Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Engaging a changing world with
an enduring faith in Jesus Christ

Bishop's Writings

Bishop of Washington’s Response Regarding the Federal Government Shutdown

January 10, 2019

God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:6-8

As the partial federal government shutdown continues with no end in sight, I grieve the disproportionate burden it has placed on federal employees, contract workers, and those whose lives are in a holding pattern due to the halt in government services and agencies. While the effects are nationwide, many in our region and in our congregations are under tremendous stress.

If you are among those adversely affected, I would love to hear from you. Clergy of the diocese, please let me know how your congregations are faring. Today I am reaching out to my interfaith colleagues in the region to draft a letter to our public officials asking that they end the government shutdown immediately. I also welcome any suggestions as to how, we as a diocese, might offer our support for those experiencing the greatest hardship. Please feel free to contact me directly. The long-term consequences of the shutdown are mounting, and I will add my voice to those calling for it to end.

On the issues of border security and our immigration policy, I agree with President Trump that we face a crisis of heart and soul, though we differ dramatically in our understanding of it. Differences aside, surely it does not help to address that crisis by creating new ones. Moreover, it is difficult to see how our elected officials can come to meaningful solutions without some agreement of the facts.

Those in the church who live and work along the border tell us that the humanitarian crisis is real, and I saw evidence of it when I was at the border last month. The reasons for this crisis are many and complex, and they require a multi-faceted response not only at the border itself, but with comprehensive immigration reform, and an approach to foreign policy that addresses the rampant corruption, gang violence, and economic desperation that is causing so many to flee their countries.

In the meantime, people are suffering, and we cannot turn away. As Christians, we are called to respond with compassion, for God’s compassion knows no borders. Nor are we as a nation innocent victims, for we have helped to cause the situation we decry. God’s justice requires that we acknowledge our sin and act for the welfare of all.  
 

Holy Interruptions: A Baptism by Fire

January 10, 2019

Image: “The Baptism” by Laurie Pace 1999

“I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

If you attend church this Sunday, you will hear John the Baptist speak of Jesus as the one coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

“Baptism by fire,” is one way we describe the experience of being thrust into a challenging situation through which we nonetheless learn invaluable lessons. We’re forever changed by our baptisms by fire, mostly for the better, but it’s hard to trust in that eventual positive outcome or hard won blessing as we’re going through them.

A baptism by fire can also be a cleansing experience. Consider how The Message translates John the Baptist’s words about the coming of Jesus: “He is going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives, He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”   

The theme of this year’s Diocesan Convention is “Holy Interruptions,” taken from Tony Morgan’s book The Unstuck Church. Holy interruptions, Morgan suggests, are the ways that God works in the process of congregational renewal. Sometimes those interruptions can feel like a baptism by fire. Yet they are vital if we are to successfully address the habits and patterns that once served our congregations well but now conspire to keep them stuck. With stuckness eventually comes decline. If the decline isn’t somehow interrupted, it in itself becomes a trend that is increasingly difficult to reverse.

I’ve invited Tony Morgan to address all interested leaders of EDOW congregations on the eve of Diocesan Convention, Friday January 25th. He will outline strategic leadership opportunities at every stage of a church’s life from momentum growth to preservation and life support. And he will join us in praying for God to provide holy interruptions in our lives and churches, so that our congregations might experience sustained spiritual health.

Friday night’s gathering will have some levity--good food, live music, and a chance to spend time with friends and colleagues. We have invited the award-winning Adrian Dunn & the Adrian Dunn Singers to minister to us through song.   

You need not be a delegate to Diocesan Convention to attend the Friday evening gathering. All are welcome. This week I wrote the clergy, wardens, Convention delegates and alternates of EDOW congregations, requesting their presence and to ensure that each congregation is represented by at least two people. We've arranged for a block of rooms at the Kimpton Hotel (map) (click here to reserve a room or call (202) 337-9700 and indicate you are making a reservation in connection with Diocesan Convention to receive the group rate of $99 plus tax) for those traveling a long distance and attending Convention the next day. If costs are prohibitive for a hotel stay and/or the Friday night registration fee of $15, simply let us know. We will cover Friday night's registration and go out of our way to ensure that you have a place to stay with a friendly fellow Episcopalian who lives near the Cathedral. 

