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

The Arc of Life in Our Diocese: Ministry Among Rising Generations

October 21, 2021

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

In my last article, The Arc of Life, I posited that one of the most important questions to ask ourselves is “Where am I in the arc of my life, or in a particular phase of life?” And I suggested that it is an equally important question to ask in Christian community, particularly for those in leadership. 

Where the Diocese of Washington is in the arc of our common life is something I ponder nearly every day, as I discern with the diocesan leaders where we can best invest our resources in service to God’s preferred future.

January 2022 marks the beginning year three of our five-year diocesan strategic plan, launched at the 2020 Diocesan Convention, two months before the COVID pandemic redefined every aspect of our lives. Thankfully, the strategic plan’s clear vision, well-articulated goals, and incremental approach toward accomplishing those goals have proven sturdy as we’ve navigated everything that’s happened in the last two years. 

In Regional Gatherings that have just begun, and in the 2021 Annual Report that will be available in Advent, we can gratefully document collective strides made in the priority areas of congregational vitality, spiritual and leadership development, and striving for justice. The Congregational Vital Signs, Tending Our Soil Initiative, School for Christian Faith and Leadership, Sacred Ground Circles, Reparations Task Force, Afghan Refugee Response Team, and the ministry of our Regional Deans are among the first fruits of the strategic plan. These endeavors are not one-time goals to check off a list, but are the foundation for all ministry initiatives going forward. 

As we look to year three, two new goals will require the careful cultivation of our soil and attentiveness to the seeds of new life that God plants within and among us. I’ll focus on one here and write about the other next time, as well as speak of both of them at regional gatherings. I do this as an invitation to a process of communal discernment and planning. 

The first of these new goals, as stated in the Strategic Plan, is as follows: We will launch or relaunch three worshiping communities focused on rising generations so that we become a spiritual home for our children and grandchildren. The emphasis here is to create communities whose first priority is on rising generations, that is, adults roughly 35 and younger. Most of our congregations want to be welcoming to rising generations, and some are. But a simple survey of faith communities with real numerical growth in younger demographics demonstrates that they have made it their top priority, not one of many. 

Our diocese is unusually well positioned for such a ministry focus, given the favorable demographics of our regions. Younger adult populations in Washington, DC and Maryland differ greatly according to class, race, culture, and educational levels and thus we will need multiple strategies. Some young adults are single; others are partnered and raising children. Some are working in high pressure vocations; others are chronically underemployed or vocationally adrift. Some have been families who have lived here for generations; others are first or second generation immigrants. 

The greatest resistance to past diocesan efforts has come from existing congregations that don’t want to lose their young adults to a new endeavor, and from some of our younger adults who are content in their congregations and prefer a multi-generational community. We have also been scattered in past efforts, with inconsistent leadership and several false starts. We need to learn from our past, discern carefully and collaboratively, and begin again in a posture of learning and adaptation.

My question to each Regional Gathering is this: What areas in your region might be particularly good soil for such experimental endeavors, and who among you feels called to be part of the exploratory conversations? Some new beginnings already exist and could be a place of greater investment. A congregation might feel called to name ministry to rising generations as its top priority. Other possibilities could involve collaborative efforts across several congregations and university ministries. 

God willing and with our faithfulness, I pray that in early 2022, we will identify up to three new expressions of Episcopal life and worship, with a priority on rising generations. If you would like to be part of such exploration in your region, please speak to your regional dean or feel free to email me directly. 

The majority of people in our congregations are over the age of 60. That is actually good news for this initiative, for as I wrote last time, those of us who are 60 or older are in the season of generativity--the time when our life’s work is to make room for rising generations and to invest in them. It’s not easy to de-prioritize ourselves, except for those we love. This ministry initiative must be one of love, not institutional survival, or it will fail. 

Next time I’ll focus on the second new goal for 2022 as stated in the Strategic Plan: We will promote Creation Care practices in all our faith communities.


Category: Blog

El Arco de la Vida en nuestra Diócesis: Ministerio entre las Nuevas Generaciones

October 21, 2021

Y ahora permanecen la fe, la esperanza y el amor, estos tres; pero el mayor de ellos es el amor. 
1 Corintios 13:13

En mi último artículo, El Arco de la Vida, propuse que una de las preguntas más importantes que debemos hacernos es “¿dónde estoy en el arco de mi vida o en una fase particular de mi vida?” Y sugerí que es una pregunta igualmente importante que se debe hacer en la comunidad cristiana, especialmente para aquellos que están en el liderazgo.

