Thursday, February 28, 2008

Black History Month: Episcopalians VIII

(March 3, 1819 – September 10, 1898)

Born March 3, 1819, in New York City, Alexander Crummell struggled against racism all his life. As a young man, he was driven out of an academy in New Hampshire, dismissed as a candidate for Holy Orders in New York, and rejected for admittance to General Seminary. Ordained in 1844 as a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts, he left for England after being excluded from participating in diocesan convention. After receiving a degree from Cambridge, he went to Liberia as a missionary.

A model Christian republic seemed possible in Liberia. European education and technology, combined with traditional African communal culture, and undergirded by a national Episcopal Church headed by a black bishop, was the vision espoused by Crummell. He traveled extensively in the United States urging blacks to emigrate to Liberia and support the work of the Church there. On returning to Liberia, he worked to establish a national Episcopal Church. Political opposition and a loss of funding finally forced him to return to the United States. He concentrated his efforts on establishing a strong urban presence of independent black congregations that would be centers of worship, education and social service. When southern bishops proposed that a separate missionary district be created for black congregations, Crummell created a national convocation to fight the proposal. The Union of Black Episcopalians is an outgrowth of that organization.

Crummell’s ministry spanned more than half a century and three continents. Everywhere, at all times, he labored to prepare his people and to build institutions that would serve them and provide scope for the exercises of their gifts in leadership and creativity. His faith in God, his perseverance in spite of repeated discouragement, his perceptions that the Church transcended the racism and limited vision of its rulers, and his unfailing belief in the goodness and greatness of black people are the legacy of its Afro-American pioneer. (from Lesser Feasts and Fasts)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Black History Month: Episcopalians VII

(1861 - December 30, 1934)

Frances Joseph-Gaudet was born in a log cabin in Holmesville, Mississippi of African American and Native American descent. She was raised by her grandparents. Later she went to live with a brother in New Orleans where she attended school and Straight College. Widowed early, she dedicated her life to prison reform. Beginning in 1894 she held prayer meetings, wrote letters, delivered messages, and secured clothing for black prisoners, and later for white prisoners as well. Her dedication to prisoners and prison reform won her the respect of prison officials, city authorities, the governor, and the Prison Reform Association. A delegate to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union international convention in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1900, she worked for the reform of young blacks arrested for misdemeanor or vagrancy. Joseph-Gaudet was the first woman to support juvenile offenders in Louisiana, and her efforts helped found the juvenile court.

She eventually purchased a farm and founded the Gaudet Normal and Industrial School. The school, which eventually expanded to 105 acres and numerous buildings, also served as a boarding school for children with working mothers. Joseph-Gaudet served as principal of the school until 1921 when she donated the school to the Episcopal Church of Louisiana. Though the school closed in 1950, the Gaudet Episcopal Home opened in the same location four years later to serve African American children ages four to sixteen. The endowment fund currently supports St. Luke’s Community Center on North Dorgenois Street, where a hall honors Frances Joseph-Gaudet. Mrs. Frances Gaudet spent the last years of her life in Chicago, Illinois, where she died in December 1934. She was added to the Episcopal Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts in 2006. (from the Episcopal Women's History Project)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Notes from Sermon: February 24

-building block of Universe
-need it to live

Jesus, transforms image: Living Water, offers it to the Samaritan woman of Sychar

"Where do you get that living water? " She replies.

We must take note:
-Jews & Samaritans did not get along, they did not share things.
-Jesus interacts with her and she sees the problem, why do you ask me?

And he offers it, she reminds them of a common ancestor, Jacob whose well they are at…

[Jacob’s well still exists, it is now in an Orthodox Church, and you can still taste from it]

“The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” – Jesus The woman wanted that water but at first didn't understand that the "living water" was to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

"Go and get your husband and bring him here," Jesus told the woman. "I don't have a husband," she replied. "You are right," Jesus answered. "You have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband." "You must be a prophet because you know everything I have done," the woman said.

Then Jesus explained to her that he was the Messiah. The woman was so excited that she ran into the city and told her friends, "Come and see a man that told me everything I have done. Surely he must be the Messiah." The disciples who had gone into town for food, returned with just food, astonished at who Jesus was talking with, not quite getting his call of discipleship.

But many Samaritans went out to see Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, she was the evangelist! They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." Faith is our own experience.

Water refreshes the body, but it can't compare to the Living Water that Jesus gives. It revives our soul!

