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 Author: The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde

Faithfulness in Contingency

July 16, 2020

Jesus put before the crowd another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.”
Matthew 13:24-35

All summer I’ve been thinking about the power of decisive moments, those times when we actively choose to be brave. We all want to be brave when it counts, to be one who steps up, leans in, does the right thing when it matters most. While we rarely know in advance when such courage is required of us, when we look back on the moments that defined us, we realize that they are not isolated events. There are often long seasons of preparation beforehand and equally important moments that follow. Nor can we always trust our perceptions of what’s decisive and what’s not, for those perceptions are astonishingly fluid. 

A wise bishop once told me that his motto in life was you never can tell. It was his way of reminding himself not to judge a given situation by how he felt or what he thought at the time. First impressions are often wrong. The seemingly best of circumstances may not turn out to be so. What initially looks like a disaster may, in the long run, work out for the best. Likewise, with our decisive moments. We don’t know, in the end, how decisive they’ll turn out to be, or which decisions are, in fact, the decisive ones.

In church this Sunday, we’ll hear Jesus tell a parable about weeds and wheat growing together. It’s easy to mistake one for the other, he says. Best let them be until the harvest. In other words, don’t rush to judgement. Your perceptions of reality can change. You never can tell. 

Human beings are unique in our capacity to interpret events and circumstances through more than one lens. Our inner landscape of self-awareness is also subject to change. Sometimes those changes are gradual. Other times they’re sudden and dramatic. We speak of a light bulb going off or a veil being lifted to describe the experience of revelation--seeing something we didn’t see before that had been there all along. Sometimes our shift in awareness is a source of liberation. It can also be a source of shame and need for reckoning. 

When this shift happens in our individual lives, it’s dramatic enough. But when it happens for us collectively, the world seems to spin faster. Things that were once impossible to consider begin happening at warp speed. 

This summer, surely the most decisive in recent memory, it seems that we are experiencing the possibility of a collective shift in the way we see ourselves and our understanding of what must change. Our sense or urgency is rising, as are our expectations, anxieties, and fears of disappointment. Our collective perceptions of what’s needed or possible are also changing, sometimes overnight. 

Thus we find ourselves wanting to speak truth, and we must, while remembering that our understanding of what is true and what is needed is limited by our perceptions and subject to change. We find ourselves wanting to be brave, and we must, while realizing that as we step up to the plate, we’ll miss more balls than we hit.

But here is a surprising truth: acceptance of our imperfect perceptions, incomplete understandings, and woefully inadequate actions can be paradoxically empowering. 

For when a decisive moment comes in the midst of such a whirlwind and we feel called to act with courage, we do so trusting less in ourselves than in the Spirit that’s compelling us forward. We don’t have to be perfect, which is a good thing, because we won’t be. We don’t have to take on the entire world; only our corner of it. And we’ll never know the ultimate significance of our words and action, if we’ll turn out to be among the weeds or the wheat. “But what a relief it can be to accept contingency,” writes the poet Christian Wiman, “to meet God right here in the havoc of change.” (1) 

Threshold is a word I often hear to describe the moment we’re in, to convey the possibility of crossing over from one reality to the next. We are collectively focused as never before on “the two pandemics,”--the biological pandemic of COVID-19 and the sociological pandemic of white supremacy that has plagued this nation since its inception and lives to this day. 

Surely the Holy Spirit is stirring among us and calling us to be brave. I also feel and see in others a desire to do our part. If this is, indeed, a decisive moment for change in our nation, we want to help cross the threshold and realize dreams for equity and justice so long denied. 

The truth is we don’t yet know if this will be the time, whether we are ready and willing to make the kinds of changes we desperately need. We don’t know whether our efforts will bear fruit. We cannot tell. 

