Today, as I write, it’s Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, two important celebrations!! I’m sure you’ve all heard great sermons this morning reflecting the mystery of one Holy God in three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, so I won’t try to address that topic this week. And a very Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there! But, neither of those topics are the subject of this week’s blog! Right now, I’m really excited about a new resource from The Episcopal Church (TEC) so that’s where I want to begin. Then, I will close this week with a summary of a few resolutions from Executive Council’s June 10th – 13th meeting in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.
Perhaps some of you are already aware of this new opportunity because you received the announcements from The Episcopal Church (TEC) or follow TEC on Facebook or Instagram but I bet there are still some who haven’t engaged yet because I know how busy our lives can get. By now you’re wondering, “Where is she going with this?” Well, first I have to tell you that I have not yet become a podcast listener but when I saw the announcement that The Episcopal Church was offering a weekly podcast featuring Bishop Curry and others speaking about the Way of Love, I had to give it a try. And I am hooked!
The first episode aired on June 9th and there was a brief introduction posted on May 16th. Both are available where you get your podcasts but, if you’re like me and have never listened to a podcast before, it’s also available streaming from The Episcopal Church website.
There will be no real spoilers here but I will tell you that Bishop Curry had two reasons for wanting to start this new project. First, in his change in leadership roles, he found that he really missed the opportunity to teach in the way that he had been accustomed to before. The podcast gives him that platform once again. Finally, Bishop Curry wanted to propose a new vision, a new journey, to see how The Way of Love might structure community and individual’s lives together. The goal is that we all might begin living by a rule of life in which we take Jesus’ words to Love God and love our neighbors more seriously and also learn to love ourselves more fully. OK, I guess that was a bit of a spoiler but I want to get you excited by the possibilities here. I won’t give more away.
The hosts for the podcasts are Kyle Oliver and Sandy Milien. Here are their bios:
Kyle Matthew Oliver is an Episcopal priest interested in how media and media making can nurture faith and build community. He’s currently studying digital storytelling in faith and faith-adjacent settings as a doctoral student in educational media, and he led the first major study of digital literacy instruction in theological education. Kyle has produced and hosted podcasts for the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and the Media and Social Change Lab. He is an academic fellow of the Episcopal Church Foundation and has taught courses for Virginia Theological Seminary,Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Vibrant Faith Institute, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kyle lives in San Francisco and has served congregations in the Dioceses of California, New York, and Washington. You can follow him on Twitter, @kmoliver.
Sandy Milien is a young and driven Afrolatina, passionate about social justice and the calling of The Episcopal Church to empower youth and young adults to be leaders in their communities. She is currently the project lead for the Episcopal Church Beloved Community StorySharing Campaign. This evangelism initiative that seeks to help and equip faith communities and individuals to share and receive stories of faith, race and difference to become agents of healing and reconciliation in their churches and their communities. Sandy lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she works as the Diocesan Missioner for Community Engagement and Assistant to the Bishop. In her free time, you can find Sandy reading, dancing or spending time with family and friends.
I’m especially excited to follow this podcast over the next weeks because, as a member of the Fellowship of St John the Evangelist, I am always looking for support and encouragement in trying to follow a rule of life. Self-discipline does not come easily to me so new teaching and new insights might be just the motivation I need to jumpstart renewed intentionality. I hope you, too, will find life-giving words in these podcasts. Join me, please.
As I said initially, Executive Council met last week and adopted many resolutions on which the Episcopal News Service reported. While all of them are important, a few summaries stood out to me as something to share with you this week:
- Express concern about the ongoing political and humanitarian situation in Burundi, dating from April 2015, when plans were announced to hold a referendum to revise the nation’s constitution; note with grave concern United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s finding that “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015” and confirming “the persistence of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence in Burundi since April 2015”; commend the work of the Anglican Province of Burundi and Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, who seek to transform, empower, and promote justice in the community; call upon all parties to the conflict, and their international partners, to work towards a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis; encourage the Office of Government Relations to partner with Anglicans and ecumenical partners to advocate for peace, human rights and good governance in Burundi (MB008).
- Express grave concern and sorrow for the recent rise in easily preventable diseases due to anti-vaccination movements which have harmed thousands of children and adults; condemn the continued and intentional spreading of fraudulent research that suggested vaccines might cause harm; recognize no claim of theological or religious exemption from vaccination for our members and reiterates the spirit of General Convention policies that Episcopalians should seek the counsel of experienced medical professionals, scientific research and epidemiological evidence; call on the Office of Government Relations to advocate to the United States government for stronger vaccination mandates informed by epidemiological evidence and scientific research; urge all religious leaders to support evidence-based measures that ensure the strongest protections for our communities; ask congregations and dioceses to partner with medical professionals to counter false information, and to become educated about programs in their communities that can provide vaccinations and immunizations at reduced or no cost to those in need (MB011).
