugs, neglect, abuse, and those acts of cruelty inflicted by society.  We can either lament or carry Jesus into what I call “sacred spaces of transformation.”

In the next year, and the years to come, we shall have a voice in the community.  Our sacred spaces of transformation will be carrying the love of Christ into those places where our community is being destroyed.  In those sacred spaces of transformation, we can change lives in His name.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Another tragedy

50 people killed and more than 50 wounded.  This story transcends tragedy.  Our minds cannot seem to rationalize or make sense of the horrific violence.  It prompts outrage, shock, and despair.  It's hard to find the Kingdom of God today.  Do we live in a world filled with such hate?  

To paraphrase the words:  “If hate such as this is accepted, then love has no place in the world. It may be so; it may be so. But I don't have the strength to live in a world like that.” It may be so; it may be so. I do not want it to be so. I pray that it is not so.  Beautiful lives ripped from our arms in Orlando Florida.  

We cannot keep silent.  We cannot accept this as normal. We must not give life to the darkness of hate, marginalization, violence, political rhetoric and discrimination.  We cannot be enraged for the moment, today, or the next week.  We cannot sit silently until the next mass murder.   We discussed the necessity of assault rifles after children were murdered at Sandy Hook and nothing changed.  We argue over the senselessness of violence and lives are taken on the streets of Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Washington DC and Chicago.  Brothers and sisters brutalized daily, and we deliberate whether hate and discrimination exists. 

Through our tears, pain, bewilderment and sadness we must envision something new.  It has to begin today, and it must start with us.   I believe in the goodness of humanity. We have seen it time and time again.   Hopeful people whose lives express a deep and abiding love for all creation. A world where forgiveness is stronger than revenge, where empathy abounds over hate, acceptance mightier than exclusion and that the light of love and life is shining brighter than the darkness of hate and death.  

We must find our voice.  It must begin in our churches and we must take it to the powerful. We can make a difference.   It is the only path we have in a world that has a tendency to slip into the darkness.  May we all believe in the transformative power of hope, peace, goodness and love.  May we bring the healing and love of Jesus Christ to this world. This is the world we envision. May it be so, may it be so.  I pray for those affected by today.  May the Lord hold us close. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Everything

I was blessed to be the homilist at the diaconal ordinations this past Saturday.  A friend who is on Facebook asked that I post the portion of the homily that spoke to his journey.  Steven, this is for you: 

Eventually the power seeking apostles moved beyond prominence, status, titles and power. They finally understood the only thing that could change the world was Christ. I am going say something disturbing in this day and age.  Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. Jesus is not a concept, theory, great teacher, guidepost or spiritual guru. Jesus Christ is Lord, King, Savior and Son of God. 

Thus, You will not be the savior of the world.  Only Jesus is the savior and you are called to serve.   Preach Jesus, Baptize in his name, live with him on your lips and in your hearts.  Let the love of God live and grow inside you. lf a person doubts, encourage their questions and seeking.  You may be the only face of Christ they meet.   Be an exploring companion.  Today is a great gift, your call has been answered.   You are now made new.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Who Is Listening? Mark 3:20-35

I read a story(1) about a woman who spent a weekend in New York City with her 14 year old daughter.  It was their first visit and they wanted to catch a Broadway show.   The discount ticket line in Times Square is extremely long.  Waiting in this line affords you the opportunity to take in the vast collision of opposites in Times Square.

Smiling families are taking pictures of themselves while standing next to an angry man extending a middle finger.  On one side of the street is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," on the other side a “triple x" theater.  Men in $5000 suits walk next to men asking for a quarter for something to eat.

Peddlers sell dubious Rolex watches while street preachers claim the time has come and the end is near. Anything that can be found, will be found. The woman and daughter were listening to the conversations of those in line.  A couple was bragging as to the number of shows they have attended.  Elderly ladies were complaining about the line, the heat and their feet.

Men were making lewd comments toward the young female students standing a few feet in front.  It seemed a normal day in our society.  The woman pulled her daughter a bit closer, and then noticed a woman standing a few feet away. Plump, middle age, wearing a heavy coat and a tattered hat.  Her shoes were dirty and torn.

She was one of the invisible homeless. She seemed to be mumbling to herself while feeding the pigeons crumbs of bread.  All seem to look past her, most just turned their backs and ignored her.  Most did not give her the dignity of recognition as a human being. Only the insignificant pigeons paid her any notice.

Young girls giggled, and said “she is crazy” never lifting their eyes from their phones while texting.  I assume this is how people treated Jesus. This radical message was turning their world upside down and they could not accept it. He said “live in peace, forgive, accept, love” and they turned their backs on him.

He insisted to the religious leaders everyone mattered and no one was excluded from the God’s - they looked right through him.  Imagine the reaction when he ate with sinners, embraced men and woman with difficult pasts, how pulled people from the shadows.  They called him evil and mad.

When he told them to love and not to judge, when he told them the Fathers is good, the wanted to kill him.  Jesus was challenging all the knew about God.  They could not imagine the God he was describing.  In fact, they were quite comfortable with the convenient and predictable God the created.  One with simple answers and no mystery.

