News & Features : Archives 2017
December 12, 2017
Join us for UpBeat, a joyful and musical gathering on the eve of Diocesan Convention, featuring Howard University's premier vocal group Afro Blue and Atlanta-based priest and social activist, the Rev. Kim Jackson. In addition to music and our featured speaker, representatives from our parishes, campus ministries, and faith communities throughout the Metro-DC area will share uplifting faith stories alongside food and fellowship.
Howard University's premier vocal group Afro Blue will perform and also to lead us in joyful singing. This dynamic "vocal big band" has performed to wide critical acclaim. Afro Blue has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and reached the top four on The Sing-Off, NBC-TV's a cappella group competition. Afro Blue performed at The White House for President and Mrs. Obama. Afro Blue has established a continuing relationship with The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts and performed with The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO).
Our featured speaker is The Rev. Kim Jackson, Associate Rector for Adult Formation and Christian Social Action Ministry. She is a public theologian and a fierce community activist. Kim works to end the death penalty, advocates for women and children's issues, and is passionate about sharing the liberating Gospel of Christ. When she's not wearing a collar, you can find her on her small farm in Stone Mountain with her goats, ducks, and chickens.
December 07, 2017
On a rainy winter night, experts and community members gathered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waldorf, Maryland to discuss opioid addiction education and prevention. The rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. Maria Kane, helped arrange the forum in order to bring awareness to the opioid crisis facing her community. Messaged as a forum to “end the silence,” community members came to discuss a topic that is not always so easy to talk about.
Rev. Kane revealed that it is hard for her to see such a stigma around drug overdoses, and that some people in Waldorf’s small-town community have found it difficult to acknowledge the opioid issue all together.
When asked further how families of victims have been coping in her community, Kane responded, “with shame.” She then explained that the stigma surrounding opioids compounds the tragedy. Loving families unnecessarily suffer in silence, too ashamed to reveal the problem. Kane stressed the importance of changing perceptions.
Yet when it comes to the opioid epidemic, there is nothing shamefully unique about the affected families in Waldorf. Devastated communities, small and large, across the United States are facing unprecedented levels of drug overdoses due to the opioid crisis. In 2016 alone, there were over 64,000 drug overdoses that led to deaths. To put that number in perspective, only 58,000 American soldiers died in the entire Vietnam War.
The forum aimed to change these negative perceptions, starting out with a viewing of the documentary, Playing With Fire, which describes the state of opioid abuse in Charles County, Maryland. Afterward, local specialists proceeded to give insights on how exactly opioids abuse was affecting the area.
John Filer, Chief of Emergency Services in Charles County, sought to dispel the notion that these individuals taken hostage by opioid abuse are just “stereotypical junkies.”
Filer asserted, “This can happen to anybody.” Pointing to a graph behind him, Filer showed that victims of opioid overdose ranged from 2-year-olds to 100-year-olds. “Any of us could be victims.”
Echoing Filer’s statements, Dr. Richard Ferraro, a medical director in the area, advised it will take a community effort to combat the opioid epidemic.
Health Officer, Diana Abney, MD, concluded the night with a training on how to use the life-saving nasal spray, Narcan, a spray specifically designed for victims overdosing on opioids.
While much of the night shed light on some of the dark realities that lay ahead, the forum was intended to be a “night of hope” for the people of Charles County.
The Rev. Maria Kane concluded, “I did see certain people I didn’t expect would be there.”
While an issue as large as the opioid epidemic can seem overwhelming at times, coming together and acknowledging the problem marks an important step for the people of Charles County.
November 30, 2017
John-Manuel Andriote, a former member of St. Thomas’ Parish (DC), who also served as a longtime member of the Diocese’s Southern Africa Partnership Committee, has published a book about the resiliency of gay men. Andriote, who has worked as a health journalist for more than 30 years, says he wrote Stonewall Strong after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2005. “I briefly saw a psychiatrist then to help me come to grips with my new reality as an HIV-positive gay man, after reporting on HIV-AIDS as a journalist by that point for 20 years,” he says. Andriote went on to chronicle, as the book’s subtitle describes it, “gay men’s heroic fight for resilience, good health, and a strong community.” Read Church House staff member Richard Weinberg's interview with Andriote below.
What led you to write Stonewall Strong?
I wrote Stonewall Strong because I became interested in the subject of resilience after my 2005 HIV diagnosis. I briefly saw a psychiatrist then to help me come to grips with my new reality as an HIV-positive gay man, after reporting on HIV-AIDS as a journalist by that point for 20 years. He told me it was natural to feel sad in the face of suffering, including my own. This was novel to me as I had been brought up to put my needs—my suffering—aside and be strong for others. He told me I needed to be present to my own suffering, because my new medical reality had upturned everything I knew about myself and believed about my place in the world and my future in it. He also told me I was very resilient and that this was an "exciting" time in my life because it would give me the opportunity to reexamine nearly everything. That’s what got me thinking about resilience, and reading more about it.
I have always been very interested in psychology and mental health, so it was natural for me to explore the subject. In my exploration I found in new research that in fact most gay men are amazingly resilient in spite of the profound traumas most of us experience beginning in our boyhoods. I wanted to know how that could be, and so I explored the subject further by interviewing researchers, reading books and journal articles, and talking with other gay men. All that led eventually to writing Stonewall Strong.
What is the book about?
As the book’s subtitle describes it, it’s about “gay men's heroic fight for resilience, good health, and a strong community.” What distinguishes the book from any other book I’m aware of is that it starts from a very positive place in telling stories from gay men’s lives. We are familiar with the “victim” narratives, that focus on how abused and wronged we gay men are. I flip the narrative on its head, telling our stories from the vantage point of strength—looking through a different lens to focus on the bravery, courage, resilience, and strength gay men have exhibited even before the 1969 Stonewall riots and as we particularly demonstrated in the AIDS epidemic. I like to say the book celebrates gay men’s remarkable resilience, because it really does frame our experiences as tales of survival and strength rather than weakness and defeat.
What memories of resilience do you have about your time living in Washington?
I first moved to Washington in the fall of 1985, while I was working on my master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University. I participated in the Medill School of Journalism’s Washington program where I was a working reporter for a Wisconsin newspaper in the school’s Medill News Service. That fall I met a man who changed my life through his passion and commitment to helping our gay community’s efforts to address HIV-AIDS. Bill Bailey became not only a mentor, but also the love of my young life. He told me it was my duty as a gay man who was a journalist to use my skills to chronicle and document our community’s valiant efforts to address the epidemic.
Through Bill I made many professional contacts, in Washington and across the country, who became important sources for my reporting as I focused on writing about HIV-AIDS. Being involved professionally with the issue meant I also knew many gay men who were diagnosed with, and killed by, AIDS. It was a gut-wrenching experience to live through what gay men call the “dark years” of the 1980s, before there was effective treatment for HIV. Everything I had been taught about putting aside my needs and my fears to be strong for others came to the fore as I comforted friends and attended multiple memorials.
I lived in Washington when I was diagnosed with HIV in 2005. I had to learn to apply to myself what I had learned in my many years of being strong for others. I really had to dig deep into my heart and soul to affirm myself and resist the shame and stigma that, even in 2017, too many people still expect someone living with this particular virus to bear.
A cornerstone of my spirituality is my belief in Incarnation, the idea that God took on human flesh and thereby validated our existence as physical beings living in a dangerous world. One of the many dangers we face is lethal microbes such as HIV. Of themselves they have no meaning whatsoever, but many humans insist on attaching meaning to them as a way of protecting themselves against their own fear that something like HIV infection could happen to them or someone they love. I choose to embrace compassion and love for my fellow humans regardless of the medical misfortunes that befall them precisely because I believe that as incarnated beings we simply must make the very best of our time on this earth. As such, judging others for their medical challenges is wrong.
Why was it important to you to include a chapter on the resilience of gay men’s faith during the height of the AIDS crisis?
