Drought Response

Sonoma County and much of California are currently experiencing exceptional drought. Our rainfall last year was 25 inches below normal. In June, though the Ranch had no mandates, we opted to take several big steps to reduce our water use including:

  • Pausing irrigation to almost all of our landscapes and lawns and only watering select areas enough to keep them alive until the rainy season
  • Reducing our vegetable garden and stopping irrigation of our gardens
  • Asking residential staff to reduce usage
  • Asking guests to reduce usage through shorter showers, fewer flushes and smart use.

Through these measures, we are saving 1000’s of gallons of water each day. Don’t be surprised when you visit the Ranch and our landscapes look a little less vibrant than usual.

We are also currently planning a project to move most of our landscaping irrigation to recycled water. We will have more information on this project soon and will need your help to make it a reality.

The Ranch’s water comes from wells near the Russian River. Over 600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties also draw their drinking water from this area. We believe it is important to be good neighbors, good stewards and make sure we all have enough water for necessities. We invite you to be water-wise too. We can all do our part to conserve this most precious resource. Join us!

A Message from The Bishop’s Ranch Board

It is a transition time for The Bishop’s Ranch. We said a loving farewell to Sean Swift and his family this autumn after 31+ years of leadership. It’s also a time of great uncertainty for all of us as well as for the Ranch as we endeavor to calibrate risks in the time of a pandemic and our ongoing need to be with one another. The Bishop’s Ranch Board is taking steps, in consultation with Bishop Marc and Diocese of California staff, to assure ongoing leadership for the Ranch.

At this time, Aaron Wright continues as the Acting Executive Director and thanks to him and all the hardworking staff, the Ranch is open for visits in careful compliance with a big host of extra care measures for the safety and wellbeing of visitors. Many of us have made weekend and midweek visits and though it is different, yes, the food is still fabulous, the staff warm-hearted and welcoming, and the surroundings lovely and deeply calming.

Here is a summary of what’s going on about leadership at the Ranch:

In consultation with the Bishop and Episcopal Camp and Conference Center (“ECCC”), we have rewritten and recently finalized the position description for the Executive Director. Our plan going forward is to fill the Executive Director position with someone who can continue effective Ranch operations while engaging with us in an intensive period of visioning and strategic planning for the Ranch’s future, over the next few years. This work is essential for the ongoing financial sustainability of the Ranch which despite our generous donors and the hardworking staff, will almost certainly operate at a considerable loss this year.

We’re working through the holidays with the hope we can make a Board decision about the method for recruitment and appointment in December 2020 or January 2021. We will keep you informed. In the meantime, warmest wishes for good holidays and may we all navigate them with love given and received in whatever form is best.

Black Lives Matter

Last week we paused all social media and email communication in solidarity with #blackouttuesday and #amplifyblackvoices and in acknowledgement that our primarily white voices were not the voices that needed to be heard. 

The Bishop’s Ranch staff has been listening, learning, planning and actively engaging in local protests of the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others. We stand with the #blacklivesmatters movement and commit ourselves and our organization to the work of anti-racism. 

The Ranch’s mission is to serve God by providing for people of all walks of life a place where lives are changed; a place of hospitality amidst the beauty of God’s creation where renewal of spirit, mind, and body is nourished, leading to spiritual growth and closer relationships with God and one another. Our board of directors reads this mission statement at the beginning of each meeting, and it guides and informs our decision making. 

As part of the Episcopal Church we take seriously our baptismal covenant “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being with God’s help.” 

We recognize that we have much work to do. We have taken steps and will take many more. 

We acknowledge that the Ranch itself exists on land once home to Southern Pomo people.

We acknowledge that the Ranch has too often been a predominantly “white space.”

We have committed to equality and justice in our hiring, staffing and compensation practices and have a diverse staff reflective of the racial demographics of Sonoma County where more often racism shows itself between white and Latinx communities. 

We acknowledge there is much more work to be done, and we commit to doing the work. 

Update: Summer Camp 2020

Dear Friends of the Ranch,

Over the past few months we have been hard at work planning and preparing for a full Summer Camp season at the Ranch. As dynamics surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, we continued to plan and hold hope while closely monitoring guidelines and safety protocols. Based on the current information available from the CDC, the Diocese of California, and the Sonoma County Health Officer, the staff and our Board of Directors have come to the very difficult decision to cancel all of our overnight Summer Camp programs through July 2020.

We reached out to our camp families this morning to let them know they have options including:

Receiving a full refund of their deposit and any fees paid.

