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

Jesus' Healing Ways

February 07, 2021

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40: 29-31

Jesus left the synagogue at Capernaum and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still dark, he got up and went to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered them, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do.” And he went out throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Mark 1:29-39

Hello, friends of All Saints. What a privilege to worship God with you today. I’m grateful for the opportunity to express my affection and admiration for this faith community. A special word of thanks to your good rector, Fr. Ed Kelaher, your clergy and lay staff, your wardens and vestry members for their inspired and faithful servant leadership.

I follow All Saints’ ministries closely and personally benefit from doing so, as do others across the diocese and beyond. In particular, I commend you for the breadth and depth of your collective witness to Jesus Christ and His love; your commitment to a life-long pattern of discipleship and spiritual growth; and your service, in Jesus’ name, to those whose life circumstances bear the brunt of this world’s brokenness and sin. While your reach is global, I especially want to thank you for your loving presence in Southeast Washington, DC through your partnership with Little Lights, and for your work with Central Union Mission that serves people experiencing homelessness throughout the Metro Area. 

I used to tell the people of the congregation I served in Minneapolis that if they could rouse themselves out of bed on the cold Sunday mornings in January and February and make it to church, they would be richly rewarded. The themes and Scripture readings of the Epiphany season are so uplifting--all pointing toward the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ and the ways that God illuminates, reveals, and inspires us, and works through us to reveal something of that same love in ways large and small. While the pandemic has certainly changed how we gather for worship, the reward has been especially true for you at All Saints this Epiphany season. 

Before a parish visitation I typically listen to the sermon preached there the previous week. For All Saints I listened to the last four sermons preached from this pulpit, one from each of your clergy team. You are blessed with clergy who convey the power of the gospel with conviction and skill, offering you spiritual insight and gentle exhortations to be God’s voice, to imitate Jesus and his way in the world, to imagine him calling you to something big, and to give him authority in all areas of your life. Amen and amen. 

My Epiphany offering is to explore with you the nature of Jesus’ healing power as it is described in Scripture and how we can experience his healing now. “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,” we heard from the prophet Isaiah. There is a lot of waiting required whenever we’re sick or wounded. Waiting for care. Waiting for the pain to ease. Waiting for the body to heal. Waiting for the grace to accept what does not heal.  

The gospel text today picks up the narrative of Jesus’ first day of public ministry in the fishing village of Capernaum, not far from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. He had finished teaching in the synagogue--where, as you heard last week, he astounded people with his authority, and then cast out a demon from a man possessed, again with authority. Jesus then left the synagogue and went to stay at the home of Simon Peter. We learn that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever and Jesus healed her. 

(As an aside, while the text tells us of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, nowhere in Scripture is there mention of Simon Peter’s wife. I wonder if she had died young. We’ll never know, of course, but I wondered about Simon Peter’s wife this week.) 

Word got around fast that there was a healer in town. By nightfall the people of Capernaum had brought all who were sick or demon possessed to him. The text tells us that “the whole city gathered at the door.” There must have been a lot of illness in Capernaum then. Perhaps it was always that way, or maybe there was a particular illness going around. Imagine the scene: all these people lined up outside the house waiting, wanting to be healed, wanting a loved one to be healed. The image is not unlike what we’ve seen in the last year--people so sick that their loved ones bring them to hospital emergency rooms, filling the waiting room and lining up outside in the hallways, waiting for a chance to get well. 

If you are living with illness or injury now, or caring for someone who is sick, you may know what it’s like to need to find someone who has healing power. Like the people in Capernaum of Jesus’ day, you have a lot of company now,  and not only because we’re in the midst of a pandemic--although COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States by a wide margin. While COVID-19 is understandably foremost on our minds, all manner of illness and injury assault the human body and spiritual forces wreak havoc on our souls. 

Seen through this lens, it’s striking to note how much of Jesus’ ministry focused on healing the physically sick and casting out demons, casting out, in other words, the spiritual forces that seek to bring us down--depression, addiction, and rage, to name only a few demons of our time. This was not a peripheral dimension of his work: he healed people all the time, everywhere he went, and he drew large crowds because of it. People in Jesus’ day wanted to be well as much as we do now. As the living expression of God’s compassion, Jesus walked among them as one who healed. 

The immediacy of the healing stories is always striking to us, and at times confusing, for we long for that immediacy when we are suffering or when a loved one suffers. Why that doesn’t happen as clearly as it seems to in the stories of Scripture is something we can’t help but wonder about. 

For some, that gap in our experience relative to the healing stories of Scripture becomes the chasm they cannot cross over to a life of faith or it’s the reason they lose  faith. No matter the depth of our own faith we’d be made of stone if we didn’t struggle ourselves with the mystery of it all--why some are healed and others are not; why some forms of healing come to us and some do not. 

There is great mystery in healing. While there is much we can do to facilitate our own healing and open ourselves to receive it, we can’t force it. We can do everything right and still get sick. When Jackie Kennedy Onassis was diagnosed with the cancer that would ultimately take her life in her early 60s, she is reported to have said, “What was the point of all those sit ups?” Recently one of the clergy in our diocese who was, as he told me, “beyond careful” in his efforts not to contract the coronavirus spent four nightmarish days in an intensive care unit struggling to breathe. 

Conversely, we can indulge in countless careless or self-destructive behaviors, and the natural healing processes will continue working far longer than we have any right to count on them. A dear friend of mine lost his wife to a brain tumor. He said to me: I treat my body terribly, and I’m still alive. She treated her body like the temple of the Holy Spirit that it was, and she’s gone.” It’s a mystery. 

But this I know: to experience the presence of the Risen Christ, known to us in Spirit and in truth, in community and in quiet, through the sacraments and Scripture, the kindness of friend and stranger, has healing power. The healing of our broken bodies and wounded souls--whatever the cause--is central to a life in Christ, central to our relationship with Jesus. 

Jesus’ healing presence is mysterious and beyond our control, but it is real. His healing is something we can ask for and open ourselves to receive. But it isn’t magic, and as you well know, it doesn’t spare us from suffering and waiting. It doesn’t exempt us from the responsibility to care for ourselves and our loved ones, and our society. As Christians, when we hear or experience vast disparities in access to health care, and exposure to things that make people sick, that’s a cause of concern. As the pandemic has revealed, painfully so, if one is sick, all are at risk.

I know that I am most available to the healing presence of Christ when I acknowledge and accept whatever it is that I need healing for or from. This is no small step. The second step, equally important, is, as Father Matthew said so well last week, to give Jesus authority over our illness or pain. From what I can tell, Jesus’ healing doesn’t depend upon our acknowledging that some things in this world are bigger than we are, or that we consciously ask for his help, but there is something that frees up in us when we accept where we are and what we need. For me it feels like waving the white flag: I’ve done all that I can, and I’m still sick; I’ve worked at everything, and I’m still broken; I am one of the walking wounded. Please, help.

Being healed by Jesus takes many forms. Sometimes that healing comes as a complete release from whatever it was that kept us down, a kind of freedom that we could hardly imagine before we experienced it. I remember a priest saying to me when I was in my mid-twenties and really struggling with some of the deeper wounds of my life, “You are going to love being on the other side of this.” I thought to myself, “I’ll never be on the other side of this.” But he was right. I did reach the other side. And like bones that grow stronger after they are broken, I felt stronger having been healed of what had plagued me for so long. 

