Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Safe Space?

We cannot guarantee a safe space – St. Luke's, Boone, NC

I got back from the annual clergy conference yesterday afternoon. For a lot of different reasons it was an intense, draining, and refreshing few days. It was also a good time to catch up with and deepen new friendships I'm beginning to develop here in Maryland.

The main reason for the intensity and draining nature of the conference was that we addressed difficult topics. One of those centered around the church's own #MeToo stories – which I'll get to shortly.

When we began, we were given a list entitled, “Practices for Talking About Things That Matter.” It was developed by our facilitator who is the Rector of St. Luke's in Boone, NC. And it was the last item on that list that got my attention: We cannot guarantee a safe space.

I have often said that St. John's should be a safe space for people. This should not be a space where people feel threatened, objectified, or abused. I still believe that. But this last item on the list pointed out that we are all still human. Given enough time, we can and will say or do hurtful things.

We cannot guarantee this will never happen; therefore, we cannot guarantee that this will always be a safe space. But what we can do is to recognize our imperfect nature and have the courage to say when we've been hurt, as well as have the courage to admit we have done the hurting, to apologize, forgive, and move forward. Otherwise we are just waiting and/or looking for an excuse to end relationships.

It was this topic of saying hurtful things that moved us into our version of #MeToo. The men spent time listening to our sisters in ministry tell stories, sometimes very hurtful stories, of times they have been threatened, objectified, and abused. Stories that happened in the church and some in this diocese.

We also took a few minutes and watched this video:

The most disturbing thing I heard after watching it was when a female colleague said, “And those aren't even the worst things I've heard.”

So . . . I'm in the midst of having my perspective change. As much as I want St. John's to be a safe space, I cannot guarantee that it will always be so; because people will say and do things that are hurtful at one time or another. But what I can do is help cultivate a space where we live fully into our baptismal covenant.

This means we speak up when we have been hurt. It means we acknowledge we have sinned. It means we ask for and offer forgiveness. It means we respect the dignity of every human being who enters our doors.

We may not always be safe; but we can always continue to work at building a community of love.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October 10, 2018

Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? – Luke 15:8

This passage came to mind yesterday morning when we were, yet again, confronted with a missing piece of our lives.

You would think that, for as much as we have moved, we wouldn't have this problem. You take all of the “Important Stuff” and put it in its own box, label it, and hand deliver it to where it needs to go. Well, it seems I get the first part of that right, but then we have trouble locating the box or the things that were supposed to go in that box.

To date I/we have lost new credit cards, bills, the checkbook, passbook, and various other needed things. So far, all but one of those things have turned up. And between the, “Have you seen …” and, “Hey! I found it!” there has been a lot of anxiety, some general bad language, and a promise to not do this next time (which, God willing, won't be for a good long while).

We are human. We lose things. Sometimes we lose important things. That loss can drive us into a place of perpetual anxiety. What if someone else finds my credit cards? What if my checkbook falls into the wrong hands? What if I've permanently lost my passbook? What if? What if? What if?

In today's world that is a very real concern with the ever-present possibility of identity theft.

But more often than not, and certainly in my case as we move from Point A to Point B, and in the case of the woman in the parable, what has been lost is “somewhere around here.” It was in a box when we left, it has to be in that box now. I saw it here somewhere. We just need to take some time, slow down, and do a thorough search.

Sometimes our faith journey is that same way. In our spiritual journey things get moved around, put away, or lost. Sometimes we think those are very important parts of our faith. Sometimes they are. And sometimes that loss can send us into an anxiety-driven tailspin about our faith in general.

The trick is to not get so anxious that we quit looking. For it is in the looking that we will find it. It is, after all, a faith journey, not a faith destination.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October 3, 2018

Habit is overcome by habit
Thomas A'Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 21

We all have various routines that we follow, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes of our own making. Our various jobs or levels of education require us to do things in certain ways. For instance, those of us who are still working or in school need to get up this morning, shower, dress, eat, and get out the door by a certain time in order to be at the job or at school at the appropriate time. Our Monday through Friday routines are pretty much set for us.

I have a routine that I perform before every football game that ensures I have everything needed and am free to concentrate on the game.

Habits, though, are something deeper than routines. Habits may start out as routines, but, over time, they become part of who we are. The dictionary defines a habit as, an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” I think of people who smoke cigarettes, or Joe Morgan's left arm twitch when he was at bat, or my left foot pushing the clutch when coming to a stop sign (even though I now drive an automatic). And there are plenty of other examples we can think of, I'm sure.

Not all habits are good. Not all habits are healthy. Some habits are neutral.

Our pledge campaign is gearing up and we will all be receiving letters asking us to consider how we will support our parish with our time, talent, and treasure. As we prayerfully consider how we can do that, I would also ask us to consider our habits.

We are asked to love God, love neighbor, and change the world. We are asked to be the body of Christ in the world, and to be the face of Christ in our world. And we are asked to proclaim the message of the gospel, bringing hope to the hopeless, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, love to the outcast.

As we look at all our parish does, and as we are asked to consider how we might participate in the life and ministries of our parish, what would happen if our participation and our routines became habits? What would this place, and the world immediately around us, look like if our routines became involuntary behaviors? In other words, what if we prayed habitually, worshiped habitually, loved habitually, welcomed habitually?

It can be done; but we will need to work hard at replacing our old habits with new.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

September 26, 2018


If you are one of those people who looks forward to waking up to the Wednesday Word in your inbox, my apologies.

September has been one busy month; not only at St. John's, but in my household as well. Besides everything going on at church, by now you have heard that Joelene and I purchased a home (it's over by the Elk's Lodge). I won't bore you with all the details, but just know that we are done moving for a long time.

