Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
From A Sense of Wonder
by Rachel Carson
If a child asked me a question that suggested even a faint awareness of the mystery behind the arrival of a migrant sandpiper on the beach of an August morning, I would be far more pleased than by the mere fact that he knew it was a sandpiper and not a plover....
Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
When to Start
Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
We usually see the calling of these fishermen in a distinctly miraculous light: Jesus walks by and people who've never seen him before in their lives drop everything and walk off with him. But what a minute -- where does it say they didn't know him?
Galilee is not a crowded place now, and it was even less so then. I'll bet these guys knew each other. They'd probably grown up together. I'll bet they'd been talking about Jesus' mission in life for years, ever since they were little boys. And I'll bet this moment was the culmination of an argument that went back years: So what are you going to do with your life? Are you going to make a difference or are you just going to do what you've always done and die not knowing what you really stand for?
It says that their father had hired men with him. Two grown sons, and he has hired hands? I think he has them because they all know the two sons are on their way out of Galileee. This call is not a surprise. It's anything but sudden and mysterious. Jesus just walks by and points to the road. It's time, he says. And they leave together.
You've probably known for a long time what you're supposed to be doing, even if you've avoided facing it so far. Or maybe you're already doing it. Or maybe you're waiting for the time to be right. Your whole life has prepared you for your mission. Maybe it's time to begin.
Epiphany III, Year B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62: 6-14
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Harmonies of Liberty
Isaiah 58:6‐12, Mt 22:6‐40
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
National Prayer Service; January 21, 2009
Mr. President and Mrs. Obama, Mr. Vice President and Dr. Biden, and your families, what an inaugural celebration you have hosted! Train ride, opening concert, service to neighbor, dancing till dawn . . .
And yesterday . . . With your inauguration, Mr. President, the flame of America’s promise burns just a little brighter for every child of this land!
There is still a lot of work to do, and today the nation turns its full attention to that work. As we do, it is good that we pause to take a deep spiritual breath. It is good that we center for a moment. What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center. But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.
Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that we can continue to hope, too.
We will follow your lead.
There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom: One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. "There are two wolves struggling inside each of us," the old man said. "One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self‐pity, fear . . . "The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . ."
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?"
His grandfather replied, "The one you feed."
There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center – crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear. We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground. We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.
We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and
by your example encourage us to do the same.
This is not a new word for a pastor to bring at such a moment. In the later chapters of Isaiah, in the 500’s BCE, the prophet speaks to the people. Back in the capital city after long years of exile, their joy should be great, but things aren’t working out just right. Their homecoming is more complicated than expected. Not everyone is watching their parade or dancing all night at their arrival.They turn to God, "What’s going on here? We pray and we fast, but you do not bless us. We’re confused." Through the prophet, God answers, what fast? You fast only to quarrel and fight and strike with the fist. . . Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice . . . to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house . .? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly . . .
At our time of new beginning, focused on renewing America’s promise –yet at a time of great crisis – which fast do we choose? Which "wolf" do we feed? What of America’s promise do we honor? Recently Muslim scholars from around the world released a document, known as "A Common Word Between Us." It proposes a common basis for building a world at peace. That common basis? Love
of God and love of neighbor! What we just read in the Gospel of Matthew!
So how do we go about loving God? Well, according to Isaiah, summed up by Jesus, affirmed by a worldwide community of Muslim scholars and many others, it is by facing hard times with a generous spirit: by reaching out toward each other rather than turning our backs on each other. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "people can be so poor that the only way they see God is in a piece of bread."
In the days immediately before us, there will be much to draw us away from the grand work of loving God and the hard work of loving neighbor. In crisis times, a basic instinct seeks to take us over – a fight/flight instinct that leans us toward the fearful wolf, orients us toward the self‐interested fast . . . In international hard times, our instinct is to fight – to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other – and why not? They just might be out to get us. We’ve got plenty of evidence to that effect. Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President – Tag! You’re it!
But on the way to those tough decisions, which American promises will frame those decisions? Will you continue to reason from your ethical center, from the bedrock values of our best shared hopes? Which wolf will you feed? In financial hard times, our instinct is flight – to hunker down, to turn inward, to hoard what little we can get our hands on, to be fearful of others who may take the resources we need. In hard financial times, which fast do we choose? The fast that placates our hunkered‐down soul – or the fast that reaches out to our sister and our brother? In times, such as these, we the people need you, the leaders of this nation, to be guided by the counsel that Isaiah gave so long ago, to work for the common good, for the public happiness, the wellbeing of the nation and the world, knowing that our individual wellbeing depends upon a world in which liberty and justice prevail.
