Bishop's Writings Author: The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
September 08, 2018
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more . . .
I am someone Kim Sanders chose to love, sight unseen. Well before we met, she had decided to think kindly of me and care for my well being. And whenever she could, she offered me words of kindness, affirmation, and blessing.
Even when she was struggling with something, which was most of time that I knew her, Kim offered love and kindness to those around her. She always seemed more interested in us than in talking about herself. No matter what she was going through, she always managed to turn the conversation around. “But how are you?” she’d ask, and I knew that she truly wanted to know.
One night I couldn’t sleep and finally I got up, turned on my computer and starting scrolling through Facebook. I came across Kim’s posting from about an hour earlier: “I couldn’t sleep,” she wrote, “and was feeling a bit blue. So I decided to watch one of my favorite movies, Notting Hill. It lifts my spirits every time!” I’m not ashamed to say that Notting Hill is one of my favorite movies, too. Partly because of Hugh Grant, but mostly because of its wonderful depiction of lasting friendship among a most unlikely group of people and improbable love prevailing against all odds. And it was so British. How Kim must have loved that.
Kim loved a good story—Shakespeare, a romantic comedy, or anything in between. Over the years Kim must have given me a dozen novels that she just knew I would love. And cookbooks. I mentioned to her once that my vegetarian son had just gone vegan and I wasn’t sure what to make for Thanksgiving. The next day three vegan cookbooks were on my desk. That was Kim’s way.
As I was prepared for today, I realized that I hadn’t reconciled Kim’s kind and joyful spirit with all the hardships she had to endure in life. I’ve been reading the Book of Job lately, because of the daily lectionary, and maybe that emboldened me to actually feel some anger toward God on her behalf. Her illness and death are a mystery that makes me sad and leaves me in greater awe of her at the same time.
When I think of Kim now, in the place of great unknowing, the image that comes to mind is one of complete liberation. I see her soul free, no longer tied to a body that so often failed her. I also imagine her hovering as close to us as heaven will allow, out of love, yes, but also curiosity. She’d want to know, what are Geoffrey and Doris up to now? And how are all the priests and deacons that she help shepherd through the ordination process doing? And is Paula’s new husband treating her right? How does Joey like her new job? And can you believe it? Paul Cooney is a grandfather!
We only have our points of reference from which to make whatever sense we can of the great mysteries of life. Some, like death, lie beyond our grasp until we cross the threshold ourselves. Ancient human intuition and the best of our spiritual traditions tell us that after this life there is a homecoming, a banquet, even, a place where all that is wrong is made right, and where God’s will of love is realized. Jesus promises us a room in God’s house and that he will come, when the time comes, to carry us over Jordan.
The poet John O’ Donohue, who also died too young, wrote that there is “a beautiful surprise waiting inside death, which in one simple touch absolves us of all loneliness and loss, as we quicken within the embrace for which our souls were eternally made.” (John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (New York: Doubleday, 2008), p. 180.)
I see all that goodness for Kim now, and give thanks to God for all that is hers on the other side of what we can see. She deserves all of it, one lavish gift of heaven after another.
September 06, 2018
Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.”
In my sabbatical study of thriving congregations, among the commonalities I discovered was a commitment to what in academic settings is known as a core curriculum. As part of their mission to help people grow in their relationship to Christ and follow his teachings, these churches offer a small number of foundational learning/growth opportunities every year. For some, one of the offerings is the Alpha Course, or something like it--an introduction to the Christian faith in a relaxed setting where all questions are welcome. For others, their curriculum includes a course on how to read the Bible, or Christian principles for healthy relationships, or a yearly course or workshop on financial planning--not for fundraising purposes in the church, but how to develop sound financial habits informed by faith.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has invited all Episcopalians to take up the Way of Love, a rule of life focused on Jesus. Beginning this Sunday, I will explore the Way of Love in a sermon series which will be available to all in both audio and text format by the following Monday. I’ll be using the Sunday morning lectionary that we developed for this series which is available on our Way of Love website page. Prior to each sermon we’ll post on the website and include in the e-newsletter a suggested daily prayer format and bible passages that corresponds with each practice. You can find next week’s devotional here. For those who wish to gather in small groups to reflect on the Way of Love practices, we have a suggested template and guide for your discussions.
