Friday, June 23, 2017

mash up no volume

Image result for tv news

On mornings when I make it to the gym, I spend time on the treadmill.  Sometimes I spend my whole gym-time on the treadmill, and other times I just do a 10-minute walking warm-up before moving on to other exercises.
No matter how long I am there, I always turn on the personal tv attached to my treadmill and watch the news- on mute.  I listen to music on my headphones, but I watch the morning news with the sound turned off.

What I get, as a result, is a mash up of the world’s events, with no explanation.

I see images of burning buildings, police barricades at protests, reporters chasing down people on courthouse steps, mugshots, accident scenes, state leaders- both domestic and international- making statements to press corps, tapes of alleged wrong-doers in handcuffs being loaded into the back seat of police cruisers, stock market graphs, dogs and children looking for adoptive homes, and tear-stained victims giving their witness of one atrocity or another to a reporter who sometimes seems to be crossing the line of ethical decency in capturing raw emotion for public broadcast at moments of great personal vulnerability.

It’s a wonder that I watch it at all.

It is a collage of loss-fear-violence-power-grief-raw-despair.

I wonder if the details- the stories, the words-  would allow this mash-up-with-no-volume to make sense?  Or would it only exacerbate my own despair?

Later, at home, I do listen to the words.
I teeter between emotional overwhelm and compassion fatigue.
I think that I cannot watch one more moment…. and, then, I find myself sipping coffee, ironing my skirt and making the bed while I watch the aftermath of the latest terrorist attack on the tv in the corner.

And I wonder this:

How do we keep the faith, hold onto hope, and act like the resurrection people we claim to be, in the midst of all of this? How do we access compassion and use it as fuel for healing the world without feeling burned out or overwhelmed?

For me, the answer lies in the gift of Holy Scripture.

Each morning, I light a small candle and I pray.
I pray the office.  I read the psalms and I read in Holy Scripture the stories of struggle, heartache, and despair from the lives of our spiritual forebears.  Through the years, the stories in scriptures and the people about whose lives we read -these companions on the Way-  have shown me that God does triumph, and that Love does win.  In the stories of struggle, heartache and despair, at the end, there is often deliverance, salvation, and delight. 
Not always, but enough of the time to give me hope. 

The readings on Sundays in these recent weeks have outlined a difficult path for Jesus’ disciples on the Way. The future for Jesus’ followers does not promise a path lined with flower petals, lavender scented air and trees laden with ripe fruit.  The harvest might be plentiful, but the work of the laborers is tough.  And, yet, we lean on faith and step out into the field.

My prayer is that in this time that can sometimes feel like chaos, and in which the madness of this sorry world can feel overwhelming, that we hold onto that which we know to be true:  the love and power of God as shown to us in the stories of our tradition.  Lean on the stories of Abraham and Sarah led away from all that they knew to be safe; walk with Moses in the desert; imagine yourself with the boy Samuel left in the temple to serve the Lord;  lean on the delight of David, dancing before the ark; lean on the widow giving her last mite; or the pearl in the shop window or the mustard seed grown to the sky.  Learn  from the beloved disciple John, faithful to the end; and from Thomas who said, “My Lord and my God.”    Gaze like Mary at her beloved teacher.  Have faith like the stewards at the wedding when the wine ran dry, and step out of the boat, like Peter, when beckoned by God.  Be extravagant in your worship, spilling open the best jar of ointment that you have. Climb up into the tree to get a closer look at your savior, and come to the table, for supper is served and the Master is waiting.

Do not let the stories of Scripture mash-up, but treat each one tenderly, and like a jewel with a lesson to teach you.

 This Scripture- it is good balm for the soul.  It is God’s loving presence in the Word, and in it, we can find hope.  Try it, if you’ve been away for awhile.

Here is an easy way to get started on the Daily Office:


Friday, June 16, 2017

bishop making


have been away at the “Living Our Vows” conference this week, a part of the College for Bishops, known sometimes as “baby bishops’ school.”  It is part of the formation programs for bishops in our church and we attend one week each year for the first three years of our episcopate. The Living our Vows Conference is held at the Roslyn Retreat Center in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

So what exactly do we do at this school?

There are classes and workshops on a variety of subjects punctuated by worship and meals and time for fellowship.  The class topics include theoretical work in systems theory and organization development; training for working with the media; a deep dive into canon law, especially regarding property issues and ecclesiastical discipline; mutual ministry reviews and goal setting; conflict resolution; liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer; and Adaptive and Complexity Leadership.   We also prepare case studies to present in small groups and receive coaching and feedback from our peers and senior bishops.

It is a lot to swallow in five days.

During the in-between time, we gather in the beautiful chapel here at Roslyn for prayers and bible study.   We eat wonderful meals prepared with a southern flair (grits, fried chicken, okra, catfish, smoked pork loin, key lime pie)  and gather around large round tables for fellowship with our colleagues.

Ah, there’s the thick of it:  the colleagues.