This is the biblical way. It is also the American way – to believe in something bigger than ourselves, to reach out to neighbor to build communities of possibility, of liberty and justice for all. This is the center we can find again whenever we are pulled at and pawed at by the vengeful wolf, when we are tempted by the self‐interested fast. America’s true character, the source of our national wisdom and strength, is rooted in a generous and hopeful spirit.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, . . .
Send these, the homeless, tempest‐tost to me,1
Emma Lazarus’ poetry is spelled out further by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,: "As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty‐eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made."2 You yourself, Mr. President, have already added to this call, "If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. . . . It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work."
It is right that college classes on political oratory already study your words . You, as our president, will set the tone for us. You will help us as a nation choose again and again which wolf to feed, which fast to choose, to love God by loving our neighbor.
We will follow your lead – and we will walk with you. And sometimes we will swirl in front of you, pulling you along. At times like these – hard times –we find out what we’re made of. Is that blazing torch of liberty just for me? Or do we seek the "harmonies of liberty", many voices joined together, many hands offering to care for neighbors far and near?
Though tempted to withdraw the offer, surely Lady Liberty can still raise that golden torch of generosity to the world. Even in these financial hard times, these times of international challenge, the words of Katherine Lee Bates describe a nation with more than enough to share: "Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain . . ." A land of abundance guided by a God of abundance, generosity, and hope – This is our heritage. This is America’s promise which we fulfill when we reach out to each other. Even in these hard times, rich or poor, we can reach out to our neighbor, including our global neighbor, in generous hospitality, building together communities of possibility and of hope. Even in these tough times, we can feed the good wolf, listen to the better angels of our nature. We can choose the fast of God’s desiring. Even now in these hard times let us
Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring,
. . . with the harmonies of Liberty;
Even now let us Sing a song full of hope. . .
Especially now, from the center of our deepest shared values, let us pray, still in the words of James Weldon Johnson:
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us . . . in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.
1 Emma Lazarus
2 The Words of MLK, Jr., selected by Coretta Scott King, 21
3 James Weldon Johnson
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I was choked up by the music, beginning Sunday night with Bruce Springsteen’s “Come up for the Rising” and Tuesday with Aretha Franklin’s “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and Yo Yo Ma and his friends playing strains of Aaron Copeland. I was choked up by the poetry and the music of the moment.
As a candidate, Barack Obama’s rhetoric only grew stronger as his candidacy grew. His speeches became poetry, not just policy statements. Even the names of his children are poetry: Malia and Sasha.
Yesterday, as a new President, he allowed the poetry to surround him. His words were as simple as they were muscular. “We will act,” he said, and it is about all he really needed to say. The new President used the poetry of Scripture to tell us it is time to “put away childish” ways and make the hard choices we’ve avoided really since the Reagan years.
And the sea of people cheered and waved their flags.
This inauguration came because Barack Obama is a smart, shrewd politician who learned from his mistakes, hired really smart, shrewd people, and they ran a tough campaign and bounced back from one set back after another. His inauguration was a triumph of the American spirit, yes, but it was also triumph of American politics played very, very hard, for keeps, by very able contenders, any one of whom could have won and stood up there yesterday as the Chief Justice fumbled the oath.
All that is true. And, yet, Barack Obama put poetry and music and optimism into the day by his presence, his manner, his smile, and the people he brought with him. And the people, so full of hope, from sea-to-shining sea, are ready for the clouds to lift, ready for hope, ready to be done with cynical leaders governing cynically, ready to call Barack Obama their President, and praying he will succeed, will not disappoint, that he will make his poetry real.
And that brings me to my favorite character on the TV program West Wing, Josh Lyman, the fictional deputy chief of staff, whose fondest words always were: “What’s next?”
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Almighty God -- our Father. Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.’ And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.
Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King, and a great cloud of witnesses, are shouting in heaven.
Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice-President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.
When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.
And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes -- even when we differ.
Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation, and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.
We now commit our new president, and his wife Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.