Dónde está la Diócesis de Washington en el arco de nuestra vida común es algo en lo que reflexiono casi todos los días, al discernir con los líderes diocesanos donde podemos invertir mejor nuestros recursos en servicio al futuro preferido por Dios.

Enero de 2022 marca el comienzo del tercer año de nuestro plan estratégico diocesano de cinco años, lanzado en la Convención Diocesana de 2020, dos meses antes de que la pandemia de COVID redefiniera cada aspecto de nuestras vidas. Afortunadamente, la visión clara del plan estratégico, los objetivos bien articulados y el enfoque de ir creciendo para lograr esos objetivos han resultado sólidos a medida que hemos navegado todo lo que ha sucedido en los últimos dos años.

En las Reuniones Regionales que acaban de comenzar, y en el Informe Anual 2021 que estará disponible en Adviento, podemos documentar agradecidamente los avances colectivos hechos en las áreas prioritarias de vitalidad congregacional, desarrollo espiritual y de liderazgo, y el esfuerzo por la justicia. Los Signos Vitales Congregacionales, la Iniciativa de Cuidando Nuestra Tierra, la Escuela de Fe Cristiana y Liderazgo, los Círculos de Tierra Sagrada, el Grupo de Trabajo de Reparaciones, el Equipo de Respuesta a Refugiados Afganos y el ministerio de nuestros Decanos Regionales están entre los primeros frutos del plan estratégico. Estos esfuerzos no son metas de una sola vez para revisar una lista, pero son la base para todas las iniciativas del ministerio que van adelante.

Al mirar al tercer año, dos nuevas metas requerirán el cultivo cuidadoso de nuestra tierra y la atención a las semillas de la nueva vida que Dios planta dentro y entre nosotros. Me centraré en uno aquí y escribiré sobre el otro la próxima vez, así como hablaré de ambos en reuniones regionales. Lo hago como una invitación a un proceso de discernimiento y planificación comunitaria.

El primero de estos nuevos objetivos, como se indica en el Plan Estratégico, es el siguiente: Lanzaremos o re-lanzaremos tres comunidades de adoración enfocadas en las nuevas generaciones para convertirnos en un hogar espiritual para nuestros hijos y nietos. El énfasis aquí es crear comunidades cuya primera prioridad son las nuevas generaciones, es decir, jóvenes adultos de aproximadamente 35 años o menos.

La mayoría de nuestras congregaciones quieren dar la bienvenida a las nuevas generaciones, y algunas lo son. Pero una simple encuesta de comunidades de fe con crecimiento numérico real en la demografía más joven demuestra que lo han convertido en su máxima prioridad, no una de muchas.

Nuestra diócesis está inusualmente bien posicionada para tal enfoque ministerial, dada la demografía favorable de nuestras regiones. Las poblaciones de adultos jóvenes en Washington, DC y Maryland difieren grandemente según la clase, raza, cultura y niveles educativos y por lo tanto necesitaremos estrategias múltiples. Algunos adultos jóvenes son solteros; otros están en pareja y criando hijos. Algunos están trabajando en vocaciones de alta presión; otros están crónicamente subempleados o vocacionalmente desviados. Algunas han sido familias que han vivido aquí durante generaciones; otros son inmigrantes de primera o segunda generación.

La mayor resistencia a los esfuerzos diocesanos pasados ha venido de congregaciones existentes que no quieren perder a sus adultos jóvenes por un nuevo esfuerzo, y de algunos de nuestros adultos jóvenes que están contentos en sus congregaciones y prefieren una comunidad multigeneracional. También hemos dispersado esfuerzos pasados, con un liderazgo incoherente y varias iniciativas falsas. Necesitamos aprender de nuestro pasado, discernir cuidadosamente y en colaboración, y comenzar de nuevo en una postura de aprendizaje y adaptación.

Mi pregunta a cada Reunión Regional es la siguiente: ¿qué áreas de su región podrían ser particularmente buenas para tales esfuerzos experimentales, y quién de ustedes se siente llamado a ser parte de las conversaciones exploratorias? Algunos nuevos comienzos ya existen y podrían ser un lugar de mayor inversión. Una congregación puede sentirse llamada a nombrar el ministerio a las generaciones emergentes como su principal prioridad. Otras posibilidades podrían implicar esfuerzos de colaboración entre varias congregaciones y ministerios universitarios.

