Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde's blog Gathering up the Fragments is now available here, together with her public statements and sermons. Select a category of writings from the list to the right or click to listen to her audio sermons.
February 15, 2018
“We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen. . .”
In the last 3 weeks I’ve been in a variety of group settings--clergy lunches, a dinner with wardens, table fellowship at our home, and a Sunday forum. What they had in common? Conversation in which we shared stories of personal faith experiences. I came away from each gathering uplifted, inspired, and wanting to hear more.
We had a prompt for these conversations, a deck of “faith sharing cards.” Each card has a question, both in English and in Spanish, such as:
Some people feel that they are being ‘led’ by God. Tell about a time when you felt the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor as yourself. Share a story of a time in your life when this was especially challenging. How did you respond?
What is the message you think Christ wants us to take into the world? Share a story from your life when you were most faithful to that call.
Share a story about a time when you allowed God to change your mind.
Not wanting to put anyone on the spot, when I introduce this faith sharing exercise, I hand out at least three cards per person, so that participants can choose among a variety of questions. “And if you don’t any of those”, I tell the group, “you can pick three more.”
So far, after a moment’s hesitation, people have jumped into the conversation. The level of personal sharing surprises everyone. At one gathering over dinner, people who had not met before went around the table three times! At another, those who knew each other well expressed awe at what new things they had learned about their friends.
It’s often a revelatory experience to share part of our story, for in retrospect we often see more clearly how Christ was present in a time of struggle, how the Holy Spirit acted in ways that we hadn’t recognized before. In the telling of our stories there is an increased confidence in God and our response to God. It is always moving to hear another person’s story.
At Diocesan Convention last month, we gave a set of “faith sharing cards” to every delegate and clergy person present, encouraging them to use them in a variety of settings among their faith communities. For the next year, I will use them when I meet with clergy and lay leaders, particularly when we share a meal together, and at some diocesan meetings, perhaps inviting folks to share a faith story with the person sitting next to them as part of our devotional time.
Research shows that among Christians, Episcopalians are the least comfortable sharing their faith with other people, which makes it difficult for us to grow in faith together, and it helps explain why our churches struggle to attract new people.
I invite you to join me and others in sharing bits of your faith story and listening to others in your community do the same. If we all take up this gentle challenge for a year in various settings, I’m convinced that we will be a more joyful, spiritually confident, warm and welcoming church.
It’s worth trying, don’t you think?
You can download your own set of faith-sharing cards on the EDOW website. There we also have suggested questions for youth and children.
February 11, 2018
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Last week I sat down and read in its entirety one of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life. I chose the Gospel of Luke, in order to prepare for a more prayerful, slower reading that our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has invited all in the Episcopal Church to undertake, starting today and continuing throughout the 40 day-season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday. The Gospel of Luke is the first selection for the Episcopal Church’s “Good Book Club,” which will continue after Easter with the Acts of the Apostles, the sequel to Luke, that tells the story of the early church.
Obviously I was reading this week for breadth, not depth, taking in the entire arc of Jesus’ life and death. It took about two hours. Had I been reading the Gospel of Mark, I would have been done in less than an hour. For while the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is essentially the same in three of the four gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--Mark’s is leaner than the other two, with more action, less of Jesus’ teachings. Something to keep in mind if when choosing which gospel to read.
All three accounts land at roughly the same place at the same time to tell the story that we just read from the Gospel of Mark. When I came to Luke’s telling of the story this week, I realized how much the importance of that fateful day, when Jesus took three of his closest disciples with him up a mountain, is amplified when we remember its place in the story.
To be sure, this wasn’t the first or the last time that Jesus went off to a secluded place to pray. That was his custom. He would go to a mountain or into the wilderness to pray. The texts rarely tell us what happened in his time of prayer, but in this instance they do, and we can understand why. For on that mountain, on that day, Jesus was swept up into a transcendent experience. He seemed to be transformed by light. He was visited by two of the great spiritual ancestors of his faith. A divine voice spoke from a cloud, as it had at his baptism, confirming his identity as God’s son.
This was, by all accounts, a big deal. Yet Jesus, Peter, James and John didn’t talk to anyone about it. As Mark tells the story, Jesus orders the others not to say anything until after his death. In Luke’s version, it says, “And they kept silent, and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.”
Why not? Why not speak of such an amazing an event, so confirming of Jesus’ identity as God’s chosen, so unambiguous in glory? Only with a wider lens are we given clues as to why Jesus and his disciples would choose to keep silent.