Partly because of what I just described about my own beliefs, but more importantly because of the erroneous belief that “all” gay men and other people in the LGBTQ community reject religious faith and that “all” religions reject LGBTQ people. It’s simply not true, as the studies and national surveys I highlight in the book bear out.
The interesting thing is that as fewer Americans identify with particular religious institutions, or as people of faith, the trend is the opposite among LGBTQ people. This may be surprising if you don't believe—as I do—that LGBTQ people tend to be quite spiritual even if they don’t identify as “religious.” The pioneering gay activist Harry Hay, who founded the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950 and later the gay spiritual group called the Radical Faeries, certainly believed strongly that gay people are very spiritual. In fact he described us as “spirit people” as he explored the questions that intrigued him: Who are we (gay people)? What are we for? What role do we play in society? Hay believed our role has much to do with saving heterosexuals from straight men’s tendency toward violence and domination.
What role can the Church continue to play?
The Church, broadly defined, can play a powerful role by being a beacon of light and love in the world. As I note—and quote from the gay and lesbian religious leaders I interviewed for Stonewall Strong—the Church runs into problems when it focuses on being an institution rather than a force for good, when people get hung up on, say, the rules and protocols of the liturgy rather than the power of a loving community that embraces all of us. My understanding of Christianity, as Jesus modeled it, is that by loving and affirming us to become all God created us to be, we are prone to rise to become our best. No one wants to be chastised and told we are evil and sinful. Jesus didn’t judge others, even those noted for their sin. He embraced them, welcomed them, dined with them, and by doing so made them feel loved to the point that they wanted to be good, ethical people.
What do you say to people who feel that HIV-AIDS advocacy is a thing of the past?
I say that they need to pay attention to current politics and see how fragile all our gains really are. It’s wonderful that we have effective treatment for HIV that lets people like me live with the virus rather than get sick and die like too many of my friends did in our young years. It’s exciting that the HIV drug Truvada, used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), can help people to remain uninfected while they hopefully explore the reasons they choose to have unprotected sex. I report in the book how PrEP has created a new level of comfort among gay men in San Francisco, reduced fear and allowed men to enjoy one another without the fear that this one or that one might be “the one” who gives them HIV. But these wonderful things are contingent upon people having access to them, the ability to pay for them and use them properly. Sadly, there are still too many people—and too frequently claiming to have a mandate from God—who would prefer that LGBTQ people return to our closets of shame and silence so they won’t be troubled by our existence. When those people are in power, they are able to inflict their views on the rest of us through government policy. This is why we must constantly remain vigilant and guard against those who would not hesitate to undo our hard-earned gains, whether it’s legal same-sex marriage or access to lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment.
What do you feel the younger generation of the LGBTQ community has failed to understand about the generation you represent? And conversely, what is something you think your generation doesn’t appreciate about the new generation?
First let me say I am 59 years old, and not afraid to say so. I saw too many of my friends and age peers die in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, to be concerned about others’ stigmatizing me for being an “older” gay man. The penultimate chapter of Stonewall Strong is called “Defining ‘Old’ for Ourselves” with the subtitle “The open secret is that most of us already do.”
There is terrible ageism in the gay male community, probably because most gay men do not have children and therefore do not have the expectation that someone will be there to care for (and about) them as they age. We tend to be “in the market” sexually and romantically speaking than typical heterosexuals. In a culture that overly values youth, it’s too easy to internalize the message that as we age we lose our value as partners and members of the community. This is harmful to us as individuals and to our community. Real communities value their elders, and elders in real communities respect their own roles as keepers of history, lore, and wisdom. It’s time for older gay men to claim our role as elders. Whether younger men will feel less terrified of aging when we do is up to them as individuals, as are most of the choices we each make about how to live our lives. I say that “most of us already do” define for ourselves what it means to be older or old because that is my experience—and the experience of an exceptional number of gay men, some of whom I profile in the book.
As for my fellow gay men “of a certain age,” I think that we can find ways to relate our experience to younger men that don’t smack of reverse-ageism and condescension by looking for common ground. I’ve heard young people say what they’d like to hear us talk about how we have dealt with being “different.” Whatever label we use for ourselves—gay, queer, cisgender, transgender, whatever—we in the LGBTQ community are each and all “different” in our way from the predominant heterosexual man or woman. I expect we have all had to deal with being bullied or mistreated in some way because of it. We’ve had to wrestle with finding for ourselves a way to live our truth in the face of others’ disapproval. We can support one another across the generations by relating the truth of our experience without weighting it to favor or slight a particular generation. Young people offer new ways of thinking about things, and of course their marvelous energy and enthusiasm, and those are valuable in our community and in showing the world a positive image of who we are today.
What role do you think gay men should play in advocating for the rights of other oppressed groups?
Gay men, when we are in touch with ourselves at a deeper level, have the capacity to empathize with other people to a degree that isn’t as common among heterosexual men. In fact, the men I interviewed for Stonewall Strong who work in the corporate sector—Todd Sears, founder of OUT Leadership in New York City, and Brian McNaught, one of the country’s best known corporate diversity trainers—point out that large companies today recognize the unique value that gay men bring to their work precisely because of their strong ability to empathize with an array of different people. I believe that our experience of being bullied and stigmatized for being “different” gives us the ability to relate to other oppressed people in a real and profound way.
An example from my own life was in my first visit to Africa. I was in Nigeria with my former job as senior editor for FHI360, known then as Family Health International. I was part of a training conference for community-based HIV-AIDS service providers. I was the only white person there, which for most white Americans is a pretty rare experience. During our lunch break, all of us went outside the hotel for a group photo. I was asked to sit in the front row because I was treated like an honored guest. There, against the rows of dark-skinned Nigerian men and women, dressed in their beautiful, colorful clothing, you see my shiny bald white head. I treasure this photo because for me it represents what it is like to be the “only one,” the only one who looks like you. As a gay man, I know very well how that feels, but this was the first time I had the experience of being different from the majority because of my skin color, too. From that experience, I took away a greater sensitivity to others I encounter who likewise stand out in a room because they are different—and it makes me want to welcome them because I know how that feels.
November 22, 2017
November 17, 2017
As faith leaders in the Abrahamic tradition, we recognize and give thanks that the best of American civil values are consistent with the values of our respective religious traditions. These values include equality of all people created in God’s image and collective responsibility for the vulnerable. These values, both religious and civic, inform our moral imperative to speak on behalf of the thousands of individuals whose lives, and that of their families, are placed in turmoil and even risk by our government’s decision to revoke their Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
We stand with the 2,500 Nicaraguans who have just been given notice that they must leave the U.S. within 14 months. We’re heartbroken when we consider how lives will be disrupted, particularly for parents who may be forever separated from their children.
We stand with the 57,000 Hondurans; the 200,000 Salvadorans; and the 50,000 Haitians whose lives continue to hang in the balance as the Department of Homeland Security determines the fate of their TPS. After facing unspeakable violence and devastation in their homelands, these people have truly made a home among us; some have lived here for decades as our neighbors, members of our faith communities, and people who contribute positively to U.S. society.
We also pray for our lawmakers, who have the ability to intercede positively on behalf of all those with vulnerable legal status through compassionate legislation. We believe that a just solution can be found that would benefit our country and the thousands of people eager to emerge from the shadows as hard-working, law-abiding, and faithful residents of this country.
The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig
Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation
Imam Talib Shareef
Senior Imam of Masjid Muhammad, the Nation’s Mosque
His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington
November 16, 2017
A Cause of Celebration and Sadness:
Church House’s director of communications, Mitchell Sams, has accepted a call to serve as senior executive assistant to the Treasurer of the World Bank. We are thrilled for Mitchell and sad for the diocese, his last day with us is November 30th.
