When Rick Schulte and I first discussed posting a blog I would write each week, I found myself filled with misgivings. What could I possibly write that others would want to read? As, you know, I feel passionately about the work of our Church and, if it has to be accomplished through resolutions, I will work to bring as much information to you as I think helpful knowing that we all live very full lives. But could I really write a blog? I was able to put my anxiety aside when I realized all I had to do was write a letter to my friends each week – and that’s still the way I approach the blog. Granted, in my personal letters to family and friends, I rarely discuss the resolutions of my church, but my heart is in the same place: to communicate relevant issues and concerns in my life. Today, I’d like to address two topics of interest with you.
Have you ever attended an ordination? Tomorrow (Saturday, June 13th) there will be the ordination at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, Detroit, of Andrea Morrow and Areeta Bridgemohan to the Sacred Order of Deacons, and Lynda Carter to the Sacred Order of Priests – “God willing and the people consenting.” I don’t know Areeta very well at all but I have been friends with Andrea and Lynda for years so I am delighted to be able to celebrate this new direction in their spiritual journeys with them all. I’m writing about the ordination because it connects directly with my post from last week. You might remember that the topic addressed the opportunity we have for lifelong Christian formation through our very own Whitaker Institute. This Saturday’s ordination is not the culmination of the process for these godly women, but rather a “commencement” into new and deeper areas of ministry as they continue in their lifelong formation. Both Lynda and Andrea have embarked on this journey along with successful careers at a time in their lives when they might have been looking forward to easier days with fewer responsibilities but this wasn’t part of God’s plan for them. They heard God’s call and were willing to step out to follow. For both of them, it has been a long and challenging path where there were many times of questioning and redirection but they continued on despite never being altogether sure of where the path would lead. This is Christian formation! And we are all called to respond to God’s prompting to follow. It will not always lead along the same path that Lynda, Areeta and Andrea have walked but there are many ministries needed to fulfill God’s mission. As we are reminded by the Apostle Paul, we are not all called to be the same part of the body because the body could not function very well if we were all arms or knees or necks. We need licensed preachers, worship leaders, altar guild members, food pantry workers, intercessory pray-ers, missionaries and evangelists, youth workers, card writers, and musicians, as well as deacons and priests. Now, if you read this and think that the road sounds scary, please know that there is a “great cloud of witnesses” here to walk alongside and help direct your steps. You’ve got friends here. You’ve got Eric and Knena at Whitaker, and Michelle our Ministry Developer, and you’ve got many of us who would be more than pleased to listen and talk and share our stories and hold your hand as you step out in faith. If you’ve never been to an ordination, come and see – and listen for God’s call for you!!
Another facet of our spiritual journey is evident in our response to our Baptismal Covenant as we reach out to others. One example of how we might “seek and serve Christ in all persons” is through commemorating World Refugee Day on June 20th. The number of refugees seeking asylum is at its worst level since World War II. The Episcopal News Service reported on one center’s activities in their June 3rd article: “Roman Refugee Center Petitions All to ‘Welcome the Stranger.’” The Rev Austin Rios, rector of St Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church in Rome, Italy, reminds us that “the refugee experience is a fundamental part of the Christian story and ‘by welcoming a stranger, we are welcoming the very Christ and God that we proclaim.” St Paul’s offers breakfast, a clothes shop and artisan center along with other resources at its Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in an attempt to help the many refugees rebuild their lives.
Will Bryant, a Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) missionary, told ENS in an interview from Rome: “We need to change the dynamic and lives of refugees [and] change the attitudes of people towards them….It’s about inspiring people to welcome the stranger rather than push them away.” As baptized Children of God, we share in this crisis with our brothers and sisters and need to support efforts that can bring justice and dignity to all people. Bryant affirms that global migration movements and their casualties affect everyone; all nations on all continents must respond to the need: “My hope is that people all over the world will mark this special occasion, and that when we come together on [Sunday] June 21, we will pledge to ourselves and to the world that we will welcome the strangers in our midst. After all, and this is especially true for Americans, we were all immigrants once.”
Here is a link to worship resources prepared by St Paul’s Within the Walls for Sunday, June 21, which includes a Collect, Prayers of the People and a form for Holy Eucharist (adapted from a General Theological Seminary liturgy) – http://jnrc.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/World_Refugee_Bulletin_Resource-1-1.pdf
Please take a few moments and watch the inspiring and informative video you can find with the complete ENS article here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/06/03/roman-refugee-center-petitions-all-to-welcome-the-stranger/
And again, here is a link to other resources prepared by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/05/28/world-refugee-day-resources-available-for-congregations-dioceses/
What does your spiritual journey look like? Perhaps God is calling you to be God’s voice for the refugees in your congregation or community. Maybe God is calling you to a new direction of ministry for God’s Church. How can we help?
Let us pray –
Gracious Lord, you have given us eyes and ears and hands and feet. Help us to see and hear and touch and journey for your mission in the world. Grow in each of us a desire to move beyond the easy and comfortable to new places and ministries knowing that you will guide our path. And, in our travels, may we bring support and encouragement to our fellow pilgrims; in Jesus’ glorious and holy Name, we pray. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council