Friday, October 30, 2015

work to do

Roll up your sleeves, friends.  We’ve just signed on for some really good work.

Our convention two weekends ago was a wonderful time of sharing stories, worshipping together, seeing old friends, thinking about our future and… passing resolutions.  Resolutions are the grist for the legislative mill when we gather and they speak volumes about what we hold as contemporary priorities for our work together as the Body of Christ.  Resolutions give voice to our desire to labor together to build the Kingdom and name, specifically, where we want to put our energy in the coming days, weeks and months.

This year, in addition to the Convention Budget, (which also sends a message about our mission efforts) we were presented with and passed eight resolutions.  Three of the resolutions came from the Cathedral of St. Stephen’s and their Dean, the Very Rev. Churchill Pinder.  The remaining five grew out of the work of our General Convention 78 held in Salt Lake City (UT) in July, and carried the spirit of that convention home to us here in Central PA.  These resolutions were sponsored by the Rev. Canon Kate Harrigan (deputation chair), the Rev. Canon David Lovelace and the Rev. Pat Strohl, deacon, on behalf of the entire deputation.

All eight resolutions passed; some with some minor refinement and in one case, a call for greater accountability.

The work of these resolutions lies before us.

Some of this work will be carried out at a diocesan level as organized by existing committees, some of it will be initiated directly at the parish level, and some of it has been directed for the Bishop and Council of Trustees to manage via the formation of task forces.

Divided by responsible bodies, here’s the work ahead:

               BISHOP:      The Bishop will recommend to the Council of Trustees the formation of a Committee on Social Justice and Equity.  Among other things, this committee will work on the issue of child poverty as named by another resolution, and seek to sponsor a symposium through the “All Our Children National and State NetworkThis committee will serve to coordinate work that is already underway in our diocese and assist in launching new efforts.

The Bishop will appoint a Task Force on Alcohol and Substance Abuse to study General Resolution A158 and make recommendations to the Council of Trustees on how to implement resolution A158 before our next diocesan convention.

PARISHES:     Parishes will develop and share a clear message of the church’s mission and     work to the broader community.
                        Parishes will develop a plan of financial stability and partner with institutions and individuals to do God’s work.

                        Parishes will study the health of their local watershed and its stewardship and partner in educational efforts regarding watershed conservation.

                        Parishes will encourage the offering of energy efficiency workshops.

                        Parishes will respond to racial injustice of their own initiative and design as well as using newly developed diocesan resources.

DIOCESE:      The diocese will partner with other PA dioceses to bring a symposium on child poverty to PA by 2017.

                        The Diocesan Task Force on Eliminating Racism will develop activities for parishes, youth and diocesan-wide use on eradicating racism, will develop internet resources and collect stories on how racism is being combatted in our communities and bring these stories back to convention next year.

                        The Diocese will call on Governor Wolf to continue the moratorium on the death penalty, forward the diocesan and General Church resolutions on the death penalty to the governor and encourage Governor Wolf and other governors in states where the death penalty is still legal to work towards abolition of said penalty.

This work is very exciting. 

It speaks about our passion for environmental stewardship, justice and
equality; our desire to live in a world where hunger, fear, oppression,sorrow
and pain are no more; and the value and dignity of life as a sacred gift from

I’m in.  How about you?

This is the work of what our Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry calls the Jesus Movement.  It offers specific measures for work that, for some of us, is new… and for others, is now codified- work that’s been going on from some time.  It is work that does not supersede the other good work that is already happening- feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, offering special needs ministry, teaching ESL, caring for the aged with dignity- this is important, too, and needs to continue as ways that others of us are living the Gospel Life.

Work does not supplant worship, either. The hours that we spend in quiet prayer in our homes, studying Holy Scripture, coming together on Sunday to be in community and share in sacramental nurture- that is vital to building our strength as people of the Jesus Movement who participate with vitality in the mission of God.  It’s not and either/or.  Worship is a soul-strengthening act in which we are fortified for service.

I hope that as our work progresses and the invitational net is cast wide, that you will ask of your own soul how God is calling you to participate.  I hope that this work will become the work of us by the thousands and that we will make strides in accomplishing good things, to the Glory of God.

Passing legislation is one thing.
Now, we get to go to it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

moving day!

Today we are reunited with our stuff... dishes, furniture, warm clothes, tools, art and books. It's been an interesting and surprisingly comfortable 4 months living with what we consider little, but to others, could be considered a bevy of riches:  a warm, dry, safe apartment with stove, laundry, 2.5 bathrooms, more than adequate furniture and 3 tvs.   An embarrassment of riches, really, far too generous to be considered "roughing it."  We've managed just fine here in Linglestown and have enjoyed this small community that marks its ends with traffic circles- with a fine coffee shop, a wonderful consignment store and a few haircut places in-between.  We've biked and walked into town many times, struck up a friendship with the local garage owner and had some suds at the Eagle Hotel.  We liked Linglestown enough to search over and over for a house here.  But, Mechanicsburg it is.  A town that is more of a two-horse town, with its own quaint downtown, a few restaurants, a trio of churches (including our own St. Luke's) and one of the best Greek restaurants I've eaten at...ever.  We'll be on the outskirts of town, a few cornfields away, in a quiet neighborhood with some horses, some woods and mature trees.