Sometimes, however, healing comes not through the removal of one’s wounds, but through finding the grace in and through them. This is not what we would prefer, and it takes time to accept, but there is healing, nonetheless. St. Paul writes of this kind of healing in a famous passage from Second Letter Corinthians. Something was not well in Paul’s life. We don’t know what it was; he called it “a thorn in the flesh,” something that hurt him and kept him down. “Three times I appealed to the Lord that it would leave me,” Paul writes, but to no avail. Paul was to live with his frailty, not be spared from it. “My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord told him, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore I am content with weakness,” Paul concludes, “for whenever I am weak, through the grace of Christ, I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12) 

Examples of such grace are too many to cite: think of all the people you’ve known or heard about who not only made their peace with their so-called handicaps or limitations, but gained strength through them, and gave strength to others. If given the opportunity to be healed of whatever thorns in the flesh they live with, no doubt they would jump at the chance. But by God’s sufficient grace they still live abundant lives, and so can we, even with our infirmities and wounds. For wholeness of life does not mean perfection, or flawlessness. Wholeness of life means living fully the lives we have been given, striving for health when we can, yet accepting and seeking grace through incompleteness when we must.  

Jesus is about the work of deep, transformational healing. There is a necessary waiting involved: those who wait for the Lord will have their strength renewed. We wait, doing what we can see to do, but also realizing that there is a rhythm of working hard and then surrendering to all that lies beyond our ability to control. 

Our part in healing others depends on who and where we are. Some among us have the gift of spiritual healing--the ability to bring peace and solace to wounded souls. Some, the gift of physical healing, through medicine and the healing arts. Others have the gift of compassion: providing a meal, visiting those who are sick, or offering needed assistance when others are down. Still others are drawn to the bigger picture: they’re down at the Capitol every chance they get, to press for health-minded public policy. Still others give generously of their resources, so that more in our communities and the wider world are spared the suffering of living with easily-treated, yet life-sapping diseases. I could go on and on. 

The amazing thing about all these ways we might help heal another is that healing flows through and among us precisely when we, too, are among the wounded and know it, when we acknowledge our own need for the healing graces of others and of Christ, even as we’re called to extend it ourselves. 

In closing then, I invite you to name for yourself an area of your life in need of healing, and to bring that need to Jesus now. He already knows, but there is something about acknowledging that need for the first or the hundredth time that opens us to receive him. Say all that you need to say to Him about your pain, or the pain you feel for another. Trust that God does not cause your pain, and wants for you to be well. Perhaps yours is a wound that will heal completely; perhaps it will be a wound that does not heal fully, but through which grace will be revealed to you, and be a source of healing of others. I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But this I know: that there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal our sin sick souls. There is healing grace, as we open ourselves for the first or the hundredth time to the presence of Jesus in our place of need. 

Consider, too, where you may be called now or in the future to be an instrument of healing for someone else, or a source of comfort in suffering. For as St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, Jesus has no physical body here but ours; no hands and feet on earth but ours. Ours are the voices through which he speaks his healing words of love. So never hesitate to speak a healing word. Yours may be the one that Jesus longs for another to receive. Amen. 


Called to Hope: Bishop Mariann's 2021 Convention Address

January 30, 2021

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
Ephesians 1:17-18

Friends, it is my honor and joy to address you, the elected leadership of this diocese, to reflect on what we’ve learned in the past year, where we are now, and what our diocesan priorities will be in the year ahead. 

Before going further, let me say that the text of my address will be available immediately after the Convention. As I speak, it might be helpful to write down what resonates with you. I welcome any questions or comments you’d like to post using the chat function. While I won’t be able to respond today, know that your feedback is important to me. 

What I have learned walking alongside you this past year is that as followers of Jesus, we are a people called to hope. Yet Christian hope, as you well know, is not the product of easy living. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that the hope of Christ is the fruit of redemptive suffering, suffering that produces endurance, which in turn, produces character, which in turn, produces hope. This hope, he says, does not disappoint us. It is not ours to manufacture or to feign. It is God’s hope poured into our hearts.

To be clear, Christian hope is neither wishful thinking nor naive optimism. This hope demands that we see the world as it is, and ourselves as we are. Hope, in itself, is not a strategy or a plan. Rather, hope is a grace given to us, an orientation to our lives and the world that informs our strategies and plans--a firm persuasion that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, God is God, and nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus. 

What this hope calls me to, as your bishop, is a steady determination to keep going toward the mission and vision we have discerned together, while taking into account the enormity of change we have experienced. While the crises of 2020 consumed much of our energies, I am grateful to report that we were able to accomplish the first year goals of our strategic plan, which is a testimony to the grace of God, your tenacity, and the benefits of having a strategic plan as both touchstone and guide in disorienting times. 

Looking Back on 2020 

Let’s take a moment to consider the past year: how much has changed, how many have suffered, how deep the grief, how hard the work, and how dramatic the restrictions on our daily rhythms and communal practices. The list of hardships is long, longer still for some than for others. Thus there isn’t one answer to the question, “How are we doing as a diocese?”

I want you to know that I see you in all your varied contexts. I see how you are witnessing to the God of hope in your lives and congregations--hope born of suffering, endurance, and character, hope that is not the result of everything going as you had hoped, but is, instead, God’s hope poured into your hearts. 

The good news is that the majority of EDOW congregations have come through 2020 remarkably well. You have done and are doing faithful, courageous and creative ministry. You consistently speak of the grace that has sustained you and the capacity for adaptation that you didn’t know you had. Many of those adaptations are permanent. Some of our congregations, praise God, are thriving now, with a renewed sense of energy, spiritual maturity, and purpose. 

Others of our congregations, however, while making it through 2020, which was a triumph, face worrying trends. The pandemic is, as many have said, a trend accelerator, meaning if your congregation was on a path of decline, it is now more likely moving faster on that path. We are seeing that. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Bowie, Maryland, closed in 2020, the first church to close on my watch. That closure was painful and costly, a drawn-out process that could have been less painful and perhaps avoided if we, as a diocese, had had the tools to intervene. 

For some the pandemic interrupted or halted initiatives that were on the cusp of taking off, which was really disappointing. At the same time, the pandemic has been what our friends from the Unstuck Group call a holy interruption. As a result, some congregations  are experiencing Christ’s presence in new ways, with new opportunities opening before them. 

This is the spiritual truth to hold onto: in the midst of crisis, there is opportunity. God is in the business of resurrection. While we cannot deny the realities we face and hard decisions we may need to make in 2021, God calls us to hope. 

I daresay we’ve all grown, not in ways we would have chosen and never enough to make light of the cost, but our growth in resilience and creativity is real. Going forward, we take that growth with us. I also hear from every corner of the diocese expressions of gratitude for unexpected blessings, like manna in the wilderness, or the loaves and fish shared among many. 

Still, fatigue is real. Among the many ways to describe the past year, surely the image of a marathon is fitting. Given that the marathon isn’t over, we need to pace ourselves, take care of one another, and keep going.