All they had to do was read scriptures, follow the rules, wait for judgement, offer a few things up for sacrifice, people, animals and ideals, and keep out of God’s way.  Easy to appease and please.  In fact, it was a great way to control God. Yet the problem with creating an simple God is that you never have to get to know God.

God is not allowed to truly transform your life.  Yet, this predictable God has a tendency to be unpredictable. God will astonish and amaze.  He sends Jesus with a crazy and transformative message of hope. Jesus pointing to a divine heart filled with Goodness. Jesus was attuned to the heart of God.  They called him crazy.

At Calvary, many turned their backs on him and abandoned him.  In the truth of Easter, hearts were claimed and lives emboldened. This wondrous life and message of Jesus began to go out into the world.  It spread not by the powerful of society, but through simple people like you and I. The excluded, powerless, the hurting, the sick.

All those in the desperate need of the love and acceptance of God.  And people found it in one another.  Living the message, seeking the sacred presence of God and then sharing it.  Heart spoke to heart, depth found depth.   Without power, weapons or force, this message changed the world. Yet over time and distance we forget. It became easy.

That crazy message soon sounded like the mumblings of a crazy man or woman.  People began to hear it without really listening.  All those things like self, wealth, power, and exclusion claimed more of ones times. That crazy becomes normal and loses the mystery.  We lose the connection to the Divine Heart and transformative life and words.

So we cobble together an easy version message and once again and create a convenient God of easy answers.  We quote a few words of scripture and know we understand the mind of God.  Do this and God will accept you, act like that and God hates. And once again we have created a predictable and distant God.

A God we can control. A God we never really allow ourselves to know.  It is the what Jesus warned us against doing. Every time Jesus' followers began making rules (like no children near Jesus, don't let the crowd get too close, don't touch that person), Jesus was clear.  Stop, listen to the heartbeat of God!  What matters most is to follow me.”

This is why they called him crazy. And this is why we need to be called crazy once again.  We have this incredible God who is constantly challenging us to live and pray differently.  A indescribable God who continually invites us into a mysterious Divine presence.  Heart speaks to heart, spiritual depth finds true transformation.  Don’t settle for anything less.  Seek the heart of God.

We are being offered so much more. Sit in divine silence  and acknowledge your dependence on Him.  Live in the sacred present and accept everything that comes your way as a blessing . Don’t define God,just sit in wonder.  Keep watching how he forgives, listen to his accepting words.  Learn how he loves, sense how easily he brings peace.

To the world, this is a crazy way of living yet we have a crazy and unpredictable God. Why would we want anything less incredible. Simple explanations and easy answers separate us from astonishment.  When we are hurting, excluded, sick, tired or even joyful and happy. Do we really want a simple and predictable God?

A God who can be controlled and interpreted.  No.  Our God spins ten thousand galaxies in the palm of His hand and in the same instant bends down and breaths life into the smallest red ant. Find our God who is in every moment, every being, every molecule in creation. The God who loved each one of us enough so intensely that he sent His son into this world for each one of  us.

Go beyond the easy answers. We need to increase our capacity for God.  When we press our faith and lives beyond simple routine, we can seek God over and over again.  When we are astounded and challenged by God, we can live into the fullness of our calling.  We can journey with the poor, help those sick in body and mind. We can bring about peace.

We can heal a hurting world with this crazy message about the Kingdom of God where everyone is welcome.   This is where the Kingdom begins.  That day in New York, something occurred.  The woman standing in line heard the mumbling and as she was turning her back noticed that the homeless women had the same round small nose as her daughter.   She felt a divine connection.

Easy answers simply would not do and she now had questions.   Why she was on the streets?  Could this happen to her daughter?  Heart spoke to heart and deep sought depth.  At that point she realized the woman was not mumbling, but talking to the birds.  With a soft voice she was telling them how much she and God loved them.

Of God's great love for the world.  She told them of God's deep sadness in seeing beautiful people dying of AIDS and mental illness. Of God’s true sadness how we ignore one another.  She spoke of God's heartbreak that we cannot seem to love one another in the way which God has loved us.  How Jesus came to show God’s love.

Only the pigeons were listening to this beautiful crazy message of forgiveness, love, and hope.  The crazy homeless woman truly understood the heart of God. Now, The woman standing in line was in tears.If only the entire world could hear this message.   My dear ones, the entire world can hear this message - through you and your lives.  Listen, seek and go deep.

Each moment of the day, challenge yourself to seek the heart of God and in doing so you will find your true heart.  Allow yourselves to be astonished and amazed.   People may think we are crazy, but maybe we are.  We believe in a God who is crazy in love with us.  And that heart, that love, that relationship,is worth more than anything this sane world has to offer. Seek it.

1.   I must apologize.  I cannot remember the source.  It is not my story and I paraphrased it.
2.      Anderson. Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God (Kindle Locations 1058-1060). Kindle Edition