Episcopal Diocese of Washington

To draw people to Jesus and embody his love
for the world by equipping faith communities,
promoting spiritual growth, and striving for justice

Bishop's Writings

Meet Your Regional Deans

January 16, 2020

Standing left to right: The Rev. Dr. Peter Antoci, Southern Maryland; The Rev. Dana Corsello, DC North; The Rev. Beth O’Callaghan, Montgomery North; The Rev. David Wacaster, Montgomery Central; The Rev. Rondesia Jarrett-Schell, DC Central; The Rev. Linda Kaufman, DC Central; The Rev. Melana Nelson-Amaker, North Prince George’s; The Rev. Andrew Walter, Canon for Strategic Collaboration; The Rev. William Stafford-Whittaker, DC South.
Seated left to right: The Rev. Greg Syler, Southern Maryland; Bishop Mariann; The Rev. Cricket Park, Montgomery South

 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11

Episcopal Diocese of Washington, meet your regional deans!

Early in the strategic planning process, we heard a universal desire for a greater diocesan presence in each region of the diocese, people who could help strengthen relationships and foster collaborative efforts between congregations. I’m delighted to announce the appointment of ten regional deans, all passionate about our vision “to be a diocese that draws on the gifts of all God’s people to serve Christ together.” We will commission them for their work at the Diocesan Convention Eucharist on Saturday, January 25th, along with Andrew Walter, Canon for Strategic Collaboration. 

As we move into strategic plan implementation, we are convinced that God has already provided within our diocesan community all that we need for our congregations to thrive. Together we will realize the dreams God has placed in our hearts. The deans’ ministry is in service to the spirit of collaboration and shared ministry. 

Deans will devote approximately ten hours per month toward convening the clergy and lay leaders of their regions. These gatherings will ensure that every congregation participates in and benefits from our strategic efforts. With stronger relationships among leaders, our congregations, we pray, will see each other as resources for mutual support and collaborative endeavors.

Meeting together for the first time on January 15, they shared why they chose to apply for the position. “At a clergy gathering, I was moved by the depth of our conversation,” said one. “I have organizational skills, and I’d love to share them for the good of all.” Another said, “At our regional discovery session back in the spring, it was as if the needle moved and I felt a different energy. People were willing to talk about what was and was not working, with an openness to new ideas.” “I’d love the work of building bridges,” said a third, “all the while pointing to Jesus.’ 

Everything we do rests on the foundation of our relationship with Christ and one another. We are blessed with ten regional deans who are passionate about their faith and seasoned in ministry. Please join us in welcoming them to this ministry, and praying for its fruitfulness.


¡Conoce a los Deanes Regionales!

January 16, 2020

Parados de izquierda a derecha: El Rev. Dr. Peter Antoci, Sur de Maryland; la Rev. Dana Corsello, Norte de DC; la Rev. Beth O’Callaghan, Norte de Montgomery; el Rev. David Wacaster, Montgomery Central; la Rev. Rondesia Jarrett-Schell, DC Central; la Rev. Linda Kaufman, DC Central; la Rev. Melana Nelson-Amaker, Norte de Prince George’s; el Rev. Andrew Walter, Canónigo de Colaboración Estratégica; el Rev. William Stafford-Whittaker, Sur de DC.
Sentados de izquierda a derecha: el Rev. Greg Syler, Sur de Maryland; Obispa Mariann; el Rev. Cricket Park, Sur de Montgomery

Y él mismo constituyó a unos, apóstoles; a otros, profetas; a otros, evangelistas; a otros, pastores y maestros, a fin de perfeccionar a los santos para la obra del ministerio, para la edificación del cuerpo de Cristo...
Efesios 4:11

 

¡Diócesis Episcopal de Washington, conoce a los deanes regionales!

Al inicio del proceso de planificación estratégica, escuchamos un deseo universal de tener una mayor presencia diocesana en cada región de la diócesis, personas que pudieran ayudar a fortalecer las relaciones y promover esfuerzos de colaboración entre las congregaciones. Estoy encantada de anunciar el nombramiento de diez deanes regionales, todos apasionados sobre nuestra visión de “ser una diócesis que reúne los dones de todo el pueblo de Dios para servir a Cristo juntos”. Los comisionaremos para su trabajo en la Eucaristía de la Convención Diocesana el sábado 25 de enero, junto a Andrew Walter, el Canónigo para la Colaboración Estratégica.  