Con la voluntad de Dios y con nuestra fidelidad, ruego que a principios de 2022, identifiquemos hasta tres nuevas expresiones de vida y adoración episcopal, con prioridad en las nuevas generaciones. Si desea ser parte de tal exploración en su región, por favor hable con su decano regional o siéntase libre de enviarme un correo electrónico directamente.

La mayoría de las personas en nuestras congregaciones tienen más de 60 años. En realidad, esas son buenas noticias para esta iniciativa, ya que, como escribí la última vez, aquellos de nosotros que tenemos 60 años o más estamos en la temporada de generar, la época en que el trabajo de nuestra vida es hacer espacio para las nuevas generaciones e invertir en ellas. No es fácil quitarnos de la prioridad a nosotros mismos, excepto a los que amamos. Esta iniciativa ministerial debe ser de amor, no de supervivencia institucional, o fracasará.

La próxima vez me enfocaré en el segundo objetivo nuevo para 2022 como se indica en el Plan Estratégico: Promoveremos las prácticas de Cuidado de la Creación en todas nuestras comunidades de fe.


Category: Blog
Tag: Spanish

The Arc of Life

October 07, 2021

Teach us to number our days, that we might set our hearts to wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12

I’ve learned that one of the most important questions to consider in life and ministry is this: Where am I in the arc of my life, or in the arc of a particular phase of it?

In my senior year of college, I was befriended by a group of young adults, all in their early thirties. We met at a local Catholic Worker House that provided shelter and meals for people experiencing homelessness. Each Saturday we gathered for prayer. On  other days, we would go on outings or work together on a social justice initiative. I babysat their children. My older friends all had meaningful work, either professionally or as volunteer activists. I was in awe of them. They loved me, as they would a younger sibling. 

I wanted nothing more than to leapfrog over my twenties and join them as an equal. But I needed to live my life, not theirs, and to find my own way. After college, I took a job in another city. While I loved those friends dearly, we were on different arcs of life and our paths never crossed again.  

Where are you in the arc of your life? While age is not the only consideration, it is a big factor to take into account when pondering our place. 

I am now nearly 62 years old. On October 2nd, my sister and I hosted a party for our mother, in celebration of her 90th birthday. Several of our own adult children were there, and some of them have children of their own. Of the four generations still alive, I am now an elder. If our mother dies before me, I will take my place among the oldest generation. All this tells me a lot about where I am, what my responsibilities are and what they’re not.

I want to occupy this position of life well, which means loving those around me, but no longer being in charge. (My family will tell you that this is hard for me.) Developmental psychologists tell us that the most important thing to do in one’s elder years is to make room for rising generations and give priority to them. This is the age of generativity--the time to listen well, let go of a lot, delight in others’ accomplishments, and deal with grief. At the same time, I am caring for our mother who is increasingly frail, and spiritually preparing for death.

That’s a brief overview of my life. Again I ask, where are you in the arc of yours? And what does that say to you about what is yours to do now, in the all-too-short time you are given to walk this earth? 

Of course, we never know where we are, in the sense that anything could happen to us. My mother could outlive us all. But as best as we can see, where are we? And where might God be beckoning us as we look toward the horizon? 

These are also questions to ponder in the context of Christian community. I often ask congregational leaders where they are in the arc of their ministry, in general and in relationship to the community they serve. Having some sense of where they are in life and vocation helps discern what’s possible in a given season. It also helps avoid the unfortunate misalignment that can happen when a leader and congregation are in vastly different places in their respective arcs of life and ministry. Early in my time as rector, as we were contemplating a significant fund-raising and building project, the junior warden pointedly asked me “Will you be here to see this through?” He wasn’t willing to take a big risk without knowing where I was in the arc of my tenure. His question underscored the value of stable leadership when asking a congregation to do something brave. 

On November 12, I mark my tenth anniversary as your bishop. From the beginning, I’ve had the sense that I would have a long episcopate, and God willing, I still feel that way. In speaking with diocesan leaders and in my own prayerful discernment, I have committed to serve for five more years, and perhaps longer, depending on what we discern together at the fifteen year mark. All this suggests that I have most likely passed the half-way point, and that informs my thinking nearly everyday. It keeps me focused and lends a bit of urgency, as I hope to accomplish what I sensed God called me to do as your bishop. 

