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Bishop suggests the bumpy road is often the way to follow in faith, rather than the safe, main route

Bishop Jim Waggoner
Bishop James Waggoner, Jr.

Bishop James Waggoner, Jr., shared reflections at the 2012 Diocese of Spokane Episcopal Convention in October at the Cathedral of St. John.

When his sons visited him wanting to see Mount Rainier close up, Bishop Jim Waggoner, Jr., and his wife, Gloria, drove with them into the Cascades.  They saw a road that said “To Mount Rainier” but it looked rough and bumpy, so they drove on following the safe, smooth main route until they missed the mountains.

“We traveled on the road that was comfortable, clear and easy to follow.  We did not want to turn on the bumpy, uncertain uncomfortable road,” he said.  “To be people of the way and people on the way, we need to be people committed, not missing the road to the mountain—the road to the marvelous, miraculous abundant life God has to give us.”

While the road followers of Jesus are to take might “rattle us and put us off balance, it’s where we should be,” said Jim, also making a point that the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane has restructured in the last few years, going down “a road we have not traveled before.”

It has formed four regions, replacing six deaneries in its previous structure, with regional congregational developers who help congregations develop new models of ministry and help them connect, collaborate and cooperate.

People now gather for regional days, sharing stories.

“No longer is the diocese 40 separate congregations, but we are people from those congregations coming together to share gifts.  We see a vision of the church through engagement and interaction that emerges as we look at the roads we might take and challenge each other to be willing to go to places we have not gone,” Jim said.

Story sharing brings to light parts of congregations’ lives so they better know the story of Jesus and are able to tell it, live it and see it.

Jim told of meeting a young man at Manito Park near the rose garden.  He was trying to find the Japanese garden using GPS on his cell phone.  Jim told him where it was, saying he had just been there, just experienced it.  So the man put away his phone and went there.

“It makes a difference in the faith community to say, ‘I’ve seen God do things.  I’ve seen faith and joy.  I’ve experienced it,’” Jim said.  “What we are called to do is not to be shy.

“Several years ago when I preached my first sermon in this diocese, I said we are called to be bold and called to live the story.”

Then the diocese said, “We are called to a wider mission and need a capital campaign.  We have done it.  We now have endowments that are paying off in new ways.  We were able to organize for mission.”

Jim told of some of the mission happening in parishes.

Holy Trinity in Grangeville had about 10 people several years ago.  They decided to continue to exist because they have a food bank that feeds people in the community.  Now they have 18 members.

That church has started a new church in Weippe, Idaho, sponsoring a congregation of 12 people who want to talk and pray.  They provided prayer books and a place for prayer.

When owners decided to close the Carlyle Hotel in Spokane putting people with disabilities and mental illness out on the street, Jim said that the cathedral prevented it.

St. Luke’s in Wenatchee knew members felt bad about not helping people who ask for money.  Now each person has life packs, nutritious meals sealed in plastic bags.

Holy Trinity in Spokane decided it couldn’t be a regular congregation, but could be a center for God’s service, for being friends with, talking with and feeding people in the neighborhood, being a chapel on the side.

Christ Church in Zillah works ecumenically with other churches and works on the reservation.

“These are things that have happened around congregations considering what it means to be people of the way, people on the way,” Jim said.

“These churches are going a bumpy road, going where people are and where they are asking questions,” he said.  “People are talking with people, and that’s holy.

“It’s difficult to stay alive when we’re asking the questions about surviving to be loyal to ourselves as an institution but not loyal to our mission.  Custodians may fight to maintain a vision,” he said.  “We need to be ready to take another road.”

Citing theologian Walter Brueggeman, he said the only vision is God’s vision as revealed most clearly in Jesus and what he did.

“The road we are on may be fine, but won’t get us where we want to go.  We do not want to miss the mountain—the fullness of life that God is offering us,” Jim said.