Remember that Jesus’ public ministry, which began after his baptism in the Jordan River and 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, took place in the towns and villages around the Sea of Galilee, where he grew up. He taught in synagogues and in open spaces; he healed people from diseases and cast our demons--the inner tormentors that, by whatever name we call them, can make life a living hell. He created quite a name for himself, established a large following, and made those in authority nervous, by what he said and did and how the crowds responded to him.
All through this time a question hovers in the air: Who is this man? He speaks with such authority and acts with such love. He has compassion for the outcast, the poor, and all manner of sinner. He prays to God Almighty as if he knows God intimately and encourages us to do the same. In his presence, there is healing, there is food in abundance, there is life.
The more time people spend around him, the more convinced they become that he was no ordinary man. If God Almighty were to visit us in human form, they concluded, this is what God would look like. And Jesus himself is not exactly discouraging this manner of thinking about him.
Imagine what hope would be stirred by such a man, such expectation for healing and liberation, such anticipation of God’s almighty power at last casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. There was excitement in the air, the stirrings of a movement, maybe even a revolution.
But then, in a turn that no could have anticipated, Jesus began to speak quite openly about suffering. Specifically his own suffering and inevitable death. No one wanted to hear this; no one, in fact, could hear it, anymore than we can hear something so far from our frame of reference that we have no place to put it.
Shortly after he first broached the subject of his suffering and death, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to a high mountain. There, they saw him in what could only be described as glory. This amazing experience of divine affirmation and love did not contradict Jesus’ foreboding sense of what was to come. Rather, it confirmed it. In Luke’s version, the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah is explicit: “They spoke to him about his departure--his exodus--which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Suffering was the path before him, and when Jesus came down from the mountain, he began to walk it. Onto Jerusalem, he told his followers, where my fate awaits.
Jesus didn’t want to talk about what happened on the mountain because it would seem to confirm all the fantasies about him and his power at the very moment he was to sacrifice his life. I daresay the disciples didn’t dare speak of it because it was too much for them to bear, this knowledge that the one upon whom all their hopes rested was on his way to Jerusalem to die.
This juxtaposition of God’s love and Jesus’ suffering, and the inevitability of suffering in a life devoted to love, is at the heart of Christian faith. I have never fully understood it, but I’ve seen it lived in the lives of remarkably brave human beings. I’ve come to believe in its truth and power, no matter how hard I resist the reality of suffering in my life and in the lives of those I love. Every year at this time, Christians are invited, in the midst of everything else our lives require of us between now and Easter, to keep part of our mind’s eye and spiritual heart focused on Jesus and his walk toward Jerusalem. It’s not the easiest thing to do: who wouldn’t rather stay on the mountain of glory, or at the least on the path of least resistance and the sweet illusions we can maintain for ourselves when life is going well?
I ask you to hold the image of Jesus’ walking toward Jerusalem and all that awaits him there, while I tell you about another person who is doing the very same thing right now.
Kate Bowler is a history professor at Duke Divinity School. She wrote her dissertation and first book on the history of what’s known as “The Prosperity Gospel,” a strain of American Christianity that believes fortune to be a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of spiritual failing. Bowler admits that at age thirty-five, everything in her life seemed to point, in its own way, toward “blessing.” She had scored her dream job right out of graduate school, was married to her high school sweetheart, and was hopelessly smitten with her toddler son.
Then she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.
In a radio interview this week she said:
My diagnosis was like a bomb went off and everything around me was debris. Before my diagnosis, I assumed that I was the architect of my life, that I could overcome anything with a little pluck and determination. I pictured my life as an enhancement project, as if life were a bucket and my job was to put things in the bucket. The whole purpose was to figure out how to have as many good things coexisting at the same time. Then when everything fell apart, I had to make a switch in my image of life. Maybe life is more like moving from vine to vine, and I’m grabbing on, hoping for dear life that the vine doesn't break.
I started to practice giving things away; imagining my husband living without me; raising our son alone. But then the people I loved would come back at me and say, “We are going to fight this.” They wanted to pour their certainty into me, to remake the world as it was. But there was no going back.
In her memoir Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I Have Loved Bowler chronicles the first year after her diagnosis, a year she was not expected to survive but did, thanks in large measure to harsh chemotherapy treatments combined with experimental immunotherapy.
Near the end, she describes the moment when her doctor suggests that it’s time to stop both regimens of chemotherapy--because they are no longer helping her--and rely solely on the immunotherapy. It feels as if two of the vines she depends upon will be cut and she’ll swing on the one vine, praying it holds her up.
She doesn’t know what to do: “I’m not sure I want to know what happens if I stop chemotherapy, but at the same time I want to get it over with,” she tells him. “What would you do?”