The weekend of the move I had a football game in Hancock on Friday, and a wedding in Hancock Saturday. Move or not, life goes on.

Work has been hectic. Home life has been hectic. And I know I'm not alone in feeling stressed, pulled, always moving. Many people are dealing with their own personal hecticity (yes, I made that up).

So wherever you are in your own life, whatever stresses you are under, however many different directions you are feeling pulled . . . take some time . . . slow down . . . breath.

Because, really, life works better when we remember to breath.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

September 19, 2018

Remember, we are members of his body.
         Ephesians 5:30 (mostly)

I was in Baltimore last Saturday for the priestly ordinations of four people and for a meeting about how a Parish Lay Committee functions with regard to interns. The first event (ordinations) was not mandatory, per se, but since serving in Montana I have tried to live into my former bishop's edict that if there's a clergy event within two hours of you, you will be there. And since Baltimore is only an hour and a half, I tend to go to these things regularly.

The preacher for the ordination service was the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, Associate Dean of Students at VTS. Ordination sermons are sort of like wedding sermons, in that you're trying to say a little about what this new life means, how to best live into it, and give the subjects (in this case, the ordinands) one thing they can recall not only years from now, but tomorrow for that matter. Because, like weddings, the people for whom the service is designed, the sermon is the last thing on their minds.

In his sermon, Bishop Mathes said, “The opposite of remembering is not forgetting; the opposite of remembering is dismembering.”

I got to thinking about what he said. One of the major functions of a priest is to preside over Holy Eucharist, bless the elements, and administer Holy Communion. In that act, we who are many are one. In that act, we have been re-membered into the body of Christ. This was that memorable line that, hopefully, the new ordinands would never forget.

But beyond an ordination sermon for new priests, the Catechism also points us in this direction. “What is the mission of the Church? The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” In other words, the mission of the Church is to re-member all who have been dis-membered.

However that dismembering happens, intentionally or accidentally, may we never forget that we who are many are one body. Some of us eyes, some ears, some hands, some feet. May we never forget that it takes everyone to makeup the whole body of Christ.

As we move forward, let us never forget that our goal isn't to bring new people into our church – but that our goal is to re-member those who have, for whatever reason, been dis-membered from the body of Christ.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

September 12, 2018

Life is changed, not ended. -- Commemoration of the Dead, BCP 382

There are lots of quotes about endings and beginnings. There are reflections on endings that are beginnings. Closed doors and open windows. Friends for a season. Good while it lasted. Moving on. And I'm sure you can think of many other quotes and thoughts about endings and beginnings.

But this line from the BCP has always resonated with me; probably even more so now as a clergy person who has dealt with my fair share of transitions – from moves to new people to funerals and much more. Change is inevitable. Anything that is alive experiences many changes. So carrying that understanding forward through our faith can can allow us to see not an ending but a change.

Which brings me to my most current “changed but not ended.”

In two days Joelene and I will sign papers and close the deal on our new house. This is both exciting and terrifying.

It's exciting because we are thrilled to have found a place that symbolizes our comfort and love of being here. It's a symbol of a sense of permanence that we feel about this place. And saying, “We bought a house,” means that looking forward doesn't necessarily entail looking west.

It's terrifying because I can no longer call the landlord/owner and say, “Hey, the garbage disposal is broken, can you please fix it.” I'm reminded of Red Green, who said, “If the women don't find you handsome, at least let 'em find you handy,” and am awfully glad my wife finds me handsome. And I wonder if “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” changes if I'm looking at the thing from up top or from my back.

We have some big changes ahead. We have been renters for so long that this really is the end of life as we know it. But it's not really the end, it's just one more change in a life of changes.

So the next time you think you're facing the end, I encourage you to recall these words from the BCP: Life is changed, not ended.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

September 5, 2018

Some things change, and some things remain the same

Toward the end of July I made the decision to terminate the Youth and Young Adult Minister position primarily due to budget issues. I never like it when things come down to money and the budget, but sometimes they do and decisions need to be made.

For a short period after that many of us were wondering where we would go from here with the parish youth program. While Joelene and Paul have done great things with the teens and J2A, there is more to our overall youth program than just that, and there was a period of uncertainty as we pondered our future.

Right about in the middle of that pondering I received a message from Heidi wanting to talk with me about this very thing. We set up a meeting, along with Susan (current Chair of the Christian Formation Commission), and talked about what we would like to see happen.

In the time that Heidi has been “on staff,” she has done some very good things with Children's Chapel and Sunday school. She will be taking over the acolyte program in October (following her wedding and honeymoon), and she is making plans for coordinating some youth group activities.

Some changes she has made have been good and necessary. Other changes have been simply minor tweaks to things here and there. What has remained the same is that we continue to have an active and engaging Children's Chapel program, and our Sunday school classes continue to be staffed by dedicated and loving volunteers who enjoy working with our children.

In her time at this position, Heidi has also been actively recruiting people to help with Children's Chapel and as classroom aides. I would expect that once October rolls around, she will be actively looking to recruit acolytes and people to help with the youth group.

If you would like to help, or if you would like to contact her to offer encouragement, you can do so via the Youth Minister e-mail. What has changed with that is who it goes to and who will respond (Heidi). What remains the same is the address:

St. John's is blessed to have many people of many talents who volunteer their time and energy to the many ministries we provide, including Heidi. At this particular time, I am very thankful to have her step up and into a ministry she clearly enjoys, and I am looking forward to working with her in this role.

Again, feel free to contact her at if you would like to participate in the youth program, or just to say, “Thank you.” And feel free to say that in person the next time you see her.