Do we get it? Or do we like the disciples follow but not quite understand or are we like the Samaritan woman who understands, who feels the need deep in her soul that is being filled by Jesus and she tells all.

“Hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this point: the Gospel of Jesus lives and moves and has its being independent of our righteousness. Samaritans, saints, sinners —what have you. They’re included. The love of God is as unmotivated and undeserved as the sunrise, and it goes out to everyone; but only sinners get it. With no righteousness of their own to quench their thirst, they are willing to reach out and drink from the well of Jesus.” (Synthesis, HKO)

In this season of Lent, as we pray, fast and give alms, may we also see the need in our souls for that living water and be willing to reach out in our lives for it and to tell others about the Good News of Jesus.

Dear Jesus, As the deer longs for the water brooks, so do we long for you, the living water in our lives, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Black History Month: Episcopalians VI

(October 9, 1917 – September 1, 2006)

A high school teacher of English literature and a religious educator, she focused adult education on Bible study and on claiming the authority of the laity. She is credited by many in the Episcopal Church with actually changing the field of scripture study and reclaiming attention to the ministry of all the baptized. A Washingtonian, Dozier was educated in public schools and at Howard University.

Raised a Baptist, in 1955 she joined the Episcopal Church. Later in life, she remarked, “When I discovered the Episcopal Church, it was as if I had been waiting for that all my life.” For 34 years she was employed by the Washington D.C. Board of Education. From the 1960s onward she became known for teaching scripture. After taking early retirement in 1975, she worked full time as religious educator, a church conference leader, and an author of books & articles on the ministry of God's people in the world. Here are 3 excerpts:

In Dozier, V. J. (1982). The authority of the laity.

It is important that we understand the Bible as model for how we live our lives, not as a rule book. The issue that the Bible raises is, in light of what God has done in history, what kind of response do I make in my daily life? (p. 13)

In Dozier, V. J. (1988). The calling of the laity:

There are no second-class citizens in the household of God. Religious authority comes with baptism, and it is nurtured by prayer, worship, bible study, life together. (p. 115)

What happens on Sunday morning is not half so important as what happens on Monday morning. In fact what happens on Sunday morning is judged by what happens on Monday morning. (p. 115)

You can find more on Verna Dozier here:

Talbot School of Theology

The Witness Magazine

Verna Dozier Bible Study

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Black Episcopal colleges celebrate

[Episcopal News Service] Howard University in Washington, D.C., was the site for "A Day of Recognition," which brought together presidents, students, chaplains and faculty of the three historically black Episcopal colleges -- St. Augustine's in Raleigh, North Carolina; St. Paul's in Lawrenceville, Virginia; and Voorhees in Denmark, South Carolina -- to acknowledge them for the roles they play in their communities and society.

"This event helps to connect the three colleges and facilitate communication," said the Rev. Canon Angela S. Ifill, missioner for the Office of Black Ministries. "We wanted the students to leave here with information from the various workshops they attend, a better understanding of the Episcopal Church and the assurance that someone else cares about them."

Sponsored by the Office of Black Ministries of the Episcopal Church and the Association of Episcopal Colleges, "A Recognition Day" was a two-fold opportunity to present the church to students as a viable option as they consider their futures, and for the church and the colleges to explore new ways of collaboration. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori participated in the February 16 gathering themed "Celebrating a Legacy of Excellence."

Read the rest of the article here.

Black History Month: Episcopalians V

(July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993)

The grandson of a freed slave, Marshall is best known for his landmark 1954 Civil Rights victory; the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools. But before this, he spent 30 years risking his life in order to file lawsuits across the South on behalf of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund, among his many accomplishments.

While he did not speak publicly about his faith, Marshall worshipped at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church from 1965 until his death in 1993 and also served on the vestry. He raised his two sons in the church and his widow, Cissy, is still a member of the parish.

When he was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice in 1967, Marshall's Bible was open to 1 Corinthians 13, a chapter that describes God's gift of love. His legendary record of opinions and dissents demonstrated his unwavering commitment to protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans. Justice Marshall announced his retirement on June 27, 1991, citing the duties of a Justice were incompatible with his advancing age and medical condition. Asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, “I did the best I could with what I had.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Remembering Martin Luther

Yesterday, on the Episcopal Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, was Martin Luther's feast Day.

O God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your word. Defend and purify the Church ion our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns. one God, now and forever. Amen.