But we do know this: wherever we are in the continuum of change, there are ways to be faithful to the dream God has entrusted to us. Whether this is the turning point or yet another season of disappointment; whether we are successful today or whether we fail, we can do what God asks of us. We can do our part--faithfully, imperfectly, in an ever-changing world in which we, too, are being changed. 

~~~

(1) Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (New York: Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013), p. 17.  

Fidelidad en contingencia

July 16, 2020

Jesús les contó esta otra parábola: “Sucede con el reino de los cielos como con un hombre que sembró buena semilla en su campo; pero cuando todos estaban durmiendo, llegó un enemigo, sembró mala hierba entre el trigo y se fue.” 
Mateo 13:24-35

Durante todo el verano he estado pensando en el poder de los momentos decisivos, aquellos momentos en los que elegimos activamente ser valientes. Todos queremos ser valientes cuando cuenta, ser alguien que se acerca, que va a lo profundo de uno mismo, hace lo correcto cuando más importa. Aunque rara vez sabemos de antemano cuándo se requiere tal valor de nosotros, cuando miramos al pasado en los momentos que nos definieron, nos damos cuenta de que no son eventos aislados. A menudo hay largas temporadas de preparación de antemano y momentos igualmente importantes que siguen. Tampoco podemos confiar siempre en nuestras percepciones de lo que es decisivo y lo que no es, porque esas percepciones son asombrosamente fluidas.

Un obispo sabio me dijo una vez que su lema en la vida era que nunca se sabe. Era su manera de recordarse a sí mismo no juzgar una situación dada por cómo se sentía o por lo que pensaba en ese momento. Las primeras impresiones a menudo son erróneas. Las circunstancias aparentemente mejores pueden no ser así. Lo que inicialmente parece un desastre puede, a largo plazo, funcionar mejor. Del mismo modo sucede con nuestros momentos decisivos. No sabemos, al final, cuán decisivos serán, o cuáles son, de hecho, las decisiones decisivas. 

En la iglesia este domingo, escucharemos a Jesús contar una parábola sobre las malas hierbas y el trigo creciendo juntos. Es fácil confundir uno con el otro, dice. Mejor dejarlos  hasta la cosecha. En otras palabras, no te apresures a juzgar ya que tus percepciones de la realidad pueden cambiar. Nunca se sabe.

Los seres humanos son únicos en nuestra capacidad de interpretar eventos y circunstancias a través de más de un lente. Nuestro paisaje interior de autoconciencia también está sujeto a cambios. A veces esos cambios son graduales. Otras veces son repentinos y dramáticos. Hablamos de una bombilla que se apaga o que se levanta un velo para describir la experiencia de la revelación, viendo algo que no habíamos visto antes que había estado allí todo el tiempo. A veces nuestro cambio en la conciencia es una fuente de liberación. También puede ser una fuente de vergüenza y necesidad de calcular.

Cuando este cambio ocurre en nuestras vidas, es bastante dramático. Pero cuando esto sucede colectivamente, el mundo parece girar más rápido. Las cosas que alguna vez fueron imposibles de considerar comienzan a suceder a gran velocidad.

Este verano, seguramente el más decisivo de la memoria reciente, parece que estamos experimentando la posibilidad de un cambio colectivo en la forma en que nos vemos y en nuestra comprensión de lo que debe cambiar. Nuestro sentido o urgencia está aumentando, así como nuestras expectativas, ansiedades y temores de decepción. Nuestras percepciones colectivas de lo que se necesita o de lo posible también están cambiando, a veces de la noche a la mañana.

Por lo tanto, nos encontramos con ganas de decir la verdad, y debemos, al tiempo que recordamos que nuestra comprensión de lo que es verdadero y lo que se necesita está limitada por nuestras percepciones y está sujeta a cambios. Nos damos cuenta de que queremos ser valientes, y debemos serlo, mientras nos damos cuenta de que a medida que avanzamos hacia la base, perderemos más bolas de las que podemos batear.

Pero aquí hay una verdad sorprendente: la aceptación de nuestras percepciones imperfectas, entendimientos incompletos y acciones lamentablemente inadecuadas pueden ser paradójicamente empoderantes.

Cuando llega un momento decisivo en medio de un torbellino así y nos sentimos llamados a actuar con valentía, lo hacemos confiando menos en nosotros mismos que en el Espíritu que nos obliga a avanzar. No tenemos que ser perfectos, lo cual es algo bueno, porque no lo seremos. No tenemos que asumir el mundo entero; solo nuestro rincón. Y nunca sabremos el significado último de nuestras palabras y acción si resultamos estar entre las hierbas o el trigo. "Pero qué alivio puede ser aceptar la contingencia", escribe el poeta Christian Wiman, "para encontrarse con Dios aquí mismo en el caos del cambio."

Umbral es una palabra que a menudo escucho para describir el momento en que estamos, para transmitir la posibilidad de cruzar de una realidad a la siguiente. Nos centramos colectivamente como nunca antes en las "dos pandemias", la pandemia biológica de COVID-19 y la pandemia sociológica de supremacía blanca que ha plagado a esta nación desde su creación y su vida hasta hoy.

Seguramente el Espíritu Santo se está revolviendo entre nosotros y nos llama a ser valientes. También siento y veo en otros el deseo de hacer nuestra parte. Si este es, de hecho, un momento decisivo para el cambio en nuestra nación, queremos ayudar a cruzar el umbral y hacer realidad sueños de equidad y justicia que tanto tiempo se niegan.

La verdad es que todavía no sabemos si será el momento, si estamos listos y dispuestos a hacer los tipos de cambios que necesitamos desesperadamente. No sabemos si nuestros esfuerzos darán fruto. No podemos decir.

Pero sí sabemos esto: Dondequiera que estemos en el proceso de cambio, hay maneras de ser fieles al sueño que Dios nos ha confiado. Si este es el punto de inflexión o una nueva temporada de decepción; si tenemos éxito hoy o si fracasamos, podemos hacer lo que Dios nos pide. Podemos hacer nuestra parte, fielmente, imperfectamente, en un mundo siempre cambiante en el que también nosotros estamos cambiando.