I'm looking forward to seeing my books.  And my collection of art and framed pieces that we've amassed through the years. And my desk.  I'm looking forward to laying a fire in the fireplace and, come the spring, digging in the dirt. I can't wait to find just the right cabinets for the tea pot, the KitchenAid, my mom's silverware. I love that there's a proper workshop for my husband, a two-car garage (something new for us!) and a screened-in porch.  It's more than I could have imagined.  We met the (former) owners of our (new) house... and liked them a lot.  That makes me feel good.  We also like the people who bought our CT home.  That makes me feel good, too.  It's a precious thing, releasing and claiming new space.

Charles Henry Parkhurst, Presbyterian minister and social activist (1842-1933) wrote:  "Home interprets heaven. Home is heaven for beginners."  May it be so.

Friday, October 16, 2015

on my way to Altoona

No, that's not the first line of a new song out of Nashville... it's a line from my life-  and the lives of 300 other Episcopalians in Central PA who are gathering today and tomorrow at St. Luke's and The Blair County Convention Center to pray, sing, talk, listen and conduct the business of the Church.

We'll be studying, creating and making maps together-  as we seek to follow Jesus.

Altoona:  it's our Compass Point this weekend.  Come and journey with us.

Friday, October 9, 2015


When my son went to college, the Senior Warden of my (then) congregation gave him a gift:  a small tool kit with all of the various implements that could come in handy moving into and living in a dorm.  The kit had a couple of screwdrivers, a hammer, a tape measure, a bunch of screws and nails and picture hangers and a pair of wire snips.  These tools were all packed into a tidy, durable plastic case with a handle.  As she handed the wrapped gift to me, she said, “Here, take this- he’ll be the hero of the dorm.”

Well, I don’t know if he was the hero of the dorm.  I do remember noticing how young men approach “moving into a dorm room”- tossing a duffle bag in the corner of the room, finding a safe place for the guitar and plugging in the mini fridge- which seems to me to be the most minimal decorating scheme ever.  What I do know is if he needed to pound a nail, measure a wall or assemble anything with a Philip’s head screw, he was all set. (As it turned out, that college at that moment was a bad fit for the boy and so, in a brave move- as this boy was wont to do- we left on the same day we arrived and the tool kit came with us.  The rest of that story is fodder for another blog, someday, about knowing oneself, not being afraid to make bold moves, and trusting in ones’ own inner voice.)

But back to the tool kit.

I’ve been working a lot this week with our diocesan Standing Committee, the Commission on Ministry and the Stevenson School For Ministry as we’ve been gearing up for this weekend’s fall orientation for the school and working to discern the different roles and responsibilities around the ordination process.  The ordination process is vitally important to our Church as we seek to engage with people in some of the most exciting and vulnerable times in their lives, as they listen closely to God and learn of God’s desire for them.  Sometimes, God’s desire is for the person to develop and use the gifts that God has given them for ministry as an ordained leader in the Church, and other times, God’s desire is for the development and exercise of ministry in the world and in the Church without the need of the laying on of hands.  Having been through the ordination process three times, now, I can tell you that in each instance, it has been a period which has been profoundly humbling, sometimes disorienting, and requiring a lot of trust.

Whichever path is ultimately selected- lay or ordained ministry- there is a need to hone the skills and gifts of the individual and to do our best to equip them with the right tools for ministry. It is our responsibility, as leaders and administrators in the Church, to provide access to those tools and to help the minister learn what he or she has already, what they might need to acquire, and what needs oiling or “servicing” to work its best.    There are some general tools- the hammers and screwdrivers of the ministry tool box- which every minister of the Christian Gospel needs:  a working knowledge of Holy Scripture; a personal, fruitful practice of prayer; a solid and informed scaffolding for making moral choices and ethical decisions; a general sense of the scope and sequence of the history of the Christian Church; interpersonal skills for group processing and one-on-one engagement.  Not surprisingly, our canons of the Church require that all candidates for ordination pass muster in seven canonical areas which include much of the aforementioned list.

I would argue that these “skills” or competencies are important for all of us, ordained or not, as we seek to build a responsive, compassionate, effective and connected Church.

There are other skills- conflict management, strategic planning, reconciliation and healing, liturgical planning, preaching, pastoral care- that are traditional tools for ministers of the Church as more specific paths for ministry are selected.  The tools of specialists, if you will.