In 2020, your diocesan staff and leadership bodies redirected considerable energy and resources to assist congregations in this crucible time. You can read a full accounting in the 2020 Annual Report. Later today, our treasurer, Jonathan Nicholas will highlight our financial investments in emergency aid and congregational support.

Your bishops and diocesan staff are here for you in times of crisis and transition, for assistance with a problem that’s holding you back. Equally, if not more important, we are also here to amplify and leverage your strengths, and to invest in you and  in our collective health. The strategic plan we launched last year is such an investment. By offering clarity and purpose, the plan has guided us through the pandemic, economic disruption, racial reckoning, and political tensions of this past year. We continue to be a diocese that seeks to “draw on the gifts of all God's people to serve Christ together and live Jesus' Way of Love.”

Strategic Plan 

Let me turn now to the strategic plan itself. As you recall, it has three objectives--to revitalize our congregations to grow the Jesus movement, to inspire every person to grow in faith & equip our leaders to lead well, and to partner in ministries of equity & justice for greater impact in our communities. Revitalization. Spiritual growth and leadership.  Equity and justice. 

2021 Revitalization Objective 

We will engage all congregations in the diocese with health assessments and revitalization strategies, including the implementation of the Tending Our Soil initiative with 12 congregations. 

Our first objective in the work of revitalization was to articulate for ourselves the marks of a vital congregation--no matter its context or circumstance--and then begin creating assessment tools and strategies for you to grow in vitality. We’ve accomplished that. In this second year, we’re committed to engaging every congregation with these tools and strategies. 

Parish Vital Signs 

At the heart of all are revitalization efforts going forward are 7 Vital Signs for Parish Health which leaders across the diocese identified.

They are: 

  • A compelling mission and vision
  • A clear discipleship path 
  • Uplifting and inviting worship
  • Welcoming and connecting ministries  
  • Blessing our community
  • Faithful financial practices
  • Inspiring and capable leadership

These signs can serve for both congregational self-assessment and as a guide for strategic initiatives going forward. 

We’ve begun using the vital signs assessment with congregations in clergy transition and on bishop visitations. They are at the heart of Tending Our Soil, our signature revitalization effort to be launched in 2021:  

Let’s review them together now. As we do, make note of which of these signs you sense needs to be a priority for your congregation in the coming year.
  

7 Vital Signs For Parish Health 

Compelling Mission and Vision 
A vital parish knows why it exists. It has a vision for the gospel that speaks to the power and love of God and what it means for us to be disciples of Jesus. 

A Clear Discipleship Path 
A vital parish has a clear vision of the Christian life and helps each of its members take the next step in their life in Christ. It guides those new to the Christian life, and tends to the spiritual growth of all ages and stages of life. 

Uplifting and Inviting Worship
A vital parish has inspiring and engaging worship, rooted in the Episcopal tradition, yet open to exploring the many ways people meet God in worship. In the time of COVID, we’re learning the importance of compelling digital worship. These are skills we want to continually improve and take with us when the pandemic is over.  

 Welcoming and Connecting Ministries 
A vital parish is intentional about welcoming guests; it walks alongside those new to their community, helping them to take their next steps in faith, build relationships, and engage in ministry. A vital parish has an outward focus, helping those unfamiliar with Episcopal worship to feel at ease. 

Blessing Our Community
A vital parish is known by its neighbors for its care. This is our ministry of service, of showing up for others, and of justice and advocacy, so that those who may never be a part of our congregations are glad that we are here and would be devastated if we left. 

Faithful Financial Practices
Financial sustainability is essential for parish health, as are financial best practices. A vital parish aligns its spending with its mission and has courageous conversations about a healthy relationship with money. 

Inspiring and Capable Leadership
Vital parishes have engaging and competent leaders who have mutual respect and affection for one another. Leadership is shared and distributed according to the gifts of its members. There is mutual accountability and a willingness to speak the truth in love. 

I ask you to take the vital signs description  to an upcoming vestry meeting. Review the vital signs together and do your own informal parish assessment. Where is your congregation strong and how might you build upon your strength? Where does your congregation need to address something that’s holding you back? Where might investment in potential yield the greatest fruit? We spend a lot of energy in areas that bear little fruit. It’s time to redirect those energies.

I also ask the regional deans to bring the Vital Signs to upcoming regional clergy and wardens meetings for a discussion of collective strengths and growing edges, so that congregations might explore collaborative efforts. 

Tending Our Soil  

Let me take a moment here to describe Tending Our Soil, the signature initiative in our work of revitalization for the next five years,  made possible by a $1 million Lilly Endowment grant awarded this past fall. Tending Our Soil will help us walk with up to 36 congregations in a three-year process to make headway in parish vitality. 

Tending Our Soil will provide participating congregations coaches, learning summits, resources and opportunities to collaborate with other congregations to work on the 7 Vital Signs. We’ll show a promotional video and describe the application process for congregations later today. Now is the time to consider whether your congregation might be ready for this opportunity. We’re looking for 12 congregations for the first cohort, followed by an additional 12 congregations for each of the next 2 years. 

Under the topic of revitalization, I’d like to briefly address the Proposed Canon for Diocesan Stewardship and Congregational Vitality.

Though not explicitly part of the strategic planning process, you recall that last year the Convention voted to establish a committee to consider ways to assist congregations experiencing precipitous decline. The full report of the committee’s work is in your Convention Booklet. Later, we will hear an update from the Rev. Dr. Sheila McJilton, the chair of the Committee, and we will consider the proposed canon at a special convention later this year. 

I turn your attention now to the second of three strategic goals: to inspire our people and equip our leaders. 

2021 Faith and Leadership Objective 

We Will Expand the School Christian Faith and Leadership And Strengthen Its Foundations 

Establishing the School for Christian Faith and Leadership was a cornerstone of the strategic plan, as a catalyst for faithful discipleship and adaptive leadership. The School is committed to offering trusted resources and learning journeys that equip individuals for baptismal living and lead faith communities into greater vitality. 

The first year was a “soft launch,” in the classic sense of building the plane as we were flying, and it was a remarkable success. The timing of the school, as with much of the strategic plan, felt Holy Spirit driven, for in this year of COVID restrictions and newfound flexibility, we all needed to learn new skills fast. We realized that we could learn together. The response from the people in the diocese and beyond has affirmed the need for this kind of learning platform and resource hub. The school offered 18 courses this fall with over 700 people participating. 

In 2021, we’ll continue to strengthen and develop the school, building a strong foundation for the future. In its full expression, the school will be a comprehensive resource for individuals and congregations across the diocese and beyond, and a platform for our gifted teachers to broaden their reach. 

Here is my request: sometime today visit the School for Christian Faith and Leadership Page on the diocesan website. Look at the offerings to see if any would serve your leaders or offer spiritual food to your members. Look for yourselves as well. Moreover, if you have an offering in your congregation that is bearing good fruit, consider sharing with others through the School. Watch  for the official launch, with a new website, learning management system, and comprehensive curricula in the coming year. 

This brings to me the third of our strategic goals in the realm of equity and justice.

2021 Equity and Justice Objective

We will bravely uncover, understand, reckon with and act to dismantle racism within ourselves, our faith communities, the Diocese and our localities.