I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life -- Yeshua, Isa, Jesús, Jesus -- who taught us to pray:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Benediction by the Rev. Joseph Lowery
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you're able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
REV. LOWERY: Say amen --
REV. LOWERY: -- and amen.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Thank you for your welcome this summer at Shrine Mont, for all of the gatherings and meals. I am especially grateful to David and Betsy Poist for their welcome, their unfailing support and their wise counsel. I am very grateful they are still in this faith community and we are all richer for their presence.
I am mindful there is still much I do not know, and many of you I have barely met. Please be patient with me. Please keep telling me your name, please keep teaching me about you.
I want to thank the very hard-working staff at St. Paul’s, without whom nothing much would happen here.
I’d like the staff to stand up. Please read my annual report; I have something to say about each of them there. We have a few paper copies available tonight but let me urge those of you can to read it on-line. I want thank Mildred Robinson for pulling together all of these reports, and they do provide a snap-shot of St. Paul’s in 2008. And let's thank Margaret Haupt for her hard work organizing tonight's dinner.
I do want to mention that we will be bidding farewell to Betsy Kennan this year, who will be retiring after 22 years as our parish secretary. We will announce a celebration for her soon.
* * *
I want to talk to you tonight about the opportunities and challenges in the year ahead, and invite your conversation about this with me, with the Vestry and staff and with each other.
There is some unfinished business and a few tasks we need to work on together. I have asked Peter Dennison to head a task force to make recommendations on what we need to do to get the David Poist Garden built. You gave money to honor our rector emeritus by building a sacred garden outside these walls. We need to get it built.
I would invite your participation in this and other task forces we will develop as you are interested.
I am grateful to our outgoing Vestry for forming three task forces this year and making recommendations on Communications, diocesan relations and parish organization. We will move ahead with those recommendations, including asking the Vestry this coming year to take a hard look at the structure of committees and how they function. I have some ideas and I hope you do, too.
This year, we will begin planning our Centennial celebration for 2010, and I am very pleased to announce that the Presiding Bishop of the United States, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will join us for our celebration next January. I hope we can find tangible ways to make this celebration not just about ourselves but about our service in the community, the University of Virginia and in the world.
To that end, as I see it, there are three big overarching goals for us this coming year that will take us into the years beyond:
1- Becoming more intentional in how we welcome new people and help them find a meaningful spiritual home at St. Paul’s.
Our calling is to share the blessings that we have. We aren’t allowed to say this is ours, shut the doors, no one else gets to come in. All of us are temporary stewards of this church, and just as those who came before us built this sacred place, it ours to continue building and finding ways to welcome new generations and shepherd them as they find a home here.
To that end, I will be talking with the Newcomers Committee about some gentle ways to welcome new people. I also would ask you indulgence about a couple of things:
I would like you to wear your nametags. I’d like you to wear a nametag partly because it is a good way for all of us here now to get to know each other. But, also, I’d like you to wear your nametags as a gesture of welcome to new people.
I am very grateful to Virginia Ritchie, our outgoing senior warden, for organizing the nametag project. The Newcomers Team and the ushers are taking the name tag project to a new level by asking newcomers and visitors to put a gold star on their badge so that we will know who they are and welcome them.
We will be making a big effort this year to develop new small groups for adults, and I am very grateful to Associate Rector Janet Legro for adding this to her portfolio. I know that she would appreciate hearing your ideas for small groups and your organizing skills in getting them going.
There is something else we need to talk about in the coming year that is very much a part of how we welcome new people: these buildings.
In the year ahead we will devote significant resources to maintaining and repairing these aged structures, not because we need to create a monument, but because these are our tools of ministry, and how they look says a great deal about how we welcome new people and how we conduct our ministry. We will repair and paint the columns outside and do a good deal more.
I am very grateful to Louise Gallagher, our junior warden, for her leadership and hard work in not only maintaining the buildings this year but doing the hard research on what we need to do in the years ahead.
2- Becoming more outwardly focused as a beacon of Christ’s hope to the community and world beyond our church walls.
Our baptismal covenant is an agreement that we will “respect the dignity of every human being” and to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.”
We have no greater mission than that. It is the reason this church – any church – exists.
