Official episcopal visitations — that’s when a bishop comes to participate in confirmations and other traditional rituals, generally hosted by the priest in charge — are always a joy. But presiding when the priest’s away is a special gift for a bishop, because, I think, it kind of feels like being a parish priest again.

At St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church Needles, CA, our easternmost church, whose wonderful priest, the Rev. Dale McQueen, is summering in Washington State, you walk through the parish hall to get into the nave. So folks tend to hang out before and after services. I got two coffees and two rounds of fellowship, with the right-sized group to be able to talk to everyone. Two women had lost their spouses in recent months, so we prayed together and said some blessings. Junior warden David Barlowe and treasurer Pat Miller, among all others, were their hospitable selves.

I was surprised to hear so many folks talking about the politics of water, though I shouldn’t have been. On the next leg of my weekend driveabout, making my way south from the 10 toward the Salton Sea, through Box Canyon and the starkly beautiful Mecca Hills, the thermometer on the mighty Honda hit 112. I heard talk of communities’ wells going dry. Developers paying off growers to use their water. Lake Mead at an historic low. St. John’s’ desert sentinels say that we on the coast, often oblivious about where our water comes from, should take heed.