News & Features
March 15, 2018
Photos courtesy of St. Luke's, D.C.
Three Central D.C. Parishes Engage the Good Book Club with a Gender Justice Lens
by Richard Mosson Weinberg
This Lent, three central D.C. parishes are participating in the Good Book Club—a movement promoted by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, in which Episcopalians across the country were invited to read the Gospel of Luke during Lent and the Acts of the Apostles during Easter. Members of St. Luke’s, St. Margaret’s, and St. Thomas’, however, are participating with a particular lens in mind.
I serve as associate rector at St. Margaret’s, and along with my rector, the Rev. Kym Lucas; St. Thomas’ Priest-in-Charge Alex Dyer; and St. Luke’s seminarian, Maurice Dyer (no relation); we wanted to plan a Lenten formation series that would bring the conversation happening in our culture around the #MeToo movement to our study of the Bible.
This isn’t the first challenging issue our parishes have tackled together. Last year during Lent, the three congregations wrestled with white supremacy by reading Jim Wallis’ recent book, America’s Original Sin. This year’s examination of issues around gender justice shares roots with a collaboration launched last fall (for which All Souls Episcopal Church joined us): Thirsting for Justice, a monthly conversation on topics at the intersection of Christian theology and contemporary issues of justice.
In planning our Lenten series, we accepted the presiding bishop’s invitation to participate in the Good Book Club, but with the caveat that we wanted to engage the Gospel by focusing on the women characters in Luke. Who are they? What can we learn from them? Why does Luke have the reputation of being more inclusive of women? Is that reputation warranted? When are Luke’s women characters presented in a liberating light, and when does Luke seem to perpetuate roles of subordination?
These were some of the questions we had in mind as we began. In a nutshell, “We wanted to tackle the demon of misogyny,” as Kym Lucas put it in her introduction the first week of Lent.
The four of us leading the series each facilitates a small group after one of us takes a turn presenting an introduction of a chosen passage each week.
Alex Dyer expressed appreciation for our collaborative approach, saying, “Even the best of churches often attract like-minded people. This can lead to groupthink. Expanding the Lenten program to three churches means fresh insights.” He added, “Together our collaboration provides a richness that is a hallmark of the Holy Spirit.”
Kym echoed a similar appreciation. She said, “Our congregational experience of gender expectations and roles varies in relation to our context—as does our biblical engagement. I think it is important to hear each other's perspectives and work together to find ways to combat the sexism and misogyny that is often buried deep in our tradition.”
The fruitfulness of this multi-parish collaboration is evident in how the participants describe their experiences: “wonderful, engaging, and challenging.” Our participants are diverse: probably three-quarters women and one-quarter men, with ages ranging from retired elders to young professionals in their twenties.
I emailed a couple of participants to ask why it was important for them to be part of the Luke series and how they have found it thus far. Jessica Church, a worshiper at St. Margaret’s, wrote:
In my professional life, I work for a nonprofit that advocates for policies and laws that help women and girls achieve their full potential. During this #MeToo moment, ... I am grateful for the opportunity to draw connections between my strong belief in gender equity and my Christian faith. ... I leave each session with many things to contemplate, but buoyed with the spirit to do so.
Catherine Manhardt, senior warden of St. Thomas’, wrote:
I’ve been surprised by how meaningful I’ve found the act of reading and reflecting on the women in Luke’s Gospel. I often feel discouraged when I think about how women’s voices and women’s roles have been marginalized by the institutional church over the course of its history. This Bible study has reminded me that in the very beginning of Christianity, women were welcomed, included, and raised up as leaders.
Other responses have ranged from positive to challenging. My small group in particular struggled with the birth narratives in our first session because of the ways that Elizabeth and Mary’s roles are limited to child rearing. Still, even naming this tension was meaningful for some.
For others, focusing on Luke in its historical context is critical. One participant wrote, “We should be careful that a twenty-first–century American worldview not be the basis for interpreting a first-century document.”