~~~

(1) Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (New York: Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013), p. 17.

Rest

July 01, 2020

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11: 29-30

In recent weeks, I’ve heard many colleagues and friends acknowledge their deep fatigue. Indeed, signs of fatigue are everywhere. I feel it myself. I’ve asked everyone on the diocesan staff to take time this summer to rest, even if a traditional vacation isn’t possible. I’ve asked regional deans to communicate the same message to our parish clergy, staff, and lay leaders. 

Our relationship to rest is complicated by many factors, both internal and external.

In an inequitable society, rest is experienced more as a privilege than an essential human need. In a time when work and income are uncertain, rest feels like a luxury we can’t afford. In the anxiety born of constant comparison and self-judgement, we often don’t allow ourselves to rest, even when given the opportunity. When all our normal patterns of life are disrupted, as they have in recent months, we may have forgotten what rest feels like. 

Then there is the clarion call to work for justice ringing in our ears. In the words of the Civil Rights leader Ella Baker: Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest. 

We cannot rest in the long road for justice, or in any work of lasting value. At the same time, we need rest. Our bodies daily need rest or we get sick. Our minds need rest or we can no longer think clearly. Our souls need rest or we lose grounding and perspective. Without adequate rest, we are at greater risk of having accidents, making poor decisions, or causing unintended harm when we mean to do good. 

As I bring all of these concerns and realities to prayer, what I hear is this: 

God knows our need for rest. 

God knows that we all need rest, in daily measure; in longer rhythms of sabbath time each week; and restorative seasons, when we can allow ourselves, like the soil, to lie fallow for a time, in order to continue to bear fruit.   

There are seasons in life and in society when rest seems nearly impossible, and we must rely on our inner reserves, the support of others, and the grace of God to keep going. Yet we aren’t meant to work at that pace all the time, but once we become accustomed to it, it takes time to recalibrate and find a more sustainable rhythm. 

Jesus was not one to shirk from work, and he calls us, his followers, into lives of sacrificial love and service. Yet he longs to give rest to our weary souls. 