“I’d go to work,” he said. She realized that she was in presence of one who was well acquainted with suffering. “We’re all terminal,” he reminds her. “Take a deep breath. Say a prayer. And get back to work.”
When she tells him of how she dreads dying, he says this: “Don’t skip to the end.”
So Kate Bowler has gone back to work, doing her best to cherish each day, and not skip to the end. “Yes, I’m going to die,” she writes at the end of her memoir, “but not today.”
That’s exactly what Jesus did after coming down from the mountain. He saw his future clearly before him, one that would not end well, but he didn’t quit living, and he didn’t skip to the end. He started walking to Jerusalem, and as he walked, he continued to do what he had been doing all along: heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach good news to the poor, challenge the religious authorities for the cruelty of their purity codes. Yes, he was going to die, but not yet. There was still good work to be done.
What I hope you take away from this juxtaposition of Jesus’ coming to terms with suffering and Kate Bowler’s story is simply this: First, a gentle reminder that our life’s task is not to fill our bucket with as many good things as we can. Life is a gift; a mystery; and a journey, and for all of us, the journey on this side of heaven will end. Suffering and death are the greatest frontiers of human life. They lie beyond our understanding, but we are beyond God’s grace and love when suffering and death come to us, as they will. Suffering is not our fault. It is the price of being human in a world where the kingdom of God has not yet fully come.
But knowing this, we needn’t skip to the end. We, too, can live each day fully, cherishing moments of goodness, doing the work God has given us to do, and if we feel so called, following in Jesus’ ways of love.
Will you pray with me?
Lord Christ, from the beginning, your followers have tried to understand why it was that you needed to suffer and die as you did. Today, we thank you for facing into the reality of suffering with such courage, and going about your life, not skipping to the end. We ask for the grace to do the same, and grace to accept that perhaps everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but simply happens because we are human. Thank you for walking the harder road with us, helping us to be brave. We know that we’re going to die, Lord, but not today. Thank you for the work you’ve given us to do, and life we’re blessed to live. In your name, we pray.
February 08, 2018
Most of us, most of the time, feel left out—misfits. We don’t belong. Others seem to be so confident, so sure of themselves, “insiders” who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded. . . . As Luke tells the story of Jesus, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.
When was the last time you sat down and read from beginning to end one of the four accounts of Jesus’ life in the Bible?
If your answer is “I’ve never done that,” or “It’s been a long time,” join with me between now and this Sunday, February 11, in reading in its entirely the Gospel According to St. Luke. It won’t take long: each of the 24 chapters is only few pages.
Then, after you’ve finished reading the Gospel of Luke in this way, for breadth, start again on Sunday, this time reading for depth, a portion each day for the season of Lent. Know that you’ll be joining Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Episcopalians across the country (including your bishop) in a spiritual practice known as lectio divina, a prayerful engagement with Scripture that invites the Holy Spirit to speak to us through sacred texts. It involves not just reading the text, but deeply pondering the words and what they evoke in us, praying through them, and allowing the Spirit to quicken our hearts.
“The surest way to get into the presence of God is to get into the Word of God,” writes local pastor Mark Batterson. “It changes the way we think, the way we feel, the way we live, and the way we love.”
Once we finish Luke, we’re encouraged to read Part Two of this great story, as told in the Book of Acts. That’s the invitation for the Easter Season, and I’m on board for that as well.
But for now, as we enter Lent, the sacred season patterned on Jesus’ 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness, will you join me and others across our church in reading the Gospel of Luke? I wonder how God might move in each of us, and in all of us together, as we commit to this spiritual practice together.
February 04, 2018
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 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.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out 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, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Earlier this week I met with a group of lay leaders from congregations in one of the regions of our diocese. Some knew each other; most did not. After we settled in with our sandwiches and salad, I took out a stack of “faith sharing cards” and gave 3 or 4 to everyone around the table. Your diocesan convention delegates and clergy all received a similar set of cards, whose purpose is to stimulate conversations about our faith. Each card has a question, such as:
“When did you first come to believe in God? Share the story of how you came to faith.”
“What is the common message you think Christ wants us to take into the world. Share a story from you life where you were most faithful to that call.”
“What does it mean to be made in God’s image? How does knowing you are made in God’s image impact how you relate to others?”
I invited each person to tell a bit of their story, if they were willing, by answering one of the questions. Two of the group chose cards that asked essentially the same question: “Tell of a time when you felt led by the Holy Spirit,” and “When did you feel as if God were leading you on a particular path.”