Next time I’ll write more about the arc of ministry as it pertains to the Diocese of Washington, where we are in the arc of our strategic plan, and what to look for in the coming year. 


Category: Blog

El Arco de la Vida

October 07, 2021

¡Enséñanos a contar bien nuestros días, para que en el corazón acumulemos sabiduría!
Salmo 90:12

He aprendido que una de las preguntas más importantes a considerar en la vida y el ministerio es ésta: ¿Dónde estoy en el arco de mi vida, o en el arco de una fase particular de ella?

En mi último año de universidad, me hice amiga de un grupo de adultos jóvenes, todos a inicios de sus treinta años de edad. Nos reunimos en una Casa Local de Trabajadores Católicos que proporcionaba refugio y comida para personas sin hogar. Cada sábado nos reuníamos para orar. En otras ocasiones, íbamos de excursión o trabajábamos juntos en una iniciativa de justicia social. Cuidé a sus hijos. Todos mis amigos mayores tenían un trabajo importante, ya fuera profesionalmente o como activistas voluntarios. Estaba asombrada de ellos. Me amaban, como si yo hubiese sido una hermana menor.

Yo solo quería que el tiempo pasara y pasar de mis veinte años de edad y unirme a ellos como una más del grupo. Pero necesitaba vivir mi vida, no la suya, y encontrar mi propio camino. Después de la universidad, comencé un trabajo en otra ciudad. Aunque amaba muchísimo a esos amigos, estábamos en diferentes arcos de la vida y nuestros caminos nunca se cruzaron otra vez.

¿Dónde estás en el arco de tu vida? Si bien la edad no es la única consideración, es un factor importante a tener en cuenta al reflexionar sobre nuestro lugar.

Ahora tengo casi 62 años. El 2 de octubre, mi hermana y yo organizamos una fiesta para nuestra madre, en celebración por su 90 cumpleaños. Varios de nuestros hijos adultos estaban allí, y algunos de ellos tienen ya sus propios hijos. De las cuatro generaciones todavía vivas, ahora soy anciana. Si nuestra madre muere antes que yo, tomaré mi lugar entre la generación más antigua. Todo esto me dice mucho sobre dónde estoy, cuáles son mis responsabilidades y cuáles no.

Quiero ocupar bien esta posición en mi vida, lo que significa amar a los que me rodean, pero ya no estar a cargo. (Mi familia les dirá que esto es difícil para mí.) Los psicólogos del desarrollo nos dicen que lo más importante que hay que hacer en los años mayores es dejar espacio para las nuevas generaciones y darles prioridad. Esta es la era de la generatividad, el momento de escuchar bien, soltar las cosas, deleitarse con los logros de los demás y lidiar con el dolor. Al mismo tiempo, estoy cuidando de nuestra madre, que es cada vez más frágil, y preparándose espiritualmente para la muerte. 

Es una breve descripción general de mi vida. Una vez más, pregunto: ¿dónde estás en el arco tuyo? ¿Y qué te dice eso sobre lo que debes hacer ahora, en el tiempo demasiado corto que se te da para caminar por esta tierra? 

Por supuesto, nunca sabemos dónde estamos, en el sentido de que algo podría pasarnos a nosotros. Mi madre podría sobrevivirnos a todos. Pero lo mejor que podemos ver es: ¿dónde estamos? ¿Y adónde puede Dios estar llamándonos cuando miramos hacia el horizonte?

Estas son también preguntas para reflexionar en el contexto de la comunidad cristiana. A menudo pregunto a los líderes congregacionales dónde están en el arco de su ministerio, en general y en relación con la comunidad a la que sirven. Tener algún sentido de dónde están en la vida y la vocación ayuda a discernir lo que es posible en una temporada dada. También ayuda a evitar la desconexión desafortunada que puede suceder cuando un líder y una congregación están en lugares muy diferentes en sus arcos de vida y ministerio. Al principio de mi tiempo como rectora, mientras contemplábamos un proyecto importante de recaudación de fondos y construcción, el guardián menor me preguntó: “¿Estarás aquí para ver esto?” No estaba dispuesto a asumir un gran riesgo sin saber dónde estaba en el arco de mi mandato. Su pregunta subrayó el valor de un liderazgo estable cuando le pedía a una congregación que hiciera algo valiente.