I’m aware of a few EDOW congregations that will be following along in the Way of Love series this fall, with clergy using the proposed Sunday lectionary and preaching sermons of their own on each of the seven practices. We’d love to know if your church is among them, so that we can share insights and learnings. Others are planning to use The Way of Love series in the season of Epiphany, or as the topic for parish retreats and mid-week or Sunday morning teaching series. If you have Way of Love offerings planned, please let us know so that we might share insights and learnings with one another.
The Presiding Bishop envisions the Way of Love as part of The Episcopal Church’s core curriculum, as do I for us in the Diocese of Washington. That means we will return to it regularly, and keep resource materials current for ongoing use. Over time, we want to include other offerings, so as to create a rich body of teachings for deepening Christian faith and practice. If you have thoughts about what to include in our core curriculum, please write to me.
As we begin this walk together, let me underscore the obvious: the Way of Love is not something new. It is simply a reaffirmation of ancient spiritual practices that open us to the love of Jesus and the ways we are called to join him in love for others. Nor does the Way of Love promise to fix the many challenges we face as a church. On the other hand, if we don’t engage in them, or others like them, we lose sight of what the church is. The church isn’t a building, an institution, a community desperate to survive. It is, as the Presiding Bishop loves to say, a movement, a gathering of people who daily choose to follow Jesus in his ways of love for the world, person by person, community by community.
I’m grateful to be among you as a fellow traveler on the Way of Love.
August 30, 2018
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
Let us love one another, for love is from God. Those who love are born of God and know God, for God is love.Those who dwell in love, are dwelling in God and God in them. There is no room for fear in love, for love which is perfect banishes fear. We love because God first loved us; we cannot hate another and say, ‘I love God.’ If we do not love those whom we have seen, it cannot be that we love God whom we have not seen. This commandment we have from God, that those who love God must also love their neighbor.
Each of the institutions on the Cathedral Close are in the midst of the rituals of new beginnings. What a gift for us to be all together today, to lift our collective voices in prayer and song, take a breath, and enjoy each other’s company before we are sorely outnumbered by younger generations. A special welcome to all who are new to the Close and thanks to National Cathedral School for hosting us.
A bit of history to remind us all how we are connected: St. Alban’s Parish was here first, established in 1854 as a worshipping congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. It would go on to establish a number of the Episcopal churches in the city, including St. Columba’s just up the way, and St. Patrick’s, home of one of our sister Episcopal schools. The Diocese of Washington was carved out of the Diocese of Maryland in 1895, right around the time that the U.S. Congress established the charter for the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation. The first Cathedral stone was laid in 1907. Were it not for the Cathedral, it’s not clear to me that the Diocese of Washington would exist, at least not in its present form. Our office building, known on the Close as “Church House,” was originally the Bishop’s residence, and the “Bishop’s Garden,” was once the bishop’s garden--or more accurately, the garden of the bishop’s wife. It was the wife of the cathedral’s first dean, Florence Bratenahl, who in 1916 established All Hallows Guild to nurture and protect the natural beauty of the Cathedral Close. National Cathedral School was established in 1900; St. Albans School in 1909, and Beauvoir in 1933.
While each institution on the Close has its unique vision, charism, and rhythms--each so absorbing that we sometimes lose sight of one another--the deeper reality is that we are organically and relationally connected.
Among the things we have in common, we adults who work on the Close, is that for 9 months of the year, we are surrounded by more than 1600 children and their families. Whatever our role--be it in the classroom or administration, in worship or sports; whether we come to know them over years or meet them in passing on the grounds, standing in line at the Cafe, or waiting for the go-ahead from a police officer to cross the street, we all have a role not only in their education, but their becoming. Educating children and adolescents isn’t a sprint but a lifelong journey, taken mostly in small steps, with a few giant leaps; with more than a few setbacks and at least one or two colossal failures on their part, or ours.