One of the major strengths of this parish that attracted us in coming here is that you take this covenant seriously through the outreach and social justice ministries of this parish. I am deeply impressed by all of the involvement by people in this parish in the community, and I hesitate to list all that you are involved in for fear of leaving something out. But let me highlight four projects we are doing that are models for how we as a parish can have a big impact in the world:
(1) PACEM, our homeless ministry whereby we open our doors to house homeless people for week (2) IMPACT, a confederation of faith communities in Charlottesville collaborating on working for change in our community (3) Our Green Team, looking at how we can as a local community have an impact on the global environmental crisis and (4) Our “prayers for peace” every Monday at noon. Prayers are powerful, and if you have the time, come by.
In the year ahead, I would like us to have a conversation on how we allocate our financial resources in the community. Our budget includes $55,000 for grants outside the parish, and I know there has been much debate before I got here on what percentage of our budget should be considered outreach. I will be asking the Vestry to form a task force to look at that issue, and I would invite your participation in the conversation.
I would like to suggest that a starting point for this conversation is to consider the proposition that our outreach allocation should be 100 percent of our resources. By that I mean everything we do should have an impact on the community and the world, everything we do should be outreach. This parish is an outreach project. People come here in all manner of life, some in joy, some in pain, some looking for something beyond themselves, and many in great need. And let me underline as well: part of our outreach is to the students, staff and faculty of the University of Virginia. And that brings me to…
3- Deepening and expanding our commitment of ministry to the people of the University of Virginia to enable them to be a beacon of Christ’s hope to the community and world.
This parish has unique and historic place in the world and it has to do with our location right across the street from Jefferson’s Rotunda. There is no other church in the world that can claim this corner, and that gives us a special responsibility to minister to the people who cross those grounds.
I would like us to think of our ministry to the University of Virginia as part of our outreach ministry. We do this ministry, I hope, not out of some institutional need to create more Episcopalians (thought there is nothing wrong with that), but out of a sense that we can have an impact on people who will go forth from this university and have a greater impact on the world far beyond Charlottesville. Our university commission in the year ahead will be looking at how we can deepen and strengthen our commitment to this unique outreach ministry. I am especially grateful to Ben Ray, David McIlhiney and Neal Halverson-Taylor for your devotion and leadership in this effort.
* * *
Finally, I want to talk about the Episcopal Church and our place in it. As you know, the Episcopal Church is embroiled in a difficult, sometimes nasty, fight over our membership in the world-wide Anglican Communion, the ordination of women, the inclusion of gays and lesbians, the meaning of marriage, and the role of bishops. The fight has many arenas, many nuances and sometimes seems to be moving in frustrating slow motion. The battlegrounds are all around us – especially here in Virginia. It is tempting to avoid all this, to hunker down into parish life and hope it will all blow past us.
But I would like to suggest that we not hunker down. I believe this controversy is a blessing. I believe it is pushing us into a new awareness of what it means to be an Episcopalian and more broadly, what it means to be a Christian. Let me explain:
We are not merely members of a single congregation – we are not congregationalists. Rather, we declare through our very name – Episcopal, which means bishop – that we are part of a larger community of faithful people organized around a network of bishops, and that network extends beyond this diocese, beyond our nation, and around the globe.
This crisis in the church comes with the blessing that we may all learn how to do this more deeply and faithfully. We are called to share the blessing, and it starts right here with us. I am pleased to tell you that Bishop Peter Lee has invited our parish to be one of six parishes in the diocese to participate in a pilot project designed for dialogue and listening as part of the Windsor process to strengthen our bonds with the worldwide Anglican Communion. Let me underline that, we are one of six parishes in a diocese of 184 parishes to be invited to participate. I will say more about this project in the year ahead.
This parish is a shining part of the body of Christ, and we are called to live in the tension of unity through our diversity. We are not called to be all alike. We are called to pray together and figure out how to love each other, especially when that seems impossible.
That means remaining faithful to truly welcoming all people, especially those who have been historically left out like gay people, and also welcoming those who don’t agree and may never be there. It means welcoming people from other parts of the world, from every economic class and race and making our tent truly big. It means finding a way to live with each other with love and respect, especially when we don’t agree. That is the challenge we share with the larger church, and it starts here by our active commitment to love each other and all who come here.
How we care for each other really matters. How we talk to and about each other really matters. So let’s all be kind and caring, slow to anger, quick to forgive. Let us all learn to live together not in a false harmony but through and with our differences. God needs all of us, and needs all of us here.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Use The Power You Have
"See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. "
1 Samuel 3:11
Now, there's a colorful expression. Our ears are tingling right now, in fact, every time we turn on the radio for the latest news from the Holy Land. Where can it end, we ask each other. How much worse can it get? What is the way out?