Mientras comenzamos a implementar el plan estratégico, estamos convencidos de que Dios ya nos ha ofrecido de nuestra comunidad diocesana, todo lo que necesitamos para que nuestras congregaciones florezcan. Juntos haremos posibles los sueños que Dios ha puesto en nuestros corazones. El ministerio de los deanes responde al servicio del espíritu de colaboración y el ministerio compartido. 

Los deanes dedicarán aproximadamente diez horas al mes para reunir al clero y a los líderes laicos de sus regiones. Estos encuentros asegurarán que cada congregación participe y se beneficie de nuestros esfuerzos estratégicos. Confiamos que con mayor relaciones entre los líderes, nuestras congregaciones se verán unas a otras como recursos para la ayuda mutua y los esfuerzos de colaboración. 

En la primera reunión el 15 de enero, ellos compartieron por qué escogieron aplicar a esta posición. Uno dijo: “En una reunión de clero me sentí movido por la profundidad de nuestra conversación”. Otro apuntó: “Yo tengo habilidades organizativas y me encanta compartirlas para el bien de todos”. Un tercero dijo: “En nuestra sesión de descubrimiento regional en la primavera pasada, sucedió algo como que una aguja me moviera y yo sentí una energía diferente. Las personas estaban dispuestas a hablar sobre lo que estaba funcionando y sobre lo que no con apertura a nuevas ideas. Me encantaría trabajar para crear esos puentes que apuntan a Jesús”.   

Todo lo que hacemos descansa en el fundamento de nuestra relación con Cristo y con los otros. Somos bendecidos de tener diez deanes regionales que están apasionados por su fe y son expertos en el ministerio. Por favor, démosle la bienvenida en este ministerio y oremos por el fruto de su trabajo.  


The Power of Blessing

January 12, 2020

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17

One of the most highly-regarded religious leaders of the 20th century, Henri Nouwen, spent the last decade of his life living in a group home with a dozen mentally and physically handicapped adults and their caregivers. While not as big a story as Prince Harry and Megan Markle leaving the royal family, Nouwen’s move out of public life caused quite a stir in religious circles. Here was a man who had taught at Ivy League universities, lectured around the world, authored dozens of books, and was in constant demand as a teacher and spiritual leader. Why would he choose to live among those whose capacity to appreciate his gifts was so limited? Nouwen’s reply was simple: it was among the physically and mentally handicapped, those of little apparent worth to anyone except those who loved them, that Nouwen learned what it meant to be beloved by God. From that place, in the final years of his life, Nouwen wrote some of his finest work.  

He wrote of a time when one member of the community, Janet, approached him as he was preparing for a worship service and asked for a blessing. He paused and made the sign of the cross on her forehead with his thumb. “No, that doesn’t work,” she said, “I want a real blessing!” Nouwen realized the inadequacy of his response, and he told her that he would offer a special blessing when the community gathered for prayer. With thirty or so in a circle together, he said, not really knowing what she had in mind, “Janet has asked me for a special blessing.” Janet left little room for doubt. She came forward, put her arms around Nouwen, and rested her head on his chest. He returned her embrace, and said, “Janet, I want you to know that you are God’s beloved daughter. You are precious in God’s eyes. Your beautiful smile, you kindness to the people in this house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember that you are a special person, deeply loved by God and all the people here.” 

Janet raised her head and smiled. After she returned to her seat, another woman, Jane, said, “I want a blessing, too.” And after her, several others stood up to ask for a blessing. Then one of the volunteer caregivers, a student in his mid-twenties asked, “Can I have a blessing, too?” “Sure,” Nouwen said, and he blessed him by saying, “You are God’s beloved Son. It is good that you are here. Whenever things are hard and life is burdensome, remember that you are loved with an everlasting love.” Tears came to the young man’s eyes. (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved (Crossroad Publishing, 1982) p.58.)

To bless is one of seven spiritual practices in The Way of Love, the Episcopal Church’s invitation to us all to live a Jesus-centered life. It’s my favorite of the practices, because it’s so affirming and life-giving, the exact opposite of the callous speech that bombards us daily, and our own tendencies to focus on each others’ shortcomings rather than our gifts. 