At Convention on Saturday, I will present a formal plan for a diocesan-wide strategic planning process, rooted in the particular contexts of each of our eight geographic regions. The Unstuck Church Group will help guide that process.

I am persuaded that the strategic planning process is the logical next step in all that we have worked toward together in the last seven years. Equally important, I believe that it will help us address some of the ways that we, as a diocese, are stuck. It will also help me and all in diocesan leadership be more fruitful and accountable in our daily efforts, as we work toward specific goals and objectives that, together, we will discern as being most faithful to Christ now.

When I was on sabbatical last spring, Christ asked me to rededicate my life to him and his kingdom and in service as your bishop. I felt him challenge me not to change course, but to be even bolder in efforts for congregational vitality and collaborative endeavors for the greater good. It was, for me, a holy interruption and yes, a baptism by fire. While I cannot predict what the results of our collective efforts of the coming year will be, I pledge to Christ and to you my whole-hearted best efforts, giving thanks for the privilege of serving among you.

Bishop's Invitation to the Unstuck Church event - January 25

January 09, 2019

Dear EDOW Clergy Colleagues, Junior and Senior Wardens,

Blessings to you and the congregations you serve as we begin the grace-filled season of Epiphany.

I write to request your presence for an evening gathering at Washington National Cathedral Friday, January 25th, the eve of Diocesan Convention from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. I have invited Mr. Tony Morgan, author of The Unstuck Church and Executive Director of The Unstuck Church Group to address diocesan leaders.

Tony is known to the those who attended clergy conference last May. I’ve invited Tony back because of the positive, energized response of several of our clergy to his insights.

The guiding principle of the Unstuck Church Group is simply that churches, like people, have a natural life cycle. With the passage of time certain habits and patterns that once served the church well, if left unexamined, will eventually cause the church to get stuck. This is because health, in churches as in individuals, requires some degree of adaptation to changing circumstances. With stuckness eventually comes decline. If decline isn’t somehow interrupted, it in itself becomes a trend increasingly difficult to reverse.

It’s a sobering line of reasoning, but Tony is a man of faith. He believes, as do I, that God has both the power and the desire to break into our lives, our world, and our churches with new possibilities--with what he calls “a holy interruption.” It is not our doing; it is the grace of God coming to us in tangible ways and invites our response.

For those blessed churches that are experiencing a season of vitality, Tony also provides insights on how to sustain positive momentum and to strategically manage growth. Sustained health, with positive momentum, is the goal for all our churches. Thus, I believe that Tony’s message will be of value to all.  

We’ve chosen “Holy Interruption” as our theme for Diocesan Convention on Saturday, January 26th. My sabbatical was such an interruption, a time when I felt Christ ask me to rededicate my life to Him and His Kingdom and in service as your bishop. I felt him challenge me not to change course, but to be even bolder in efforts for congregational vitality and collaborative endeavors for the greater good.

At Convention, I will present a formal plan for a diocesan-wide strategic planning process, rooted in the particular contexts of each of our eight geographic regions. The Unstuck Church Group will help guide that process, which is why I request your presence on Friday night, whether or not you are a delegate to Convention. We’ll also have testimonies from EDOW churches that have begun applying some of the Unstuck Church’s insights in the past year. You are welcome to bring as many people from your congregation as you like. I ask that each congregation be represented by at least two people.

I am persuaded that the strategic planning process is the logical next step in all that we have worked toward together in the last seven years. Equally important, I believe that it will help us address some of the ways that we, as a diocese, are stuck. And it will help me and all in diocesan leadership be more fruitful and accountable in our daily efforts, as we work toward specific goals and objectives that together we will discern as being most faithful to Christ now.

Friday night’s gathering will have some levity--good food, live music, and a chance to spend time with friends and colleagues. We have invited the award-winning Adrian Dunn & the Adrian Dunn Singers to minister to us through song.   