Mitchell joined the Church House staff as communications and events manager in June, 2016. He played a key role in the execution of a redesigned web presence, and assumed ongoing responsibility for our weekly e-bulletins, social media and other diocesan communications. He’s also overseen logistical arrangements for major diocesan events such as the annual regional assemblies and diocesan convention. Mitchell’s abilities in visioning, branding, and graphic design have been invaluable in our overall effort to strengthen and extend the reach of our electronic communications and social media presence.
Together with technology director Peter Turner, Mitchell has worked extensively across the diocese, helping parishes strengthen their approach to communications, website and social media. Earlier this year, we promoted Mitchell to serve as director of communications.
Beyond his professional abilities and experience, Mitchell is a devoted Episcopalian. His deep knowledge of the traditions, practices, and the challenges of our time has been invaluable. Mitchell quickly became a beloved member of our diocesan community. We will miss his warmth, persistent good cheer, and sense of humor. Mitchell goes forth on this great professional adventure with our deep gratitude, affection, and blessings.
November 02, 2017
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
Last week I took an Amtrak ride to Philadelphia after work to attend an evening gathering of female authors, bloggers, entrepreneurs and social justice advocates. The night was a series of TED Talks by brave and gifted women about how they discerned their gifts and found their causes and communities of meaning-making. At the end of the night, my spouse and I walked back to the Amtrak station for a late train back to DC. As we waited on the platform, we noticed a young adult woman looking right at us. Slowly and gracefully, she walked toward us and said, “I saw you both on the train coming here from DC. I guess we are all having the same great and late night.” She was inspired by the event, as were we. Quickly, we started to share our life stories. I said I was a priest and my wife added that she was a professor at VTS. The young woman’s face nearly exploded into a contagious smile: “I’m an Episcopalian too! But only in the last few years.”
We learned she is 28 years old. She was married last year. Her new husband is a pilot in the Marine Corps and is currently on a two-year deployment in a constant-combat zone over Afghanistan. She was just promoted at her downtown job in communications. She doesn’t mind more hours at work because her apartment often feels very empty. She looked very tired. She admitted worrying about her husband every night. She misses her family in New England. She’s only been in DC for three years. Her office peers drink more than she enjoys. She finds it hard to spend time in nature. She loves to sing in church and made sure every person in her wedding was “holding a hymnal in the service, because I am a terrible singer but singing hymns with other people heals me.”
She couldn’t stop telling us about her church, one of our parishes in the Diocese of Washington. She is in a bible study. She has prayer partners that check in on her during the week. A pastoral care committee knows her husband is deployed and offers to cook meals for her at any time.Her face looked healthier and happier with every story. She loves the priest assigned to the young adult ministries and he has visited her, blessed her new apartment with her bible study group and calls bi-weekly to check in about her husband and their marriage. She has hiked and marched for justice and picked apples and done community service with multigenerational groups and trips at her church.
Her face looked healthier and happier with every story. I finally interrupted her testimonies about church and asked how she came to join that church. Her answer was simple: “Someone invited me.”
As we parted to enter different cars on the train, she smiled and said something about her church that I will remember for years to come: “My church shields my joy.”
As she walked away, I felt so grateful to God for the gift of her words, for they articulate so powerfully why the health and strength and witness of churches in the diocese are crucial and transformative. Among other blessings, our churches can be sanctuaries that shield the joy of our members and visitors, no matter how trying or overwhelming life can be. The impact of inviting someone to church can make all the difference in the world.
Invite someone to church.
October 26, 2017
By: The Rev. Dr. Patricia Lyons
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:4-7
In Jeremiah’s letter to the exiled Israelites, we find our mandate for evangelism and community engagement. In this passage, the Israelites are foreigners in a strange land, and a false prophet tells them to turn inward, grit their teeth and disengage with the people around them. But the Lord tells Jeremiah this is a false teaching. God says to the people, “While in exile, plant, harvest, marry, grow, invest, engage in and work for ‘the welfare (shalom in Hebrew) of the city, for in its shalom you shall find your shalom.’”
Anglican spirituality is not a separatist endeavor. Through Jeremiah, God convinces us that grace is built into and bursts out of the material world. Our great vocation and blessing is to work with God inside and outside of our churches. The Holy Spirit is restless for reconciliation in the world and pulls the baptized beyond their walls to seek and bring grace to all. Jeremiah tells us we are in exile, that we are “in but not of the world.” God tells us to turn outward and be the partners for shalom with all people.
It is inspiring to see how meaningful our churches are to us, but churches that work hard for the shalom—the common good—of their neighborhoods matter to everyone. There are not enough Episcopalians to save our buildings, and as Christians, we are not called to such a narrow mission. As God says in Jeremiah, we work for the peace of the world with everyone in our neighborhoods. Our buildings are consecrated to be wells of grace in the public square; centers to be shared, not citadels to be defended. Community engagement is working for this common shalom and recognizing that through it, we live into our baptismal vows and find joy, vocation, and transformation. Evangelism is going out to do this work confident in our own faith stories, confident in who God is and what God is doing in our lives.
Working together for good means a renewed commitment to the common shalom—to helping the diocese move beyond its walls, embed itself in its communities, and be confident in its faith story. As we look toward the year ahead, we have a renewed commitment to evangelism, community engagement, and faith formation.
October 10, 2017
Tricia Lyons: Missioner for Evangelism and Community Engagement: Tricia updated council on the progress she has made in her work on diocesan staff. She is currently conducting a listening tour--visiting leaders at each congregation to hear how God is moving within our churches and communities. Tricia is currently a third of the way through her conversations and hopes to make a full report to Council once complete.
Diocesan Staff Changes:
Bishop Mariann reported she has hired the Rev. Robert Phillips to join the diocesan staff as interim associate for leadership development. In this role, Robert will help with the ordination process, lead vestry retreats, and support congregations in leadership transition. This ¾ time position will allow Robert to continue serving as chaplain for the Bishop Walker School.
The Church House staff will continue to evaluate how its staff structure can best serve the diocese with faith formation and discipleship following the departure of Iman Syler.
Strategic Financial Resources Commission: The continued interest in the commission’s work is encouraging. The SFRC received 17 applications to participate in its pilot program, far more than their capacity allowed them to accept. They will begin working with six of the congregations as part of the pilot programs and will help the 11 others on a focused basis during the coming year. The commission is also planning on hosting further workshops in the Spring on fundraising topics.
Cathedral Task Force Listening Sessions: The Cathedral Task Force is hosting listening sessions across the diocese to examine the role the Cathedral plays in the life of the diocese and nation. One session will be on October 30, 7-9 p.m. at Grace, Silver Spring, and the other will be on November 1, 7-9 p.m. at the Cathedral.
Congregation Growth Grants
Bishop Mariann and Tricia Lyons
Bishop Mariann reports that Tricia Lyons will serve as staff liaison to the congregational growth grants subcommittee of council. Together, they will work on administering the grant program, with emphasis on reporting successes and lessons learned from past grants. There are two pending grant applications for the Fall 2017 grant cycle. The subcommittee will also look ahead to the Spring grant cycle-- honing the grant guidelines to better allow churches to explore new ideas and grow their congregation.
Regional Assemblies and Convention
Regional assemblies will take place during October and November. Bishop Mariann reported on the programmatic content of the assemblies, which includes the financial conversation findings, updates on regional collaborative efforts and reevaluating the diocesan staff structure and presence to better serve the diocese.
Convention Updates: Diocesan staff are planning an optional event the evening before convention in January. The event is still tentative, but would consist of an inspiring evening with time for fellowship and learning. More information will be available closer to Convention.
Finance Committee Report
Jim Jones (Finance Committee Chair) and Paul Cooney
Draft Budget Narrative and presentation to Regional Assemblies: The finance committee reported to Council that it is currently working with diocesan staff to develop a budget presentation and accompanying narrative for regional assemblies. This document and draft budget will be available on the regional assembly pages of the website once ready.
Bishop Walker School Finance Updates:
The financial results for FY16-17 met expectations, and the BWS finance committee will continue to move the school towards budget neutrality.