We all know this but let me say it aloud as a reminder:
How we treat children and young people teaches them far more than whatever knowledge we impart.
How we treat one another, others who cross our paths, and those whose lives we touch from afar communicates far more than our words about what we believe about the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human being.
How we disagree with one another, and express our disagreements with others in the wider society, teaches them more about living among their fellow human beings than anything they would read in a book.
How we respond when they make mistakes, and we make mistakes, and when other people we don’t particularly like make mistakes teaches them how we want them to live with the imperfections of human beings and of our relationships, and tells them how safe they really are--no matter how many security guards we have to protect them--to be themselves in our midst.
Now I’m of an age where I’m mostly invisible to anyone under 30, but the truth is--and you remember this from your own youth--young people watch adults like hawks. They see us better than we see ourselves. Think back now--how you were drawn to the adults who actually cared about you, and who lived lives that you admired; how you were inspired by those whom you saw mostly from a distance but who always seemed to see you as a person worthy of their attention and concern, and how a well-placed smile or word of encouragement could make your day or week. How we live and engage with one another and care--genuinely care--for those entrusted to this Close in the formative years of childhood and adolescence--matters more than we will ever know.
In the time I have left, I’d like to speak directly to the spiritual and religious dimension of our work:
First a story: A friend of mine married into a wealthy family and when she was in her 50s, she was invited to sit on the grant selection committee of their family foundation, which served as a major funding source for non-profits serving under-resourced neighborhoods and working for social change in the midwestern city where we lived (Toledo, Ohio) She told me of a time when members of this selection committee sat around a table, discussing proposals. One of the younger family members held up a proposal from a faith-based organization and asked, “Why on earth would we consider funding a church?” Another chimed in. “No kidding. The last thing the world needs is more Christians.”
My friend, a practicing Christian, told me of this exchange with real sadness, which I felt as I heard it, but we both understood why her younger family members felt the way they did. The appalling behavior of some Christians in the name of Jesus is the primary reason why many leave the faith or are repelled by it.
And so when I, as a Christian leader, ask myself if the world needs more Christians, as a Jewish leader might ask about the world needing more Jews or a Muslim leader about the world needing more Muslims, the answer would surely be, “Well, it depends on what kind of Christians we are talking about. What kind of Jew, what kind of Muslim?” Some would argue with plenty of data to support their argument, as did the young person my friend spoke of, that the last thing the world needs is more of us.
The sad truth is that being a religious people in no way assures that we will be good people, kind, caring, generous, loving people, although that’s what every one of our faith traditions--and speaking as a Christian, certainly what I know Jesus wants those who feel called to follow him--to be. We are all far more complicit in the evils and hypocrisies we decry than we are comfortable admitting. There’s a gap between the aspirations of our faith and how most of live; for some, the gap is so wide as to create havoc and cruelty around them, all in the name of a loving God.
Yes, it’s enough to make people of conscience and goodwill want to walk away or to stay away from religion entirely. Or to go deeper. To walk with even greater intention and commitment to personal and societal transformation that every spiritual tradition known to humankind calls us to.
Going deeper is what these institutions stand for, and we, collectively affirm: that there is a way to live in this world steeped and schooled in the best of what it means to be human and personally touched by the spiritual mysteries that surround us and call us into relationship with the all encompassing mystery we call God.
This is a really interesting time to belong to the Episcopal Church, to teach in an Episcopal school, or work for an Episcopal institution. Because we have at the helm now a bit of a rock star. Those of us who knew Presiding Bishop Michael Curry before he catapulted onto the world stage with a sermon he preached at a wedding you might have heard of know how consistent his message is. His is the message of Jesus, one of radical love, the all encompassing, transformative love of God that Christians believe Jesus came into the world to manifest. We believe that Jesus came into the world to show us how to live, and how to love.
