Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Power of Love over Hate

Hate symbols showed up seemingly overnight as graffiti on the sign in front of St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman, Montana. By the next morning, on Sept. 10, parishioners had reclaimed their sign with messages of love.

Read the whole ENS story here.

Diocese of Montana Bishop Franklin Brookhart issued a statement condemning the vandalism.

“I also applaud the people of Bozeman who graciously displayed their support for the parish and their disdain for statements of hatred,” Brookhart said. “As people who have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, we need to die to racism, hatred, bigotry, and rise in newness of life to love of God and love of neighbor.”
Two more thoughtful articles on hate and what we can do:

We Have More to Gain By Speaking Out

The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’

Presiding Bishop Reflection


The Presiding Bishop’s reflection follows:
Whether it is the pain of the events of August 12 in Charlottesville, or Hurricane Harvey, or Hurricane Irma, or wildfires in the West, or an earthquake in Mexico, there’s been a lot of pain, a lot of suffering and hardship. In times like these, it’s easy to grow weary. It’s easy to be tired. And it’s easy to be downcast, and to give up. What can I do?

There’s a passage in the Book of Hebrews, in the Tenth Chapter, which says this:

Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and sometimes persecution, and sometimes just being partners with those who were so treated. For you had compassion . . . so do not abandon your confidence; it brings great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

It may be that we cannot solve everything, and we cannot do everything. But we can do something, no matter what. We can pray. We can give. If possible, we can sign up and go to work. We can pray for those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The areas that have been affected as we pray include the Dioceses of Texas and West Texas, Western Louisiana and parts of Louisiana. We can pray for all of those who have been affected by Hurricane Irma. Episcopal dioceses that have been affected include the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Southeast Florida and Southwest Florida and Central Florida and Florida and parts of Georgia and Central Gulf Coast. We can pray for all of the peoples in these areas. We can pray.

And we can give. We can give to the Hurricane Fund of Episcopal Relief & Development, for our donations actually help, they help in strategic ways. They really make a difference. If possible, we can sign up. We can sign up to volunteer through Episcopal Relief & Development, again, all on their web site, we can sign up, and when there are volunteer opportunities, we can know about those and possibly participate.

We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We can pray. We can give. We can go to work. The one thing we cannot do, is to quit. The truth is, we don’t do it alone. Jesus in the Great Commission, said after calling His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, He ended that Commission by saying, “And remember, I am with you always.”

In the Presiding Bishop’s Office, there is a crucifix that has Jesus sacrificing His life for the cause of love on the cross. It’s a different kind of crucifix. On this one, the artist has sculpted Jesus on the cross, dying as an act of love, but even more than that, holding someone, someone deeply in need, that this Jesus who sacrifices and gives His life, gives His life for us, and for all who are in need. That’s the Lord we follow who has been raised from the dead. And we are not alone.

God love you. God bless you. And may God hold us all in the hollow of those Almighty hands. Amen.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Monday, September 11, 2017

Apple Festival Sermon (Proper 18)

Grant us a vision, Lord,
to see what we can achieve;
to reach beyond ourselves;
to share our lives with others;
to stretch our capability;
to increase our sense of purpose;
to be aware of where we can help;
to be sensitive to your presence;
to give heed to your constant call. Amen. (David Adam)

What is our purpose?

I was listening this week to Robin Young interview Joe Storthz, a Houston resident who helped his family and elderly neighbors during the storm & in the flooding afterwards...

His mother died in March; his wife died in June from pancreatic cancer at age 62; during the interview he said, “this year I’ve had time to reflect about life and wonder, why are we here? Now I think I know that we are here for each other. This is H-Town, we’’ll recover, and just like the rest of the people here, I’m just a neighbor helping a neighbor; in a very diverse city called Houston, Texas. Where strangers banded together.”

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, wrote St. Paul to the Romans. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Joe Storthz like so many of his neighbors did just that, loved one another. Strangers banding together.