Each class of bishops (those ordained in the same year) develop a closeness that helps to sustain us in our work-  work that is fairly isolating.  While our jobs take us into relationship with hundreds, yea, thousands of people, at the end of the day, for most of us there is just one bishop per diocese, just one person in each ecclesiastical geographical unit, who is doing the work of the episcopate.  And so, it is a joy to come together to share our experiences, our dreams, our plans and, in many cases, our failures.  Some of the best learning comes when we can share, “oh, man, I really messed up when…” and then there are nods of recognition, a few laughs and sincere support and reflection on what we learned and how to avoid a similar situation in the future…  My colleague group includes bishops from all over our church:  Florida, Alabama, Texas, Oregon, the Dominican Republic and Quebec.  Quebec?  Yes.  We are blessed in the Living Our Vows program to have teamed up with the Anglican Church in Canada and so we have our Canadian brothers and sisters among us-  between our three classes, there are about 6 Canadians, 30 from TEC (The Episcopal Church) and a faculty of five or six resident bishops and another five or so professionals (bishops and others) who come in for a day or two to teach in their content area.

 The Rosyln Center is set on several acres of rolling green hills in Richmond, surrounded by tree-lined streets with gracious homes.  The neighborhood is wonderful for early morning walks and jogs as the world wakes up and the day gets started.  That’s where I’m headed, now.

Home to you all on Friday.
(this was written on Wednesday morning)

Friday, June 9, 2017

This Fragile Earth, our Island Home

Image result for world image


This week I have invited The Rev. Linda K. Watkins to share an essay that  she wrote in response to the decision last week for our country to withdraw from the Parish Climate Agreement.

Linda's work in Environmental Justice is fueled by a passion born of the Holy Spirit and I am glad to share her words in this space. 

As Christians, I believe that it is our responsibility to care for our planet as good stewards of God's Creation and to bring all that we have to bear-  scientific and technical knowledge, skills of communication and collaboration, and the wisdom of the ages- to ensure that our future is bright.  Environmental Justice is critical Christian work, as we work to preserve and protect our world.

Colossians 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”   

The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan

 Here’s Linda's essay:

I am deeply saddened by our country’s decision to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement; a commitment to protect this “fragile earth, our island home” signed in 2015 by 195 of the 197 United Nations member countries (virtually every nation on earth) who had been working on an international response to Climate Change (Nicaragua and Syria were the only two countries not signing the agreement). While there are a wide range of viewpoints on this action and on the whole issue of Climate Change in general, that doesn’t change the moral and spiritual compass given to us by our Christian faith regarding our relationship to God’s Creation.
As Christians, we believe in “One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth”. We can argue about what this process of Creation looked like, but Scripture is clear that one way or another, the entire Cosmos and absolutely everything in it was created by God.
Moreover, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Although later on, evil (separation from God and God’s goodness) came into the world, something of this inherent goodness remains. Therefore Psalm 19 can proclaim, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament* proclaims his handiwork.” God created flowers and trees, wind, rain and snow, plants and herbs, birds, insects and animals to shout out the glory, power and majesty of the One who created them.
Front and center in this ministry of proclamation, are human beings; lovingly created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). God blesses them and commissions them to care for the earth as they join in proclaiming God’s glory. The English translation of Genesis 1:26 and 1:28 uses the words “dominion” and “subdue”. Certainly, human beings have learned to control things like fire and water and various plants and animals – we wouldn’t be able to exist very well without doing that.
But there is a difference from the dominion of love and service that Jesus taught us and violent destruction. That’s what Jesus Christ came into the world to teach us. He came into the world as a flesh and blood human being, ate and drank and rejoiced and suffered and died like all of us. By doing this he taught us in the clearest possible way that our God is a God who is present and involved in Creation. God doesn’t merely exist on a separate, spiritual plane, but is part and parcel of all that there is “seen and unseen”.
Jesus showed us that true dominion is a dominion that puts the needs of others first, that controls by loving service. The night before he died, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet – a powerful demonstration of the dominion God would have us exercise. And Jesus commanded us to love as God loves. He also clearly “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus calls us to care for and consider the needs of all Creation and especially, all people.
Rising sea levels, drought, famine and pollution, which many agree are being caused by Climate Change, are already adversely affecting numerous people – primarily people who are living in deep poverty throughout the world. Island peoples who rely on subsistence fishing are being displaced, causing what some social scientists believe will become a major refugee crisis. As Christians, we cannot ignore their voices, no matter what we believe is the root cause of their circumstances.
Neither can we ignore the voices of the rainforests and that being destroyed, animal species on the verge of extinction, coral reefs that are dying. We cannot ignore the voices of those who have lost their jobs and communities that have lost t heir reason for existing due to a changing economy. Just as our nation’s shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy a hundred and fifty years ago was painful and required major changes in the way we all lived, so must we honor the very real pain and grief we all experience as we once again make the colossal shift to the post-industrial age.
As Christians, we are always called in the power of the Holy Spirit, to self-examination and confession. We have not treated each other or God’s gift of Creation as we should. We have not stood up to powerful voices of waste, greed and carelessness.
Even with that, we understand our God to be a merciful God who calls us to a vast vision of hope, generosity and abundance. With the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we can move from our limited human vision to this new vision that God always lays before us. Moral leadership will not come from political ideologies or facts per se. Moral leadership will come only when people of faith acting in good conscience join together and proclaim God’s goodness and love – a love that reaches beyond family, nation, language or tribe – a love that is part and parcel of Creation itself.

The Rev. Linda King Watkins is Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, PA, and is chair of the Diocesan Social Justice Umbrella Committee. Since 1994, she has been a professed member of the Third, Order, Society of St. Francis and serves as the Order’s JPIC (Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation) Animator. In 2013, she completed the GreenFaith Fellowship Program which trains religious leaders of all faiths in Eco-Justice leadership.

If you would like to learn more about the work of Environmental Justice in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, please email Linda at