Bishop Curry has been preaching essentially the same sermon he preached at the Royal Wedding for over 30 years. But now that he has our attention, he is calling anyone who is listening, and especially those of us in the Episcopal Church to intentionally walk and grow in this way of love, to be the kind of Christians, he would say, that actually follow Jesus.
He’s given us a rule of life, summarized in the small card before you, with specific spiritual practices that make up what he calls a Jesus-focused life. There is nothing new here--these practices align with ancient practices of all faiths and also with modern insights on how to live well. If you’re not a Christian, you can easily substitute your faith or sources of inspiration wherever you see the word “Jesus.”
Let’s look at them together:
Turn--Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus.
Learn--Reflect on Scriptures each day, especially Jesus’ life and teachings.
Pray--Dwell intentionally with God each day.
Worship--Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near to God.
Bless--Share faith and unselfishly give and serve.
Go--Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus.
Rest--Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration.
I was talking to a colleague who worked for years as chaplain at one of our great rival schools across the Potomac that will go unnamed, and she said that these practices are at the heart of Episcopal education. I leave that to your further reflection to see if you concur.
I will be preaching and writing and reflecting on the Way of Love for the foreseeable future, taking each practice in turn and all them together, committing myself to them and encouraging others to remember how important it is to engage in simple but transformative daily practices that open and expand our hearts, enable us to be more present to one another, and receive the grace and mercy of God.
I leave you now simply with a word of encouragement to consider the gift and the call of your own lives, the ways of love to which you are already committed. You might review these practices to see which ones speak to you, which ones are challenging. Ponder what it might look like for all of us, together, to intentionally commit to a way of love that is both robust and compassionate, humble and confident, focused on the highest aspirations that human beings are called to, in full recognition of how often we fail to meet them and how quick the God of love is to forgive and help us to begin again.
What an example that would be for the Close students and their families, giving them the greatest gifts of Episcopal education, which is a way to live with love and compassion in this world. May we aspire to be the kind of people, leaders and teachers who raise up young people walking in way of love so fully that while others may never know what faith they practice, they will surely say, “The world needs more people like them.”
August 16, 2018
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
This summer, members of your diocesan staff and I have crafted an 8-week lectionary based on Presiding Bishop Curry’s call for all Episcopalians to commit to a common path of spiritual growth. Beginning on September 9th I will preach a sermon series on The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life, using the biblical texts of this lectionary. Each week we’ll also provide, via email, suggested Scripture readings for daily prayer.
All diocesan clergy are welcome to use the Way of Love lectionary this fall or another time. Across the Episcopal Church, others are also generating Way of Love resources which we will curate and post on our website.
As I’ve committed to the Way of Love this summer, I find myself thinking my memories of Jesus, how the significant people in my life spoke about him and how my image of him has changed from when I was a child, then a teenager, and throughout my adulthood.
I’ve also been pondering the meaning of conversion. Conversion experiences were a source of confusion for me as a teenager and young adult, a time when I sojourned through several different branches of the Christian family, each with a particular understanding of conversion. I had several conversion experiences myself, but never in quite the way others described them. I didn’t feel what I thought I was supposed to feel; nor did my life change in ways I hoped it would. While I never doubted the existence of God and was deeply drawn to Jesus, I doubted my experience. I marveled at those who seemed so certain about what was, surely, the greatest of all mysteries.
In a providential moment, I was given a book entitled Turning: Reflections on the Experience of Conversion by Emilie Griffin, Using her own experience and that of well known twentieth-century Christians (C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and others) Griffin described several different paths of conversion. Some were dramatic, other more gradual; some were emotional, others guided by intellect. She also suggested that conversion is more of a journey than an event, which came as a relief to me 30 years ago and remains a reassuring notion still. But, in a gentle, yet firm challenge to that part of us that would prefer to remain non-committal and content with caricatures of Jesus that we are then free to keep at arm’s length, Griffins also insists that there is a choice to be made in the conversion experience. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. We are free to decide if we will let him in and then follow where he leads.