The BWS board decided in June that beginning with the 18-19 school year, BWS will end with grade 5. The decision was based on educational considerations, but also will the effect of modestly reducing the school’s cost base.
BWS is on schedule to move to THEARC in November 2018. They have identified a potential tenant for their current space once they vacate.
September 14, 2017
Six Episcopal bishops and a wide-ranging group of other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh leaders filed an amicus brief this week in the Supreme Court case challenging President Trump's Executive Order No. 13780, known as the travel ban. The executive order, which the faith leaders claim discriminates against Muslims on the basis of religion, is being challenged in court by the state of Hawaii and the International Assistance Refugee Project.
In the brief, the faith leaders argue that religious tolerance is "critical to the safety and well-being of our local and national community," and that because the travel ban "selectively burdens Muslim-majority countries while exempting comparable Christian-majority countries," the executive order "is anathema to this core tenet that all members of our coalition share." The brief concludes that the order violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of religion by Congress.
"The Episcopal Diocese of Washington and I believe our nation's security is imperiled, not secured, by policies that discriminate solely on the basis of religion," said the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Diocese of Washington and one of the signatories of the brief. "I'm proud to join this interfaith effort to urge the Supreme Court to overturn the travel ban, so that visitors to the U.S. and refugees, once fully vetted, may enter the country without discrimination on the basis of religion."
The interfaith coalition includes the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of California; the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington; the Rt. Rev. Andrew Dietsche, bishop of New York; the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, assistant bishop of New York; the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, bishop of Long Island; and the Rt. Rev. Allen K. Shin, bishop suffragan of New York, as well as the National Council of Churches; United Methodist Church Women; Jewish congregations in New York, Washington, and Maryland; the Sikh Coalition; seven U.S. Franciscan provinces; United Church of Christ clergy; Union Theological Seminary; and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, among others.
September 12, 2017
Human Resources Committee Report
Paul Barkett (HR Committee), John Jasin (HR Committee), and Kathleen Hall
Health Plan Updates: Council unanimously approved an array of 5 health plans from the Episcopal Church Medical Trust (ECMT). ECMT will eliminate several of its Anthem BCBS plans at the end of 2018 and introduce comparable Anthem BlueCard options. Council has approved two new Anthem plans now to allow it to take effect in 2018. The Kaiser options and Anthem BCBS Consumer Driven Health Plan (CDHP) will remain part of the diocesan plan array. Both ECMT and the diocese will notify each person affected by these changes and will assist them in selecting a new plan. If you have any questions about these changes, please contact Kathleen Hall.
Lay & Clergy Compensation Table Updates: Council unanimously approved a recommendation from the committee to increase the clergy and lay salary tables by 2.4% effective January 1, 2018. The committee reviewed market data, projections and parish financial trends to arrive at this adjustment.
Finance Committee Report
Jim Jones (Finance Committee Chair) and Paul Cooney
Fiscal Year 2017 to Date: The finance committee reported to Council the current revenue and expenses for the diocese. Expenses are below budgeted levels forecast for this point in the year. Congregational giving is slightly behind forecast, but within historical norms. Overall, the committee believes we are on track to achieve budget targets by the end of the year.
Draft Fiscal Year 2018 Budget: The finance committee reported to Council the most recent draft of the FY18 diocesan budget that will be presented at regional assemblies this fall.
Items of note in the FY18 draft budget:
The budget is balanced
It maintains last year’s practice of reporting staff salaries within their respective budget categories.
It assumes a $150,000 increase of giving from parishes. This is $10,000 more than actual FY17 commitments.
The diocese remains committed to reducing its use of income from the Soper Fund for operations expenses. In the proposed budget, the diocese will increase the amount of available Soper income it holds in reserve for congregational growth grants to $150,000 ($120,000 was reserved in FY17).
The diocese will increase its giving to The Episcopal Church (AKA the wider church or national church) by $61,000 to bring our giving to the 14.75% of diocesan income. The diocese will increase this giving to 15%, when this level of giving becomes mandatory in FY19.
There is a proposed pool of funds (2.5% of eligible employee compensation) available for merit-based staff compensation adjustments.
The budget has an assumed 6% increase in health insurance expenses.
Diocesan Staff Changes: Bishop Mariann reported on preliminary efforts concerning alternative approaches to Church House staffing following the departure of Joey Rick, who has served as Canon of Congregational Vitality since 2012. Council offered its advice to the Bishop, and Church House staff will move forward with its work identifying how best to proceed.
Strategic Financial Resources Commission: The Strategic Financial Resources Commission has held two well-attended workshops on annual giving campaigns. These campaigns were well received and the commission plans to offer additional workshops on planned giving and capital campaigns. Julie Anderson, the SFRC program manager, has held interviews with each of the 17 congregations that applied for the pilot program. The commission is encouraged by the enthusiasm of applicants.
Regional Assemblies & Leadership Recruitment: Regional assemblies will take place during October and November. Bishop Mariann asked council to help identify persons interested in standing for election to positions of leadership in the diocese. View the offices open in each region and submit names for consideration online.
September 05, 2017
Dear Friends of the Diocese of Washington,
With mixed emotions, I write with news that Ms. Joey Rick, canon for congregational vitality, has accepted a new position as chief culture officer of PartnerMD in Richmond, Virginia. Her last day with us will be Friday, September 22.
Like all who love Joey, I am happy that this great opportunity presented itself just as she was sensing the need to live closer to her family in Richmond. But how we will miss her joyful Spirit-filled presence and wise, engaging leadership.
Joey has brought a remarkable range of gifts to her work, beginning with her extensive professional background in organizational development and leadership, and including her deep and mature Christian faith; her boundless energy and her amazing capacity to exude contagious joy wherever her ministry has carried her.
The scope of her work among us is nothing short of breath-taking. Joey has helped more than half of our congregations and their search committees through the clergy transition processes. She has lead highly-customized vestry retreats for many congregations. She helped to conceive, launch and administer the Congregational Growth Grant program. She helped to create the vision and serving as one of the ongoing presenters for the Genesis program for clergy in new calls. She conceived and administered what have become our annual Leadership Learning Days. She provided sound, practical coaching to innumerable lay and clergy leaders across the diocese. In more ways than we will ever know, Joey has tirelessly helped to equip the saints in this diocese in a way that has expanded our capacity, deepened our faith, and sharpened our commitment for Christian service.
We’re working with diocesan leaders to discern our way forward, but the first task is abundantly clear: to thank Joey for all that she has given us and pray God’s blessing upon her and her husband Don, as they embark on this new adventure.
I warmly invite you to an evening prayer service and reception in Joey’s honor on Saturday, September 16, 4 p.m. at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church (map).
At the service, we will present Joey with several gifts, including a EDOW Memory Box that we’d like to fill with your notes of thanks and blessings for her future. If you’d like to send your cards and notes to the diocesan office by September 13, we’ll place the in the box, or you can bring your offering to the service/celebration or mail it to Joey directly.
We want the celebration to be meaningful, with room for laughter and tears. It would be a great help to us if you could let us know you plan to attend, so we can plan accordingly.
I hope to see you on September 16.
September 05, 2017
Bishop of Washington at Tuesday Rally in Support of DACA:
"The president's decision is not the final answer on DACA"
Washington, D.C.--The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, joined a group of immigration advocates, dreamers, and other faith leaders in front of the White House this morning at a rally in support of the DACA program and its recipients. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the president's decision to end the program in 6 months if Congress refused to act, Bishop Budde was among those who led the group in prayer. She offered the following remarks and concluding prayer.
"I speak to you on behalf of four interfaith leaders: His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation; Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation's Mosque, and myself.
"Last week we sent a letter to Present Trump and members of Congress, speaking with one voice to state emphatically that our respective sacred texts and teachings are clear: supporting the dreams of young immigrants in the United States is consistent with the moral imperative of extending hospitality to the stranger, of caring for immigrants and children, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
"Now that the president has acted, we will turn our attention to Congress.