Our purpose is loving & helping each other. But love also recognizes when behavior is hurting others and needs to be corrected. I am thinking of the Gospel for today & Jesus reminder that even in our community we need to lovingly help each other…

When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they "hear" the "song" of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique purpose and essence. When the women become attuned to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach the song to everyone else.

When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child's song to him or her. Later, when the child begins his or her education, the village gathers and chants the child's song. When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the people again come together to sing. At the time of marriage, the young spouses hear their songs. And, finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world to the next, family and friends gather at the individual's bedside and, just as they sang at the dying individual's birth, they sing the person into the afterlife.

There is one other occasion when these African villagers sing to the child. If, at any time during his or her life, the individual commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around him or her. Then they sing the child's song to them. The tribe realizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused. [From Wisdom of the Heart by Alan Cohen.]

What a beautiful image of loving one another, singing the person’s song at crucial moments of their life.

Though we may not belong to an African tribe that sings one another's song, every life is, nonetheless, a constant challenge to live into our song, our purpose, our hope and love. To have our lives in sync with the many communities we are a part of: family, school, community, church. That awareness is Jesus' point in today's Gospel: God asks us to call out the best in one another, to celebrate what unites us - singing and listening to the song that expresses the meaning and purpose of our individual lives.

Reconciliation is not about punishing those who wrong us but as we heard from St. Paul & Jesus, confronting those misunderstandings and issues that divide, grieve, and even embitter us, in order to repair broken relationships and rebuild our community & our common life in the compassion, grace, and peace of God.

What is our purpose?

To love one another as Jesus has loved us.

Neighbor helping neighbor.

Helping each other hear our song.

Amen.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Letter to ECCT from the Bishops on DACA

What does it mean to be a dreamer?
 
Being a dreamer can call up images of freedom and peace. We can easily link the image to childhood, young children looking out classroom windows wistfully dreaming about summer as they face challenges of a new academic year, new friends, and more homework than the year before.
 
Or we can link the image to the passionate words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Washington Mall. "I have a dream" - words forever linked to the dream of racial justice and a vision that all children would find welcome and equality in this country. This work of racial justice we need to address continually, as recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia and other locations throughout this country have tragically and painfully reminded us
 
Today many of us link the image of the word "dreamer" to those young women and men who were welcomed into this country under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beginning in 2012. Through General Convention resolutions, The Episcopal Church has expressed support for DREAMers and DACA. (Link here and here.) As a church that seeks to be welcoming and inclusive, we open our hearts as well as our doors to offer hospitality to these young people seeking education, a new life, and peace. Over 800,000 young people have been welcomed into this country through DACA and over 10,000 of the DREAMers live in Connecticut. Fleeing persecution and insurmountable challenges they arrived in this country as children and this is the only home they have ever known. As your bishops we have been blessed to walk with some of the DREAMers in Connecticut and we can share with you that our hearts have been transformed by their stories and their hopes.
 
As Christians, Holy Scripture and Jesus call us to welcome the stranger, opening our hearts in love. Our Episcopal Church leaders, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings, have written in their September 5 statement: "we call on our nation to live up to its highest ideals and most deeply held values, and we call on Congress to take action to protect these young people and to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy that is moral and consistent and that allows immigrants who want to contribute to this country the chance to do so while keeping our borders secure from those whose business is in drugs, human trafficking or terror." (Link here to full statement in English and Spanish.) We are committed to supporting the DREAMers and walking with them to find opportunities for education and new life in this their home.
 
We urge you to reach out to our elected officials in Washington to share with them your thoughts and your hopes regarding DACA, encouraging them to work together so that these young people in our nation can achieve the dream of a pathway to citizenship. We also celebrate and support the good and hard work of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Service - IRIS (link here) as it faithfully serves immigrants and refugees in Connecticut. We are blessed to stand in partnership with this passionate and professional organization.
 