To turn, Presiding Bishop Curry suggests, is the first and foundational spiritual practice in a Jesus focused life. I’ll write more about this and the other six practices beginning next month. For now, I offer you a few excerpts from Turning that I have found especially helpful:
By conversion, I mean the discovery, made gradually or suddenly, that God is real. It is the perception that this real God loves us personally and acts mercifully and justly toward us. Conversion is the direct experience of the saving power of God. As such, it is not an event, not an action, not an occurrence. Instead, it is a continuing revelation and transforming force.
Conversion begins with a longing or desire, a heart’s ache for something we have never quite experienced and cannot fully describe.
If our Christianity is to be visible—a light to the world—it must be because the Lord makes it visible, not because we ourselves seek to place it before the eyes of the world.
Christ, we are told, has come to heal the brokenhearted; that we may have life and have it to the full. At the same time, Christianity is not some emotional wonder drug, as the trials and difficulties of many Christians show. . . Those dearest to Jesus—in fact Jesus himself—had moments of sadness, discouragement, even despair. To pretend otherwise is to flee from reality rather than to face it as Christianity calls us to do.
And, quoting C.S. Lewis:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.
I am persuaded that it is not only the Presiding Bishop who is inviting us to us to walk in the way of love, but Christ himself. As we open the door for Jesus, daily turning our gaze toward him and committing ourselves to specific spiritual practices, we can rest assured that our congregations will be renewed, our communities transformed for the good, and our lives continually changed by his loving, liberating, and life-giving presence.
Join me in daring to believe that we have been called to this path by the God who is love. May we walk it together with kindness, curiosity, and whole-hearted intention.
Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde
August 09, 2018
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred let us so love. . .
Prayer attributed to St. Francis
As the one year anniversary of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, approaches, tensions are mounting in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Last year’s rally exposed the racial hatred, Nazi admiration, and glorification of violence at the core of white supremacist groups. Those same groups plan to rally in front of the White House on Sunday after they were denied a permit to return to Charlottesville.
We are right to be dismayed and alarmed at such a gathering here. Or anywhere.
Many counter demonstrations are also being planned throughout the city. As your bishop, I ask that you pray, wherever you are, for the power of love to overcome hatred. Pray and speak out in faithfulness to our non-violent Lord and in the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God.
Should you feel called to be physically present in your witness, please consider two prayerful gatherings for which we, as a diocese, are co-sponsors.
On Friday, August 10, Washington Hebrew Congregation (map) will host a teach-in followed by a special Shabbat Service.
From 3:00 - 5:45 p.m: A teach-In on White Supremacy, Racism, Anti-Semitism, and the Neo-Nazi Movement and a congressional town hall meeting. Organized by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, this informative session will feature leading experts in the from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Anti-Defamation League. The event will also feature a special presentation by the Reverend William Barber. This event is free. Register here
At 6:00 p.m. - Shabbat of Peace - A special Interfaith Shabbat service, open to all members of the community. Together we will embrace the unity of the human family and ask for prayers of peace. This service will conclude with a special candlelight vigil to honor and remember the lives lost in Charlottesville during the rallies and protests one year ago. Please visit Washington Hebrew Congregation’s website for more information and to RSVP for the service.
On Sunday, August 12, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.: United to Love: Standing Together in Love and Resisting Hate: an ecumencial, interfaith rally on the National Mall
The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church invites all persons of faith and goodwill to gather on the National Mall (4th Street NW) in public witness for peace, justice, and tolerance. Worship and music will be offered from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., followed by the rally and speakers from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Our Canon Missioner, the Rev. Leonard Hamlin, from Washington National Cathedral, will be addressing the rally on behalf of the Diocese of Washington and the Rev. Charles Allen Wynder, Jr. Staff Officer for Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement will be speaking on behalf of the wider Episcopal Church. For more information and to register
The Diocese of Washington will be well-represented at both gatherings, a testimony to the love, courage, and conviction that God has placed in our hearts. But wherever we find ourselves this weekend and beyond, may we be instruments of God’s peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love.