"I want to speak now to the dreamers present: You are part of our communities, part of this country. I want you to know that you belong here. We love you; we are so proud of you; and we need your gifts, talents and hard work to help make this country live up to its greatest ideals. Your dream is the American dream of opportunity and diversity, of safe haven and of building a better life for ourselves and our families. The future of this country is in your hands. The president's decision is not the final answer on DACA. We commit ourselves to work with and alongside you for a better day.
"Let us pray: Gracious God, we hold before you the young people of our nation, and especially those who now must worry if the only country they know as home will banish them. Empower and sustain them in this uncertain time, as we do our part, in our time, to ensure all in our country recognize the treasure that they are to us, and how blessed we are by all that they are contributing now and long to contribute in the future to the building up of our nation. Give us all strength and courage; wisdom and humility; clarity and compassion for the living of these days. Amen."
August 29, 2017
Interfaith Leaders to President Trump and Congress: "Support Dreamers, Keep DACA in Place"
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Leaders Issue Joint Statement in Support of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” Program
In response to growing concerns about President Trump’s consideration of discontinuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation; and Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, have published the following open letter to President Trump and Congressional leaders.
Dear Mr. President and Congressional Leaders:
As leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths, we look to our sacred texts and traditions in seeking to follow the way of peace. Our respective teachings are clear, and we speak with one voice when we say: supporting the dreams of young immigrants in the United States is consistent with the foundational values of our nation, and with the moral imperative of extending hospitality to the stranger, of caring for immigrants and children, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Nearly one million young immigrants have benefitted from the DACA program since its inception in 2012. Among that number, many of the program recipients are members of our respective faith communities, as well as the communities we mentor, in and around the nation’s capital. We have witnessed firsthand the relief and pride in our young people’s faces as they finally came to feel validated and safe by participating in a program that made them feel more at home—in the only country they have ever considered home. But now, anxiety and fear for their futures has returned.
We note that DACA has widespread support across the country and among politicians who agree on little else, for good reason. DACA has dramatically improved the lives of these young people and the communities in which they live:
- 95% of DACA participants are working or attending school;
- 68% of those working have seen their pay increase and thus are paying higher taxes;
- 50% now have driver’s licenses, which makes the roads safer for everyone;
- 54% have purchased their first car; and
- 12% have purchased their first home.
Rescinding DACA would have widespread, devastating impact not only on a generation of industrious young people, but also on their families, communities, and our society as a whole. Thus we add our voices to those urging you, Mr. President, to keep this policy in place until Congress puts in place a permanent solution.
It is our collective prayer that in the coming months, Congressional leaders work together to pass sensible and comprehensive immigration reform that our country so desperately needs, including making the DACA program permanent. But until that time comes, the least that our country can do is to continue supporting our dreamers. Keep DACA in place, Mr. President.
The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig
Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation
Imam Talib M. Shareef
Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque
His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington
July 20, 2017
By Ruslan Gabidoulline
The problem for millions of high schoolers across America each summer is “finding a good way to spend it.” For some, summer is a time to catch up on their favorite shows. For others, it’s a time to find a job and make money to contribute to their college fund (or so their parents hope). Yet, for a number of high schoolers in the diocese, summer is a time to put their faith into action and give back.
Each year, for one week in June, the diocese sends a group of high schoolers on a mission experience with the Appalachia Service Project, a group that organizes volunteer home repair projects. The goal of the trip is to provide a way for youth and adults to serve those in need and forge new relationships—all while becoming the literal hands, feet and hearts of Christ in the world. The students experience the sweat of home repair and the power of relationships, and take home a newfound compassion both for their community and for the world.
“My favorite part of the trip,” says Maria Aschenbrener, a member of St. Alban’s Church in the District, “is being on site and helping the family, because I really feel like I’m doing something with my summer, rather than just sitting around and not being productive.” Maria was not alone in this sentiment—all of the members of this years’ mission experience felt a joy in their work, which consisted of digging a ditch around a house to prevent flooding, repairing water damage to floors, replacing roofs and installing insulation. “It is a lot of hard work—but it’s also really fun,” echoes Victor Long-Sires, who is a member of St. Columba’s Church in the District. “And you’re actually helping people, so it’s not like you’re just doing work for nothing: you’re actually making someone’s life better.”
Houses were not the only things being built—throughout their experience, participants built relationships, both with each other and with the local community. “I’m really glad to have made new friends this week,” says Henry McBride, who attends St. Albans School in the District. The mission experience is truly a collaboration between a variety of churches across the diocese: Participants came from churches all over the District and surrounding Maryland counties. Katie Farr, who is a member of St. Alban’s Church, said her favorite part of the trip was the camaraderie: “It’s really nice to spend time with everyone because most of us are from different churches.”
Through the relationships they built, participants found that they were able to experience God. Christian McKee-Alexander, a member of Christ Church in Rockville, said that he found God in the faces of people that he was able to help. “You know that there’s someone out there looking out for these people,” he says, “because even in the hardest of situations they’re still so positive, so enthusiastic, so loving. There’s no other explanation for it.”
The values learned on the trip have left a lasting impact on its participants. Alfred Chahine, an Adult leader on the trip, noted that “the kids have all been positively impacted” by the trip. “Developing a bond with the families has been tremendous for the youths.” Participants left on the mission experience to help families in need, yet those same families were able to help the participants learn about themselves. Volunteers returned to their communities with a renewed sense of commitment. Christian said that on his return to Rockville, he hopes to “Cherish the gifts” given to him by God, and that he will “work to help others reach that too.” Ayomi Wolff, a member of St. Columba’s, says that she learned “the ability to give back” to her community. “I have a lot of privilege and wealth that I can give forward,” she says, “so it is my job as a privileged human being to give to those who are less fortunate.”
The most valuable takeaway for participants was that their efforts can make a difference. “You don’t need money or an important background to change the world or to change someone’s life,” noted Maria. “You yourself coming here and giving your time is so incredibly important and helpful to the people here.” She concludes, “I want people to know that you don’t need to be incredible to do incredible things.”
Perhaps they left their communities as self-proclaimed “un-incredible” kids, but having helped change someone’s life for the better over the course of the trip, this group of high schoolers returns home just that—incredible.
Registration for next year’s ASP mission experience opens October 1. For more information, please visit the youth programs page of the website. If you have any questions, please contact Iman Syler, the diocesan youth missioner.
Ruslan Gabidoulline is a graduate of St. Albans School heading to college at the University of California Berkeley, where he hopes to study statistics and business, with a minor in journalism. He has published a prize-winning essay in Bethesda Magazine and has previously written for St. Albans Gyre.
June 14, 2017
The Episcopal Dioceses of Washington and Virginia are united in prayer for Representative Steve Scalise, Zachary Barth, Matt Mika, and Capitol Police Officers Krystal Griner and David Bailey, that they may fully recover from their wounds. We’re praying for those who were in close proximity to the shooting, that they may heal from the trauma of witnessing such violence. We pray in gratitude for our community’s first responders and medical personnel who were there to protect and save lives. And we pray God’s mercy on the soul of James Hodgkinson.
Baseball brings Americans--and politicians-- together. So does tragedy, as we look past our disagreements to care about those who suffer. In the wake of violence, the nation needed President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to speak words of unity, and they did not disappoint us. Senator Bernie Sanders, upon learning that Mr. Hodgkinson had volunteered for his campaign, strongly condemned the shooting and violence of any kind.
The shooting of a public official is a threat to our democracy, and it reverberates throughout the halls of government. “An attack on one us,” Speaker Ryan said, “is an attack on all of us.” Gun violence is a bipartisan phenomenon. Today Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican, joins Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, who was shot at an outdoor meeting with her constituents in 2011.
Gun violence is also a national tragedy: more than 13,000 Americans have been injured by gunfire in 2017. Nearly 7,000 more Americans have died. One statistic we don’t care about when counting the wounded and dead is political party affiliation.