Donating a portion or all of their paid fees to the Annual Fund. Summer camp takes year-round planning and year-round care of the Ranch in order to make it successful. We are committed to beginning preparations for a vibrant 2021 Camp experience.

Rolling their deposit toward any 2021 Summer Camp.

The traditional camp experience at the Ranch is vital for our young people and families. Our Camp Director and Chaplain, Megan Anderson together with Ivan Thorpe and other volunteer young adult camp leaders, are already working on free-of-charge alternative offerings to keep campers and families connected this summer.

Now, more than ever, the Bishop’s Ranch needs your support. In these uncertain times, the whole staff is prioritizing the stewardship and sustainability of the Ranch during our extended closure. We deeply appreciate your prayers and support. Please consider donating to the Annual fund as you are able.

Lastly, please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions or concerns.

Faithfully,

The Bishop’s Ranch Team

A healthy hand washing chorus.

As you are pining for summer camp at the Ranch, you can help yourself stay healthy with this hand washing song.

Get yourself registered for camp here.

The Ceanothus Silk Moth

This Ceanothus Silk Moth was found by staff member Julie Miller on the veranda of the Pavilion. Julie believes it had just emerged from its cocoon and was pumping blood into its newly unfolded wings. As its name suggests, this moth in its larval form only feeds on the Wild Lilac (Family Ceanothus), a shrub found all over the grounds of the Ranch. As an adult, the moth’s sole purpose is to find a mate and reproduce. It doesn’t even have developed mouth parts to feed once out of the larval stage! What a beauty with a 5″ wingspan!!

Advent Message

Dear Friends,

The stones that cobble the creek bed are dry and gray on this autumn day. It is so quiet along the empty creek that as my steps crunch brown leaves, the sound echoes within the crumbling banks. I give up on walking and sit on a tipped-over tree trunk, surprised that there is no sound from insect, bird or mammal. The creek is usually a refuge of life but today it feels wound down. It lays bare, spare, waiting.

Later in the day I tiptoe to a back seat in the chapel, unnoticed by a choir at rehearsal. The director stands at the piano, teaching an inspired piece of music, playing chords with his left hand while his whole right arm makes expansive shapes of the music in the air. The singers respond and the uplifting music magnifies, fills the once empty chapel to the ceiling until it spills from the windows and doors.

Grace Cathedral Boys Choir
The rain began that night. By morning the stones of the creek were shiny. Before nightfall, tiny puddles formed. The thinnest threads of water connected the once dry stones and one puddle to another as the empty creek shifted toward a hoped-for fullness.

Emptiness and fullness. Both states holy and connected. Within its history, the Ranch itself has lived both states many times. Yet the purpose is ever to share, to lead with welcome so that children, families, teens, adults find their lives renewed, made stronger and in turn share themselves. At the close of your eventful year, please reach out and be part of the Ranch mission of renewal and connection. Through a gift to the Annual Fund, someone, many, will benefit. Even you, I hope. Especially you.

Gratefully,

Sean Swift, Executive Director

P.S All aspects of life at the Ranch, including meeting its budget, are centered on community. Every gift at every level is important in supporting the continued success of the Ranch. The Annual Fund supports a host of activities that allow us to have a lasting impact on the lives of many people in our community, while maintaining a strong tradition of hospitality and environmental stewardship. I hope you will consider a donation to the Annual Fund in your end of year giving plan.



Keepo Creek Falls

Benefit Concert Celebrates Beethoven’s Birthday

A Light in the Darkness

A Benefit Concert Celebrating the Birthday of Ludwig Van Beethoven
Sunday, December 16 at 4 pm
The Chapel of St. George at The Bishop’s Ranch

$40 ticket includes the concert and refreshments.
Purchase ticket or make a donation here: thebishopsranch.wufoo.com/forms/a-light-in-the-darkness/.

cropOn Beethoven’s birthday, join Santa Rosa Symphony Music Historian Kayleen Asbo, pianist Emma Asbo and baritone Jason Byer for a candlelight concert in celebration of the life and music of a hero for our time, in a musical journey that carries us from darkness to joy. All proceeds from the concert go to the Scholarship Fund at The Bishop’s Ranch to provide summer camp experiences to children in need.

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s life is one of the most astonishing stories of all time. Through the sheer power of his determination and will, he rose from his grief-stricken childhood to become Vienna’s most famous and sought-after pianist, conductor and composer. At the pinnacle of his fame, tragedy struck again as he discovered his growing deafness. Despite excruciating pain, constant personal rejection and the terror and fear of the Napoleonic wars exploding around him, Beethoven found a way to pour his broken heart into his music, creating a pathway of hope and healing for all of us that led to a vision of universal peace and love in his Ninth Symphony.