And there are new skills that we are inviting people to add to their tool kits as we pay attention to where God is calling the Church, next:  tools of community organizing, demographic analytics, social media and web design, the development of public narrative, building our knowledge of civic and secular structures for deeper engagement, tools that celebrate and allow us to work across differences… there’s a lot to learn.

Now, Jesus told the disciples to travel lightly.  In Luke 9:1-3, we read:

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority   over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic…”

And, really, I don’t know how I would do, out there without my tool kit.  I believe that Jesus’ message to the disciples had two points:  he wanted the disciples to 1) be confident in their own capabilities as empowered by the Holy Spirit moving within them and 2) to be vulnerable to the point of needing others to accomplish God’s mission-  and I’m okay with that.  But I still want to be prepared.

I wonder what path you may have discerned for yourself as a minister of Jesus’ gospel truth.  Where in God’s mission have you decided to apply yourself and what tools do you need?  Perhaps it’s been clearly revealed to you and you are busy filling up your tool kit and actively building God’s Kingdom.  Or maybe it’s as clear as mud, and you feel as though your tool kit is light.  If  that’s the case, I’d invite you to look at the “basic tool kit,” named above:  scripture, prayer, history, ethics, etc.  and spend some time there, exploring what interests you.  There are resources of all kinds- electronic, private tutors, spiritual directors, the Stevenson School for Ministry, annotated bibles, etc. etc. etc. to guide you.  We – your parish clergy, diocesan leadership, lay leaders- are here to guide and support you and each other , as we make  our way, growing into the full stature of Christ.

Friday, October 2, 2015



This blog entry is the one originally written for this morning.  For a response to yesterday's school shooting in Oregon, please see the entry after this one, posted also today.

My mom joined the gym when she was in her 80s.  Truth be told, it was something more like a rehab/physical therapy center, but it had all the bells and whistles:  treadmills, stationary bikes and an area with free weights.  It was called “Running Start.”  My mom went as the doctor ordered, and she was diligent about complying with his orders.  I loved it when I would visit and she would head out the door for her gym time, wearing her soft sweat-like pants and pullover top and her gym shoes… carrying a quilted Vera Bradley bag and smelling faintly of Chanel or her favorite- Red Door.   We talked, usually, on Sunday nights, and sometimes she would share stories of the gym; my favorite was when she shared that there was a “new woman” in the gym who “stole her (my mom’s) bike.”   We worked out how she could regain her favorite bike as I explained the gym-trick of draping your towel over the handlebars to “save ” your bike while you were in the locker room or getting a drink…   My mom had a spring to her step and sounded a little spunkier than usual when she’d been to the gym.  I think that it was good for her.

I did not grow up in a family where school athletics were a big deal.  My brothers were downhill skiers and had skateboards and, in the summer, water skis.   I joined in on the water skiing, but was more of a “music and art room” type during high school.  I didn’t go to football games and the cheerleader-scene didn’t really mesh with my more
“crunchy” views.  I wore Earth Shoes and Levi cords.  We drank hibiscus tea and sang Joni Mitchell tunes.   When I met my husband, I was introduced to a new culture.  His college roommates were soccer and lacrosse stars, and he played hockey.  Mouth guards, shoulder pads, hockey sticks and lacrosse balls were new to me.  The culture of working out, jogging for fun and waking at 4 AM for “ice time” was a novelty.  I watched from a distance for a long while.

In my early 40s, when our children were school-aged, I began going to a gym.  I discovered the social aspect of exercising with friends and the magic of endorphins.  More than the endorphins, though, I discovered the long-lasting effects of a morning trip to the gym that included a positive attitude, sense of accomplishment and well-being.

In the past few weeks we’ve been holding convocation meetings in our diocese to prepare for our Annual Convention.  Convention will be held on October 16-17 in Altoona.  We will worship together, enjoy the gathering of people from our 64 churches, celebrate the different ministries of our church and look to our future together.  Part of that future will be outlined in the budget for 2016… and part of it will be represented by a series of resolutions to come before us.  This year we have a large number of resolutions:  eight in all.  Three of them have been submitted by St. Stephen’s Cathedral and its dean, The Very Rev. Churchill Pinder.  These resolutions will ask us to consider how our congregations engage with our local communities, how we educate others and ourselves around the stewardship of our natural resources and work to preserve them.  They are good resolutions.  Five other resolutions will be presented that have grown out of the work of General Convention 78 of the General Church, held this past summer in Salt Lake City.  These resolutions include encouraging the development of church and school partnerships, developing a task force to organize our efforts and advocate in the area of racial equity, encouraging the development of a climate in our congregations to promote safe and careful handling of alcohol and  calling for the abolition of the death penalty (including affirming the  current moratorium in PA).  It’s a lot.