Our baptismal covenant is clear that striving for justice is no less important in the life of a Christian than reading the Bible, saying one’s prayers, growing in faith, and serving others. Justice is not a partisan issue, it is the expression of love in public life. We who are called to follow Jesus in his way of love are to strive for justice and seek the dignity of every human being.

As in other pivotal moments in American history, events in our country last summer laid bare deep racial inequities and injustices, bringing the social movement for racial justice to a crescendo. All this stirred diocesan-wide conversation about our commitment. With broad based consensus, our leaders determined that anti-racism must be our first diocesan-wide focus. It has been a priority for some in the diocese for generations. Now it is ours together. 

Other justice issues are not lost to us--advocacy and care for persons experiencing homelessness, addressing gun violence, food insecurity, the needs of immigrants, and care for creation. We will look at all these issues, and all our diocesan life, through the lens of racism and our efforts to dismantle it. 

Those present at last evening’s gathering heard the compelling story of how our mother Diocese of Maryland took up the good and necessary work of historical reckoning with slavery and reparations. It’s our turn to gather up all that we know and can learn about our past, and set about the work of becoming an equitable and just church, committed to building an equitable and just society, which is God’s dream for all humankind. 

Staff Transitions 

As I bring this address to a close, let me acknowledge that this is a time of significant transition on the diocesan staff. Earlier in the year we said goodbye to the Rev. Daryl Lobban and Mr. Don Crane. Now we celebrate the retirements of the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin and Ms. Cheryl Daves Wilburn, and the election of Canon Paula Clark as the next bishop of Chicago, all of whom we will honor later today. 

As hard as it is to say goodbye--and it is really hard-- we were expecting these transitions. For while they are young in spirit, both Sarabeth and Cheryl are at retirement age. And we always knew that Paula was destined to be a bishop. 

So be patient with us in the next few months, as we’re down a few hands, but know that your remaining diocesan staff is deeply committed to serving God and serving you.  

I’m delighted to officially announce that the Rev. Andrew Walter will assume the role of Canon to the Ordinary, with a primary focus on finance, administration, and strategic planning.

We’ve issued the call for a new Canon for Congregational Vitality to complement the excellent senior leadership team we have in Canons Robert Phillips and Michele Hagans, and the wondrous Bishop Chilton Knudsen. We are also searching for a  Missioner for Equity and Justice, and persons to serve in key administrative roles. 

Rest assured that you are in good hands with The Reverends Jenifer Gamber, Todd Thomas and Yoimel Gonzalez-Hernandez, The Ven. Sue von Rautenkranz, Ms. Mildred Reyes, our new Latino Missioner, Ms. Araceli Ma, Ms. Kathleen Hall, Ms. Keely Thrall, Mr. Peter Turner, Mr. Kelly Cooper, Ms. Kimberly Vaughn, and Ms. Lynn Chernik. A word of special thanks to Dr. Jordan Rippy, who has served in a volunteer capacity with us this year, and to Mr. John Van de Weert, who generously gives his time and expertise in the role of Diocesan Chancellor. The love and dedication of this staff is palpable. Please join me in thanking them. 

The 10 regional deans commissioned at last year’s convention have also served us well: the Reverends: Peter Antoci, Greg Syler, Melana Nelson Amaker, William Stafford-Whittaker, Linda Kaufman, Rondesia Jarrett-Schell, Dana Corsello, Cricket Park, David Wacaster, and Beth O'Callaghan. Their foundational work of relationship building among congregational leaders has the potential to establish transformative collaborative possibilities between your congregations. Please lean into that work with them. Strengthen the pathways of shared ministry so that we may build a diocese of thriving congregations. We aren’t meant to be islands unto ourselves. 

I end now where I began, with the prayer from Ephesians, which is my prayer for you: 

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.

The hope to which God has called me enables me to rise each day, sinner that I am, to follow Jesus and serve you, the people of this diocese. Together we embody Jesus’ love for the world. We are, as St. Paul says, earthen vessels, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power comes from God and does not belong to us.  

My own sense of call to this work is strong, and I commit to God and to you my whole hearted effort. 

As your bishop, I commit to turning toward Jesus every day, and I invite you to do the same.

I commit to follow Jesus and his Way of Love, and I invite you to do the same.

I commit to the mission, vision, and strategic goals we have collectively discerned, and I invite you to do the same.

You must hold me and the diocesan staff accountable to the goals we’ve set, but if this work is only for the bishop and her staff, we will fail. I need to hold you accountable, too. 

And so I ask once again: 

Will you rededicate your life to Jesus? 

Will you commit to a way of being church together that will help us realize the dreams God has placed on our hearts? 

If so, then I am confident that the God who has begun this good work in us will see it through to completion. 

May the God of hope bless and keep us all, as we follow Jesus and his way of love.

 

 

 

Llamados a la Esperanza: Presentación de la Convención de 2021 del obispo Mariann

January 30, 2021

Oro para que el Dios de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, el Padre de gloria, les dé espíritu de sabiduría y de revelación en el conocimiento de él. Pido también que Dios les dé la luz necesaria para que sepan cuál es la esperanza a la cual los ha llamado.
Efesios 1:17-18

Amigos, es un honor y de alegría hablarles como líderes elegidos de esta diócesis, para reflexionar sobre lo que hemos aprendido durante el año pasado, dónde estamos ahora y cuáles son nuestras prioridades diocesana en este año que tenemos por delante. 

Antes de continuar, déjenme decir que el texto de mi presentación estará disponible inmediatamente después de la Convención. Mientras estoy hablando, creo que sería útil que escribieran lo que resuena para ustedes. Y los invito a compartir sus preguntas y comentarios usando la función del chat. Aunque no pueda responder hoy, sepan que sus ideas son importantes para mí. 

Lo que he aprendido caminando junto a ustedes el año pasado es que como seguidores de Jesús, somos un pueblo llamado a la esperanza. Sin embargo la esperanza cristiana, como ustedes saben, no es el producto de una vida fácil. San Pablo escribe en su carta a los Romanos que la esperanza en Cristo es el fruto de un sufrimiento redentor, un sufrimiento que produce resistencia, lo cual produce carácter, lo cual produce esperanza. Esta esperanza, dice él, nos nos falla. Nosotros no podemos construirla ni fingirla. Es la esperanza de Dios que se desborda en nuestros corazones. 

Para ser claros, la esperanza cristiana no es un deseo ni optimismo ingenuo. Esta esperanza demanda que veamos el mundo como es, y a nosotros mismo como somos. La esperanza, en ella misma, no es una estrategia o un plan. Por el contrario, la esperanza es una gracia dada a nosotros, una orientación para nuestras vidas y para el mundo que da forma a nuestras estrategias y planes - una persuasión firme de que no importa lo que pase o lo que no pase, Dios es Dios y  nada en este mundo puede separarnos del amor de Dios revelado a nosotros en Jesucristo. 

A lo que esta esperanza me llama como su obispa, es a una determinación constante de mantener caminando hacia la misión y visión que hemos discernido juntos, tomando en consideración los grandes cambios que hemos experimentado. Aunque la crisis del 2020 consumió muchas de nuestras energías, estoy agradecida de reportar que pudimos cumplir con las metas del plan estratégico para el primer año, lo cual es testimonio de la gracia de Dios, su tenacidad y los beneficios de tener un plan estratégico como meta y guía en tiempos  de desorientación. 