First and Last verse of his famous hymn: A Mighty Fortress is our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Flat Stanley Visit

Flat Stanley came to the visit the Tween Knitters!

The Rector was playing hooky...

Where was he last week?

Sermon: 2nd Sunday in Lent

John 3:16

I remember as a child watching football games on TV. At some point, the camera would focus on the kick after a touchdown and there in the camera shot was a man with a colorful wig holding up a sign.

John 3:16.

Do you remember the man carrying the sign? Have you ever seen that sign at a sporting event?

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (KJV)

If there is any passage in scripture that we have memorized this is it. Martin Luther said, the Gospel, the Good news of Jesus is summed up in John 3:16. It is the Gospel in miniature.

But why did Jesus say this? Why to Nicodemus?


I believe Jesus wanted Nicodemus to think about his faith. Likewise, Jesus is asking us to think about our faith, both its abundance and its lack. For instance, if God asked you to leave your home in Monroe, to leave your kindred, your extended family, and close friends, to a land that God would show you, would you do it? Do you think you would call God crazy? Would you consider yourself crazy? In the story from Genesis, Abram does just that! Abram, who we know better as Abraham, went as the Lord told him, he went with Sara his wife and his nephew Lot and took all their possessions. For this act, the Lord blesses them! His faith was without complaint; he acted on what the Lord asked, they traveled to this new land, just beyond Bethel, up near Danbury maybe.

In Romans, Paul remembers Abraham for his faith. Not because he did some valiant work: he didn't start any soup kitchens, he didn't rescue any one, he didn't start a reading program for at-risk kids. He wasn't following any Law. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. It wasn't his deeds, it wasn't his background, it wasn't his bloodline and it wasn't his circumcision. Abraham simply believed and trusted in God and obeyed. That is Faith. Its what Abraham had. Its what Paul was talking about. And its what brought Nicodemus to Jesus.

Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night so he can't be easily seen by others, especially the other Pharisees. He knows about Jesus, and has taken the first step of belief, the first step of faith, but he tries to use reason to understand a point Jesus is making. No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above, Jesus said. To Nicodemus this made no sense. Does it make sense in our time? There are many in our country who call themselves born-again Christians. To them it makes sense. It makes sense to me in light of what we say at Baptism: that in Baptism we are reborn by the Holy Spirit, for those who are baptized are cleansed from sin and born again. And in this baptism, is Faith in Jesus.

It is through faith that we understand God's gift to us. The gift is the grace of God, the grace that gives us the spirit as a free gift. Not something we have earned. Not something we have by birthright. "The spirit blows where it will; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit." Says Jesus. We have no control of the Spirit. But we need to have Faith.

Nicodemus tries to understand but falls short. He uses literalism and then tries to reason out what Jesus says. Reason of course is helpful. Knowledge is useful. However, we will ultimately understand only through faith. Faith holds both knowledge and mystery together. Faith compels us to do things when knowledge or reason would hold us back. We don't know what Nicodemus did after his visit with Jesus. Did he have faith? I don't know. What is most important is what we do with our faith. That is, what we do out of our being born of water and the Spirit, which is Baptism.

Frederick Buechner wrote, "We believe in God - such as it is, we have faith - because certain things happened to us once and go on happening. We work and goof off, we love and dream, we have wonderful times and awful times, are cruelly hurt and hurt others cruelly, get mad and bored and scared stiff and ache with desire, do all such human things as these, and if our faith is not mainly just window dressing or a rabbit's foot or fire insurance, it is because it grows out of precisely this kind of rich human compost. The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or worse we are being most human, most ourselves; and if we lose touch with those moments, if we don't stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us and around us and inside us, we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God too."

Lent is our time to stop and notice, to take inventory of ourselves, of who we are and what we do, to reflect and to make new commitments, so we don’t lose touch with our faith. And we remember what love God has given to us. As we have just past St. Valentine’s Day, I think of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous love poem

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height…

and our faith is in God who loves us in countless ways, who in turn asks of us to live out of that faith in the depth and breadth and height of love. Like Abraham who went as the Lord had told him. Like Paul. Like the man with the silly wig carrying the sign… all of them a reminder to me of my faith, and its proclamation in who I am and what I do. A faith that is based on love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (NRSV)


Friday, February 15, 2008

Black History Month: Episcopalians IV

(born June 12, 1930)

She was elected as suffragan (assistant) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts in 1988 and became the first woman ever to serve as a bishop in an Anglican church anywhere in the world. She was a corporate public relations executive in her native Philadelphia before studying for the ministry.