One spoke of a time when someone with whom she was friendly, but not particularly close, an acquaintance of several years told her, on the day of her retirement, that he had been diagnosed with ALS--a fatal degenerative disease. He was a young man, an artist without a lot of money and no family in the area. She found herself saying what any might have said in that circumstance, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know.”
He called her a few days later to say that he needed to help with transportation. His team of doctors wanted him to come in every few weeks for an entire day of appointments, and he had no one to take him. “I’ll do it,” she said.
So every few weeks for nearly 6 months, she drove this young man to his day-long treatments. She became his advocate with the doctors. In the car rides there and back, they talked and he began to open up about his estrangement with his family. “This was not how I was planning to spend my retirement,” she told us. But there she was, and there was a never a doubt in her mind that she belonged there. Finally, as his condition worsened, she gently encouraged him to contact his family. She was with him when he telephoned his estranged brother, who immediately drove across the country to pick him up and take him home. She stayed in touch as best she could. When he died a year or so later, she went to his funeral.
Looking back she knew that the Holy Spirit had led her to care for this dying young man. It was a deeply human encounter and a profoundly spiritual one. God needed her, and in retrospect, she saw how God worked through her.
Another leader told a more church-related story. He had been a member of his congregation for many years and had served in a variety of leadership positions. He had been there long enough to see a pattern play out over the years concerning a particular issue--both difficult and contentious--that kept the congregation somewhat stuck. The issue would surface; they’d try to deal with it, anxiety and conflict would take over and everyone would back away. The issue would go dormant for a while, surface again, come to the edge of conflict and anxiety, they’d back away, and so it went. One year he had the strong sense that he was the one called to assume lay leadership as senior warden in order to help guide the congregation through the work of resolving this issue and getting to the other side of it. “It was rough,” he said. “It took several years. A lot of people were angry with me. But I never wavered.” He told us that now the congregation was on the other side and bearing the fruits of having worked through and resolving a difficult issue.
Their stories encouraged all of us around the table to think back on such times in our lives, when we knew what we needed to do and why, when we felt guided along a particular path, chosen for a task. My reason for sharing them is to encourage the same reflection in you: has there ever been such a time for you, when you felt such a call, when you knew that a particular task or responsibility was yours to take on? Often these tasks or responsibilities are not easy, but we have a much greater tolerance for discomfort and challenge when we feel called to the work than when we don’t. Moreover, there’s a power that often comes to us in these experiences, a strength that sustains us. For that season, we can run, as Scripture says, and not be weary; we can walk and not faint.
In the accounts of Jesus’ life, there is a lively conversation in the texts themselves about Jesus’ sense of purpose, of his calling to be who he was and do what he was sent by God to do. Some texts were written from the conviction that from the beginning he knew who he was and why he had come. Any revelation about his purpose was for other people’s benefit, for those around him while he walked the earth and for people like us, reading these stories about him in our time. Other texts suggest that the internal realization of his vocation came to him more slowly, as it does for most of us, and that there were particular moments when he had an “epiphany” or revelation about his destiny, who he was and what he was meant to do.
Whichever side of the conversation a particular text is on, or how we interpret it, in the stories of Jesus’ life there are particular moments when he experiences a moment of clarity about his call, or his experiences cause others to gain that clarity. The experiences are intended to guide him personally or to encourage others to follow him, or both.
You remember the story of his baptism the following week, how he joined the throngs of people at the Jordan River in order to be baptized by John. It seems that Jesus was part of John the Baptizer movement, drawn to his message of fierce repentance for sin. He had the sense that baptism was something he was called to by God, for his sake, for others’ sake, or both. When he rose from the water he heard a voice: “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.” From there he felt the Spirit lead him--drive him some texts say--into a wilderness experience of 40 days’ struggle and prayer, before he emerges to begin his public ministry.
If you’re in church next week you’ll hear another such revelatory moment in Jesus’ life, similar to his baptism. He’s been at his healing, teaching ministry for some time, he draws large crowds wherever he goes, and the conflicts with religious and political authorities are growing more intense. One day he climbs a mountain in order to pray, taking two of his closest friends with him. There, he has a spiritual encounter that seems to transform him, and he is visited by the spirits of Moses and Elijah, two great leaders of his people in their times. He hears a voice, as do his disciples who were with him: “This is my Beloved.” Clarity again is given him. He knows what he needs to do, and from there he makes his fateful journey to Jerusalem.
Today we’re given a smaller glimpse of how Jesus’ sense of clarity and purpose came to him, and was revealed to others. This was early in his ministry, taken from the very full first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. After a flurry of activity--healing throughout the village and in Peter’s own household, casting out demons, whatever that meant--Jesus gets up early one morning and goes to a deserted place, and there he prays. He’s there long enough to cause his disciples to worry and go in search from him. When they find him, he’s emerged from prayer with clarity: “It’s time to go,” he in essence says to them, “Onto the next town, so I can proclaim the message God has given to me, has sent me to proclaim there also, for that is what I came to do.”