I don't envy your new president, someone says at dinner, and all the Americans nod soberly. An economy in tatters, war in two countries, and worse news from Gaza every day -- the conflict in Gaza has already cost more than 1,000 lives since December and the fighting continues. Such intractable problems, and so huge. No wonder inaugurations begin and end with prayers.
Those entrusted with the leadership of nations carry a heavy and lonely load --heavier than the one we carry. They also wield more power than we do, of course. But we have the power we have, and all of us -- the great and the ordinary -- have our power for a reason. It's to use for the good. None of us are here for ourselves alone. We are here for each other.
We can't be the ones negotiating a ceasefire, but we can pray for one. We can't be on the ground caring for the wounded or comforting the bereaved or housing, but we can support those who are. Episcopal Relief & Development remains in constant touch with the Bishop of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil S. Dawani and with Al Ahli Hospital central Gaza City. The hospital is now treating more than 50 injured civilians every day. The hospital staff is working around the clock to provide emergency medical care. Recently, the hospital finally received a delivery of desperately needed medicine, supplies, blankets, and food -- the ongoing fighting makes such deliveries difficult and dangerous. Episcopal Relief & Development also continues to send funds to help the hospital meet the rising costs of treating patients.
This is our work. Others carry it out for us, but we fund it through our ER&D donations. It literally cannot happen without us.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Presiding Bishop to give closing prayer at National Prayer Service after inaugurationBy Mary Frances Schjonberg, January 16, 2009[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will offer the closing prayer at a National Prayer Service set for January 21 at Washington National Cathedral. President Barack Obama and his family are scheduled to attend the invitation-only service.
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, will welcome attendees to the event, followed by an invocation from Diocese of Washington Bishop John Chane.
The 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on January 16 the spiritual leaders who will participate in the service, which is a tradition dating back to the inauguration of George Washington and is considered the conclusion of the official inaugural events.
The prayer service, set to begin at 10 a.m. EST, will be broadcast live on the cathedral's website. Online participants can light "virtual" candles and leave personal messages of hope, renewal, and reconciliation at the website. Online visitors can also access an historic presidential photo gallery, view video footage of the national prayer service, and explore the role of this "church for national purposes" throughout the years, according to a news release from the cathedral.
The service will include scripture readings, prayers (including those for civic leaders and the nation), hymns and blessings delivered by faith leaders from across the United States. The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will deliver the sermon, the first time a woman has preached at the service.
"President-elect Obama's faith is a central part of his life and he will begin the first full day of his Administration with a service of interfaith prayer and reflection," presidential inaugural committee communications director Josh Earnest said in the committee's news release. "The National Prayer Service, which will embody the themes of tolerance, unity and understanding, is a worship service for all Americans."
The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., senior pastor emeritus at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, will provide the opening prayer, followed by a prayer for civil leaders delivered by the Rev. Andy Stanley, senior pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia.
Scripture readings will be provided by Dr. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Atlanta, Georgia as well as Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, New York City, and the Most Rev. Francisco Gonzalez, S.F., auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington. Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, D.C., has been asked to read the psalm.
Responsive prayers will be given by:
- Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president, Islamic Society of North America, Hartford, Connecticut;
- The Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, senior pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship, New York City
- Rabbi Jerome Epstein, director, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
- The Rev. Carol Wade, canon precentor of the Washington National Cathedral;
- Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York City;
- The Rev. Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners, Washington, D.C.;
- Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurunm, New York City;
- Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas
Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl will help conclude the service with a prayer for the nation, followed by Jefferts Schori's closing prayer and a benediction by the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.
The first inauguration of George Washington in 1789 in New York City was shaped largely by a Congressional resolution that relied heavily on the English coronation ceremony, according to information on the cathedral's website. It required that, following the oath of office in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street, the Senate and House walk a short distance to St. Paul's Chapel on Broadway to hear "divine service" by the chaplain of Congress, Bishop Samuel Provoost. He acted in a role similar to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury at English coronation services.
-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.