In this unsettled, unrestful time, I hope that you find a way to practice rest, as one of the foundational disciplines in Jesus’ Way of Love. If it helps, remember that rest is one of God’s commandments--not a suggestion--for our own sake and that of others. Consider your relationship to rest and what keeps you from it. 

In your times of rest, pray for those who are still working--some far too hard, for far too long. And whenever you can, find ways to offer rest for others. In times like this, the gift of rest is priceless, both to give and to receive.  

 

Descansar

July 01, 2020

Jesús dijo, “Acepten el yugo que les pongo, y aprendan de mí, que soy paciente y de corazón humilde; así encontrarán descanso. Porque el yugo que les pongo y la carga que les doy a llevar son ligeros." 
Mateo 11:29-30

En las últimas semanas, he escuchado a muchos colegas y amigos reconocer su profunda fatiga. De hecho, hay señales de fatiga en todas partes. Yo misma lo siento. Les he pedido a todos los miembros del personal diocesano que tomen tiempo este verano para descansar, incluso si unas vacaciones tradicionales no son posibles. Les he pedido a los decanos regionales que comuniquen el mismo mensaje a nuestro clero parroquial, personal y líderes laicos.

Nuestra relación con el descanso se complica por muchos factores, tanto internos como externos. En una sociedad inequitativa, el descanso se experimenta más como un privilegio que como una necesidad humana esencial. En un momento en que el trabajo y los ingresos son inciertos, el descanso se siente como un lujo que no podemos permitirnos. En la ansiedad que nace de la constante comparación y el auto-juicio, a menudo no nos permitimos descansar, incluso cuando se nos da la oportunidad. Cuando todos nuestros patrones normales de vida se interrumpen, como lo han hecho en los últimos meses, podemos haber olvidado cómo se siente el descanso.

Luego está el llamado a trabajar por la justicia que suena en nuestros oídos. En palabras de la líder de los Derechos Civiles Ella Baker: Hasta que el asesinato de hombres negros, hijos de madres negras, se vuelva tan importante para el resto del país como el asesinato del hijo de una madre blanca, los que creemos en la libertad no podemos descansar. 

No podemos descansar en el largo camino de la justicia, ni en ninguna obra de valor duradero. Al mismo tiempo, necesitamos descansar. Nuestros cuerpos necesitan descanso diario o nos enfermamos. Nuestras mentes necesitan descanso o ya no podremos pensar claramente. Nuestras almas necesitan descanso o perdemos terreno y perspectiva. Sin un descanso adecuado, corremos mayor riesgo de tener accidentes, de tomar decisiones deficientes o de causar daños no deseados cuando queremos hacer el bien.

Al llevar todas estas preocupaciones y realidades a la oración, lo que oigo es esto: 

Dios sabe que necesitamos descanso. 

Dios sabe que todos necesitamos descanso, en medida diaria; en ritmos más largos de tiempo de reposo cada semana; y temporadas restaurativas, cuando podemos permitirnos, como el suelo, estar en barbecho por un tiempo, para continuar dando fruto.

Hay temporadas en la vida y en la sociedad en las que el descanso parece casi imposible, y debemos confiar en nuestras reservas internas, en el apoyo de los demás, y en la gracia de Dios para seguir adelante. Sin embargo, no estamos destinados a trabajar a ese ritmo todo el tiempo, pero una vez que nos acostumbramos a ello, toma tiempo para recalibrar y encontrar un ritmo más sostenible.

Jesús no eludió del trabajo, y nos llama a nosotros, sus seguidores, a vivir de amor y servicio con sacrificio. Sin embargo, él anhela dar descanso a nuestras almas cansadas.

En este tiempo inestable e inquietante, espero que encuentren una manera de practicar el descanso, como una de las disciplinas fundamentales en el Camino del Amor de Jesús. Si ayuda, recuerden que el descanso es uno de los mandamientos de Dios, no una sugerencia, por nuestro propio bien y el de los demás. Considera cuál es tu relación con el descanso y lo que te impide hacerlo.

