On our way to Convention 2017 in Hershey (PA) at the Antique Auto Museum (!).
Stop back next week for a new blog post and look on Face Book before then for updates from Convention!
Friday, October 6, 2017
In the past 59 years, I have had at least four names- five, if you count the name that my parents had planned on giving me before I was born, and then changed at the last minute (that name was "Lindsay").
I was born Audrey Lynn Hunter. "Audrey" after my father's sister, "Lynn" after my mother's family, and "Hunter," the good Scots surname of my father's family.
I was nine when my mother remarried following my father's death, and I got a new surname then, as a result of my stepfather's adoption of me and my brothers. Then, I lost the "Hunter" and added "Cady," my stepfather's surname.
Sixteen years after that, I changed my surname again- this time from "Cady" to "Scanlan" when I married my husband Glenn.
And, threaded through all of this, has been the enduring "family 'nickname'" of "Bobbie." There are at least a couple of theories about how this moniker came about: one is that my father called me "babby" (Scots for baby) that got twisted into "Bobbie" by my brother, and the other theory is that I was called "Bobbie" because that was my mother's nickname in college (her name was Barbara). It makes no sense why I would be called by my mother's nickname, but there you have it- family stories don't always make sense.
These days, I answer to a lot of names: Bobbie, Audrey, Bishop Scanlan, and more- and, underneath all of these there is a foundational identity that I carry as an Adult Child of God. Lots of us like to think of ourselves as "Children of God" and, while my relationship with God is as uninhibited and vulnerable as a child's relationship with her/his parent- (there are days when I rail against God like a two-year old having a tantrum, or sob in God's lap like a broken hearted kid who has just suffered a playground fight or been the victim of a teenage ego bruising...) even though I have my moments of relating to God as a parent to my child, overall I find that relationship label to be unsatisfactory on several counts: First, the patriarchal identity tag for God as Father is a little too gender-specific for me, Second, I recognize that not all people have had a father like Ward Cleaver or Andy Griffith or Rob Petrie and this assignation of a divine paternal figure can be damaging, and Third, while I appreciate the ability to "let it all hang out" with my Creator God in times of despair or great need, the truth is that I am an adult, now, and I have accepted certain responsibilities for my relationship with God: I pray, I follow Jesus and try to reflect him in my actions, I discipline myself to study Scripture, I work to love my neighbor. I take this baptismal commitment seriously and strive, as an Adult Child of God to live up to my end of the bargain.
And so, I work at it. Daily. Not in a navel-gazing kind of way, but in a way that, I hope, stretches me and challenges me and invites me to grow as a person and in relationship to God, little by little, day by day.
In just a week's time we will be gathering as a Convention- clergy and lay delegates of our diocese- to spend precious time together. This day-and- a-half is referred to by some as our "doing the business of the Church" but it is so much more. We will pray. We will share a meal, we will talk about the work of our common life together and how we allocate and use our resources for the mission of God. We will stand around an altar and share communion, finding Christ at the table right next to us. We will explore the ministries of our diocese at table exhibits, raise our voices in song, and reflect in the dense silence of a room full of praying people. One of the chief exercises of our Convention will be to work on an understanding of our Identity. On Friday night we will explore three levels of questions that will all draw us to a deeper understanding of who we are as (Adult) Children of God, how our parish nurtures that identity in service to God's mission, and how we might join with others to deepen and expand that work.
The goal of Convention is to:
deepen a sense of our identity (personal, parish, convocation) in order to reflect on how we are using our gifts to serve God's mission and to explore the possibilities for expanding/deepening/broadening that work
identify the mission areas for which we have gifts and passion so that, going forward, we can allocate our resources to reflect the strengths of the diocese and the needs of our local contexts.
It's good work that we are doing. We will gain strength as we come together to do this holy work, in God's name.
At our Pre-Convention Convocation meetings we've been working on completing "parish stories." This story exercise is revealing when used as an activity among parishioners in the same parish. The form is included below. Take it and use it at Vestry meetings and with different groups in the congregation and see how it is that individually, the people of our parishes are claiming God's call and blessing on them.
See you in Hershey!
Pre-Convention Convocation Meeting Fall 2017
Parish Perspective Worksheet
Working as a congregational group, complete the following story about your parish.
A Story about _______________ (name of parish)
Once upon a time -in 2017- there was a ________(adjective) parish in the ____________(adjective) town/borough/city of ______________(name of city).
This parish was known far and wide for its _______________________ (noun/verb). If people in the town talked about the parish they would say, “Oh, you know, ___________________ (name of parish) is the church that _________________________s. (verb)
The congregation had lots of beautiful appointments and lovely things about its physical plant, but it was really blessed by its ___________________(object.)