El 12 de noviembre, conmemoro mi décimo aniversario como su obispa. Desde el principio, he tenido la sensación de que tendría un episcopado largo, y Dios mediante, todavía me siento así. Al hablar con los líderes diocesanos y en mi propio discernimiento en oración, me he comprometido a servir durante cinco años más, y quizás más, dependiendo de lo que discernamos juntos cuando lleguemos a los quince años trabajando juntos. Todo esto sugiere que lo más probable es que haya pasado el punto de mitad de camino, y eso lo tengo presente en mi pensamiento casi todos los días. Me mantiene enfocada y provoca un poco de urgencia, ya que espero lograr lo que sentí que Dios me llamó a hacer como su obispa. 

La próxima vez escribiré más sobre el arco del ministerio de la Diócesis de Washington, dónde estamos en el arco de nuestro plan estratégico, y qué buscamos en el próximo año.


Category: Blog
Tag: Spanish

Homily for Choral Evensong & Installation of Honorary Canons Virginia C. Mars and John H. Shenefield and New Members of Cathedral Chapter

September 25, 2021

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

Jesus said, ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 6:19-24

Good afternoon. I am honored to be in your company today. 

Services like this one are an important reminder that the leadership roles we assume in the organizations we care about are part of our vocation, our life’s work. Though they are often voluntary, when we take on the tasks of leadership, we give something precious of ourselves. We share our talent and skill. We give financially from the wealth entrusted to us. We give our time, perhaps the most precious gift of all. In giving, we also receive, from others engaged in the work alongside us; from the work itself; and from the grace of God that finds expression in human creativity. In the work of our varied vocations, we are co-creators with God.

A religious leader that I admire, Andy Stanley, once took it upon himself to identify the means through which God seeks relationship with us. Think of that for a moment--God seeking a deeper relationship with us, using whatever means possible to draw us in. “Faith catalysts” are what Stanley called these means God uses to help us grow in faith. After interviewing hundreds of people over several years, he identified five such catalysts. One of the five he called “personal ministry,” when we choose to personally engage in acts of service, and in particular, the acts that stretch us beyond what we think we can do or offer. An example of this is when we say yes to something not fully understanding what’s being asked of us, only to discover later on how big a commitment is required. Or perhaps we sense from the beginning that whatever we said yes to is far more than we can possibly accomplish on our own. In either case, we are particularly open to God, precisely because of the vulnerability we feel. 

For it is in that gap between what's being asked of us and who we are and what we have to give that we can experience God in a powerful way. God shows up in our times of doubt or even despair, when we know that we’re in over our heads. God shows up in the collective striving of the group when we cross a threshold. God shows up in those graced moments when we feel--actually feel--the Holy Spirit working in and through us, as St. Paul writes, accomplishing far more than we can ask for or imagine. 

These are “loaves and fishes” moments, when what we have to offer pales in relationship to what’s needed, but like the disciples giving Jesus a few loaves of bread and some fish with which to feed a multitude of hungry people, we make our gift anyway, and through the grace of God our insufficient offering is part of a miracle through which others are blessed. Our faith in God can’t help but grow as a result, for we know, even if others want to give us all the credit, that it was God who filled the gap between our offering and what was needed, and accomplished what only God can do. 

When we give of ourselves in service, what we give becomes an expression of sacrificial love--the love God offers all of us, revealed most dramatically and completely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When we participate in that kind of love, no matter the cost to us, something in us shifts. In a mysterious process of spiritual alchemy, we become more of who we are at our best, more of the person God created us to be; indeed, a bit more like ones created in the image of God. 

Preparing for today, thinking of the Cathedral Chapter, and the new leaders we are here to install, and the two soon-to-be named honorary canons of this Cathedral, my mind went in two distinct directions. A good rule of preaching, by the way, is to pick one stream of thought and keep things simple. I’m breaking that rule, trusting that you are all smart people and can all stay with me for both. 

The first stream of thought has to do with the act of giving itself. 

Virginia and John are seasoned givers. They have been giving all their lives, sacrificially giving of their time, talent, and wealth. More than that, they are quick to invite others to join them in this over-the-top giving for the good of something big--like the mission and vision of this Cathedral--something worthy of the best we can give, and not just what we have left over.

It can be uncomfortable to be in the presence of ones so adept at giving that it looks easy for them, as if they had all the energy, creativity, wealth and time in the world to give, unlike the rest of us who much more rarely feel as if we have enough. But John and Ginny know, from experience, that when we give beyond what feels comfortable, we become like those trees planted that Jeremiah wrote of long ago--stronger inside, less anxious. As hard as it is at first, when we give beyond ourselves in a big way, we feel freer, for we are both grounded in our values and inspired by our highest aspirations. 

