Bishop Jones' Report

As I report on my work among you, I begin with words of thanksgiving.  I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of serving among you as one of your bishops. Thank you for the gracious and generous way you have received me into your congregations.  I am humbled week after week to witness the dedicated leadership of our clergy.  To those of you who are ordained, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for answering the call to ordination and thank you for your faithful service to the Church.”

Again and again I am impressed with the commitment and faithfulness of our lay leaders.  To those of you who serve our congregations and diocese, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for your selfless dedication and service.”  

My sense of gratitude extends to those who serve as our diocesan staff.  My assistant, Tyler Fox, has been an enormous source of support at our Goodwin House office.  The Mayo House staff has been a source of constant help and encouragement.  To each of you, past and present, I say thank you.  

One primary area of my responsibility is delegated oversight of our mission congregations.  That task is shared with the Committee on Congregational Missions which is led by Richard Shirey.  Dick is amazing and his committee serves us well.  CCM has a long term memory and a depth of experience.  It is able to develop strategies as its looks to the future and sees changing trends and dynamics.  While some mission congregations are moving towards self support and parish status, there are others that no longer are able to sustain full time ministry.  In those situations, we are recommending strategies that do not drain the financial reserves of the congregation.  

No area of my ministry has been a source of more satisfaction or more disappointment than that of Church Planting.  The source of greatest joy has been seeing the lives of entire families transformed as they have been drawn into new congregations. New congregations are able to attract people who might never enter an established congregation.  

I have been ably assisted in this work by the Committee on Church Planting and its chair, Lucy-Lee Reed.  Lucy-Lee has been diligent for three years in enabling the committee to provide support and advice for new congregations.  She will be followed by the Rev. John Sheehan who will ably assume the role of chair at the adjournment of Council.  

One of the major challenges for the future will be assisting our new congregations to build their first buildings.  They will not be able to do it alone.  I urge regional councils to pay attention to the new congregations in their regions and to consider ways to assist with the construction of church buildings.  Our work in church planting has been founded on the great evangelical tradition of our diocese and has been recognized throughout the Episcopal Church.  It is alarming to me, therefore, that evangelism and the vision of starting new congregations has been severely damaged in the past few years in our diocese.  The recent conflict in the church has taken a toll on our planters, our committee and our diocese.  I recognize the sense of betrayal many of us have experienced with the departure of congregations and clergy and for some of the hurtful things that have been said about us in the press.  I, for one, have felt it very personally.  

But to the best of my knowledge we have not been excused from the Great Commission.  The Risen Jesus has commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Our opportunity to expand the Episcopal Church in Virginia is greater today than was fifteen years ago. We have good news to share.  We are a healthy church with room for all.  I, for one, am not willing to cede the ministry of evangelism to those who have left.  

The ecumenical work of our diocese has been a constant source of joy, especially during his week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Deep friendships across denominational lines have been developed over the years.  It is especially heartwarming that Bishop Richard Graham of the Metropolitan DC Synod of the ELCA will be with us at the Holy Table at our Council Eucharist representing all of our ecumenical guests.   I am especially grateful for the solidarity we received from our ecumenical partners who filed amicus briefs on our behalf during our recent period of litigation.  

At the time of my election, I had been involved with Cursillo for 16 years.  One thing that I had liked best about Cursillo when I was a candidate in 1979 was that most everyone was near my age, then 35.  The same was true in 1995.  By 2007, it was clear that the Cursillo movement had run its course – a very good one.  The secretariat asked to go on sabbatical.  It is now time for the sabbatical to end and to entrust Cursillo to a new generation of leaders. Toward that end, Paris Ball, our Director of Christian Formation will be calling together a group of people to explore restarting Cursillo, hopefully with people around her age.  

Another highlight of my life has been visiting our summer camps at Shrine Mont.  We have an effective program that helps shape the lives of the next generation of leaders of the church.  Just yesterday, a video of life at Shrine Mont was posted in YouTube.  It is excellent!  Again and again, I am encouraged by the faith and wisdom of our camp counselors.  Our Parish Youth Ministry Program (PYM) encourages the development of leadership among our young people.  In this diocese, our young people are trusted and they come through for us in amazing ways.  

On a recent Sunday visitation, I was introduced to a child by her grandmother. She said, “This is Father Jones, who married papa and me.  He was my priest when I was growing up.” I was aware that day of the passing of time – of how long ago it had been since I had officiated at that marriage.  I am aware today of the passing of time and that my active ministry as one of your bishops is slowly drawing to a close.  I have informed Bishop Johnston of my intention to retire in one year at the end of Annual Council 2012.  

I confess that I approach this day with mixed feelings. I love this diocese and I love serving you. But I am also looking forward to a new chapter in life while my health is strong.  Kay and I plan to stay in Virginia where we will be near our family.  I will continue to be a member of Council and will support Bishop Shannon and the Diocese in any way that I can.  

For the next year, I intend to be fully engaged in my duties.  Beyond that, I will be open to new paths in which the Lord may direct me.  Again, I express to you my deepest thanks for the privilege of serving you.  Kay joins me in expressing our gratitude.

Thank you.