Still other participants who may have originally approached a passage with skepticism were later appreciative of another’s interpretation. “A woman in my group had a completely different perspective on the figure of Mary,” one participant wrote. “It really opened my eyes to this scripture, which was lovely. She was able to see Mary as having a lot more agency than I tend to give her.”
For my part, I pray that all of us this Lenten season and coming Eastertide continue to open our eyes to the ways scripture nourishes us, challenges us, and invites us into a relationship with God and each other. It’s a joy that our three parishes have found fruitful and faithful ways to do this together.
March 08, 2018
The Rev. Peter Antoci
These joyful and life-giving community connections began with the spark of a simple email. The Holy Spirit longs to accompany us in every journey from the altar into the world. What might be your next courageous step that becomes a spiritual spark in your neighborhood?
February 22, 2018
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
I think we were the pivotal point that caused some changes to take place in society. I think the nation was so outraged by how children were being treated . . .
Janice Kelsey, Participant in the Children’s Crusade, May 2nd, 1963.
In the spring of 1963, leaders of the Civil Rights Movement feared they were losing momentum in the Birmingham, Alabama campaign. White officials, led by the infamous Bull Connor, wielded the full power of a police state to deny black citizens basic civil and human rights. Violence was their tool of intimidation.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and others had been beaten and jailed for their efforts, but the mass movement needed to awaken the nation’s conscience failed to materialize. African American adults feared house bombings, threats against their families and losing their jobs if they joined the protests. White religious leaders chastised King for stirring up trouble. The press was losing interest in Birmingham, as was much of the country.
February 14, 2018
At Diocesan Convention, Bishop Mariann invited all parishes in the Diocese to explore using Faith Sharing cards as a way to invite others into conversations about their faith journey.
Each card has a question, in English and in Spanish, such as:
Share a story about a time when you saw that God was present in someone very different from yourself.
What does it mean to be made in God's image? How does knowing that you are made in God's image impact how your relate to others?
The cards are a simple way to prompt conversations of personal sharing in a variety of settings. You can use them in small group settings, over a meal, as part of a meeting, allowing those gathered to share a bit of their faith journey with another as a devotional exercise, or in a larger setting, dividing into small group conversations.
In the words of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, "We've all got a story to tell, a story filled with love and hope and God's grace and mercy. We've got a story of God in our lives, a story of ways that Jesus has already been working in our lives, sometimes without our even knowing."
You can download a set faith sharing cards here.
Suggested questions for conversations with youth and children can be found here. Other related resources may be found in links below.
For Bishop Mariann's Convention address and other Convention related resources, visit the Diocesan Convention page.
Related Faith Sharing Resources
- Questions for Youth
- Sharing Faith Questions on Cards
- Coordinator Q&A
- Moderator Q&A
- Moderator Packet
[images and content made available by Episcopal Diocese of Texas]
February 14, 2018
These Prayers of the People were created by St. Thomas' Parish, Dupont Circle in Washington, DC as a prayerful response to use in worship in response to tragic acts of gun violence:
Beloved friends, in this season of repentance and healing, we accept God's
invitation to be ever-mindful of the needs of others, offering our prayers on behalf of
God's community in the church and the world.
Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we once again face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence. For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers, and those known to you alone, Loving God, Make us instruments of your peace.
God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Donald, our President, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us. For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces, Loving God, Make us instruments of your peace.
God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the malls, the schools, the churches, and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid, Loving God, Make us instruments of your peace.
Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope. For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence, Loving God, Make us instruments of your peace.
God of Resurrection, may we not forget those who have died in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care. For all who have died at the shooting in Parkland, Florida, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow, Loving God, Make us instruments of your peace.
God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change. For your dream of love and harmony, Loving God, Make us instruments of your peace.
Celebrant: O God, hear the prayers of your faithful people. Show us how to live in the spirit of our baptism, even when we are led into wild and hard places. Work through our confusion and doubt, and give us strength to resist the ways of the tempter. Amen.