Well, this is weird. It’s Sunday morning and I have nothing to do.
Well, not exactly nothing. But for the past five years I have served as bishop of the Santiago Creek Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My Sundays have been filled for me with a combination of council meetings, planning meetings, worship and instructional services, one-on-one counseling sessions, and in-home visits with various members of the congregation. I was sometimes the first one in the building and often the last one out. And it was not unusual to find myself back in the chapel for an evening fireside.
But last Sunday I became no-longer-the-bishop of the Santiago Creek Ward. That title and its corresponding responsibilities have been passed to Jared Treanor, one of our neighbors who you will find just-about-impossible-not-to-love. No question: Our ward has hit the jackpot with this one.
That’s how it goes in our church. With a lay clergy, we pass around these responsibilities as part of our commitment to collective worship. And so I find myself on a Sunday morning sitting on my couch and wondering: “What do I do now?” Which is why I’m writing to you.
As you might imagine, the list of people who have touched my heart and influenced my life during the past five years of service is certainly too long to fit onto a single page. I have watched as friends overwhelmed by life have turned in desperation and faith to the Only One who could lift them out of their impossible circumstances. I have seen the repentant reclaim blessings promised in covenants long ago abandoned. I have thrilled at the enthusiastic service of so many missionaries who have come to our little congregation from all over the world to lend a hand in the work. And I have been humbled by the countless hours of selfless service rendered by my fellow Christians as they have embraced the teachings of Jesus and tried to implement them in their imperfect ways. Words cannot begin to capture the sense of love and admiration that I have for all of them. Because of them, I am a changed man.
I think what has humbled me most during my service were the many times I found myself in the middle of someone else’s spiritual experience. Because of my calling, I was (through no personal merit) a convenient conduit for the Spirit of God, sometimes a courier but most often simply a witness that Heavenly Father had once again heard the prayers of one of His children and extended His loving hand.
So yes: I have been richly blessed. When I was first asked to serve as bishop, I told the members of our ward that I was hoping for two things: 1) I wanted the Santiago Creek Ward to be a sanctuary—a safe place for sinners, a holy place where we could gather, warts and all, to try to become more like Jesus; and 2) I wanted us in both attitude and action to answer Paul’s invitation to become “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens” in Christ (Ephesians 2:19)—not divided but united by our differences. I have been delighted (but not surprised) by the sincere efforts of our ward family to live up to those lofty ideals.
But you know what? That’s what the Santiago Creek Ward is like, and I don’t expect it to change. With Bishop Treanor at the lead, I anticipate that the love within the Santiago Creek Ward will only continue to grow. The ward will be different but better, still a sanctuary for come-as-you-are Christians to gather and help each other through life.
You should come and see for yourself. We meet at noon each Sunday in the chapel at 9801 South Newport, just around the corner from Peters Canyon Regional Park. In fact, let’s sit together. You can help me figure out what to do next.