God has entrusted us with the power to bless, yet we rarely consider the power of our blessing and how devastating it can be whenever we withhold blessing. Have you ever witnessed someone being slighted by another, by a gesture or tone of voice? It can be as painful to watch as it is to experience, our capacity for casual, mindless cruelty. Conversely, we’re moved to tears when we see someone blessing another--a teacher affirming a student; a passerby helping someone who is hurt; a child offering a drawing or poem. 

From the Latin benedicere, blessing simply means “to speak well of someone.” It is, as Nouwen writes, “to affirm a person’s belovedness, touching his or her original goodness, and calling forth the reality of which it speaks.” The late Celtic poet John O’Donohue dedicated his life to retrieving the lost art form of blessing, which he described as “words that create a circle of light drawn around a person to protect and strengthen.” (John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (New York: Doubleday, 2008), p. 186)

The Benedictine nun Joan Chittister describes what it’s like to be in the presence of those practiced in blessing: “They never talk destructively about another person--in anger, in spite, for the sake of a laugh. They can be counted on to bring an open heart to a closed and clawing world. . . they live well with those around them. They are just, upright, and kind. The ecology of humankind is safe with them. (Joan Chittister, OSB, The Rule of St. Benedict: Insights for the Ages (New York: Crossroads Publishing, 1992), p.24)Who among us doesn’t want to be that kind of person? 

The story of Jesus’ baptism is all about blessing, the one Jesus receives that launches him into public ministry. It is the first of several such moments of blessing in his adult life that affirms his identity and clarifies his vocation. It’s also one of a handful of stories that shows up in all four written accounts of his life, and while they differ on details, what they agree upon is this: when Jesus rises from the water, he feels the power of God’s blessing: “You are my Son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.” Everything about that blessing will be sorely tested in the days and years to come, but it remains the foundation of his self-understanding and vocation. He is God’s blessing to us. 

Whenever we gather in church, we freely offer blessings to one another, particularly in rites of passage. When we baptize a child, pray for the Spirit to release God-given gifts in Confirmation, welcome those who seek to be fully received into the Episcopal Church, we assume the posture of blessing. Likewise, when we’re gathered for a wedding or funeral, we bless one another. In doing so, it’s as if we can see each other, if only for a moment, as God sees us, and love as God loves. I think that's why we cry in church in such moments. We feel the power of God’s love. 

Alas, those moments pass, and we go back to our existence that seems to be defined not by anything like a blessing. For we’re all less than whole, marked by the imperfections and contradictions in our character. We have hurt and been hurt by those we love. We live with the consequences of mistakes made, our own and those of others. What on earth does the blessing mean in light of everything else that is true of us and our world? 

This is a leap of faith for Christians: daring to live as if blessing is, in fact, the larger context, the big picture, the unchangeable truth. All of the failings and imperfections, and even our heinous sins, are to be seen in blessing’s light. Bryan Stevenson, the amazing criminal justice reformer of our time, says it this way: “Everyone of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done. A person who tells a lie is more than a liar; a person who steals is more than a thief; even those who kill are more than murderers.” “There is at the back of all our lives,” writes the Anglican G.K. Chesterton, “an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness. Those who realize this know that it outweighs all lesser regrets, and that underneath all our grumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude.” (G.K. Chesterton, Advent and Christian Wisdom for G.K. Chesterton, compiled by The Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends (Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Press, 2007) p.9)

I’d like to offer two specific ways we all can practice blessing in daily life. The first is simply this: when in conversation with others--be they family members, coworkers, neighbors, friends, or those we encounter as we go about our day--at the point of saying goodbye, offer a word of affirmation or encouragement. Point out some quality in them that you love or admire. Reflect back to them something they said that struck you as brave or admirable. If they are going through a hard time, acknowledge that fact and let them know you are there for them. Tell them how much you mean to them. I’m not suggesting you shower people with false praise, but rather, like Henri Nouwen, to go deep and speak from the heart.