For those traveling a good distance to attend Convention, we’ve reserved a block of hotel rooms nearby. We are also happy to match you with friendly members of the diocese that live close to the Cathedral who are glad to have overnight guests.

  • For overnight accommodations at the hotel: Please click here to register or call the Kimpton Hotel at (202) 337-9700 and indicate you are making a reservation in connection with Diocesan Convention to receive the group rate of $99.

  • If you would like to be matched to stay overnight with an EDOW household near the Cathedral please contact Cheryl Wilburn at cwilburn@edow.org.

One final note to Clergy and Delegates, please remember to register for Convention.

I look forward to seeing you on January 25th.

 

Faithfully in Christ,

 

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde 

Bishop of Washington

 

Holy Interruptions

January 06, 2019

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things...
Ephesians 3:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and we have come to pay him homage.
Matthew 2:1-12

Good morning, friends, and Happy New Year. I’m delighted to be back at Ascension & St. Agnes--the last time I was here for worship was when we officially welcomed Father Peridans as your rector nearly 18 months ago. How much has changed in such a short time. A special word of greeting to those who have joined Ascension & St. Agnes since then, to the two to be confirmed today, and to our guests.  

The 19th century American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson used to greet friends he’d not seen in a while with this question: “What has become clear to you since last we met?” Emerson’s question that came to mind as I was preparing to speak with you today. I wonder what has become clear to you since last we worshipped together in this place. For those of you who are new to Ascension & St. Agnes or are visiting today, you could ask yourself the same question in regards to the past year. What has become clear to you as we begin 2019? What are you learning? How have you growing spiritually, as individuals and a community? How are you experiencing the grace of God, or the longing for God? Thinking of the wise ones trekking halfway across the world in search of a child born to be king, what are you searching for now?

I’ve just returned from time over the holidays with our extended family and a close circle of friends. Because we live far from each other, such gatherings are rare and all the more potent for reflection on what is changing in our lives and what over time, remains the same.

I was acutely aware this time of the passage of time and of my place in the life cycle of our family and friends. Our parents’ generation is growing frail and some have crossed over the mysterious border of death into greater life. My husband and I are anticipating the birth of our first grandchild. All around us there is a rising cadre of younger adults, including our children, who are finding their way in the world, their sights increasingly set beyond what I can see. Several of our family and friends, quite suddenly, are facing the hardest news of life: physical illness, mental illness, even the untimely death of a child.

Thus, some of the things that have become clear for me since we last met is that time is a mystery, that the aging process is humbling, and, in the words of Sister Joan Chittister, “Life is short, and we don’t have time to waste time. Some things are significant in life and some things are not. We all have to ask ourselves what time it is in our lives. We each have to begin to consider the eternal weight of what we are spending our life doing.” (Joan Chittister, The Rule of St. Benedict: Insight for the Ages (New York: Crossroad Press, 2004), p.23)

I’m also learning more about the patterns that shape our lives. Once habits and patterns are established, they set us on a course that gets increasingly difficult to change. There is a paradox here: we are the ones to establish many of the patterns and habits that give shape our lives, but once they are in place, like the solar system, they have a gravitational force field that is hard to resist.  

I daresay that most of us in here carry a smartphone with us almost everywhere we go. It’s a relatively new habit, and pattern, for us. There are all sorts of studies to suggest what some of us already know: we check our phones, habitually, quite a bit throughout the day--as many as 45, 80, even 140 times a day. For many, our phones are the first thing we look at as we wake up and the last thing we see when we go to sleep.

How did that happen? When did it happen? Is that a habit, or pattern, that we’re comfortable with? As I was considering some of the habits of my life this fall, I decided that I didn’t want to look at my phone until I had turned my gaze, in some intentional way, toward Jesus. I was humbled by how focused my sights had become on a screen.