En sus tiempos de descanso, oren por aquellos que todavía están trabajando - algunos demasiado duro, por mucho tiempo. Y siempre que puedan, encuentren formas de ofrecer descanso a los demás. En tiempos como este, el don del descanso no tiene precio, tanto para dar como para recibir.


Testimony of Bishop Mariann Budde Before the Committee on National Resources, U.S. House of Representatives

June 29, 2020

Chairman Grijalva, Ranking Member Bishop, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Mariann Budde. I serve as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which counts among its parishes St. John's, Lafayette Square. I appear today to express my deep concern about the events of June 1, 2020, when our government resorted to acts of violence against peaceful protesters and prevented clergy and lay members of the Church from exercising their ministry on the grounds of St. John’s.

We in the Episcopal Church believe that the issues of racial and social justice are core tenets of the Christian faith. The Bible teaches that all human beings are created in the likeness and image of God. As children of God, all are to be treated with equal dignity and respect. Embedded in our nation’s history and institutions is the shameful abuse of Black Americans and other persons of color justified by the sinful notion of white supremacy—that whiteness is the human standard from which all other human beings deviate, and are therefore less than fully human, less worthy of equal treatment. As Christians, we are called by God to rectify that injustice. Our faith compels us to join those around the country and the globe who have engaged in non-violent protests to call for an end to racist policies and practices, and to say clearly, with one voice, that Black lives matter. 

For Episcopalians, the issue of racial justice is a shameful part of our history, for we were once the church of slave holders. Like the White House, St. John’s Lafayette Square was built with enslaved labor. Yet throughout our history, our noblest members have fought for the liberation of the enslaved, full human and civil rights for all people, and to be a church that welcomes all, for indeed, as Scripture teaches, God shows no partiality. We continue to struggle to come to terms with our racist legacy, and that of American society as a whole. We strive to be a voice for peace and the fundamental dignity of all human beings, knowing that, at our most faithful, we stand on the side of justice. 

And so we stand today, at this critical moment. When non-violent protestors began to gather at Lafayette Square, we decided to be present, to add our voice to the call for justice, to stand with and minister to all other peaceful protestors gathered there. This was, and is, for us an act of faith. Our ministry was suddenly and forcefully interrupted by government officials—first on June 1, when the government violently cleared protestors and clergy alike from the area surrounding St. John’s, and then in the coming days, when the government denied us access to the church to conduct a vigil. 

These actions, and in particular the use of violence against peaceful protesters, were antithetical to the teachings of the Bible and what we stand for as a Church. When our government announced its intention to use military force against American citizens in the Rose Garden that day, it struck me as an escalation of violence that could cause unnecessary suffering. I was horrified to see the government carry out that threat moments later. The government’s action was dehumanizing and in violation of the protestors’ right to be in that space. Then when the President held up a Bible outside of our church, as if to claim the mantle of spiritual authority over what just transpired, I knew that I had to speak. Nowhere does the Bible condone the use of violence against the innocent, especially those who are standing up for justice. This was a misappropriation of scripture, and a usurpation of our sacred space. 

I raise these issues to call attention to an abuse of power on the part of our government, which is also at the heart of the larger struggle for racial justice. While it is true that there have been instances of vandalism at St. John’s in recent weeks, we will not let these events and others overshadow the fundamental cause of justice. People across our nation are united as never before in recognizing that the way we police our communities needs to change. The way we treat people of color in this country needs to change. Yes, we care deeply about our churches. But in the end, buildings can be re-built. Windows can be replaced. Pillars can be repainted. We can never bring back the lives that have been lost due to horrific police violence. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Elijah McClain, and so many others. Their deaths are the true outrage, and I don’t want anything that has happened at St. John’s—either before the protests or in the weeks since—to distract us from that fact. Black lives matter, and our faith compels us to seek equal justice for all people.


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