Think of him standing in a circle of people who no doubt had been told all their lives that they were less than human, offering his words of affirmation and kindness. We’re all part of that circle, actually, and God has entrusted to us this extraordinary power to offer, and receive blessings. I’m learning that the more practiced I am in giving blessings, the easier it is for me to receive blessings from others. 

Second, and this is harder, whenever you’re about to make or laugh at a joke told at another person’s expense; or whenever you’re about to make a wonderfully insightful and critical observation about another person, or pass on via social media someone else’s scathing criticism, catch yourself, if you can, and don’t do it. I confess that I love political satire as much as anyone in this town, and I know that we all need humor to survive. But when the jokes or criticisms turn mean, no matter how right we are in that criticism, it’s worth asking ourselves what we imagine we’re accomplishing by adding fuel to that fire. As I heard someone say recently, rarely do people have a change of heart when we poke them in the eye. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t speak out for what we believe or that criticism isn’t necessary, for it is; nonetheless, there’s a lot of gratuitous cynicism in the air, and dehumanizing meanness. Remember that it takes no energy whatsoever to be negative. To be an agent of blessing takes effort. “People are hard to hate close up,” Brené Brown reminds us. “Move in.” (Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (New York: Random House, 2017), p.63)

As an acknowledgement of this congregation, I’d also like to point out how important it is to grow our capacity for blessing. Your growth in recent years has been a wonder to behold. You’ve been through a lot, but you have made tremendous strides in congregational health, spiritual vitality and discipleship and service. You inspire faithfulness, courage and generosity in one another. I’m honored to be your bishop. 

Let me close by asking a question that I heard James Ryan, Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, pose as a “bonus question,” at the end of a commencement speech. It’s taken from a poem by Raymond Carver entitled “Late Fragment.”  

And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? 

The haunting phrase, even so, acknowledges everything that we struggle with--all the fear, anxiety, disappointment and uncertainty of our lives: 

And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? 

 The poem goes on to answer:  

I did. 
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth. (James Ryan, Good Questions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW0NguMGIbE. Raymond Carver, “Late Fragments,” in A New Path to the Waterfall. (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994).)

That’s what Jesus wants for all of us--to know ourselves, as he knew himself, as beloved on the earth. Jesus is an epiphany, a revelation to us of the depth and breadth of God’s love. 

If you don’t know yourself as blessed, or, like all of us, you need to be reminded, know that that is God’s desire for you. Like Janet in that circle of prayer, you can ask for blessing and be reminded by people like me that you are beloved even when--especially when--you don’t feel it.  

If you do know something of your belovedness, you know as well as I what a gift it is. Commit yourself this day, and every day, to offer yourself as a blessing, so that through you, others, too, might know themselves as beloved on the earth.  
 

My Hope and Prayer for the Revival Weekend

January 09, 2020

Arise, shine, for your light has come. 
Isaiah 60:1 

As of today, over 2900 people have secured their tickets for More Jesus, More Love! If you haven’t yet done so, it’s not too late - simply follow this link - but please do so today. There are only 400 seats left, and I don’t want you to miss what the Holy Spirit will do when we gather in one place to hear Presiding Bishop Curry speak to us of Jesus’ Way of Love. The service will be fully bilingual, and the Presiding Bishop Curry will be simultaneously translated into Spanish by Dinorah Padro, who is herself a wonder to behold. If you aren’t able to be physically present for the revival or convention worship,  rest assured they will be available to livestream.

This is the largest diocesan-wide gathering in our history, and part of an entire weekend of events with the potential to reach every congregation and beyond with a message of God’s love, revealed in Jesus, for all people. It’s also an extraordinary opportunity for us to unapologetically and joyfully share our way, as Episcopalian Christians, of embodying Jesus’ love with our neighbors, communities, and the world. 

We all spend so much energy on what we do in church and how we do it. The revival weekend is all about why. 

I pray that on the revival weekend everyone in our congregations, schools, and core ministries will be inspired, encouraged and healed by a sense of God’s love in Christ, that some will make their first conscious commitment to receive and follow Jesus and that others will renew their commitment and take their next step in faith. 

I pray that the Holy Spirit will move powerfully among us, and that we will experience the transformative potential of our collective witness. Come with an open and expectant heart.