In the early 1970s, as senior warden of her church, she agitated for the ordination of women. In 1974, she supported the ordination of the "Philadelphia Eleven," and by 1976, the Episcopal Church voted at its General Convention to admit women priests. Ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1980, she served as a parish pastor and prison chaplain in Pennsylvania from 1980 to 1984, then headed the Episcopal Church Publishing Company. Her election to the Massachusetts post in 1988 and her subsequent consecration were met with wide news coverage and some controversy in the United States and elsewhere. She attended the Lambeth Conference in 1998.

As an African American woman, she was outspoken on issues of race and gender in church and society but insisted from the start that her work and ministry not be limited to those issues. She retired in 2002 but continues her ministry in the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sermon : 1st Sunday in Lent

My wife Ellen and son Rowan were discussing Lent and how some people give up something for Lent. As they talked, Rowan said that he would give up chocolate for Lent. Ellen reminded Rowan that he doesn’t like chocolate and that you should fast from something you actually enjoy, so you would know you were really giving something up. Rowan, paused and said, “Oh, I’ll give up Root Beer for Lent. I’ll drink Orange Soda or Sprite instead.” Well I am glad to say that he has kept to his fast and while eating at Bill’s on Friday, he said no to Root Beer, and yes to Sprite.

As we journey these 40 days of Lent, we are encourage to keep it holy by praying, fasting and giving alms. Fasting may be the most challenging for us. Like Rowan, we might like to give up something that’s easy. But in fasting, we are encouraged, to make it a true sacrifice to have meaning for our lives. I remember a parishioner who a few years ago quit smoking, he had smoked a pack a day for a long time. He kept that fast all of Lent, he struggled, but it began a journey of health and wholeness which is one of the points of fasting and sacrifice, that it leads us to a better self.

But fasting too often in our society is seen as just dieting (it’s about the waist line) and it is not seen as a sacrifice. We do it for personal reasons and it has no meaning for others or God. And yet there is much more to fasting in a Christian context and I think of Robert Herrick’s poem of the 17th Century on keeping Lent:

Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean ?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour?

No; ‘tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

Fasting is about our hungry souls and what we need inside us as well as the hungry souls in the world and what they need. Fasting is useful if it leads us back to ourselves becoming more whole, more connected with our hearts to God and to our neighbors. Herrick’s poem reminds me of the last 2 verses of Psalm 51 we read on Ash Wednesday:

Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

What God is really interested in, is our hearts, hearts that are grief-rent, broken and contrite because it is then, we can truly see our need for God and God’s love of us. When we are satisfied, when we make no sacrifices, when all is well and good and our platters are full then we have no need for God, we have no need for others… But if we understand ourselves more deeply, knowing that indeed we are God’s beloved and also broken by sin then we know we need God and we need one another. Fasting can help us do this.

As Jeremy Taylor said in the 17th Century, “All fasting is to be used with prudence and charity; for there is no end to which fasting serves but may be obtained by other instruments; and, therefore, it must at no hand be made an instrument of scruple; or become an enemy to our health; or be imposed upon persons that are sick or aged, or to whom it is, in any sense, uncharitable, such as are wearied travelers; or to whom, in the whole kind of it, it is useless such as are women with child, poor people, and little children.”

Fasting has its rightful place on our Lenten journey, to help us. But this Lent, we also remember faithful members of the church who through their lives of sacrifice and suffering, looked to their hearts and saw the plight of people in need and of hungry souls wanting to hear God’s word. We remember Elizabeth Evelyn Wright and The Rev. Absalom Jones . Each in their own way, saw the need of hungry souls around them and responded.

For Elizabeth Wright, after graduating from Tuskegee Industrial School in 1894, she was determined to open schools for the training of African American men and women in South Carolina. She helped found Voorhees College in 1997; a college affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and established her school on industrial and agricultural education. She became a pioneer in Black education and social reform. Like many others before and after her, she possessed a sense of mission and commitment to social justice that she was able to prevail over enormous obstacles and leave a remarkable legacy.

Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Delaware in 1746, bought his freedom in 1784 with the help of friends. While attending St. George’s Church in 1786, the white congregation voted to put all the blacks in the balcony, Absalom Jones and the black congregation left to form their own parish. After discussions with William White, the Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, Absalom Jones would lead the congregation into the Episcopal Church and Absalom Jones would become the first black priest in the Episcopal Church in 1802. Absalom Jones was known for his earnest preaching but was beloved by that community because of his constant visiting and mild manner to all parishioners.

May we journey forth remembering those faithful who have gone before us, and through fasting and sacrifice, learn to find our true need and to be able to hear and respond to the needs of our neighbors.

‘tis a fast to dole thy sheaf of wheat, and meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife, from old debate and hate;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent; To starve thy sin,
Not bin; and that’s to keep thy Lent. Amen.

Black History Month: Episcopalians III

(1829 – March 13, 1911)

Born in 1824 in Washington, DC, James Theodore Holly was the descendent of freed slaves. He was active in anti-slavery conventions in the free states in the United States befriending Frederick Douglass and participating in abolitionist activities.

As a young man, he left the Roman Catholic Church over a dispute about ordaining local black clergy and joined the Episcopal Church. He was a shoemaker, then a teacher and school principal before his own ordination at the age of 27. He was ordained deacon in the Diocese of Michigan and after his ordination to the priesthood served as rector at St Luke’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut and was one of the founders of the Protestant Episcopal Society for Promoting the Extension of the Church among Colored People (a forerunner of UBE) in 1856. This group challenged the Church to take a position against slavery at the General Convention.

In 1861 he left the United States with his family and a group of African Americans to settle in Haiti---the world’s first black republic. He lost his family and other settlers to disease and poor living conditions but was successful in establishing schools and building the Church. He trained young priests and started congregations and medical programs in the countryside. In 1874 he was ordained bishop at Grace Church, New York City and he was named Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Haiti. On Bishop Holly's one visit to Great Britain, to attend the Second Lambeth Conference, by invitation of the late Dean Stanley, he preached in Westminster Abbey on St. James Day in 1878. He died in Haiti on March 13, 1911.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Church Awakens: African Americans and the Struggle for Justice

[Episcopal News Service] The Archives of the Episcopal Church has launched an electronic publication and online exhibit titled "The Church Awakens: African Americans and the Struggle for Justice." The multimedia exhibit, available here, covers the period of enslavement to the present, with emphasis on the Civil Rights era. As an educational resource for Church settings, the exhibit is designed to expand on the strength of reader input and future research.

This web-based project offers an examination of the compelling story of how African American Episcopalians struggled to claim their rightful place as full and equal members of the Church community. The exhibit brings together a narrative overview of that development with photographs, documents, videos, and previously unheard taped interviews with prominent American figures on matters of race. Figures such as Absalom Jones, George Bragg, Pauli Murray, Jonathan Daniels, and Charles Lawrence are featured along with Church organizations such as the American Church Institute, the Conference of Church Workers, and the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Audio recordings include interviews with figures such as Langston Hughes and Jackie Robinson.

The exhibit arose from a 1993 commitment by the Board of the Archives of the Episcopal Church to focus the Archives' acquisitions and research services program on diversity, with an initial emphasis on the Afro-Anglican experience. The 1991 General Convention had called on the Church to conduct a wide-ranging examination of persistent institutional racism and patterns of forgetting that had overtaken the legacy of the post-Civil Rights period in Church and society. Working with a donor, the Rev. John Morris, who gave financial support to the exhibit, the Archives turned to emerging web technologies as a vehicle for making primary source materials permanently available to everyday Episcopalians and the public. The exhibit is a product of John Morris' desire to preserve a central lesson that the unified Christian community has within its grasp the capacity for extraordinary acts of justice and honor. Morris believed that such organized individual acts can renew the community and bring positive change to the larger society.

The Church Awakens exhibit is one component of the Afro-Anglican Archives of the Episcopal Church. These archives include the entire holdings of the Episcopal Freedman's Aid Commission, the Episcopal Society for Racial and Cultural Unity (ESCRU), the American Church Institute, including the Episcopal Black Colleges and Bishop Paine Divinity School, the General Convention Special Program, and numerous collections of personal papers including those of Theodore Holly, David Ferguson, Edward Demby, Tollie Caution, Walter Dennis, Thomas Logan, and Henri Stines. The Afro-Anglican Archives of The Episcopal Church has been brought together to celebrate both the Church's African American heritage, and to open a research door for the 75th General Convention's request in Resolution A123 that the dioceses study the economic and social benefits that the Church derived from the enslavement and its aftermath.

