As we move more deeply into this holy season, I am so aware that the rhythm of life and ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana beats strongly; and I am grateful for each unique expression of Christ’s love in our parishes, schools and communities of faith. My 2023 calendar is filled with opportunities to share time with you, and this work, undergirded by my daily prayers, brings me both excitement and anticipation as we discover together God’s vison for our common life.
Over the last few weeks, I have reflected more fully upon my Ordination and Consecration weekend. Amid so many moments, there is one that I want to share with you. It speaks deeply to me and connects me to the heart of this season.
On Saturday, the doors of Christ Church Cathedral stood wide open. Over 750 clergy, friends, family members, parishioners and faith leaders filled the pews while others joined online. We tapped our feet to fabulous Jazz, we marched, we prayed, we listened to a fantastic sermon, and we bore witness to the ancient words and traditions of our faith. Images of that day will remain with me throughout my life. Yet, Sunday morning began far differently: the doors of the Cathedral were shut tightly; and I, as your new bishop, stood outside. Gone was the pomp and circumstance of a grand celebration. Instead, the service of installation began with a knock and a simple request to enter. What I loved about this service was that, between my knock and the opening of the doors, there was a pause. As the Dean walked the long aisle to the doors to open them, I had a moment to reflect upon my role with you. And, what became clear was that no matter what I do, or where I go, or what role I serve, I am always a seeker. It was a holy and humbling pause that resonates not only in my call as your bishop, but also speaks to the core of our shared Christian faith.
This Christmastide is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to stop amid our busy lives and listen for the knock at our doors. Some knocks are loud and authoritative, those are clear to us and easy to distinguish. More often the knocks are quiet…much harder to discern. The seeker may not know what lies behind the doors, may fear the response, may think that there is no room for them. Our scriptures are filled with instances of this—stretching across our faith history, from Abraham to the disciples.
St. Benedict insisted that hospitality be one of the highest values for monasteries—for by welcoming a guest, one is in fact welcoming Christ. The same is true for us. Through acts of hospitality, we have opportunities to change other’s lives as ours are transformed as well. This beautiful, holy dance both tests and strengthens our faith. As host and guest, we are inspired by Jesus to extend ourselves through both generosity of spirit and the vulnerability that is necessary in both seeking and receiving.
As you gather in the light of the incarnation, take a moment to listen to the still small knock of the one who wishes to enter. Listen to the still small voice in your own soul which yearns to belong. Listen to the message of the angels proclaiming the Good News for all people. Listen to Mary as she ponders all of this in her heart. And as you listen, be at peace. For the doors of God’s eternal Cathedral will always be open and in his abiding love you are forever at home.
The Rt. Rev. Shannon Rogers Duckworth
Bishop of Louisiana
Join us to celebrate the nativity of our Lord!