Mirando atrás al 2020 

Tomemos un momento para considerar el pasado año: cuánto ha cambiado, cuánto hemos sufrido, cuán grande ha sido el luto, cuán duro el trabajo y cuán dramáticas las restricciones en nuestros ritmos diarios y nuestras prácticas comunitarias. La lista de dificultades es larga, más larga todavía para algunos más que para otros. Sin embargo, no hay una respuesta para la pregunta: ¿Cómo nos va como diócesis?  

Quiero que sepan que los puedo ver en todos sus diferentes contextos. Veo cómo están dando testimonio del Dios de la esperanza en sus vidas y en sus congregaciones - esperanza nacida del sufrimiento, de la perseverancia, del carácter; esperanza que no es el resultado de todo lo que sucedió mientras tenían esperanza, sino, por el contrario, es la esperanza de Dios que ha sido desbordada en sus corazones. 

La buena noticia es que la mayoría de las congregaciones de EDOW han atravesado el 2020 muy bien. Ustedes han hecho y están haciendo un ministerio fiel, valiente y creativo. Constantemente ustedes hablan de la gracia que los ha sostenido y de la capacidad de adaptadiòn que no sabían que tenían. Muchas de esas adaptaciones son permanentes. Algunas de nuestras congregaciones, gloria a Dios por eso, están prosperando ahora, con un sentido renovado de energía, madurez espiritual y propósito. 

Otros en nuestras congregaciones, sin embargo, aunque han sobrevivido el 2020, enfrentan muchas preocupaciones. La pandemia es, como han dicho muchos, una aceleradora progresiva, lo que quiere decir que si tu congregación estaba en camino al declive, es ahora más probable que ese camino sea más rápido. Ya lo estamos viendo. La Iglesia Episcopal Holy Trinity en Bowie, Maryland, cerró en el 2020, la primera iglesia que ha cerrado bajo mi supervisión. Este cierre fue doloroso y costoso, un proceso agotador que pudo haber sido menos doloroso y quizás ser evitado si como diócesis hubiésemos tenido las herramientas para intervenir.   

Para algunos, la pandemia interrumpió o puso freno a iniciativas que estaban en pleno vuelo, lo cual fue muy decepcionante. Al mismo tiempo, la pandemia ha sido lo que nuestros amigos de Unstuck Group llama, una interrupción santa. Como resultado, algunas congregaciones han experimentado la presencia de Cristo de maneras nuevas, con nuevas oportunidades que se abren ante ellas.  

Esta es la verdad espiritual a la que aferrarnos: en medio de la crisis, hay oportunidad. Dios está haciendo posible la resurrección. Aunque no podemos negar las realidades que enfrentamos y las duras decisiones que tendremos que tomar en el 2021, Dios nos llama a la esperanza. 

Yo me atrevería a decir que todos hemos crecido, no en formas que hubiésemos escogido y nunca lo suficiente como para desestimar el costo, pero nuestro crecimiento en resiliencia y creatividad es real. En el futuro, llevamos ese crecimiento con nosotros. Yo también escucho, de cada rincón de la diócesis, expresiones de gratitud por bendiciones inesperadas, como el maná en el desierto, o los panes y peces compartidos por muchos.  

Sin embargo, la fatiga es real. Entre las muchas formas de describir el año pasado, con seguridad la imagen del maratón es pertinente. Dado que el maratón no ha terminado, necesitamos tomar tiempo para nosotros mismos, para otros, y seguir caminando. 

En el 2020 el equipo diocesano y los cuerpos de liderazgo redirigieron considerable energía y recursos a ayudar a las congregaciones en este tiempo crucial. Pueden leer un resumen completo en el Reporte Anual del 2020. Más tarde, nuestro tesorero, Jonathan Nicholas enfatizará en nuestras inversiones financieras en ayuda de emergencia y ayuda congregacional. 

Sus obispas y personal diocesano estamos aquí para ustedes en tiempos de crisis y transición. Igualmente, aunque no menos importante, también estamos aquí para amplificar y aprovechar sus fortalezas, y para invertir en nuestra salud colectiva. El plan estratégico que lanzamos el año pasado es tal inversión. Al ofrecer claridad y sentido, el plan estratégico nos ha guiado a través de la pandemia, de la ruptura económica, del debate racial y de las tensiones políticas durante el pasado año. Nosotros continuamos siendo una diócesis que busca “fortalecer los dones de todo el pueblo de Dios para servir a Cristo juntos y vivir el Camino del Amor de Jesús.”    


Plan Estratégico 

Déjenme cambiar de tema al plan estratégico. Como ustedes recuerdan, el plan estratégico tiene tres objetivos - revitalizar nuestras congregaciones para hacer crecer el movimiento de Jesús, inspirar a cada persona al crecimiento en la fe y formar a nuestros líderes para que lideren bien, y colaborar en ministerios de equidad y justicia para impactar mejor a nuestras comunidades. Revitalización, crecimiento espiritual y liderazgo. Equidad y justicia.  

Objetivo de Revitalización para el 2021 

Trabajaremos con todas las congregaciones en la diócesis con estrategias de revitalización y evaluaciones de salud comunitaria, incluyendo la implementación de la iniciativa Cuidando nuestra Tierra con 12 congregaciones. 

Nuestro primer objetivo en el trabajo de revitalización fue articular para nosotros mismos las marcas de una congregación vital - sin importar su contexto o circunstancia - y luego comenzar a crear herramientas de evaluación y estrategias para crecer en vitalidad. Esto lo hemos logrado. En el segundo año, estamos comprometidos a trabajar con cada congregación, con estas herramientas y estrategias. 

En el corazón de todos los esfuerzos de revitalización en el futuro están las 7 Signos de Vitalidad para la Salud Parroquial, las cuales han sido identificadas por líderes en toda la diócesis. Estas son: 

  • Una misión y visión convincentes
  • Un camino claro para el discipulado
  • Una adoración edificante y abierto a otros
  • Ministerios abiertos a todos y que brindan conexión
  • Bendición de nuestra comunidad
  • Prácticas financieras fieles
  • Liderazgo inspirador y capaz

Estos signos pueden servir tanto como auto-evaluación para las congregaciones como una guía para iniciativas estratégicas en el futuro.  

Nosotros hemos comenzado a usar estas evaluaciones de los  signos vitales con congregaciones en transición del clero y en visitas de la obispa. Estas son el corazón de Cuidando nuestra Tierra, nuestro cuño de revitalización que será lanzado en el 2021.  

Revisemos estos signos juntos ahora. Mientras lo hacemos, tomen nota de cuáles de estos signos sientes que necesita ser una prioridad en tu congregación en este año. Vamos a hacer una encuesta anónima por Zoom en unos momentos, así que estén listos.  


7 Signos Vitales para la Salud Parroquial

Una Misión y Visión Convincentes
Una parroquia vital sabe por qué existe. Tiene una visión del evangelio que le habla al poder y ama a Dios, además de reflejar lo que significa para nosotros ser discípulos de Jesús. 