Over time, habits and patterns manifest themselves as trends setting a course, a direction of where our lives are headed. Once a trend gets established and picks up a bit of momentum, it takes a much higher level of effort and intention to slow or reverse it. If the trend is one that pleases us, that’s fine, and the question before us is how to keep the positive momentum going. But if it’s a trend that concerns us, it’s crucial that we recognize that simply wanting to change, hoping for change, or even working to change it without sufficient energy and intention won’t be enough to slow it down or reverse course. Of course, there are some trends we cannot reverse--such as the aging process, or the course of disease with no cure, or the power of two people falling in love--and then the choice for us becomes how will we live as the trend, like a powerful tide, carries us along.

All this to say it’s a good idea to take stock of our patterns and habits from time to time, which is the impulse behind New Year’s resolutions. In the life of faith, this kind of examination is essential if we are to grow spiritually, and it often results in the adoption of spiritual practices that help orient us toward Christ and open us to his guiding presence. This is using the power of patterns and habits to good end, whenever we identify in advance what we do in the course of a day or week, regardless of how we feel in a given moment. In this way, our habits can help us grow more like Christ. To quote Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, “if we are to live and love like Jesus, we need spiritual practices that guide us along on the Way of Love.” (See the Way of Love for a detailed description of seven practices for a Jesus focused life.)

In the Christian calendar, today is both the last day of the Christmas season and the first in the grace-filled season of Epiphany. Father Peridans reminds us that the word “epiphany” means “manifestation,” to make visible. It can also mean revelation, when something that was hidden or unknown becomes clear to us, either suddenly or over time. What the season of Epiphany celebrates is the manifestation of Christ for who he is, in his essence, and who he is for us.

Of late, I’ve been imagining the epiphanies of Christ and other moments of insight as “holy interruptions” that invite us to stop, take stock, and sometimes, to choose a new path of grace. I first came across the phrase “holy interruption,” in the writings of Tony Morgan, author of a book entitled The Unstuck Church and leader of a consulting organization known as The Unstuck Church Group.

Last spring, I invited Tony to address the clergy of our diocese. His premise is simply that churches, like people, have a natural life cycle. Over the course of a church’s life cycle, certain habits and patterns that once served the church well, if left unexamined, will eventually cause the church to get stuck. This is because health, in churches as in individuals, requires adaptation and change. With stuckness eventually comes decline. If decline isn’t somehow interrupted, it in itself becomes a trend increasingly difficult to reverse.

It’s a sobering line of reasoning, but Tony is a man of faith, a follower of Jesus. He believes that God has both the power and the desire to break into our lives, our world, and our churches with new possibilities--with a holy interruption. This is not our doing; it is the grace of God coming to us in a tangible way that changes us. Grace changes our perspective and understanding and guides us onto a path of greater life.

In the Scripture readings for today, we’re given two examples of how we might experience a holy interruption. In the passage we heard from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul alludes to the greatest holy interruption of his life:

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.

The gift of God’s grace that he’s referring to is the time when Christ appeared to him while he was traveling on the road to Damascus, a manifestation so powerful and life changing that it knocked him to the ground and blinded him for three days. This was a holy interruption of enormous consequence, transforming him from one who persecuted Christians to the single greatest missionary of Jesus’ love of all time. It was a grace that he didn’t deserve, and he knew it, but it came to him anyway. Because it came to him as a gift, because Christ came to him, the least worthy, he had no doubt that all were worthy in God’s eyes, that Christ’s coming was for all people.

Our holy interruptions can be like that--a dramatic grace that disrupts everything and sets us on a new path. It generally doesn’t feel like a gift at first, for the disruption is akin to a lightning bolt. It can feel like hitting bottom; it can come to us through the worst possible news. I’m not sure if our most dramatic interruptions are, in fact, of God, or if God uses cataclysmic interruptions for graceful purposes.

What makes an interruption holy is the experience of grace, of Christ present with us, coming to us wherever we are and walking alongside us as we make our way in a completely new reality that we did not choose. People often speak of these interruptions with gratitude, not necessarily for the events themselves, but for the ways they were changed by them, or sustained through them, by the love and abiding presence of God. For Christians that presence comes to us, is revealed to us, as Jesus.