The parish was excited by its service to God’s mission and found that its program of ______________________ (name of a parish ministry) was a really good fit for both the congregation and the people whom it served.
The congregation also knew that the needs of the community were great and wished that they could do more to assist with _________________________________ (local need).
One day, the senior warden turned over a rock in the churchyard and found $100,000 in cash.
The Vestry decided to spend it on ______________________________________.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
What a week.
I have been at the House of Bishops fall meeting which was held, this year, in the Diocese of Alaska among many faithful Episcopalians living in Fairbanks and small, remote villages. (The Diocese of Alaska covers the whole state of Alaska- we were located in the Interior for this trip.)
The trip was transformational as I learned about a people new to me, the Athabascan (many of whom speak Gwich'in,) and about life in the Interior. Talk of the travels in the Diocese of Alaska made me re-think how I conceive of "long distance diocesan travel." Simply put, the Bishop of Alaska regularly travels to his parishes by plane.
The first part of our visit focused on getting oriented, and we received several guests to our Body, learning about the people's dependence on the land, their humble and proud subsistence lifestyle, their honoring of the land, the importance of native traditions, and the challenges that they face- among them poverty, substance abuse, environmental degradation, racism and unemployment.
The second part of our visit sent us out to learn, first-hand about the things that we had been taught. Our visits to villages in the Interior were powerful. We were met at gravel airstrips and taken into the homes of these folks, hearing about their lives in communities of 50-100 people, how they accessed food, fuel and water, how they lived off of the land and about the importance of the rivers, about fishing and hunting and school-life with just 10 other classmates, and the effect of climate change on the land. The testimony was powerful. We made friends. And we worshipped God at the edge of the river.
Some have sent messages wondering how is it that we, largely White, Male Bishops (as a Body) felt about entering indigenous villages to "bless" the land and waters. Let me say two things: 1) the people of these mostly Episcopal villages were thrilled to have us there with the symbol of our office, caring to know them, to connect, and to hear about their lives. The power of witness and the power of listening is something. 2) It was clear to all of us that the blessing that was going on was between us (the Athabascans and the Bishops) and God. We joined together at the edge of the water to praise God for God's creation and to ask for God's continued blessing on our land and to join together as stewards of the land to acknowledge our responsibilities.
It was a mighty powerful week.
We were guests at a Potlach, a ceremonial gathering that consists of dancing, singing, the exchange of gifts and eating (of course). We were each called by name and given gifts. We danced. We sang in Gwich'in and we ate: moose meat, moose head soup, poached salmon, dried salmon, berries and... cupcakes. It was a meal to remember and sacramental in its offering.
And now, I'm back in the saddle (with some jet lag.)
Looking forward to confirmations this weekend in the Altoona Convocation, a visit to Phillipsburg on Sunday, a visit to the John Herr Assisted Living Facility in Columbia on Monday night to lead a bible study, and then back to a full gallop on Tuesday.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
I am away this week in Fairbanks, Alaska at the House of Bishops fall meeting.
What follows is a re-posting of some of my photos that I have already posted on Facebook describing our time here, so far.
Some people have asked why the House of Bishops is meeting here- it seems to be an exotic and extravagant location. One person whose post I saw on Facebook took umbrage with us acting "like a bunch of jet setting CEOs."
The House of Bishops meets twice per year for a week at a time. The spring meeting alternates between a conference/retreat center in the East (Kanuga) and one in the West (Camp Allen). The focus of the spring meeting is divided between business sessions and retreat time. The fall meeting is held in an area where it is thought that our presence would be valuable in some way as we witness to and participate in the mission of God. Last fall we went to Detroit and spent time in Flint learning about the water crisis there. Alaska was chosen as this year's meeting site for several reasons: we are here to learn about and support the work of our brother The Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime, Bishop of Alaska, in a mission field that is rugged, isolated, challenged by issues like poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment and the tension of retaining native ways against economic development and industry. We are here to learn about the care of the land which is sacred to the native peoples and to advocate for careful stewardship of the natural resources. We are here to learn about racial reconciliation and how to respect the dignity of every human being as we learn about historic tensions in this place among cultures. We are coming to appreciate different cultural systems- peoples who organize themselves in clans and tribes with elders and chiefs. We've been told that we will be practicing the art of hospitality as we listen to the stories of these people and spend unmeasured time with them. And we will be receiving their generous hospitality as we share table fellowship and eat food prepared by their hands of their larders and their native menus. (read: moose stew, roasted muskrat.) We are also here to share, each to each, as brothers and sisters in Christ who have in common, the saving love of Jesus.