I can’t explain how it works; I just know that it’s true. Yes, there is a cost, a real, sacrificial cost. Ginny and John know that; returning chapter members know that, as do those joining you in the important ministry. But that’s precisely the point. Some things are so important in life that they deserve the gifts that cost us something, because where our treasure is, as Jesus said so well, our hearts are there also. What he doesn't say, that we learn on our own, is that our hearts grow bigger with each gift. 

The poet David Whyte tells of time when he mentioned to his good friend, the late John O'Donohue (one of the finest poets and priests of contemporary Ireland) that he was thinking about giving his father some money. David rarely speaks or writes about his father, unlike his late mother, about whom he speaks and writes all the time. We can surmise, then, that it wasn’t the easiest of relationships. But he was clearly worried about his father, living alone in England after his mother’s death. David himself had long since relocated to the Pacific Northwest.

“How much are you thinking of giving him?” John asked. David told him. “Very good!”  John replied, “Now go beyond yourself. Double it.” “Okay,” David said after a pause. “All right, I will.” “Very good!” said John. “Now go beyond yourself again, and double that.”  Taken aback, David said, “Well, with friends like you a man could go broke.” To which John replied, “You won’t regret it.”

Sometime after that conversation John died a sudden and early death. It’s been years now, but David Whyte still talks about John as if he were still here. This particular conversation stayed with him. He did what John suggested. He went beyond what he thought he could do, and gave enough money to change his father’s life forever and for the better. And John was right. He never regretted it. 

Ginny and John know something about that kind of “go beyond yourself” giving. When they invite us to join them, it may well feel impossible to us. “Good!” they would tell us. “That’s how it’s supposed to feel. Go beyond yourself anyway. You won’t regret it.”  

The second  thought I offer this afternoon in honor of John and Virginia and the new Chapter members, and as a reminder to all of us, is the spiritual courage required to go first, to be the one to take the first step in response to a call, a vision, or a dream. When we go first, we don’t know if others will join us. Nor do we know, in taking the first step, exactly where we’re going. We walk in the beginning more by faith than by sight. The poet Antonio Machado reminds us that often in life there is no road. “Pilgrim,” he says, “You make the road by walking.” 

How many times in the life of this cathedral has John Shenefield or Virginia Mars gone first--making the first gift, being the first to chair an important initiative, to go on the road, to be the first to say out loud, “We need to consider this, or do that.” Then after taking the first step, they went ahead and took another, and another after that, and so they forged a road for all of us by walking it first. 

The combination of courage and tenacity is a wonder to behold, especially in the beginning stages of anything important, because there is absolutely no guarantee that things will turn as they hope. Failure is always a possibility, but John and Virginia know that it is better to fail at something important than to succeed in mediocrity. Today we honor their willingness to go first, and then to persevere, making it possible for others to join in and bask in the glory of reaching the destination and accomplishing the task, when at first, and for a very long time, Virginia, John, and a few other stalwart leaders forged the path on their own. 

Looking back from the perspective of the destination or accomplishment, there is an air of inevitability about it all, as if the outcome was assured from the beginning. Those who went first will tell us otherwise, that nothing we celebrate now was inevitable when they started. What brings a dream or vision of what could be to its fulfillment are the steps taken toward it--the first, courageous step and all the other steps that follow. For a long time, it’s a lonely walk. For a long time, it doesn’t seem as if anything has or will ever change. But when it does change, when momentum kicks in and more people join the effort, all can bask in the collective joy of accomplishment. In retrospect, we all speak about the thing that we accomplished as if it were our idea in the first place, as if we had all gone first. People like John and Virginia are kind to smile and allow us all to share in the dream they held on our behalf for so long.

This is such an important moment in the life of our nation, in the world, and in the life of this Cathedral. We are all here for a reason. It matters that we show up. It matters that we say yes to causes of great importance. Thus far, I’ve been speaking of John and Virginia in the past tense, but they are very much here, still giving, still willing to go first if needed. The best way to honor them is, as Jesus often said, to go and do likewise, giving of ourselves in ways that both cost us and give back far more than we could ever hope to receive, and in forging our way toward the dreams God has placed in our hearts.


Category: Sermons
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