After Three Decades, Sacramento Columnist Says Farewell
Jan. 12, 2009 – By Peter Schrag
Those of us who began as print journalists in the 1950s belong to what was probably the luckiest generation in the business -- a rich and rewarding half century with a strong and confident press that knew it was an indispensable part of American democracy. But this is another era, and for me, after 55 years in the business -- 31 of them associated with this newspaper -- it's time to pitch it in. This is my last regular column for The Sacramento Bee.
At the El Paso Herald-Post, where I started, we still had a classic "Front Page" newsroom -- reporters with bottles of bourbon in the bottom drawer; a noisy, smoky city room and a couple of cranky desk men who claimed to have covered the assassination of Pancho Villa in 1923, and maybe did. This was the era of galley shears, paste pots and "etaoin shrdlu," an occasional typo produced by the letters on the first two vertical banks on the keyboard of a Linotype machine. The editor's name was Ed Pooley, known familiarly around town as "Cess" Pooley. My first big story was covering the trial of the mayor's libel suit against my own paper.
Inevitably during those 55-plus years there were encounters with some of the more notable figures of recent history, as well as the rush of great stories associated with them: the ongoing struggle for decent urban schools and for civil rights in the South; the street battles over the Vietnam War; the rise and fall of the counterculture; the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968 and the "police riot" that came with it.
Looking back, it was like covering history: the Pentagon Papers case, the trial of Daniel Ellsberg in Los Angeles in 1972-73 and the unraveling of Watergate with which it became linked. The last two, lest we forget, closely connected to a courageous, enterprising press. Those of us who were not on Richard Nixon's enemies list envied those who were.
There was also the chance to work with outstanding editors, writers and reporters -- Willie Morris at Harper's, Carey McWilliams at the Nation, John Ciardi at Saturday Review, David Halberstam, Tony Lukas, all now gone -- and to have the work of great journalists and essayists as models.
Closer to home, there was the privilege of working with Frank McCulloch, managing editor of The Sacramento Bee, and reporter and editor for other news organizations, who spent much more time shaping good stories than he did on reader surveys; John Jacobs, The Sacramento Bee's political columnist, who knew that writing about politics was only meaningful if it was linked to its consequences for policy, and Bee editor C.K. McClatchy, who tried to teach all who worked for him that integrity and credibility were the indispensable assets of any news organization.
It was under McClatchy, sometimes with a little nudging, that his newspapers grew out of their historic misogyny, hiring women for senior positions, coming to grips with its historic racism, apologizing for his papers' support of the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. Thirty years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have a woman editor as The Sacramento Bee has now.
My nearly 40 years in California, 19 as the editor of the editorial pages of The Sacramento Bee, the last dozen as a columnist, brought great colleagues and friends, lively exchanges with readers and some memorable characters -- Willie Brown, whose meetings with journalists were the best political seminars in town, and usually the funniest; Clark Kerr, creator and biographer of the multiversity; Jerry Brown, California's leading career anti-politician; Howard Jarvis, curmudgeon par excellence -- plus a large cast of bores, miscreants and mediocrities.
Sadly, however, the big story of those years was retrenchment. This was the age of Proposition 13 and other tax limitations, of ballot-box budgeting, of term limits and autopilot criminal sentencing laws, of borrow-and-fudge fiscal policies, of initiatives throwing illegal immigrants out of the public schools, and of eroding optimism and a growing unwillingness to pay for public goods. There can't be many serious Californians who would claim that California is better for it.
There were bright spots: California's leadership in environmental regulation and energy efficiency; legislation, too little noticed at its passage, to broaden financial aid guarantees to low-income college students; the passage of the medical marijuana initiative; the continuing greatness of the state's public colleges and universities.
There was the calming voice of Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, who tried her low-key best to keep the state from going off the fiscal rails altogether, the countless other public servants who got too little credit for diligence and integrity under often terrible demands, and the creation of the California Budget Project and the Public Policy Institute of California, two invaluable private research organizations focused on California policy.
Through it all, we had our quota of fires, floods, drought, landslides and earthquakes. Latinos and Asians moved in and Anglos moved out. California became a majority-minority state, as will the nation 40 years from now.
But the sturdy ships on which journalists embarked a half-century ago are now buffeted by new technologies and a print-phobic, individualistic, less communitarian culture. Some of us had watched once-proud magazines sink around and sometimes under us; others survive only with the support of angels and foundations. Now newspapers seem to be struggling the same way. Many of us now know how blacksmiths and harness makers must have felt a century ago and, ironically, how Detroit's autoworkers must feel today.