As we gather in a space normally reserved for sports, entertainment, and civic functions, the More Jesus, More Love revival will also turn our focus outward, beyond ourselves--a reminder to us that we are asked to embody God’s love for the world. We’ll invite Jesus to send us where He most needs us, and ask how we might love others as He loves us. When we return to our churches the following week, I pray that we will see with new eyes - Jesus’ eyes - our neighbors, co-workers, and communities. 

Presiding Bishop Curry will be with us all weekend January 24-26. It’s not too late to sign up for the specific gatherings planned for young adults, youth, and the Diocesan Convention worship service on Saturday morning. The weekend marks the official beginning of Vision 2025, our strategic plan, which I’ll write more about next week. 

I close here with a word of heartfelt thanks to those who are working so hard to make More Jesus, More Love a reality and to those who have generously underwritten its cost. We wouldn’t be here without you. 

 

Mi esperanza y oración para el fin de semana de avivamiento

January 09, 2020

¡Levántate, resplandece! ¡Tu luz ha llegado! 
Isaías 60:1

Hasta hoy, 2900 personas han asegurado su entrada al evento Más Jesús. Más Amor! Si todavía no lo has hecho, no es demasiado tarde - simplemente sigue este enlace - pero por favor, hazlo hoy. Solo quedan 400 asientos disponibles, y yo no quiero que te pierdas lo que el Espíritu Santo hará cuando nos reunamos para escuchar hablar al Obispo Presidente Curry sobre el Camino del Amor de Jesús. El servicio será bilingüe y el Obispo Presidente será traducido simultáneamente al español por Dinorah Padro, quien es una maravilla en ella misma. Si no puedes estar físicamente presente en el avivamiento o en la adoración durante la Convención Diocesana, ten por seguro que lo tendremos disponible en vivo en internet. 

Este será el encuentro diocesano más grande de nuestra historia, y parte de un fin de semana lleno de eventos con el potencial de alcanzar a cada congregación y más allá con el mensaje del amor de Dios revelado en Jesús a todas las personas. Es también una oportunidad extraordinaria para que compartamos, sin disculpas y con gozo, nuestro camino como cristianos episcopales, al encarnar el amor de Jesús con nuestros vecinos, comunidades y con el mundo. 

Todos nosotros gastamos mucha energía en lo que hacemos en la iglesia y en cómo lo hacemos. El fin de semana de avivamiento tiene que ver más con el por qué. 

Yo oro porque durante el fin de semana del avivamiento todos en nuestras congregaciones, escuelas y ministerios principales sean inspirados de un modo evidente, sean animados y sanados por la energía palpable del amor de Dios en Cristo. Algunos  con seguridad harán un primer compromiso consciente de recibir y seguir a Jesús, y otros renovarán su compromiso y tomarán el próximo paso en su fe. 

Yo oro porque el Espíritu Santo se mueva poderosamente entre nosotros y porque experimentemos el potencial transformador de nuestro testimonio colectivo. Ven con un corazón abierto y expectante.   

Al reunirnos en un espacio reservado para deportes, entretenimiento y eventos cívicos, el avivamiento Más Jesús. Más Amor también cambiará nuestra atención hacia afuera, más allá de nosotros mismos - este es un recordatorio de que somos llamados a encarnar el amor de Dios por el mundo. Invitaremos a Jesús a que nos envíe a donde Él más nos necesite, y preguntaremos cómo podemos amar a otros así como Él nos ama. Cuando regresemos a nuestras iglesias la semana siguiente, yo oro para que podamos ver con nuevos ojos - con los ojos de Jesús - a nuestros vecinos, compañeros de trabajo y comunidades.  

El Obispo Presidente Curry estará con nosotros todo el fin de semana, del 24-26 de enero, y no es demasiado tarde para que te inscribas en encuentros específicos planificados para jóvenes adultos, jóvenes y para el servicio de adoración de la Convención Diocesana el sábado en la mañana. Este fin de semana marcará el comienzo oficial de Visión 2025, nuestro plan estratégico, del cual escribiré más la próxima semana. 

Termino aquí con una palabra de sentido agradecimiento para aquellos que están trabajando fuerte para hacer de Más Jesús. Más Amor una realidad, y para quienes generosamente han asegurado su costo. No estaríamos aquí sin ustedes.  

 

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