Dear Siblings in Christ,
Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support during my recent retreat in North Carolina. The retreat was sponsored by the Church Pension Group (CPG) and focused on the spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical health of the priests who attended. It is the desire of the CPG that the priests of the Episcopal Church have an integration of health across a variety of disciplines. Experts were on hand to teach, coach, and counsel us during the retreat. There was some time for private prayer and reflection, but most of our time was spent in community praying, eating, sharing, and learning from one another.
There were 28 priests from all over the country in attendance with 8 faculty members. The priest who is closest to us geographically is based in Buffalo, Wyoming. He’s a wonderful guy and certainly an excellent priest. If your travels find you near Buffalo on a Sunday, make the effort to attend his church.
One of the purposes of the retreat was to help me identify some goals in my life. After much thought and prayer, coupled with all of the pre-retreat work that I had to do, I’ve identified several areas of my life which need attention. I’d like to share one of those goals with you and how I arrived at that goal.
During prayer, I was made aware of my deepest desire for spiritual wholeness. Spirituality, faith, and religion have been extremely important components of my very self ever since I was a young boy. Union with God is of profound importance to me. As a result, doing God’s will has been at the center of my decisions and choices in life (except, of course, for my selfish sins when I turn inward on myself and abandon God’s will; but, that’s another article for another newsletter).
My focus on the spiritual had a negative consequence. I became guilty of neglecting my physical health. In many ways I have been practicing the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. In that teaching, the material world, including our bodies, is viewed as evil or bad; meanwhile, everything spiritual is good or holy. In short, I focused on my spiritual self so much that I didn’t care about or for my physical self.
Here are some things that I took away from the retreat regarding my need to change my attitudes and behaviors about my physical self:
- I have maintained the immature diet of little boy for too long. As I get older and grow into maturity, so should my diet.
- I’m setting a poor example for the people I love: my family, my friends, and my parishioners.
- I believe that God has not yet fully revealed all the ways in which He will invite me to serve Him in this lifetime. If I do not take care of myself, I might not be physically able to do God’s will if I’m sick, obese, or dead.
- I am wasting the money that this parish entrusts to me and my family on medicine and doctor visits.
- I have been selfish by joking about my love for Popeye’s, my general neglect of diet and exercise, and ignoring the signs that I need to improve my attitude and actions.
I love God. I love Alison, Caroline and Meredith. I love each of you. I love being a priest of Jesus Christ. I do not want to die prematurely because of my choices.
I simply ask for your prayers that this ‘new attitude’ will prevail. I ask for your forgiveness as I acknowledge the selfishness I’ve practiced by disregarding my physical health. It is a privilege and honor to be your priest. May God grant each of us the physical and spiritual health to exercise our shared ministries for as long as God desires!
In Christ Jesus our Lord,