The American press -- once a party press, then a penny press thriving on sensation -- was never as strong, enterprising and serious as it became in the decades beginning with World War II. Now the blogs seem to be taking us back to an electronic version of that ancient history.
Unlike some others, The Sacramento Bee and its parent company have a good chance of coming through the storm, not as a clipper ship, but, if it retains the courage of its historic convictions, refitted as a sturdy sloop not so different from what it was a century ago. Our democracy can't remain healthy without the professional reporters and editors and the strong voices that try to make order of the information on which an informed citizenry and healthy communities must depend.
Mistakes were made. In trying to show confidence in the future of the industry, McClatchy caught a huge fish called Knight Ridder at just the wrong time. But it still has the best leadership in the business. I hope to write occasionally for this and other outlets, but this cuckoo's weekly pop-out is over.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Where to begin? We can start with prayer. Every Monday at noon we host Prayers for Peace at St. Paul's. Please join us. And you can find the prayers we used during our Day of Prayer for Peace in December by clicking PEACE PRAYERS. Blessings and Peace to all.
"There hangs in my study a picture of Christ, seated on the Mount of Olives, gazing at Jerusalem. I am looking at it today because the news has just come of Hitler’s ruthless seizure of Austria. My telephone has been ringing and a reporter demanding an opinion …and what I as a pacifist thought about it. I am reflecting, and going back over some of the high points of pacifism in my life. Is pacifism adequate to meet aggression?"
“How strange that pacifism so often crucified and defeated keeps coming back generation after generation! Why do the aggressors not finish it? Has it a kind of resurrection force? Is it sown in weakness but later raised in power? Is it a key to civilization which the builders have unwisely rejected?”
“The trouble in the international scene today is not that pacifism has failed. Disaster has come, like the judgment which Jesus prophesied against Jerusalem, because our civilization has refused to try the methods of peace.”
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Robinson calls participation in Lincoln Memorial concert 'humbling'By Mary Frances Schjonberg, January 12, 2009[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson will give the invocation January 18 at the first event in a week of celebrations marking President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.
Robinson told Episcopal News Service that his participation in the "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is "a wonderful opportunity for the Episcopal Church and certainly the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Hampshire to be represented at this historic event and I am honored and not a little overwhelmed at the responsibility."
"I just hope I can live up to it," he added.
Robinson said he was invited by the inaugural committee to participate in the event about two-and-a-half weeks ago and that he had cooperated with the team's request that an announcement be held until some details were worked out.
His participation in the event stands in contrast to the December 17 announcement that Obama had asked theRev. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and a leading conservative evangelical, to deliver the invocation at the January 20 swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Robinson, who is openly gay and in June entered into a legal civil union with his long-time partner Mark Andrews, was prominent among those who criticized the president-elect's choice of Warren, who has equated gay relationships to incest and child abuse.
When Warren's invitation was announced, Robinson told the New York Times that "it was like a slap in the face," adding that "the God that he's praying to is not the God that I know."
Robinson told ENS that "the [Obama] transition team was in touch with me about that and I with them and I was very forthcoming in my feeling that this was a very troublesome choice not because Rick Warren's voice shouldn't be at the table but that this particular venue where he was being invited was not a roundtable discussion of a lot of different opinions" but that instead Warren would be "the prayer voice at the most-watched inaugural in history."
He praised parts of Warren's ministry. "I feel very positively about Rick Warren in some ways. He has broken from his evangelical brothers and sisters around his compassion of AIDS victims and his working on alleviating global poverty," Robinson said. "It's just that the views he holds about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are pretty awful and he even confirmed the statements that he has made comparing our relationships to incest and child abuse. That is extraordinarily troublesome."
However, Robinson told ENS January 12 that he did not think the invitation to participate in the Lincoln Memorial event was meant to balance out Warren's participation. Instead, Robinson suggested, the invitation was based on his early support of Obama, with whom he met several times during the New Hampshire primary.
"I became very convinced that his message against polarizing the nation but in fact drawing it together was one that everyone needed to hear so I became quite supportive of him and his campaign," Robinson said, adding that he advised the campaign and Obama "behind the scenes" particularly around gay and lesbian issues.
"It's certainly the case that the LGBT community will notice [Robinson's invitation] and it will matter a lot but I don't think that was the primary impetus for this," the bishop said.