We commend the future of DREAMers to your prayer and action.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan

Lessons From Katrina and How To Help After A Disaster


From Episcopal Relief & Development:

Lessons From Katrina And How To Help After A Disaster

by The Reverend David Knight, Rector of St. Simon's Episcopal Church in Fort Walton Beach, FL

The 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was last week, coinciding with the landfall of Hurricane Harvey and now Irma. In this blog, the Rev. David Knight offers a reflection on how he and his community recovered from this catastrophic disaster. As we respond to immediate and long-term needs during an intense hurricane season, Father Knight shares thoughtful tips and lessons for anyone who wants to help communities impacted by the storms.

August 29th always brings with it painful memories and a feeling deep in my soul that is hard to describe. Although 12 years have passed since Hurricane Katrina, the memories are still fresh and especially poignant with the devastation in Texas and Louisiana from Hurricane Harvey.
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St. Patrick's in Long Beach, Mississippi where I was the rector was completely washed away by Hurricane Katrina, but the church remained. As you know, the church is the people, the body of Christ and while we were slam dunked with the breath knocked out of us, we were lifted up by the outpouring of support we received, especially from the faith community, including many of you!
I wanted to offer a few suggestions regarding ways to help after such disasters. Some of these were learned, literally, the hard way. I offer them in love and thanksgiving for all who open up their hearts in any way to those in need.

1. LISTEN TO FOLKS ON THE GROUND

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First of all, it is imperative we listen to the folks on the ground about what they need the most. At this stage, they are simply trying to keep people alive and as frustrating and helpless as that may feel to us, until they ask for volunteers to show up, we serve them better by waiting. One of the most difficult things we had to deal with was having volunteers show up with big hearts and great intentions, but with no way to sustain themselves and looking for us to provide them food and shelter. The people of Texas and Louisiana will need help and they will need it for a long time, longer than we might even imagine at this point. This is a marathon for sure. They will let us know when they want us and how we can best help and what we need to bring.

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2. DON'T SEND CLOTHES, DO SEND MONETARY DONATIONS

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Please don't send clothes. Managing the mountains (and they were actual mountains) of donated clothes was a huge burden, and as kind-hearted as people were much of what was sent was unusable. From a church perspective, I cannot tell you how many sets of old choir robes and even very heavy, wool chasubles were sent! Those in need may ask for specific items, but the best way to help with food and clothing right now is by sending monetary donations. And especially as local businesses are able to reopen, spending money in the community will be an enormous help locally.

3. GO WITH TRUSTED PARTNERS

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Episcopal Relief & Development was an amazing partner for us. I trust them completely. They supported our establishment of Camp Coast Care as a place for volunteers to come and be fed and sheltered as they worked in the community. Once such places are established in Texas and West Texas, I am sure many of you will be able to join in the recovery effort. Katrina was one of the first domestic disasters Episcopal Relief & Development faced after changing from their former name, The Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, which was more of a charity model. Over the years, they have increased their capability and staffing for domestic disasters greatly, with a strong focus on disaster preparedness training and are ready to help.

Donations to the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and Texas directly can help tremendously as well. They will also know exactly what kind of support the clergy and lay leadership need and how best to manage it. Let us not forget the absolute destruction of the coastal areas in the Diocese of West Texas, a different kind of disaster than the horrific flooding in the Houston area. Their needs will be somewhat different and I hope they continue to receive much attention.
It goes without saying we all need to be praying. I have no doubt that soon they will experience what we did after Katrina, the incredible generosity of thousands of people who will share their gifts of time, money, talent and love. God bless you all.

Resources

Stay updated on Hurricane Harvey Response: episcopalrelief.org/harvey
Stay updated on Hurricane Irma Response: episcopalrelief.org/irma
Check out Episcopal Relief & Development's Preparedness Resources for disaster preparedness tips

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The Rev. David Knight is the Rector of St. Simon’s Episcopal Church in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Church & The Dreamers #DACA


The Episcopal Church in 2012 passed at its General Convention this resolution:

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church support the passing of federal legislation that presents a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and young adults; and be it further

