About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?
Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.
“Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Throughout scripture, time and time again the people of God are admonished not to live in fear. As the world enters a time that most generations alive have never experienced it is a time to be wise and follow the advice of the experts. Remember that we are all held by God and are called to reach out to neighbor in time of need.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” I John 4:18
Now is a time for prayer. Prayer for those who care for others and those who are vulnerable. Prayer for all in the medical field and those who seek to find solutions. Prayer that our leaders make wise decisions on behalf of all God’s people.
I am personal of privilege – white (Anglo-Saxon to boot); financially independent; a home owner; a graduate of high school, college, and seminary – all with honors; and I have a voice in circles of power. I am a beneficiary of the GI Bill – I have no proof of this except that my father (and two uncles) seemed to be able to marry, buy property, and build homes in the suburbs within five years of returning stateside after being in the Pacific or European theater. For this alone I can recognize I was born to succeed in America. Not something my eight-year-old “colored” friend who was bussed to my elementary school in the 1960s could ever say. This is just the tip of the iceberg to understanding how much more I need to do to help dismantle racism.
For the past several years I have been doing “personal work” regarding my privilege as a white person in America. Yes, over the years I have taken lots of “anti-racism” trainings and workshops – even so much as to be a trainer to lead workshops for others. Yes, I have consciously made decisions about not succumbing to the “white flight” of many of my young children’s friends’ parents to flee to the white suburbs . . . called many people of color my friends . . . come to grips with the racism (what I saw as bigotry) from my family members . . . and tried hard to make sure diverse voices were heard and included in the many committees, task forces, and projects I have participated in. But that isn’t enough. Continue reading More Resources for Dismantling Racism→
Two months ago I was in the midst of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with thirty others from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. It has taken me that long to articulate in writing my reactions and feelings about the political climate regarding Israel and Palestine. I have already posted numerous reflections on the sites we visited, both spiritually and historically. But I have skirted around writing about the reality of the Palestinian people that I experienced; it was just below the surface in all my postings about Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Galilee.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is called to be a light to the nations. As a people chosen by God (technically, Abraham received this promise for all his descendants/offspring) to show the way back to right relationship to God, today’s Israel has fallen short of this covenant. Power and rule have a tendency to let leaders forget their responsibilities, which ultimately leads to division and corruption. As in Old Testament times, history continues to repeat itself. Recall the role of the prophets who kept calling God’s people back.
This past Sunday’s readings (10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15) spoke to me (with help from a great sermon which I will link here when it is posted) from Isaiah 5:1-7 and Luke 12:49-56. Israel continues to this day to grow (be) the wild (sour) grapes, while God gave all of us a beautiful vineyard to live in to grow sweet grapes – if we would only cease our divisions and love God as well as love our neighbor. God is angry. Jesus weeps. Yesterday and today.
The U.S. and Israel have a complicated relationship, which was exacerbated this past week with the on-again, off-again visits of two U.S. congress women desiring to visit family in the West Bank. You can read about it here (from NPR) as well as many other news sources. These two women know what it is like for the Palestinians (Muslim and Christian) to live in the occupied territories. I don’t believe most Americans really understand what is really happening in Israel, or how the U.S. government is upsetting the precarious balance. You have to see it to really understand.
It its 79th General Convention held in July 2018, the Episcopal Church passed 19 resolutions related to care of the environment and climate change. Many resolutions cite their strong theological basis in their first paragraph(s). A013 begins, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recognize that the Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24), has been made in and through Christ (John 1) and we are placed in it as a garden planet (Genesis 2).” Similarly, A018 connects climate change to Christian mission and ethics: “Resolved, that climate change be recognized as a human-made threat to all God’s people, creatures and the entire created order, while particularly placing unjust and inequitable burdens and stresses on native peoples, those displaced by environmental change, poor communities and people of color.”
How are we to implement such resolutions in our churches and homes, let alone our national government? For one, the Episcopal Church has a government relations office that can help lobby for the care of creation. In our congregations, we can talk the time to study the issues, understand what we have the power to do and change, then plan a course of action. Below are resources that you may want to consider in your planning for the upcoming program year.