Christopher Putnam – One of a kind musician and friend of the Ranch

Christopher Adam Putnam, 51, of Berkeley, CA, passed away on September 15, 2018. Born in San Diego, the son of Judith Putnam, Christopher attended St. Augustine High School, University of Redlands (Bachelor of Music), and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Masters of Theological Studies).

Christopher was an extraordinarily talented, creative, and versatile musician who worked as a conductor, organist, pianist, accompanist, teacher, and improviser. He was also a gifted liturgist, working closely with clergy in a series of church musician positions. 

At the University of Redlands, his teachers included Edgar Billups, Samuel John Swartz, Audrey Jacobson, and Leslie P. Spelman. For many years, he was a member of the Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM) and was one of a select few to attain the prestigious diploma of Fellow of the American Guild of Organists. 

After positions at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (San Diego) and All Saints Episcopal Church (Beverly Hills), Christopher accepted the position of Associate Canon for Music at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, serving under Dr. John Fenstermaker from 1994-2000, and then as Canon for Music from 2000-2003. Performing duties as organist and choir director, he also established the mixed-voice Cathedral Singers, and appeared several times on recordings from the Gothic label as accompanist.

Most recently Christopher was the Associate for Liturgy and Music at All Souls Episcopal Parish (Berkeley). Starting in 2004, he grew its vibrant and eclectic music program over a span of 12 years, including directing the Parish Choir and playing the organ, piano, and keyboards; playing the washtub bass and melodica to accompany the Angel Band; and leading and accompanying the Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir and band. He retired for health reasons in 2016.

In addition to church music work, Christopher played with the San Francisco Symphony, performed at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and improvised scores to silent movies at both Grace Cathedral and All Souls Parish. He also taught as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Notre Dame (Belmont) and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Berkeley).

Christopher served his local Masonic lodge, Oakland-Durant-Rockridge (ODR), as Master in 2011, and the California Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons as Grand Organist / Assistant Grand Organist since 2010. He traveled throughout California, playing the old parlor organs of historic lodges, and electronic keyboards, pianos, and organs of other lodges, in Masonic rituals and public ceremonies.

Christopher met Caroline, his wife of eighteen years, at The Bishop’s Ranch, when both were on retreat for the Grace Cathedral Inquirers’ Class. He maintained a strong ongoing connection with the Ranch, playing for hymn sings, salon concerts for Ranch events, parish retreats, and Board retreats. He also led program retreats with fellow musician Ana Hernández, and composed a work honoring Ranch staff.

Christopher is survived by his wife Caroline De Catur Putnam, mother Judith Ann Putnam, and former wife Annette Rossi.

Donations are being accepted in memory of Christopher to Berkeley Emergency Services. For more information, please contact Jocelyn Bergen at jocelyn@zephyrine.com.

A Day of Prayer for the Life of the World: The smoke in the air is a call to prayer.

The West is burning. California is filled with smoke. I drove south on Hwy 395 and could not see the Sierras. I took a plane to Seattle—more smoke—and then to Oregon—the same— even Montana is afire.
This smoke is like incense burning on the altar— it’s a prayer and a call to prayer. A call to participate in the on-going creative, healing work of the Spirit, and a call to turn to the spiritual resources of our faith. If it isn’t smoke we’re breathing these days it’s toxic news, whether we get it in bytes or tweets, or newscasts of the more traditional kind. It’s hard to hold on to hope, hard to know what to do, how to be in these days. No matter the groups we belong to, no matter the commitments we have made to work for change, we often feel isolated in our grief and feelings of helplessness. Yet, we don’t often gather together to bring the gifts of spiritual practice to the truth of our time.
Come to a Day of Prayer for the Life of the World (November 3)—we will pray together, grieve together, speak truth together, in word, silence and chant—and look for strength and hope at the heart of our faith. There will be time for reflection, time for prayer, time for thanksgiving. The day will end with a celebration of John Philip Newell’s Celtic Earth Mass.

Led by the Rev. Pat Moore and Johna Peterson. Pat is The Bishop’s Ranch Chaplain, longtime student of the Bible, sometime preacher, retreat leader, spiritual director, and always a seeker. Johna is a singer-songwriter and hospice nurse. She has been writing music for 40 years.

-The Rev. Pat Moore, Chaplain