Resolved, That General Convention encourage the providing of scholarships to undocumented youth, also known as DREAMers, to have access to higher education, in the spirit of “responding to human need by loving service,” as stated by one of The Episcopal Church’s Five Marks of Mission; and be it further

Resolved, That congregations, dioceses, and/or provinces of The Episcopal Church be encouraged to research and solicit private donations to fund scholarships for undocumented young adults; and be it further

Resolved, That congregations, dioceses, and/or provinces encourage undocumented youth to apply for such scholarships. Citation: General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of...The Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, 2012 (New York: General Convention, 2012), p. 299.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have issued the following statement concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). (September 5, 2017)

Today our hearts are with those known as the Dreamers—those young women and men who were brought to this country as children, who were raised here and whose primary cultural and country identity is American. We believe that these young people are children of God and deserve a chance to live full lives, free from fear of deportation to countries that they may have never known and whose languages they may not speak. As people of faith, our obligation is first to the most vulnerable, especially to children. In this moment, we are called by God to protect Dreamers from being punished for something they had no agency in doing.

Since 2012, individuals who are undocumented and who were brought to the U.S. as children have benefitted from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Through this program, those eligible have the opportunity to obtain a work permit and can secure protection from deportation. The nearly 800,000 recipients of DACA have proven that when given the opportunity, they succeed and contribute positively to our country. Without protection afforded by DACA or a legislative solution, these young people will live in fear of arrest, detention, and deportation to countries they may not remember. In six months those fears may become reality, so we must use that time wisely to advocate for their protection.

The Episcopal Church supports these undocumented youth as part of our decades-long commitment to walking with immigrants and refugees. Out of that commitment, we call on our nation to live up to its highest ideals and most deeply held values, and we call on Congress to take action to protect these young people and to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy that is moral and consistent and that allows immigrants who want to contribute to this country the chance to do so while keeping our borders secure from those whose business is in drugs, human trafficking or terror. We are committed to working actively toward both the passage of a bipartisan Dream Act by Congress and comprehensive immigration reform, and we will provide resources for Episcopalians who want to participate in this work.

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, our Christian values are at stake. Humane and loving care for the stranger, the alien, and the foreigner is considered a sacred duty and moral value for those who would follow the way of God. In his parable of the last judgment, Jesus commended those who welcomed the stranger and condemned those who did not (Matthew 25:35 & 25:43). This teaching of Jesus was based on the law of Moses that tells the people of God: "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-35).

We stand with the Dreamers and will do all that we can to support them while we also work for the kind of immigration reform that truly reflects the best of our spiritual and moral values as people of faith and as citizens of the United States.

The Jesus Statue Comes to St. Peter’s Church



A life-sized sculpture of a homeless Jesus will return to the front of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, as a public witness of St. Peter’s commitment to remember and love all of our neighbors. The sculpture, by Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz, was inspired by the parable Jesus told to his followers near the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Schmalz titled his sculpture, "Whatsoever You Do."

“This sculpture is a visual representation of charity. We should see Christ in the poor and the hungry. We should see our acts of kindness to them as kindness to Him. It is inspired by the Gospel of Matthew 25:40.” (from Schmalz’s website)

He describes his sculptures “as being visual prayers.”

The sculpture is a poignant reminder of God’s invitation to see Jesus in everyone we encounter.  At the same time, the statue invites us to recall our shared humanity with the homeless we worshipped alongside at Chapel on the Green in New Haven, the hungry we feed through the Monroe Food Pantry, our participation in the Bridgeport Deanery feeding programs, and those strangers in Monroe whose need we do not yet know.  At the very heart of all these ministries, is our willingness to embrace everyone as a child of God.

The statue has been traveling throughout the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Please do take a few minutes to come by the church to sit with Jesus, who beckons us with sadness and hope as a powerful reminder of our ministry to love our neighbors as ourselves.

To learn more:

Video by the artist concerning the “Whatsoever You Do” sculpture:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sGkDEDPCPI

The artist’s webpage:

“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “Then he will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’”
(from Matthew 25: 37-40 - Common English Bible (CEB))