This morning, several teams will be flying out on small planes to various Alaskan villages in the Interior. Glenn and I will be part of a team of 8 who are traveling to the village of Beaver (Pop. 84). We are bringing eggs, tea, coffee and oranges. We are excited to learn about life in a remote village and to stand shoulder to shoulder with these people and, together, to bless their land. These land blessings will be taking place across Alaska at 2 PM as we join in prayer and praise of our Creator and the beauty of the world that we have been given. Please join us in prayer as you are able at that time (6 PM EST). I"ll post more after today.
In the meantime, here are some pictures from our short couple of days in Fairbanks, so far. (some of them are taken before dawn as we are 4 hours off-schedule and waking at 2 AM to prowl the streets for coffee...)
Thursday, September 14, 2017
In the past month, I have had the pleasure of spending time with my toes in both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans and have reaped the salty benefits of both.
My visit to the Atlantic was part of my annual pilgrimage “Down East” to places around Casco Bay that I have been visiting since my earliest days. My sister and her family still live in Midcoast Maine which makes my traveling there all the easier and, as you can imagine, there are all sorts of things that we “must do” when I come to town: visits to favorite restaurants, wandering around from point to point and cove to cove, spending some time sailing, walking, at the farmer’s market and in the wonderful independent bookstore in town. There are significant amounts of clams, haddock, and a few lobster that are given over to this visit, and some lazy, candlelit nights spent outside on the deck of my sister’s house listening to crickets and watching the fireflies.
Bowdoinham is the location of our annual family “picnic” which I usually miss ( it usually occurs after I have left Maine) but this year I made a point to be there as the group has grown smaller and it is time for some of us young ‘uns (I’m nearly 60!) to take the torch. Another one of my cousins made a similar effort this year and I think that we may have volunteered to host next year’s event and will encourage our same-age and younger relatives to join in the fun.
Maine is my ancestral family place. James Millay, our ancestor, came from Ireland and landed off of Great Island near Harpswell, building his salt mine. My parents retired there many, many, many years later. Maine is the place where I feel “complete,” and it’s hard to put words to it, other than that: “complete.” My sister knows this and after I insist that we stop at the beach about a quarter of a mile from where I took my first steps, she waits on the stone staircase while I kick off my sandals and walk in the tidal pools searching for sea glass, hermit crabs and razor clams. The sun is hot, the black sand is soft, and the snail shells crunch underfoot. The water laps at my ankles and for a moment I consider lying down in the 3-inch, sun-warmed salt bath. I resist, because I know that it would not feel good later, in the car, sitting in wet shorts. And I don’t think my sister would like her car getting sopping wet. We stop at the gift shop- the same gift shop that we visit every year and we buy the same things: balsam-stuffed tiny pillows, a new tea towel for the kitchen, a 5” “Old Salt” figurine of a fisherman in a yellow slicker for my brother. My brother has the misfortune of an August birthday that falls during my visit each year; he has received several “Old Salt” carved figurines through the years from me. There is a lovely repetition of places, activities and menus that makes this a comfortable holiday. Reading back over this, it sounds so dull…. but it is lovely. Sunny, salty, warm-tomato-in-the-sun, lovely. (There are new adventures each year lest you find this all too pedantic: this year we went to the Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay for the first time and we loved it! Another thing to add to the “must-do-every-year” list.)
The Pacific coast brought the new adventure of a wedding for our family. Our eldest, Emma, was married to Nic. Theirs was the first wedding event for our immediate family and only the second one among Emma’s cousins. It was held right at the ocean’s edge on the cliffs in Mendocino at a small sea-side inn. The setting was fantastic, the weather perfect, the dress beautiful, and the vows meaningful, but it was the gathering together of our dearest friends and family that made it spectacular. College friends, cousins, childhood friends, friends with whom we had raised our children, even children of old friends who traveled to be with us. The volume and power of love in those few days among our family and friends was as strong as the sea itself; I was overwhelmed by the gift of presence and the beauty of love. It was a holy time and a sacred space, consecrated by all those dear ones.
I read four books on vacation.
I watched a few forgettable movies on Netflix.
I didn’t have much time for gardening or cooking- my usual spiritual practices-
I just wallowed. In the water, in the ocean, in the love of it all.
There were some rainy days, some cross words, and some bad moments. Aren’t there always? That’s the way of the world.
But I’ll take the memory of a briny, sundrenched day on the boat eating ham sandwiches and listening to my cousin explain the innumerable benefits of a good spinnaker over the memory of a sour word, anyday.
I hope that you had a chance to get away, go home, find yourself “complete,” or bowled over by love this summer. It is the hand of God at work in those moments. Of this I am sure.
I am off to a meeting of the House of Bishops next week in Fairbanks, Alaska and will miss writing next Friday’s blog. Stay tuned for stories from Alaska in the week following!