The Archives continues to add to this unfolding story and has constructed the online publication to be a growing digital repository of the Episcopal Church's African American narrative. Viewers are invited to share their comments on the exhibit or leave their personal reflections for permanent posting by using a comment form. Donors who would like to add documentary evidence to the exhibit or to the Afro-Anglican Archives of The Episcopal Church are encouraged to contact Director of Archives Mark J. Duffy at the Research Office, P.O. Box 2247, Austin, Texas 78768. The exhibit can be accessed from the Archives home page here.

The Archives of the Episcopal Church is the Church's historical repository and research center with offices in Austin and New York City.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Black History Month: Episcopalians II

(1746 – Feb. 13, 1818)

Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Delaware in 1746. He attended school in Philadelphia while he worked as a clerk and handyman at a store owned by his master. With the help of friends, Absalom Jones was able to buy his own freedom in 1784.

In 1786 the membership of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia included both blacks and whites. However, the white members met that year and decided that thereafter black members should sit only in the balcony. Two black Sunday worshippers, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen (1760-1831), whose enthusiasm for the Methodist Church had brought many blacks into the congregation, learned of the decision only when, on the following Sunday, ushers tapped them on the shoulder during the opening prayers, and demanded that they move to the balcony without waiting for the end of the prayer. They walked out, followed by the other black members.

Absalom Jones conferred with the Rt. Rev. William White, Episcopal Bishop of Philadelphia, who agreed to accept the group as an Episcopal parish. Jones would serve as lay reader, and, after a period of study, would be ordained and serve as rector. Allen wanted the group to remain Methodist, and in 1793 he left to form a Methodist congregation. In 1816 he left the Methodists to form a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Jones (ordained deacon and priest in 1795 and 1802) and Allen (ordained deacon and elder in 1799 and 1816) were among the first black Americans to receive formal ordination in any denomination.

Lenten Meditations Online

For Lenten meditations online, visit a multimedia meditations and scroll down to the Stations of the Cross or visit Phyllis Tickle who is blogging about Lent on Beliefnet.

For College Age students and adults, they can download a devotion called "Creating Space for Grace," which is written by students at LaGrange College, "to help you in your turning toward God’s grace." You can find it here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Lenten Word from the Presiding Bishop...

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word... (from the Book of Common Prayer)

The Church gradually took on the discipline of Lent in solidarity with those preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil. That preparation work has traditionally been summarized as prayer and study, fasting, and almsgiving. Today we might remember the origins of Lent, take in our traditional understandings, and use these 40 days plus Sundays to prepare to renew our own baptismal vows. This ancient understanding of prayer, study, fasting, and almsgiving shapes the lives we lead. Each of us is baptized into a life of relationship with God (prayer), relationship with self on behalf of others (fasting), and relationship with all the rest of creation (almsgiving). Lent brings a regular opportunity to tune up our Christian life and relationships.

Read the whole article here, by our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Ash Wednesday Sermon

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the fields spurn their seed.
We have failed Thy grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.

This Lenten poem by Wendell Berry invites us to consider what is God’s necessity for us and what is it we really need in our lives. We have had so much of plenty, so many things that we are ruled by them, things we do not need. We have failed the grace given to us by God.

Ash Wednesday can begin a time that is a gift from God, revealing God’s necessity in our lives. By paying attention, it gives us pause to consider who we are and how we love God (the ground of our being) and love our neighbors as ourselves.

For Jesus, it came down to four simple words.

Pray, Fast, Give alms.

Very simple devotions.

Pray, fast, give alms.

Jesus encourages their use with the right heart.

Pray, fast, give alms.

To pray is to connect ourselves with the source of life. Our prayers to God are a two way street, where we entreat God for others and ourselves and where God speaks to us. Prayer places our fellow human beings and us in community with God for it is where our heart, head, and soul communicate.

To fast is to deny ourselves, so that we can better see our lives in the midst of this world. This self-denial is for our sake and for the world, we live in. To truly see the need that is inside the world and us, and to fast from things we truly don’t need.

As Peter Chrysologus said in the 5th Century, “fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. If we have not all three together, we have nothing.” Fasting is to prayer, as giving alms (an act of love and mercy) is to fasting. For these three interplay and create opportunities for us to love and to see our mortal selves connected to all of humanity.