Un camino claro para el Discipulado 
Una parroquia vital tiene una visión clara de la vida cristiana ayuda a cada uno de sus miembros a tomar el siguiente paso en su vida en Cristo. Esta parroquia guía a quienes son nuevos en la fe cristiana y alimenta la vida espiritual de personas de todas las edades y en todos las situaciones de la vida.  

Una adoración edificante y abierta a otros 
Una parroquia vital tiene una adoración inspiradora y contagiosa, enraizada en la tradición episcopal, pero a la vez abierta a la exploración de formas diversas en que las personas encuentran a Dios en la adoración. En tiempos de COVID estamos aprendiendo la importancia de una adoración digital edificante. Estas son herramientas que queremos continuar mejorando y llevar con nosotros una vez que la pandemia termine. 

Ministerios abiertos a otros y que ofrecen conexión 
Una parroquia vital es intencional en su recibimiento a invitados, camina junto a quienes son nuevos en la comunidad, ayudándolos a tomar el siguiente paso en su fe, crea relaciones y se involucra en el ministerio. Una parroquia fital tiene un enfoque hacia afuera y ayuda a quienes no están familiarizados con la adoración episcopal para que se sientan más cómodos. 

Bendición de nuestra comunidad
Una parroquia vital es conocida por sus vecinos, a los cuales cuida. Este es nuestro ministerio de servicio, de estar presente para los demás, así como un ministerio de justicia y abogacía, para que aquellos que no sean nunca parte de nuestras congregaciones, estén felices de que estemos aquí y devastados si nos vamos. 

Practicas financieras fieles
La sostenibilidad financiera es esencial para la salud de una parroquia, así como las mejores prácticas financieras. Una parroquia vital realiza sus gastos en función de su tienen conversaciones valientes sobre las relaciones saludables con el dinero. 

Liderazgo inspirador y capaz
Las parroquias vitales tiene líderes inspiradores y competentes que tienen respeto y afecto mutuos. El liderazgo es compartido y distribuido de acuerdo a los dones de sus miembros. Hay responsabilidad mutua y voluntad para hablar la verdad en amor.  

Les pido que tomen la descripción de los signos vitales (lo cual pueden encontrar en el sitio web de la diócesis) y los presenten en la próxima reunión de la Junta Parroquial. Revisen los signos vitales juntos y realicen sus propia evaluación de la parroquia. ¿Dónde es fuerte tu congregación y cómo construir sobre esta fortaleza? ¿Qué tiene que enfrentar tu congregación con relación a algo que la está frenando? ¿En qué área se puede tener los mayores frutos si se invierte en ello? 

Le pido a los deanes regionales que lleven los Signos Vitales a las próximas reuniones con el clero y los guardianes para un debate de las fortalezas y oportunidades de crecimientos colectivos, para que las congregaciones exploren esfuerzos de colaboración. 

Cuidando nuestra Tierra  

Déjenme tomarme un momento para describir Cuidando nuestra Tierra, la iniciativa que marca nuestro trabajo de revitalización para los próximos cinco años, hecha posible por el fondo de $1 millón de dólares recibido por Lilly Endowment en el otoño pasado. Cuidando nuestra Tierra nos ayudará a caminar con 36 congregaciones en un proceso de tres años lo cual marcará el camino de la vitalidad parroquial. 

Culiando nuestra Tierra proveerla la participación de mentores congregacionales, encuentros de aprendizaje, recursos y oportunidades de colaboración con otras congregaciones para trabajar en los 7 signos vitales. Mostraremos un video promocional y presentaremos el proceso de aplicación para congregaciones más tarde. Ahora es el momento de considerar si tu congregación puede estar lista para esta oportunidad. Estamos buscando 12 congregaciones para el primer grupo, a las cuales le seguirán 12 congregaciones cada año, en los próximos 2 años. 

Bajo el tema de la revitalización, me gustaría presentar brevemente sobre la propuesta de Canon sobre la Mayordomía Diocesana y la Vitalidad Congregacional.

Aunque no es parte explícita del proceso de planificación estratégica, ustedes recuerdan que el año pasado la Convención decidió establecer un comité para considerar maneras de ayudar a las congregaciones que experimentan un declive precipitado. El reporte completo del trabajo del comité está en el cuaderno de la Convención. Más tarde escucharemos una actualización de este tema por parte de la Rev. Dra. Sheila McJilton, la presidenta del Comité, y consideraremos la propuesta de Canon en una convención especial durante este año. 

Les pido su atención ahora a la segunda y tercera metas estratégicas: inspirar a nuestra gente y formar líderes.

 

Objetivo de Fe y Liderazgo del 2021

Ampliaremos la Escuela de Fe y Liderazgo Cristianos y fortaleceremos sus fundamentos

Establecer la Escuela de Fe y Liderazgo Cristianos fue uno de los centros del plan estratégico como catalizador para un discipulado fiel y un liderazgo adaptable. La Escuela está comprometida en ofrecer recursos confiables y caminos de aprendizaje para formar a individuos en la vida bautismal y liderar comunidades de fe hacia una mayor vitalidad. 

En el primer año tuvimos un “lanzamiento suave”, en el sentido clásico de construir un avión mientras volábamos, y fue un éxito excepcional. El momento en que nace la Escuela, así como el plan estratégico, parece como guiado por el Espíritu Santo, ya que en este año de restricciones y novedosa flexibilidad debido al COVID, todos necesitamos aprender nuevas habilidades muy rápido. Entonces nos dimos cuenta que podemos aprender juntos. La respuesta de la gente en nuestra diócesis y fuera de ella ha afirmado la necesidad de este tipo de plataforma de aprendizaje y centro de recursos. La escuela ofreció 18 cursos este pasado otoño con más de 700 personas como participantes. 

En el 2021 continuaremos fortaleciendo y desarrollando la Escuela, construyendo una fundación fuerte para el futuro. En su completa expresión, la Escuela será un recurso abarcador para individuos y congregaciones en la diócesis y fuera de ella, y una plataforma para que nuestros talentosos maestros amplíen su alcance. 

Aquí está mi petición: en algún momento hoy visita la página web de la Escuela de Fe y Liderazgo Cristianos en el sitio web de nuestra diócesis. Mira las ofertas y piensa si alguna podrá servirle a tus líderes o ofrecer alimento espiritual a tus miembros. Busca algo para ti también. Y además si cuentas con algo en tu congregación que está dando frutos, considera compartirlo con otros a través de la Escuela. Estate atento al lanzamiento oficial con un nuevo sitio web, un sistema de aprendizaje y un currículo abarcador el próximo año.  

Esto me lleva a la tercera meta estratégica relacionada con la equidad y la justicia.

El Objetivo de Equidad y Justicia del 2021 

Haremos público, comprenderemos, asumiremos y actuaremos con valentía para desmantelar el racismo en nosotros mismos, en nuestras comunidades de fe, en la Diócesis y en nuestras localidades.  

Nuestro pacto bustismal es claro en que buscar la justicia no es menos importante en la vida de los critianos que leer la Biblia, orar, crecer en fe y servir a otros. La justicia no es un tema partidario, sino una expresión del amor en la vida pública. Al ser llamados a seguir a Jesús en su camino de amor, estamos también llamados a buscar la justicia y la dignidad de todo ser humano. 