Among these killed this year: Andrew McPaatter, a young African American father , shot dead in the Congress Heights neighborhood Southeast Washington. His grieving 7-year old son Tyshaun, featured recently in the Washington Post, is one of the millions of American children growing up in high-crime communities where the threat of gun violence affects nearly every aspect of their lives. We won’t spend as much time publicly speculating on the shooting that killed Andrew, given that it happened on the other side of the Anacostia River, which, like it or not, is a political commentary of its own.
Baseball diamonds are part of America’s common ground. So are night clubs, churches, synagogues, mosques; public schools, community centers, and movie theatres; parking lots and street corners. What these public sites have in common is gun violence.
Gun violence prevention is a civic responsibility and a spiritual vocation to which countless faith communities and their leaders are dedicated. We refuse to believe that as a nation we are incapable of finding common ground on gun violence prevention. Our prayers for those who suffer are matched by a unified commitment to bring this national tragedy to an end.
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington
The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, Bishop of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Ted Gulick, Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Virginia
May 11, 2017
Photo: Barbara McGowan
By: Lois Herrmann
Moved by heartbreaking pictures of people fleeing violence and war in the Middle East and Africa, churches in the diocese have partnered with more than 25 refugee families beginning new lives in DC and Maryland. Individual parishes have provided a loving welcome and material support to new arrivals--and several churches multiplied and enriched their efforts by joining with other Episcopal churches and faith communities to help families.
St. Columba’s has developed a partnership with a family from Afghanistan, a mother, father and three sons who arrived in February. The Rev. Kate Heichler, associate rector, noted that the hardest part of the process was “the very long wait for word of a family we could host, especially as that waiting time coincided with an election outcome that many knew would severely limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States.” St. Columba’s also has had to manage the sheer number of parishioners who wanted to be involved, especially as only a limited number would have hands-on engagement with the family.
But many parts of the parish found ways to contribute. The Refugee Response Committee raised $40,000 to cover a year of the family’s rent and other living expenses. Parishioners scoured the area to find an affordable apartment in a good school district; furnished the apartment; took family members to school and medical appointments; and enrolled the parents in English classes at a community college. When the family expressed a desire to go to Friday prayers at a mosque, parishioners offered to take them every week.
Parish children made signs to welcome the family and contributed proceeds from a lemonade stand. Two children’s grandparents in New Jersey offered to double whatever their grandchildren could earn or raise for the refugee fund. When St. Columba parents learned that soccer was the sons’ passion, they organized a game with their kids and helped sign the boys up for youth soccer leagues.
When asked how the project has affected the parish, Heichler said: “The initiative revealed to me not only the extraordinary capacity of the St. Columba’s congregation, but the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit among us. This kind of response seemed to me a “loaves and fishes” moment that gives us a hint of what God wants to do through us.”
In Montgomery County, St. Anne’s in Damascus has moved in step with community partners to help refugees. In April 2016, it helped found Montgomery Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Neighbors (“Interfaith Neighbors”) -- 20 Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith communities that have come together to assist 14 refugee families (from Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Chad, Iran and Cuba). “It has been a joy watching our committee members honor their own individual faiths while all stepping out in faith together,” said Pam Brewer, a St. Anne’s parishioner active in Interfaith Neighbors.
Two different faith communities work together to help a single family. “This is to show newcomers that in the United States we honor and respect our different faiths,” Brewer said.
Interfaith Neighbors offer refugees the kinds of choices not available during long stays in refugee camps. They select their own furniture and household goods at A Wider Circle, a local organization offering free furnishings to those who need them. They choose clothing from donated articles collected and displayed by Interfaith Neighbors.
The churches, synagogues and mosques in the interfaith consortium take turns hosting social events for all of the faith communities and refugee families. “That is where we just have fun and all simply become neighbors,” Brewer said.
When, within a year, four refugee families “graduated” to independence, the interfaith group took on four more.
On Capitol Hill, St. Mark’s and Christ Church are part of seven worshipping communities now assisting five Afghan refugee families. “Connections develop as needs arise,” said Karen Getman, St. Mark’s refugee coordinator. For instance, the Mormon church in the alliance has donated food and household goods from its own warehouse. Several volunteers found their callings by spending hours collecting and delivering furniture to the families.
For St. Mark’s, the long wait for families’ arrival during Advent was a reminder of the season of anticipation. The whole parish took ownership of the project as it waited. Clergy gave sermons on “being the stranger,” parishioners created a six-foot Refugee Madonna and Child statue out of colored newspaper, and the flower guild kept Christmas decorations simple to donate money to the church refugee fund. “It felt like waiting for another Birth during Advent,” Getman said.
Parishes working with refugees have found rich rewards. “The most joyful part is just being with the family and seeing their eagerness to embrace their new life in America,” said Deacon Jean Ann Wright of St. Columba’s. For Brewer it is “seeing these people in peace and no longer worried about their families getting killed.” And Getman’s joy is “seeing a five-year-old’s room full of toys and books, and hearing her say she loves school.”
The newcomers, of course, face formidable hurdles including learning English and American culture, finding employment, mastering public transportation, and completing complicated paperwork to get registered in the American system. They do all this while dealing with profound loss--of their home cultures and of close family they may have left behind.
Yet parishes helping refugees have been moved by their hospitality and their gratitude. “The families are so extremely gracious, hospitable and polite, insisting on volunteers staying for tea or a meal,” Brewer said. “And they are using the material things they have been given with such care.”
Refugees’ hopes for the future mirror those of most Americans: “I want to have a good job, learn American culture, have a happy family, and show my sons ‘the good way,’” said Fridoon, St. Columba’s refugee dad.
And they want to reach out. One of St. Mark’s refugee partners saw church people putting signs in their houses that read No matter where you are from, we’re glad you are our neighbors. “I want one for my home, too,” he said. “I want to be a welcoming neighbor.”
Other churches in the diocese are also assisting refugees. All Souls’, together with Christ Church, Georgetown and St. John’s, Georgetown, is beginning the process of partnering with a family. St. Alban’s, St. Dunstan’s, and St. Phillip’s, Baden have assembled welcome kits of household supplies for refugees. St. Dunstan’s has sent funds and materiel to refugee camps in Croatia though a missionary connection there.
How to Get Started Helping Refugees
Churches volunteer with a resettlement agency like Episcopal Migration Ministries, Lutheran Social Services or the International Rescue Committee which have decades of experience working with faith communities interested in helping refugees. The agency offers volunteers training and a plan that helps them move forward systematically. A church first decides how much financial and human support it can offer a family. It then forms committees that work on individual areas of assistance such as housing and furnishings, employment, education, English as a second language, and medical care. The shared goal is to help families and individuals to become productive, self-sufficient members of the community within a year.
May 08, 2017
The Rev. Dr. Ruthanna Hooke, associate dean of chapel and the associate professor of homiletics at Virginia Theological Seminary, gave the following sermon at the diocesan clergy conference on May 8.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
John 15: 1-17
Those who pay close attention to this liturgy as it goes along may notice that there are a certain number of references to the Good Shepherd, the passage many of you preached on yesterday, and which is coming up again next week, and is actually also the appointed reading for today. In preparation for this sermon, I did something that by certain lights you are not really supposed to do, and that is to change the appointed reading for the day. I did this, on one level, because our topic for this clergy conference is joy in worship, and I wanted a Scripture passage that talked about joy, as this passage does.—joy, that wonderful, heart-breaking, all-encompassing word—Joy. And also, as I prayed and thought about what makes joy possible, and actual, whether in worship or anywhere else, this passage seemed to me to say something crucial about that that I thought would be helpful for us all to hear, as a starting point for our time together—and really, as an ending point, too.