To give alms, is to deny ourselves and to give out of our abundance to a world in need. In a way, it is to reject the tyranny of things for the sake of love. As John Chrysostom said in the 4th Century, “almsgiving is the mother of love.”

Like God’s gift of grace, our almsgiving is a free gift we give to others in need. A gift offered out of love and hope for a better world.

It is this hope that we hear in this passage from Matthew. For the passage tells us, that Jesus wants us to place our heart and mind with God so that what we do is good for others and ourselves. Jesus tells us not to outwardly show our piety because we can lose the intention that unites us together with God. Whether we are alone or with others, the intention of our heart is what matters. For if we pray, fast and give alms out of a heart that is love, than we are living as God intended, loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. So that what we give to others is from God’s grace and necessity in our lives.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of our Lenten journey. We are invited to pray, fast and give alms, storing treasure in heaven and not on earth, for where our treasure is, there is our heart, and our heart needs to be set on love, for God is love.

In the words of St. Teresa of Avila,

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing make you afraid,
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God
You will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

Let us pray, fast and give alms so that we know and feel that God alone suffices, and that we can share God’s gift of love with the world. Amen.

Prayers for our world

Pray for the victims of the storms in the Southern US...

The story is here.

Pray for the victims of the terrible winter storms in China, remembering especially the orphans who are suffering (thanks to Joann for the update at church last Sunday):

The story is here.

Most merciful God, in the midst of natural disaster we look to you in hope and trust, acknowledging that there is much in life beyond our present understanding. Accept our compassion for the suffering; bless those who are working for their relief; and show us what we can do to share in their task, as servants of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O merciful Father, who has taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity on the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance on them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Shrove Tuesday: Eat Pancakes!

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday (the liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday). In some countries, this day is also known as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday, because it is customary to eat pancakes on this day.

The reason that pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent is that the 40 days of Lent form a period of liturgical fasting, during which only the plainest foodstuffs may be eaten. Therefore, rich ingredients such as eggs, milk, and sugar are disposed of immediately prior to the commencement of the fast. Pancakes and doughnuts were therefore an efficient way of using up these perishable goods, besides providing a minor celebratory feast prior to the fast itself.

The word shrove is a past tense of the English verb "shrive," which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by confessing and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving (confession) that Anglo-Saxon Christians were expected to receive immediately before Lent. (source: wikipedia)

Join us for our Pancake Supper - 5 to 7 PM.

U2charist Playlist

Here's the playlist from our U2charist on Sunday:

Prelude U2, Miracle Drug, 2004
Opening Song U2, Mysterious Ways, 1991
Song of Praise “Prayer of Saint Francis” by Sarah McLachlan, 1997
Psalm “The 23rd Psalm” by Bobby McFerrin, 1990
Offertory U2, Love and Peace or Else, 2004
Communion U2, One Step Closer, 2004
Communion U2, Yahweh, 2004
Closing Song U2, Beautiful Day, 2000
Postlude U2, When Love Comes to Town, 1988

“It feels like God walking through the room, and it feels like a blessing, and in the end, music is a kind of sacrament.” – Bono

Sermon: Souper Bowl Sunday & U2charist

And from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. And they all went down the mountain.

One reason I think Jesus didn’t stay up on that mountain with Peter and James and John was that he knew he had more work to do down the mountain. It would be nice to stay in some booths and revel in that glorious moment, just as Peter had wanted to do. But Jesus has more healings, more teachings, bringing Good News to the people. It was a wonderful moment of clarity for those three disciples to really understand that Jesus is God’s son, and that they do not need to be afraid of what happened or what is to come. It would be important memory for those disciples, especially after Jesus’ death, to pass on to the other faithful disciples.

But this is no hallmark moment to stop in, for the ministry of Jesus is always among the people, in the valley, in the city, Jesus may go off to a mountain for a short retreat but he never stays there long. His ministry is now our ministry, and we too cannot stay on the mountain top, build our little booths and try to keep our faith away from the grit and dirt of our everyday lives. No. Our faith is meant to be there in the earth, in our lives, in this messy world, in all there is…

I am reminded of St. Teresa of Avila and her words: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.” –St Teresa of Avila

It is we who embody Christ in this hurting world. It is not enough for us to be sympathetic for this world as a missionary in Africa said, we must be active!

