Thank you and Farewell, Diocese of Washington

by | Sep 16, 2021

Bishop Chilton at the dedication of a tribute for Pauli Murray at St. Thomas’, Croom

Together with bishops from across the church, I moved from office to office in the Capitol Building, advocating for sensible gun laws. Shepherded by staff from our excellent Office of Government Relations, we were prayerful and resolute. At one point in the day, it came over me in a wave: God called me to this unique mission field in our capital city!

In Southern Maryland, many small churches, themselves living month-to-month in perilous financial circumstances, banded together repeatedly to provide backpacks full of school supplies, diapers, non-perishable food, coats and blankets, fuel assistance and other necessities to people in need. Applause to the dedicated deacons who organized these efforts and to the many, many folks who generously contributed.

Bishop Chilton and the North Montgomery Country region clericus

In Northern Montgomery County, congregations supported several dozen families and faithfully provided them with food and household supplies. Various reasons (lack of transportation, chronic illness, language barriers, lack of documentation, fear of racial targeting) isolated these families. I was with one of these families. They could not stop weeping at the kindness they experienced, which they knew was motivated by our Gospel values.

Events of recent years reveal, yet once again, the many ways our nation has fallen far short of our constitutional ideals. Members of our diocesan community gave voice to those ideals, bearing witness in the public square to justice and equity, often at risk to themselves.

Washington National Cathedral, a cherished worldwide beacon of prayer and hospitality, moved its life of worship, public dialogue and outreach to virtual space. Literally hundreds of thousands of people across the globe tuned in as the pandemic continued. Countless folks drew strength from the Cathedral’s Sunday worship broadcasts as they faced horrible tragedy in their own lives.

Bishop Chilton recording a sermon for an online service

Each of these vignettes is representative of many more examples of the amazing faithfulness evident in the Diocese of Washington. But what is lodged in my heart most deeply are so many phone calls, emails and Zoom meetings as we explored how to continue worshipping, serving, growing as disciples and loving our neighbor when we could not gather in person.  

Clergy and lay leaders doggedly sought ways to meet the spiritual needs of their people. Can we have a distanced healing service in the parking lot? How can I safely do baptisms in a backyard? Funerals and weddings, choirs and vestries, pastoral care and community life — how can all this happen? I am in awe of your faith, your passion, your deep commitment to being the Body of Christ here and now, whatever it takes.

Bishop Chilton at the dedication of the columbarium at St. David’s

Diocese of Washington, I leave now for a new ministry in the Diocese of Chicago, as they — and we — pray for our sister and their Bishop-elect Paula Clark. Thank you for every moment of this season of ministry. You have blessed me and carried me and inspired me. Vaya con Dios.

With love and prayers. +Chilton

A joyful Bishop Chilton rededicating All Saints, Oakley after extensive renovations