At one of our convocation meetings, one of the more senior clergy persons in the diocese noted the number of task forces to be formed  and initiatives that we were considering, and the amount of energy that it would take to accomplish this work.


And, in my experience, the output of energy yields more energy:

My mom’s quicker step and brighter voice on her “Running Start” days.
My own experience of increased liveliness and verve after a trip to the gym or an hour running by the river. 

Energy begets energy.

  Sarah Bernhardt, legendary French actress who led an exciting life and enjoyed a lively career is famous for saying, “Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”

I have great hopes for the work of our diocese.  The number of resolutions that we are being asked to consider at Convention indicate to me, already, an increased energy.   The lively conversations at our more recent convocation meetings in which we have discussed the resolutions display good energy.  I believe that as we choose to endorse these resolutions, God will raise up among us the right people to lead us into this important work.

Energy begets energy.  We need to invest in the work of God’s mission by risking a little-  a little of our time, our commitment, our energy. When we do, I believe that we will accomplish great things and the energy will return to us, for an even deeper engagement.

In all of this, there is a need for good nutrition.  An expense of energy- physical, psychic, spiritual- requires its own form of fuel… and so, caring for ourselves as we prepare to engage these tasks is important: physical food- good food- to nourish our bodies and sustain us for meetings, hands-on work and some evenings out.  Psychic nourishment of quiet, meditation, reduction in conflict and stress, to feed our souls’ centers.  And sacramental nourishment of worship, prayer, the Holy Eucharist and healing, to build us up spiritually for the work of the Kingdom.

Do we have energy enough?  I believe that we do. 

the blog entry I had not intended on- or hoped to- write

Let your compassion be swift to meet us;
For we have been brought very low.
                                    Psalm 79 :8 b,c

Yesterday I was in meetings all day- from 9:00 AM -3:30 PM- with my cell phone turned to mute.  I climbed in my car at 7:00 AM to begin the day, and got home at 5:30 PM.  I was engaged in the business of the Church: meeting with a priest in a conversation  about transition and his church, gathering with the clergy of a convocation to hear what was on their hearts and minds, and ending the day with an interview of a bright, interesting, experienced priest who would like to come and work here, in our diocese.  It was a good day. A day filled with stories, insight and hope.

I had no idea that in Oregon, lives were being shattered by a gunman shooting wildly into a classroom of students at a community college.

My drive home was lovely.  I marveled, again, at the splendor of the mountains on Rt. 322 and saw a hint of color in the otherwise deep green, velvety hills.  I looked ahead in my mind to the next week or two which I knew would provide a wonderful autumnal color show.

Ten lives taken.  Several others sent to the hospital, wounded.  One or two in critical condition.  The gunman dead, too.

As I drove down the road with the radio off, I took advantage of the time to do some work:  I mused about this blog, about the sermon that I would write on Friday, about the presentation I would give on Friday night at Convention and about the Bishop’s address for Saturday of Convention.  There’s a lot of writing and presentations in this job of Bishop and I love that.  I love to write.  I love to preach.  I prayed in the car, as I am wont to do:  I prayed for those whom I know are sick.  I prayed for my children. I prayed for those in the path of the oncoming hurricane and I prayed for Lorrie and Jesse whom I will confirm on Sunday and Lynn whom we will receive into the Church.

Chris Harper Mercer. What was on his mind as he drove in his car to the Umpqua Community College with three pistols and a long gun at his side?  How angry was he?  What was the cause of his derangement?  How long had he been mentally ill, working up to this sinful and violent act?  Where were his parents?  His friends? People who might have helped him?  How did we fail him? What was his story? What a desperate act.

It was not until I got home, sat down on the sofa, turned on my computer to tend to the day’s mounting emails when I saw it:  the New York Times banner flashed as an overlay on my computer:  “Shooting at Oregon Community College.  10 dead, scores injured. Gunman dead.”    I thought, immediately of Newtown.  And Columbine. I thought immediately of the parents and loved ones of the lost.  I prayed in thanksgiving that God would receive these 10 into God’s loving arms and into the eternal embrace of heaven, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing but life everlasting.

When is enough, enough?  Honestly, in this pacifist’s heart, enough was enough back at Genesis 4: 8.  As I did the tiniest bit of research, I discovered that there have been 179 school shootings in the past 16 years, since Columbine.  179.  (

What is our prayerful response?  To pray for the dead, to pray for those who mourn and to pray for those who have trespassed against us.

And prayer can also be made in action: to write to our legislators to enact gun reform so that access to weapons is carefully screened through background checks.  This will not keep every gun out of the hands of those desperate to perform acts of violence, but it will help. And it is the responsible act, to do everything that we can to curb the wave of tragic violence in our country.

Pray with me.

Contact your priest, the diocesan offices or me, if you want to lead or join in making a prayerful and active response to this newest act of violence that has torn our hearts.

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.