Another way we can experience a holy interruption is more gradual--a nudge, an invitation, a star beckoning in our metaphorical sky. There isn’t as much drama with this kind of interruption in the beginning, but it can have dramatic results over time. For like the wise ones of old following a star, we’re summoned somehow, called on a journey of unknown destination. The interruption may be hardly noticeable at first, in that it begins with one step, and then another, and another, until we realize that there is no turning back.

There’s a story in the Gospel of John about a time when Jesus’ popularity plummeted and many people who had been among his followers walked away. Quite understandably, Jesus turns to his closest disciples and asks, “What about you? Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter, speaking for the Twelve, replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69) He had forever interrupted their lives, one step at a time, and they knew, no matter what, there was no turning back.

I leave you on the threshold of Epiphany with the gentle admonition to be faithful in worship, for this is a season not to miss church. Every Sunday for the next eight weeks, you will hear uplifting, inspiring stories of holy interruptions, inviting you to consider how Christ is interrupting your life. I urge you to pay attention, however the interruptions come, be they dramatic or subtle, spoken through the voice of friend or stranger or in your dreams. Ask yourself whenever you are interrupted, does this feel holy? Then, in your own way, take one step, and then another, and another, following the star, walking the path that Jesus has set before you.

Amen.
 

Drawing From the Wells of Grace

January 03, 2019

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

A radio talk show I sometimes listen to before falling asleep began its January 2nd program with this opening line:

Predictions for the future aren’t generally worth the paper they are written on, but as we head into 2019 you can say this: it will be a major year because of the trends already set in motion.

The trends that followed are the ones you would predict if you watch, listen, or read the news, no matter your preferred source. Promising a lively discussion on all these topics and more, the host then asked the radio audience:

What are you most concerned about as we enter 2019?
What gives you the greatest hope?

Like many, I’ve just returned from time with our extended family, for us a rare and sweet opportunity to be with those in our closest circles of love and concern. I was acutely aware this time of my place in the life cycle of family and friends, as our parents’ generation grows more frail and some cross over the mysterious border of death and as we anticipate the birth of our first grandchild. A rising cadre of young adults are finding their way in the world, their sights increasingly set beyond what I can see. Several of our family and friends, quite suddenly, are facing the hardest news of life: physical and mental illness, and the untimely death of a child.  

As we consider the broader scope of our world and in our lives for the year ahead, there are, indeed, trends already set in motion. There will surely be surprises, those things that require us to change course or completely stop what we thought we were doing to do next.

Yet in the midst of everything--all that was, is and is yet to come--God gives us agency and inspiration to make changes for the better. Through the mysterious power of grace, God helps us accept what we cannot change. Most astonishingly, God’s love and and presence, made known to us in Jesus, is at work in our lives and in this world. “Nothing is impossible with God,” an angel told Mary when she received the startling news that she would bear God’s son. “I am about to do a new thing,” the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Isaiah, “do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

I cannot urge you enough to make Sunday worship a priority in these first weeks of 2019 (the fourth spiritual practice in the Way of Love ), for in the church’s calendar, we now enter Epiphany, a gentle season of spiritual revelation and encouragement. The first biblical lesson you’ll hear this Sunday begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1) The lessons get better each week. The themes of light, hope, and possibility will be food for your soul.

In the Epiphany gospel texts, writes noted author Nora Gallagher, “the singularity of Jesus is revealed, as if it were rising to the surface from underwater. Events bring into focus what has been on the periphery.” Vocation is a primary Epiphany theme: “I see in Jesus,” Gallagher goes on, “his own dawning sense of what God has in store for him and for him alone. If it is true for Jesus, I realize in this season, then it is true for me.”  

Like you, I have my share of concerns as we enter 2019. None of us is immune from the struggles and suffering of this world, and increasingly the stakes are high for us as a nation and a species. Yet I am, like you, called by Jesus to live in hope and walk in love. What a gift it is to know that Jesus is Lord, and that our vocation is to draw deep from the wells of his grace and to follow where his star leads. 

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