Como en otros momentos de cambio en la historia americana, eventos en nuestro país en el pasado verano revelaron profundas inequidades e injusticias raciales, ampliando el movimiento social por la justicia racial. Todo esto animó a una conversación en toda la diócesis sobre nuestro compromiso. Con un consenso amplio, nuestros líderes determinaron que el antirracismo debe ser nuestro primer enfoque dioicesano. Ha sido una prioridad para algunos en la diócesis por generaciones. Ahora es nuestro también. 

Otros temas relacionados con la justicia no están perdidos para nosotros -- la abogacía y el cuidado de personas que que no tienen hogar o que experimentan la violencia armada, la inseguridad alimentaria, las necesidades de los inmigrantes y el cuidado de la creación. Atenderemos todos estos temas, y toda nuestra vida diocesana, a través de los lentos del racismo y nuestros esfuerzos para desmantelarlo. 

Quienes estuvieron presentes en la última noche de encuentro, escucharon la convincente historia de cómo nuestra hermana Diócesis de Maryland realizó el buen y necesario trabajo de reconocimiento histórico sobre la esclavitud y las reparaciones. Es nuestro momento de unir todo lo que sabemos y podemos aprender sobre nuestro pasado y comenzar el trabajo de convertirnos en una iglesia equitativa, comprometida a construir una sociedad equitativa y justa la cual es sueño de Dios para toda la humanidad. 


Transiciones en el Staff 

Al concluir esta presentación, quiero reconocer que este es un momento de transición significativa en el equipo diocesano. A inicios del año 2020 le dijimos adiós al Rev. Daryl Lobban y al Sr. Don Crane. Ahora celebramos los retiros de la Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin y la Sra. Cheryl Daves Wilburn, así como la elección de la Canóniga Paula Clark como la próxima obispa de Chicago. Hoy honraremos a todas estas personas más tarde.   

Aunque es duro decir adiós, esperábamos estas transiciones. Aunque son jóvenes en espíritu, Sarabeth y Cheryl están en edad de retiro. Y siempre supimos que Paula estaba destinada a ser una obispa. 

Así que sean pacientes con nosotros en los próximos meses al contar con menos manos para el trabajo, pero sepan que el resto de su equipo de trabajo en la diócesis está profundamente comprometido con el servicio a Dios y a ustedes.  

Me complace anunciar oficialmente que el Rev. Andrew Walter asumirá la función de Canónigo del Ordinario, con su foco central en las finanzas, administración y planificación estratégica. 

Hemos hecho un llamado para un nuevo Canónigo de Vitalidad Congregacional para complementar el excelente equipo de liderazgo que tenemos en los Canónigos Robert Phillips y Michele Hagans, y la maravillosa Obispa Chilton Knudsen. También estamos buscando a un Misionero de Equidad y Justicia y personas para servir en funciones administrativas fundamentales. 

Descansen confiados que están en buenas manos con los Reverendos Jenifer Gamber, Todd Thomas y Yoimel González Hernández, La Venerable Sue von Rautenkranz, la Sra. Mildred Reyes, nuestra nueva Misionera Latina, la Sra. Araceli Ma, la Sra. Kathleen Hall, la Sra. Keely Thrall, el Sr. Peter Turner, el Sr. Kelly Cooper, la Sra. Kimberly Vaughn y la Sra. Lynn Chernik. Un agradecimiento especial a la Dra. Jordan Rippy, quien ha servido como voluntaria este año y al Sr. John Van de Weert, quien generosamente da de su tiempo y sabiduría en la función de Canciller Diocesano. El amor y la dedicación de este equipo es palpable. Por favor, acompáñenme en este agradecimiento.  

Los 10 deanes regionales comisionados en la pasada convención también han servidio bien; los Reverendos Peter Antoci, Greg Syler, Melana Nelson Amaker, William Stafford-Whittaker, Linda Kaufman, Rondesia Jarrett-Schell, Dana Corsello, Cricket Park, David Wacaster y Beth O'Callaghan. Su trabajo fundacional de crear relaciones entre los líderes congregacionales tiene el potencial de establecer posibilidades de colaboración transformadora entre nuestras congregaciones. Por favor, busquen su ayuda en el trabajo. Fortalezcan el camino del ministerio compartido para que podamos construir una diócesis con congregaciones florecientes. No estamos llamados a ser islas. 

Termino ahora donde comenzó, con la oración de la carta a los Efesios, la cual es mi oración hoy. 

Oro para que el Dios de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, el Padre de gloria, les dé espíritu de sabiduría y de revelación en el conocimiento de él. Pido también que Dios les dé la luz necesaria para que sepan cuál es la esperanza a la cual los ha llamado.
Efesios 1:17-18

La esperanza a la cual Dios nos ha llamado me permite levantarme cada día, pecadora como soy, para seguir a Jesús y servirles a ustedes, el pueblo de esta diócesis. Juntos encarnamos el amor de Jesús por el mundo. Somos, como dijo San Pablo en la segunda carta a los Corintios, vasijas de barro, para que se muestre el extraordinario poder que proviene de Dios y que no nos pertenece a nosotros. 

Mi propio sentido del llamado para este trabajo es fuerte, y me comprometo ante Dios y ante ustedes con todo el esfuerzo de corazón. 

Como su obispa, me comprometo a cambiar mi rumbo a Jesús cada día y a invitarlos a hacer lo mismo.  

Me comprometo a seguir a Jesús en su Camino del Amor y a invitarlos a hacer lo mismo. 

Me comprometo con la misión, la visión y las metas estratégicas que hemos discernido colectivamente, y los invito a hacer lo mismo. 

Ustedes pueden hacernos responsables a mí y al equipo dioceesano por las metas que hemos establecido, pero si este trabajo es solo de la obispa y de su equipo, de seguro fallaremos. Yo también necesito hacerlos responsables a ustedes. 

Y les pregunta una vez más: 

¿Rededicarán su vida a Jesús? 

¿Se comprometen al camino de ser la iglesia juntos para ayudar a cumplir los sueños que Dios ha puesto en nuestros corazones? 

Si es así, entonces estoy confiada en que Dios, quien ha comenzado el buen trabajo, lo hará hasta su cumplimiento. 

Que el Dios de la Esperanza les bendiga y los cuide mientras seguimos a Jesús y su camino del amor. 

 

Like a Tree Planted by Water

January 28, 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 17:5-10

As we near the end of the first month of 2021, the year we hope to emerge from the pandemic, I’m thinking about resilience, that mysterious spiritual and physical capacity that enables us to persevere and become stronger through adversity.  

Countless biblical passages speak of resilience, and coming upon one of them when you need it most is one of the great benefits of a daily practice of reading scripture. For me, the biblical image of a tree planted by water is particularly compelling these days. Jeremiah describes such a tree as not afraid of heat or anxious in drought. 

How I want to be like that tree. 

In a pastoral counseling course I once took on how to be present with people experiencing hardship, the instructor held up a cross section of a tree trunk with concentric rings revealing the tree’s age. Each ring, as you know, represents one year. Tree rings also show the impact of weather on the life of a tree--thin rings are the result of drought; wider ones of abundant water. A knot represents some sort of trauma to the tree’s system. Taken as a whole, tree rings reveal the capacity of a given tree to integrate such experiences, adjust, and go on. 