“This is our moment, this is our time, this is our chance to stand up for what is right. Three thousand Africans, mostly children, die every day of mosquito bites. We can fix that. Nine thousand people dying every die of a preventable, treatable disease like Aids. We have got the drugs. We can help them.” -- Bono

We gather today for a U2charist because it is Bono and others who remind us that this is our time, our moment to do what is right. To reach out and help our brothers and sisters around the world who are hurting, who are in need, for we can help them. As Bono and BB King sing in When Love Comes to Town (our postlude music),

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when the pierced his side
But I've seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town I'm gonna catch that train
When love comes to town I'm gonna catch that flame

It is that love that came down to us in Jesus, a love given to us by the Spirit of God, a love that is so much a part of us that we are called to give it away To catch that flame, the love that conquered the great divide, and what we do is share it with the world.

Today is the Souper Bowl of Caring, reminding us even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game and a great Patriot victory, it is the Lord who helps us be mindful of those who are without even a bowl of soup to eat on this day. The soup pots at our doors, the offertory plate, our food basket provide us the opportunity to help those who are in need of help this season. In a time when the economy is not doing so well, with foreclosures up and jobs down, there are people going hungry everyday, and we can help them.

But what we do is not just for today, we can help tomorrow too, and we can look beyond to distant shores. In the year 2000, leaders from the United States and 190 other nations came together to develop a plan to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015. To guide this critical work and measure its success, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were created. In 2007 - at the midpoint of this historic effort - Episcopal Relief and Development, Jubilee Ministries and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church launched the MDG Inspiration Fund to highlight the urgency of reaching these goals.

You all will receive information on the MDG Inspiration Fund and you all are invited to participate. The income generated from the MDG Inspiration Fund will be primarily used to fight malaria, which is an objective of MDG #6, along with HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases. Malaria is an easily treatable disease and is a high priority for many of ERD’s partners in the Anglican Communion. The fund supports of ERD’s NetsforLife program, a partnership for malaria prevention in 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our children supported this program last Spring with their Pennies from Heaven cans.

NetsforLife is important because the malaria prevention program uses long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets to protect people, teaches basic techniques to prevent malaria, and how to identify symptoms early and what medicines are truly effective.

So why do we do it?

Because Jesus went down the mountain, to walk among the lowest of that society, the forgotten, the castoff, the sick, the lonely, orphans and widows too. Jesus offered Good News and healing took place and people began to live new lives. What we can offer is our love, our prayers and our support to help heal this world, provide supplies that will help families be free of Malaria, so they can tackle other things, like fresh clean water or education for their children. When we do it to the sick, the poor, the needy, it is Jesus who reminds us that we are doing it to him.

Or as Bono put it…

“The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with the virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble and the cries we hear during war time. God, my friends, is with the poor. And God is with us, if we are with them. This is not a burden. This is an adventure. Don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty.” -Bono

Amen. Amen.

Black History Month: Episcopalians

Elizabeth Evelyn Wright
(Apr. 3, 1872-Dec. 14, 1906)

Pioneer educator among African Americans. She was born in Talbotton, Georgia. Wright was the seventh child of an African American carpenter and former slave, John Wesley Wright, and a full-blooded Cherokee Indian mother, Virginia Rolfe. Wright graduated from Tuskegee Industrial School in 1894. She was determined to open schools for the training of African American men and women. After numerous setbacks, she founded the Denmark Industrial School for Colored Youth at Denmark, South Carolina. It opened in Apr. 1897. Wright served as principal until her death. In 1902 the name was changed to Voorhees Industrial School in honor of the generosity of Ralph and Elizabeth Rodman Voorhees. Wright died in Denmark, South Carolina.

Learn more about her and her legacy, here at the Office for Black Ministries in the Episcopal Church.

From Voorhees College:

Most memorable about Voorhees history is the story of its Founder, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright. She was a black woman in her early twenties who, in spite of betrayals, arson, jealousies, threats of violence, and weariness from wandering, persevered and founded a school in Denmark, South Carolina, on April 17, 1897.

Through more than 100 years of service, the mission of Voorhees College has remained the same; it is committed to providing a top quality educational experience to young men and women and equip them to assume leadership positions in our state and nation and to provide service to mankind.

From its founding in 1897, Voorhees College has evolved into a leading four-year liberal arts college accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and affiliated with the Episcopal Church and The College Fund/ UNCF.

Read more about her legacy here.