“I am the vine; you are the branches.” As you know, the Gospel of John is full of “I am” sayings, by which Jesus explicitly connects himself with God, who refused to give God’s name to Moses but simply said, “I am who I am.” In John’s Gospel there’s a sequence of “I am” statements in which Jesus compares himself to something known in their everyday world: “I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the gate of the sheep, I am the way, the truth and the life.” This statement in today’s text is the last one of these, and the most intimate: I am the vine; you are the branches. In the other images, the relationship is one of feeding, like the bread, or guiding, like the shepherd. But here the connection is closer; it is one of physical, organic connection. It is such a close connection between us and Jesus that we don’t need to do anything to make it happen or to receive it; we simply have to allow ourselves to know and to abide in the connection that is always already there.
Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that it matters whether we do this or not. “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” When we abide in the vine we live in abundant life; when we live in the illusion of separateness, everything we do is futile. I really can’t think of any words that are more important for us clergy to hear. We have given our lives to the service of Christ, but far too often we fall into the illusion that we can make do without him, that we can bear fruit when disconnected from the vine. I have always found it appalling that, while in responding to our baptismal vows, we say, “I will, with God’s help,” when responding to the vows made at our ordination, we just say, “ I will.” No need for God’s help anymore, now that I am ordained. I’ve got this, God.
No. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. That’s true of us clergy more than anyone else, and we forget this at our peril. We forget this at the loss of our joy.
We lose joy when we disconnect from the vine not only because we lose our life-giving relationship with God, but also because we lose our relationship with each other. For this image of the vine and the branches captures the reality that in our connection to Christ, we are also intrinsically connected to each other, as each branch is connected to all of the other branches through its connection to the central vine. And when you picture vines and branches, they all intertwine and intertangle with each other, and that is our true condition, inextricably bound up with each other, all living in and through one another, because of our connection to Christ. It was this absolute truth that Thomas Merton perceived one day, and he described it like this:
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . . This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being human, a member of a race in which God Godself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
When Jesus calls us to bear much fruit, he is really only calling us to fully abide in the truth of this revelation of our interconnectedness in him. In other words, he is calling us to love. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Here he is at the end of his life, and he gives this one final commandment. All of the other commandments fall away, and we are left with this one: to love one another as Christ loves us. In the end, this is the fruit that will last. Nothing else abides, except for love. And the pruning that Jesus tells us must happen in order for us to bear this fruit is the cutting away of whatever gets in the way of our being able to love fully—whether it is our ego, or our fears, or our tendency to judge each other and ourselves, or our hardness of heart. All of this must be burned away so that we can bear the one fruit of love, the only fruit that endures. My mother is in the last days of her life, and this process is becoming very clear. Everything is being pruned away from her—all her capacities, her activities, even her faults and failings—all that is left, burning through ever more purely, is love—the love of so many for her, and her love for us. A love that will last, beyond the grave.
There is terrible grief in this, to be sure. But there is also, in a strange way, joy. For a wise teacher once said, “Joy is simply whatever is going on, minus our opinion of it. Joy is simply who we are.” Joy is who we are. Joy is our pure encounter with reality, with life as it is, in all its pain and all its glory. Joy is the bedrock truth of our existence, however much we can separate ourselves from this. And why is this? Because joy justisthe awareness that we are intrinsically, unbreakably connected to God and to each other, and nothing can separate us from that love. This is what Merton saw on the street corner in Louisville, which filled him with such joy that he laughed aloud, for Joy is nothing more, and certainly nothing less, than the pure encounter withwhat is, and what is, in the end, is love.
What else is liturgy but a structured place to allow this sense of interconnection to be known, this love to flow, this joy to well up within us—so that we can feel it more readily on the street corner, or in the protest march, or even at a deathbed? What else is liturgy but a place where we find ourselves ever more deeply in the truth that made Julian of Norwich, whose feast day is today, exclaim in joy those beloved words: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” What else is liturgy but a place where we find our souls and voices joining in the song the Quakers sang to express an overflowing joy that they felt even in prison: “What though the tempest loudly roar, I hear the truth, it liveth, what though the darkness round me close, songs in the night it giveth. No storm can shake my inmost calm, since to that rock I’m clinging. Since Love is lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”
April 27, 2017
By Lu Stanton León
This spring the Diocese of Washington and Washington National Cathedral sponsored a pilot Alpha course, a small-group program that allows both church-goers and seekers to meet, share a meal, and explore those key spiritual questions that may be weighing on their hearts: Who is Jesus? Why did he die for us? How do I pray?
The Alpha course, a revised version of a program created by the Church of England several decades ago consists of eight sessions, each of which includes 30 minutes for a free, catered dinner, 30 minutes for a talk and then an hour for small group discussions.
The course at the Cathedral met on Thursday nights from March 2 through April 27, not including Maundy Thursday, and reached its 130-person capacity shortly after it was announced. Dean Randy Hollerith says it will be offered again.
“Alpha is designed as a discipleship class,” Hollerith says. “It was created for the unchurched and is a very evangelical interpretation of the Christian faith. We had to adapt it knowing that the people taking it here are not unchurched and are not big “E” evangelicals. We wanted people, through this experience of Alpha, to become more faithful and become more comfortable talking about their faith.”
“I love it,” says Christine Bingaman, a member of the Cathedral committee responsible for the logistics of the program. “The thing that is unique about this model is that no matter where you are on your faith journey, you connect right in. You are not being measured or judged. It is you and your relationship with God. It is a wonderful opportunity to explore yourself at a deeper level and to open yourself up to God.
“It draws us closer as a community. I think that, for us, we’ll come out stronger individuals, connected to God and connected to one another. It’s been just a joy.”
The Alpha course originated in the late 1970s at Holy Trinity, Brompton, a Church of England parish in London. It has been offered in more than 169 countries and its materials have been translated into 112 languages. Alpha is offered by Roman Catholic churches, Orthodox churches and churches from all of the mainline Protestant denominations. In all, more than 29 million people have tried the course, according to the program’s website.
Alpha’s popularity soared during the 1990s, and Alpha USA was founded during that time. Hollerith says he was a little hesitant about offering the course at the Cathedral because he knew that, in the past, it had been criticized as being anti-gay and inattentive to women’s issues.
“In the past, Alpha was perceived as offering a biblical worldview that was hostile to the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church,” says Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who taught several of the classes at the Cathedral. “That, to be sure, is not part of the Alpha presentations we are offering.”
Hollerith, who also taught several classes, said he and Budde had “vetted” the program and become comfortable with it. “We’d love to see it be an ongoing thing throughout the year. I don’t know if we can swing it financially to do it all year, but we’d like to be able to offer it again.”
The Rev. Jamie Haith, who worked for years with Alpha at Holy Trinity, Brompton, and is now head of Holy Trinity Church, a nondenominational church in McLean, Virginia, also taught several classes. In addition to Haith’s assistance, volunteers from Holy Trinity helped run the program and pay for the meals.
“They see it as part of their mission to share Alpha with other churches of all denominations,” Hollerith says.
The volunteers from Holy Trinity were “wonderful,” Bingaman says. “Perry Auditorium is where we met for dinner. These folks just appeared and transformed the venue. They have been very helpful in sharing what their experience has been as to what works and what doesn’t work so well.”
Hollerith describes the Cathedral and diocesan sponsorship of the Alpha program as “a synergy, or you could call it a grace.”
“The Cathedral loved the DOCC (Disciples of Christ in Community) experience when Sam Lloyd was dean,” Hollerith says. “Those small groups and lectures were wonderful for the Cathedral. I’m a community builder, and I knew I’d want to do something to enhance the community. At the same time, Mariann was interested in using Alpha here in the diocese.”
They decided to use the Cathedral for a test case. About 70 percent of attendees are members of the Cathedral.
Budde says that while she served as interim dean, “members of the Cathedral worshipping community expressed a real longing for such an offering again, for the purpose of building community and also having a safe place of welcome for those exploring the faith.”
As she travels around the diocese, she recognizes that other congregations could benefit from similar spiritual offerings. For that reason, the diocese sought and recently received a Roanridge Grant from the Episcopal Church to help sponsor Alpha in rural parishes. With that grant, the diocese will be able to assist parishes in Southern Maryland not only to host Alpha but also to offer a weekend retreat that supplements the 8 weekly sessions.