- Request General Convention Office have staff or an appropriate contractor analyze information from the 2018 Parochial Reports to report to council and the wider church about the number of congregations who host or conduct worship in a language other than English (including sign language for hearing impaired congregations), the languages used and, to the extent the data can be readily gathered, information on whether these congregations have prayer books authorized by The Episcopal Church or another province of the Anglican Communion in their language, and whether these congregations have the full Scriptures in their native language; request that the report include the number of congregations lacking either or both (a) Scriptures in their native language and (b) an authorized version of the BCP in their native language, together with estimates of the cost and effort needed to assure that these resources are made available to such congregations and to those intending to begin mission work in these linguistic communities; if a full report is not available, request an interim report two weeks in advance of the October council meeting (MW004).
- Adopt policies for vaccination standards within Episcopal institutions and programs requiring them to ensure the safety of participants, including that all participants and staff participating are vaccinated in accordance with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Schedule and/or applicable state law; outside of the United States, local health agencies, ordinances and protocols should be followed in place of the CDC Immunization Schedule; a participant may be exempted from this vaccination requirement only by presenting a certificate from a licensed physician to the staff stating that due to the physical condition of the participant one or more specified immunizations would endanger the participant’s life or health; coordinator of applicable programs and facilities should review for completeness the immunization records of all participants, staff and volunteers for the safety of all involved in the program; dioceses, parishes, schools, camps, daycare and childcare programs, and other programs at Episcopal facilities or sponsored by Episcopal institutions should strive to ensure funding is available or partner with charities to ensure that vaccinations can be made available so that no child is prohibited from participation due to financial burden of vaccination; request the chief legal officer to create a model policy for the church based on this resolution (MW005).
- Express deep concern that additional restrictions on remittances and travel, and recent efforts to marginalize Cuba will cause U.S.-Cuba relations to deteriorate further; express concern that any additional travel and financial restrictions will have a negative and harmful impact on the church’s religious activities; and that it will be increasingly difficult for our clergy to obtain visas to come to the United States from Cuba and to go to Cuba from the United States; religious exchanges, travel and engagement, particularly when there is a shared faith tradition, help sustain faith communities and contribute to religious expression and religious liberty, and bridge building, fellowship and continuing to be in relationship will allow the transformation of the political dynamics between the U.S. and Cuba; assert that the policy changes are also likely to negatively impact U.S. relations with Canada, the European Union, Latin American and Caribbean nations, and limiting the frequency and amounts of remittances will increase economic hardship for many Cuban families and will further isolate the Cuban people; reiterate The Episcopal Church’s call for an end to the embargo; and reassert a commitment to strengthening relations between the Cuban and American peoples (MW006).
You can find more details of the first day of the Executive Council meeting in an article by Mary Frances Schjonberg on the ENS page. I will share more as more pertinent information becomes available.
Let’s close this week by praying together for living into The Way of Love –
Creator God, by the mercies of your son, our Lord, Jesus, compel us to TURN our hearts to his Way of Love. That we might follow Jesus together as your faithful people, we pause, listen, and respond in prayer, saying: Jesus, guide us in your way.
Jesus, your life, death, resurrection, and ascension inspire the church to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. Guide your people to LEARN your Word, that we might see God’s story unfolding in our midst. We pray together, Jesus, guide us in your way.
Son of God, you responded to your Father in PRAYER and pleaded that we might all be one. Guide the leaders and faithful citizens of this nation to respond to God and to one another in compassion — in thought and deed, with or without words — that the people of [country name] might live in unity and peace. We pray together, Jesus, guide us in your way.
Light of the World, you taught us to WORSHIP in spirit and in truth. Lead us to join with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, that the whole world might be united in the truth of your love. We pray together, Jesus, guide us in your way.
Lord, you came not to be served but to serve. Empower us to BLESS one another and our neighbors in [this city, this town, this village], that your spirit of generosity, compassion, and selfless action transform us and the people in our midst. We pray together, Jesus, guide us in your way.
Savior, you came into our midst that we might know life. Embolden us to GO among those who are weary, burdened, sick, or imprisoned, [especially those we now name silently or aloud] that we might live like you, crossing the boundaries that divide rich from poor, sick from well, and sinner from saint. We pray together, Jesus, guide us in your way.
Lamb of God, in your death you destroyed death and taught us the way to eternal life. Compel us to daily die to self and REST in your grace. May all who have died, rest in peace and rise in glory. We pray together, Jesus, guide us in your way.
Lord Jesus Christ, who gave your life for the life of all, we commit our lives to following you. Continually guide us in your way and draw us into live as your Beloved Community in this age and in age to come; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
(from The Way of Love Prayers of the People composed by the Rev. Allison English, Calvary Episcopal Church, Cincinnati, Ohio)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council