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Thursday, January 26, 2006
Annual Council, Diocese of Virginia
Richmond, VA

Dear friends,

Greetings to you from the capitol of Virginia, Richmond. Ronda Royalty, Meghan Graham and I arrived in the city around 6:00 p.m. and after checking in, headed straight to the Penny Lane Pub for a dinner gathering of the Truro Delegation. It was fantastic! For some reason, Jim Oakes had entrusted me with the responsibility of securing a restaurant for our first evening here at Council and so I saw there was an English pub that seemed to serve real pub food. It was risky (would it be small, dark, and smokey?). But it turned out to be delightful - the staff at the pub were just incredible. The owner greeted us at the door (we had run into Martyn, Angela, and Rachel Minns in the hotel lobby and they joined us for the trek to the pub). "Father!" the pub owner bellowed in his native Liverpool accent to Martyn "you do not have a reservation!" I knew we did, but he was winking. He knew there were fifteen people waiting in the restaurant and we felt like we were old timers before we were even through the door.

We walked into the restaurant, as authentic an English pub as I have ever seen in America, and were greeted by what grew to be twenty members of the Truro delegation. I ordered Fish & Chips and we were off with a bang. We encouraged each other, prayed together, and began to prepare ourselves for the next two days in what could be a historic Council.

It sure doesn't feel like business as usual. For one thing, this is the first council in years where we are not meeting in Reston, but back down here in Richmond. My first council twelve years ago was down here in Richmond and that feels like a lifetime ago.

This is my last official responsibility as President of Region VII in the Diocese of Virginia. Last Thursday I oversaw an election in our Region where we elected stellar candidates from Christ the Redeemer, Church of the Apostles, St. Andrew's, and Church of the Word. Robin Adams was elected to serve as the Region VII representative to the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia. It's quite dramatic change from this time last year when he was the center of great debate in Council on whether his church was going to be welcomed as a parish in the Diocese. It was odd - here was a mission church that wanted to join the diocese and was great opposition from those who are now so upset that even one mission leaves the diocese. Now Robin returns as a member of the Executive Board, thanks to the members of Region VII Council who came out last Thursday and supported him. God bless you all!

Another blessing is that we elected a Youth Delegate this year. It's Region VII's turn to elect a young person who has seat, voice, and vote at Council. We elected 16 year old Kevin Gilroy of Truro and he is here and fully participating in this process. I am very interested to hear from him what he witnesses and what he learns in this process. There is a certain sense that attending any sort of council - legislature or church council - is like watching sausage being made. It's not pretty but it has to be done if you want a good sausage.

How will the sausages come out of this council? Too soon to tell. There are some really interesting resolutions up before this Council and you can read them at thediocese.net - several "loyalty oaths" to the bishop which are quite distressing. There's a great resolution from the wardens of friendly churches in Virginia, including Truro and the Falls Church and many many others. It's R-5 and is called "Affirming the Commitment of the Diocese of Virginia to Remain in the Anglican Communion" and I commend it to you. See all the signatures after it - it's very heartening to see such a group come together.

I also have one submitted (R-6, Call to Prayer and Fasting) and I ask your prayers for that resolution. It will be interesting to see how it's received.

Another fine resolution is R-11, submitted by Paul Julienne of Truro, Andrew Merrow of St Mary's Arlington, and Susan Eaves of St. Thomas, Richmond - a very eclectic group! It's called "Affirming our continuing solidarity in Christ" and it is also very very good. You may also want to keep an eye on what happens to that resolution.

R-8, R-9, and R-10 are quite troubling for many reasons and are seen as compelling loyalty oaths. The signatures on those resolutions also are worth reviewing, they include at least two General Convention deputies, a regional Dean (from Region VII no less - which shows you how divided we have been) and the President of the Standing Committee. You may want to watch what happens to those resolutions.

On Saturday morning, I am the convener of the annual Regional Presidents' Breakfast. This will be a gathering of all the lay presidents in the diocese and I am hoping to do a short devotion. Please pray for my time to prepare that devotion. We will also be hearing from the chair of the Stewardship Committee, so that could be interesting as well.

We will elect new members to the Standing Committee and Ronda Royalty and John Keith are both nominated to serve (both are on my e-mail list). My prayers go with them both. So you may also want to keep them in prayer. Tomorrow afternoon Ronda, as the Vice President of the Executive Board (and the regional rep from Region VII) will make a speech on the floor of the Council. PLEASE PRAY FOR HER - she will have the full attention of the entire Council. Her speech is scheduled to be at around 1:45 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

I have brought my iPod to Richmond and created a special playlist just for Council. "You feel like letting go, hold on, think you've had too much, hang on ..." the song is now playing as I type this to you. I have felt that way many times, especially since General Convention. I ask myself from time to time, "Why are you doing this? Why not take up a new hobby or something?" Why do we press on and not give up? How many times I have thrown up my hands and said "that's it, how much longer can I keep doing this?"

Tonight I was thinking of Diane Knippers. I went to my first Diocesan Council because Diane asked me too. I had no idea what was going on or what I could do. But I tried to watch her and learn from her. I am thinking of her and I asking even now, what would Diane do? How would she handle this situation? What I remember best was her fabulous sense of humor - she could find just the right words to bring perspective back to the moment. So I guess I am here - as so many are here - carrying on the work she started. We will see this weekend just how much we learned from her. It's still hard to believe she's gone - but her life, her witness lives on and I hope that whatever happens over the next two days, it will honor her memory.

Why are we here? We have the privilege to witness the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel. We are challenged to think through what we believe, and we are challenged to turn our hope and security to Jesus himself. There's just no other way to do this but to surrender to Him and trust Him and let go.

I have no idea what is going to transpire over the next 48 hours. I am concerned that on the schedule there is a hearing being held by the Standing Committee - something I have never seen on the schedule before. No one seems to know why they are doing this - the President of the Standing Committee (who led the charge against Church of the Word last year and affirmed Bishop Lee's decision to defrock Phil Ashey of South Riding Church) will be making a report tomorrow morning, hold hearings in the afternoon, and then make another report on Saturday morning. I've never seen that before and it's unclear why.

We have also two more missions applying for parish status and both are friendly churches. Please pray for them as well - Church of Our Redeemer, Aldie and Church of the spirit, Kingstowne. There is also going to be hearings on both these churches (for the second year in a row - all previous years the votes were by acclamation). That vote should happen on Saturday.

Friday afternoon will also be hearing on Resolutions. That could be very interesting, as delegates and others debate the merits of the resolutions before the Resolutions Committee. That will be at 2:45 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Please pray for that time - it could be somewhat unpleasant.

Thank you so much for your prayers! I will be writing to you again tomorrow evening and try as best as I can to give you an update of where we are. I saw Bishop Lee right after I arrived this evening and greeted him. "Hi Mair," he said and he greeted Ronda as well - but it was not an easy greeting. Please pray for discernment, a winsome witness, abundant kindness, but also courage to stand up when necessary and to stay silent when prudent. Pray for our team, that we will walk together in fellowship, affection, and faithfulness - not only to one another, but most especially to the Lord who reached out and transformed our lives. He's still working and He sees things we cannot see. I thank God that He is author of hope - and I pray tonight that I will place my hope in Him.

In Christ's abiding love,
Mary Ailes
President, Region VII, Diocese of Virginia
Vestry, Truro Church, Fairfax

PS - I have not sent one of these in a while and as we all know, e-mails come and go. Please feel free to pass this on and if this has been sent to you and you use to receive these e-mails or if you want to receive them, please just let me know. Thank you!

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