What does a bishop do in their last year of serving?

What does a bishop do in their last year of serving?

One year from today, July 31, 2020, will be my last day of service as the fourth bishop of our Sierra Pacific Synod.  Whoever is elected as the fifth bishop of our Sierra Pacific Synod at our Assembly next May will begin serving a six-year term on August 1, 2020. Conversations are currently underway to help in a discernment process about what will be the needed “gifts and graces” in our next bishop that will help our synod’s ministry continue to serve the people of northern Nevada and northern California in these dramatically changing times. My prayers are daily with the Synod Council Executive Committee and the Synod Nominating Committee who are helping to oversee this conversation, as well as all who will participate in some way in this conversation (that’s you!), and especially those who might, at some point, be feeling a “nudge” from Holy Spirit to be open to this call.

A question that’s been on my mind of late has been “So what does a bishop do in their last year of serving?” How does one spend their time knowing that at some point in the not too distant future, they will be leaving a call they have loved and heading into — who knows what? I have asked bishop colleagues who have already retired or left office, and some who are in the process of doing so at this time, “What did you find helpful as a way of living and serving fully and faithfully in your last year of ministry as bishop?” I’m also working with my spiritual director in this question and realizing there is a deep connection in my spirit that needs further prayer and conversation between the recent death of my father and the upcoming end of this call. Your prayers for that journey are and will be appreciated.

Here are some of the things I have done and am doing as I anticipate leaving this call and “making room” for my successor:

  1. My office has been “Marie Kondoed*” in anticipation of needing to pack up and move out next year: the books that are now on my shelves, the files in my file cabinet, and the Star Trek memorabilia that is everywhere all “spark joy” and relate to the work of interim ministry I hope to be offering for a few years following my service as bishop.
  2. The lease agreements for the two offices we currently use in Rancho Cordova and Burlingame will expire early in 2021, giving the new bishop time to assess whether they want to continue using these offices or move to different locations.
  3. Rachel Line, my appointment setter, is helping me visit congregations with which I would like to worship on Sunday mornings before my time as bishop is through, recognizing that I only have a certain number of Sunday mornings available before July 31st of next year.
  4. Rachel is also setting up a “new bishop’s calendar” for dates and events the next bishop will need to have on their calendar (Conference of Bishops and Region 2 meetings, synod council meetings that are already scheduled in 2020, 2021, and beyond, etc.).
  5. Our synod staff and I will not be involved in any way (except as constitutionally or practically required) in the process for creating our Synod Profile or the process for surfacing potential nominees in the election process for the next bishop, in much the same way as we have encouraged pastors to refrain from similar interference in the call process for congregations they are leaving.
  6. In my last year, I will continue to concentrate my energies in the “Five C’s” of the ministry of the Office of the Bishop – Calls, Conflict, Candidacy, Compliance and Care.  Vision for our future I now leave to the care of our Synod Council, Executive Committee and Nominating Committee, and to you.

If you have some other thoughts for how I might immerse myself in this last year of serving, feel free to send me an e-mail!

One last request: would you please hold the members of our synod staff – Laurie Gaumer, Diana Suruki, Debbie Cook, Kathye Hamm, Sabrina Casillas, Pr. Katy Grindberg, Pr. Tita Valeriano, and Pr. Kathryn Gulbranson — in your prayers as they are living and serving in the next year, fully aware that the upcoming election might possibly mean the end of their service to our synod’s ministry? Our synod’s constitution and policies provide that an incoming bishop may make whatever staffing decisions they feel are necessary.  This is an uncertain time for our dedicated and hard-working synod staff, and they need and deserve our full support as they serve during this time of transition. Thank you.

Blessings and peace as we move into a future of God’s own knowing,
Bp. Mark

P.S. – Whatever I’ll be doing “next” – I am sure it will involve a little more time for me to be “Pop pops” for our eight grandchildren, and Debbi’s husband…

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvyeapVBLWY – watch with care — your sock drawer could look very different before you know it…