What a wonderful thing to be able to say. Can you imagine walking into work or school tomorrow and being able to say, This is what I came to do. Or at home, or in conversation with friends, This is what I came to do.
What did Jesus come to do? To show us what the love of God looks like in a way we could receive it, fully experience it, in the flesh. He came to show us how to live, how to love, how to draw closer to God the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth yet whom Jesus addressed in the most intimate of parental terms: abba, pappa. He came so that we might do the same. He came to give himself to us fully and for us fully, to the point of death, and to break the bonds of death so that we might live in hope as our own death approaches, knowing that does not have the final word.
Jesus also came as an example, so we could see what it looks like to be fully alive. That “fully aliveness” includes, for everyone once in awhile, a stunning moment of clarity. It doesn’t have to be a big, overarching gift of clarity; often it’s a small bit--enough to get us through a day, or a task, or a season. It’s usually, not always, in response to situations we would not have chosen but are thrust upon us. In the words of Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and lifelong student of human resilience and purpose, “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”
As your bishop and fellow disciple, I encourage you to spend time in the next week remembering those times in your life when you have received, in some way large or small, clarity of purpose. How did that clarity come to you--through a conversation with another person, because of circumstances you had to face? Did you hear the word spoken to you by another, or through the words of Scripture or some artistic medium? How did God speak to you?
Now if no experience comes to mind: not to panic. Often my mind goes blank over questions like this and it takes time for a past experience to come to mind. If it’s never been part of your experience, you might ask for it, in prayer, and wait to see what happens.
If you don’t already, give yourself the gift of a bit silence each day to allow the voice of God to speak. If you’re sitting, to sit in silence; if you’re driving, to drive without the radio; if you’re walking, to refrain from earbuds. Listen to the silence and see what you hear.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that if you do this, you’ll always receive complete clarity for your life. I certainly don’t have complete clarity and I spend much of my life in the happy and not-so-happy muddle of confusion that is daily life. But when those moments of clarity come, they go a long way in helping us sort things through and make decisions and put ourselves in places of great potential.
I wish that for you. I wish that for the world through you. Because when you make yourself available to God and ask for sufficient clarity to guide your path it is astonishing what God can do in and through you, and you will know that responding to the call given you is, in part, what you are here to do.
February 01, 2018
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
In my Diocesan Convention address, Loaves and Fish and the Next Courageous Step, I spoke of the wondrous “loaves and fish” stories from across the diocese, examples of how Jesus is blessing and multiplying the courageous offerings of our people. I then invited all to consider--as individuals, faith communities, and the diocese as a whole--what is the next courageous step that God is calling us to take to go deeper in relationship with Christ.
At Convention we distributed a paper copy of Taking the Next Courageous Step which lists upcoming opportunities in each of the key priorities of our diocese: growing Christian community, growing in faith in every dimension of our lives, and striving for justice.
Take a moment to read through these steps, and consider where God might speak to you through them. For the next few weeks, I will highlight here one of the courageous steps and its transformative potential.
On Monday evening, March 12, Adam Hamilton, one of the most inspiring and influential Christian leaders of our country, will speak at Washington National Cathedral. Hamilton is Senior Pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, a church which he founded 20 years ago and is now the largest Methodist church in the country. It is a church that bridges the divides of our nation and witnesses to the transforming power of Jesus. One of its stated mission goals is the renewal of mainline Christianity.
The Cathedral event is Hamilton’s first stop on a national tour to discuss the themes of his most recent book, Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. Pastor Hamilton gave me the honor of reviewing his book before publication. It is a remarkable resource. Like many of his works, Unafraid comes with study guides and age appropriate curriculum for adults, youth and young children. It could be the foundation of a 5-week series in your communities later in 2018.
Listen to Adam Hamilton’s personal invitation to join him on March 12. He was inspired to write the book, he says, in response to the pervasiveness of fear in American culture. In it, he explores the top fears we face as a people, offering insights to address them from many fields, and most especially from the resources of our Christian faith.
You may reserve your seat and copy of Unafraid here. The cost is $30. I have set aside $1200 from the bishop’s discretionary account to pay for the ticket and book for up to 3 people from any interested congregation, diocesan campus or school. The Diocese of Washington is co-sponsoring the event with the Baltimore-Washington United Methodist Conference. Many of your Methodist friends will be there as well and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming them.