We then drew our own cross section of a trunk, using concentric rings to tell the story of our lives. We drew wide rings to depict years of abundance, thin ones for years of drought, and knots for the events that marked us. Our teacher then asked what we learned from our struggles that might help us when hardships come again or when we seek to be present with someone else. Being present with another in pain, without rushing to fix, requires faith in resilience, the capacity to make it through hardship and grow stronger as a result. 

Someday we'll look back on 2020 and 2021 and speak of what these years were like. Like trees that have endured trauma, surely this time will leave its mark. But what can we do and what are we doing now to tap into our God-given resilience? 

Scripture’s answer is always some version of, “Stay close to God.” Words like “trust” “abide,” “wait,” “remember,” all point us to the power of a relationship that rarely rescues, but always sustains us. 

A mentor priest of mine used to say: “God never promises us an easy world in which to live, but rather how to be joyful in the world as it is.” God does not spare us suffering, but gives us what we need to find purpose and strength in suffering. God doesn’t promise us perfect relationships, but instead offers the capacity to accept and love others as God loves us. The Christian life is one of paradox: to live in this world is to suffer, yet in Christ we are given joy. To live in this world is to be subject to the forces of anxiety and uncertainty, yet in Christ, we can know glimpses of peace that surpasses human understanding.  

God has placed this amazing, mysterious power of resilience into the very fabric of the created order--in nature and in us. Resilience, one of my teachers in systems theory would say, is nature’s imaginative response to challenge. Resilience enables us to rebound and evolve in the face of external forces that would otherwise threaten our survival. Resilience broadens our repertoire, so that we have options with which to respond to changing circumstances. 

When we feel anxious or overwhelmed, it’s easy to forget that God has equipped us with the capacity to withstand and become stronger through trauma. I do not mean to minimize feelings of exhaustion or deny the fact that we are sometimes overcome by forces stronger than we are. But we are often stronger than we realize in our weaker moments. Our tree rings are evidence of that. 

There are 11 months left in this pivotal year. As best you can, take care of yourselves and tend to the practices that give your strength. Take time each day, through prayer and dwelling in scripture, to draw from the deep well of divine strength that will see you through. Become the tree planted by water that does not cease to bear fruit. Resilience is God’s gift to you, and yours to the world.


Como Un Árbol Plantado Por El Agua

January 28, 2021

Bendito quien confía en el Señor, quien pone en el Señor su seguridad. Será un árbol plantado junto al agua, que alarga a la corriente sus raíces; no temerá la llegada del estío, mantendrá siempre verde su follaje. No le inquietará un año de sequía, ni dejará por eso de dar fruto.
Jeremías 17:5-10

A medida que nos acercamos al final del primer mes de 2021, el año que esperamos salir de la pandemia, estoy pensando en la resiliencia, esa misteriosa capacidad espiritual y física que nos permite perseverar y hacernos más fuertes a través de la adversidad.

Innumerables pasajes bíblicos hablan de resiliencia, y venir sobre uno de ellos cuando más lo necesitas es uno de los grandes beneficios de una práctica diaria de leer las Escrituras. Para mí, la imagen bíblica de un árbol plantado por el agua es particularmente convincente en estos días. Jeremías describe a un árbol como que no tiene miedo al calor o está ansioso por la sequía.

Cómo quiero ser como ese árbol.

Una vez tomé un curso de consejería pastoral que presentó ideas de cómo estar presente con personas que experimentan dificultades. El instructor sostuvo un tronco de un árbol con un corte transversal que dejaban ver anillos concéntricos que revelaban la edad del árbol. Cada anillo, como saben, representa un año. Los anillos de los árboles también muestran el impacto del clima en la vida de un árbol: los anillos delgados son el resultado de la sequía; los más anchos de agua abundante. Un nudo representa algún tipo de trauma en el sistema del árbol. Tomados en su conjunto, los anillos de árbol revelan la capacidad de un árbol para integrar tales experiencias, ajustarse y continuar.

Entonces dibujamos nuestra propia sección transversal de un tronco, usando anillos concéntricos para contar la historia de nuestras vidas. Dibujamos anillos anchos para representar años de abundancia, los delgados para años de sequía, y nudos para los acontecimientos que nos marcaron. Nuestro instructor preguntó entonces qué habíamos aprendido de nuestras luchas que podría ayudarnos cuando las dificultades vuelven a venir o cuando buscamos estar presentes con alguien más. Estar presente con otro en el dolor, sin apresurarse a arreglar, requiere fe en la resiliencia, la capacidad de hacerlo a través de las dificultades y crecer más fuerte como resultado.  

En el futuro, cuando volvamos a mirar hacia atrás, al 2020 y al 2021, hablaremos de cómo fueron esos años. Al igual que los árboles que han sufrido traumas, seguramente estos años dejarán su huella en nosotros. Pero, ¿qué podemos hacer y qué estamos haciendo ahora para aprovechar nuestra resiliencia dada por Dios?

La respuesta de la Escritura es siempre una versión de, "Mantente cerca de Dios". Palabras como "confiar" "permanecer", "esperar", "recordar", nos apuntan al poder de una relación que rara vez rescata, pero siempre nos sostiene.

Un sacerdote mentor mío solía decir: "Dios nunca nos promete un mundo fácil en el que vivir, sino más bien cómo estar gozosos en el mundo tal como es." Dios no nos perdona el sufrimiento, sino que nos da lo que necesitamos para encontrar propósito y fortaleza en el sufrimiento. Dios no nos promete relaciones perfectas, sino que ofrece la capacidad de aceptar y amar a los demás como Dios nos ama. La vida cristiana es una paradoja: vivir en este mundo es sufrir, pero en Cristo se nos da alegría. Vivir en este mundo es estar sujeto a las fuerzas de la ansiedad y la incertidumbre, pero en Cristo podemos conocer señales de paz que superan el entendimiento humano.

Dios ha puesto este increíble y misterioso poder de la resiliencia en el tejido mismo del orden creado, en la naturaleza y en nosotros. La resiliencia, diría uno de mis profesores sobre la teoría de sistemas, es la respuesta imaginativa de la naturaleza al desafío. La resiliencia nos permite recuperarnos y evolucionar frente a fuerzas externas que de otro modo, amenazarían nuestra supervivencia. La resiliencia amplía nuestro repertorio, para que tengamos opciones con las que responder a las circunstancias cambiantes.

Cuando nos sentimos ansiosos o abrumados, es fácil olvidar que Dios nos ha equipado con la capacidad de resistir y volverse más fuertes a través del trauma. No quiero minimizar los sentimientos de agotamiento o negar el hecho de que a veces somos superados por fuerzas más fuertes de lo que somos. Pero a menudo somos más fuertes de lo que nos damos cuenta en nuestros momentos más débiles. Nuestros anillos de árbol son evidencia de eso.

Quedan 11 meses en este año crucial. Lo mejor que puedas, cuida de ti mismo y tiende a las prácticas que te dan fuerza. Toma tiempo cada día, a través de la oración y morando en las Escrituras, para sacar del pozo profundo de la fuerza divina que te verá a través. Convertirse en el árbol plantado por el agua que no deja de dar fruto. La resiliencia es el regalo de Dios para ti, y el tuyo para el mundo.

 

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