“Vital, growing congregations have several things in common, and one is a regular opportunity for people to gather to explore foundational questions and experiences of faith,” Budde says. “Alpha has broad appeal across a wide spectrum of Christian denominations, and it is easily adaptable by congregations that use it.
The bishop sees Alpha as “an entry point into the faith or an opportunity to go deeper in a faith that Christians often take for granted or don't make the effort to explore in depth. Alpha speaks of a deeply personal faith, a way of knowing God, experiencing the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit's power working in and among us. It also has all the components of Christian hospitality and community that make church real for people.”
April 12, 2017
In response to the attacks on Coptic churches in the Egyptian cities of Tantra and Alexandria on Palm Sunday, the following joint statement in support of the Coptic Christian community was issued by Bishop Mariann and other faith leaders from across the Washington metro area. The statement was also included in letters sent to the area's coptic churches.
In light of the tragedy that occurred on Palm Sunday in Egypt, we write to express our deepest sympathy for all those whose lives were lost or forever changed due to the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt. And we lament that the Egyptian Coptic churches were the target of such violence. An attack on one community of faith is an attack on all, and we offer our prayers for God's mercy and justice.
The disturbing news of another attack on Christians, this time Coptic worshippers in Egypt, calls us together so that we might, through the faith traditions represented in this statement, denounce violence but particularly violence perpetrated in the name of religion.
In this week, called holy by Christians around the world, we join in solidarity in decrying this violent attack.
In the Christian Scriptures there is the image of Simon of Cyrene, whose faith tradition we do not know, but who stepped forward to help Jesus carrying his cross. In that sense we step forward to stand with our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters and with Christians around the world, so that they do not have to carry their cross alone.
In the Islamic tradition, churches are explicitly named in the Qur'an (22:40) as places where the name of God is extolled and are deserving of protection and anyone who attacked a Christian church would be violating Islamic principles.
With sentiments of solidarity,
Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Catholic Archbishop of Washington
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Mr. Rizwan Jaka
Chair, Board & Interfaith/Government/ Media Committee Co-Chair, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)
Rev. Dr. G. Wilson Gunn, Jr.
General Presbyter, National Capital Presbytery
Rabbi Gerry Serotta
Executive Director, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington
Imam Mohamed Magid
Executive Religious Director, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)
March 30, 2017
The Diocese of Washington will be well-represented when advocates gather in Chicago next month for Unholy Trinity: the Intersection of Racism, Poverty and Gun Violence, a three-day conference grounded in scripture, liturgy and theology and sponsored by Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Susan D. Morgan Distinguished Professor of Religion at Goucher College in Baltimore and canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral, will be part of the conference’s “three-note” panel, and Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde will join with Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark to lead a plenary session on community organizing.
Workshops at the conference are devoted to helping participants work with police, young people, legislators, anti-violence advocacy groups and other constituencies to reduce gun violence.
“I hope to come away from the conference with concrete ideas and suggestions for reducing gun violence, especially the gun violence that continues apace below the radar of broad public consciousness,” Budde says. “I’d like to move my work and advocacy closer to the ground, in neighborhoods, communities, and among people for whom gun violence is a given in their lives.
“I’d also like to learn ways to speak with people of faith across the spectrum of political views regarding guns and gun violence, so that we can have a real conversation.”Budde is sponsoring the participation of the Rev. Rob Schenck, a conservative evangelical minister who has alienated some of his political allies by speaking out against the gun culture in the United States. Schenck and Lucy McBath, the mother of an unarmed teenager who was murdered in Florida, are the subjects of Abigail Disney’s documentary, “The Armor of Light.” McBath will join Schenck in presenting a workshop.
Budde said she felt strongly about including Schenck in the conference. “He has deep pastoral relationships and a leadership role in the branches of Christianity that most support gun rights,” she says. “His story is a testimony of courage and determination to help influence those most resistant to changing gun culture. He sees gun violence not only as a public health crisis in our country, but a spiritual one as well.”
Douglas, the author of “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” will be a member of the conference’s three-note panel along with the Rev. Julian DeShazier, senior minister of University Church in Chicago and hip-hop artist; and Natalie Moore, South Side reporter for WBEZ and author of “The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation.” The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, will moderate the panel.
“We can’t see gun violence in isolation from some of these issues like race and social economic justice,” Douglas says. “Until we bring those three things together, I don’t think we are going to resolve issues of gun violence. So I think the conference is approaching it in the right way.”
Holding the conference in Chicago, which has become synonymous with urban gun violence and last year had the eighth-highest murder rate in the country is also important, Douglas says. In January, President Donald Trump tweeted that he might “send in the Feds,” if the city could not “fix the horrible carnage.”
“This new administration has given attention to Chicago in a way that I think is not helpful,” Douglas says. “It focuses on the violence that actually is a consequence of the systemic and structural violence which has created a culture that actually nurtures death and not the ‘abundant life’ which God promises to us all. In order to curb the gun violence that has impacted the lives of various neighborhoods in Chicago, one has to address the violence that is the realities of social economic injustice.”
But reducing gun violence in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods and others like them is not the only gun violence issue challenging the country, Douglas says. “We’ve got to get these guns out of the hands of various people who feel threatened every time they see a black body on the street. Because the threat to black life is not just going on in what I call these ‘enclaves of death.’”
Douglas says Trump’s presidency has raised both racial tensions and the awareness of racial tensions in the United States. “Such awareness perhaps will help even more people to understand the realities of racism that actually contribute to issues such as gun violence, and began to understand that these issues do not exist in a vacuum,” she says. “It is my hope that we will began to recognize the disproportionate impact that gun violence has on communities of color does not result from violent people, but rather violent systems. Far too often we focus on the people as if something is wrong with them—playing into racist narratives—when in fact our focus should be on the situations and conditions in which people are forced to live—which themselves are products of racism. We have to begin to name the violence that is white racism.”
March 16, 2017
By Kathleen Moore
On April 1, the Center for the Study of Faith in Justice will host The Police are the Public; The Public are the Police – Repairing the Breach. Speakers include Wesley Lowery, a reporter for The Washington Post and author of “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and the New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement.
“This conference is an opportunity to make a real change in policing,” says the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, founder of the Center for the Study of Faith in Justice at Calvary Episcopal Church and retired captain with the Metropolitan Police Department. “For me, if we’re going to be serious about the Jesus Movement, it needs to affect every aspect of our lives, to include how American policing affects people of color. I truly believe that with a few people we can start making connections with law enforcement agencies. If we start small and get commitments to meet the police face-to-face, it’s going to be the relationships that change policing.”
The day-long event will include presentations from Fisher-Stewart, author of “Community Policing Explained: A Guide for Local Governments”; the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, distinguished professor of religion at Goucher College, canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral, and author of “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God”; Brian K. Jordan, chief of police and executive director for safety and security, Howard University and co-author of “A National Conversation on Police and Community Relations on HBCU Campuses”; the Rev. David Couper, retired police chief of Madison, Wisconsin and author of “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds off about Protest, Racism, Corruption, and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” and Tim McMillan, lieutenant with the Garden City, Georgia police department whose Facebook post following his experience pulling over a young black man went viral.
Fisher-Stewart, who spent twenty years working as a police officer, believes the church has a key role to play in the work of police reform. “To repair this breach, it needs a theological direction, because the races have never been one in America if we look at it from a secular perspective,” she says. “The only way we can look at it is through a theological lens where God created one human race that human beings then divided. That's the only way we can get back to reconciliation. Because if we look at the races in America, they've never been one, so how can you reconcile what's never been one in the first place?”
This racial divide created a police force in the United States that “has never really been about serving and protecting everybody,” Fisher-Stewart says. “So it's time to fix the breach, and I think that the church is in a better position to do it, because that is what the church is called to do: the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.”
Fisher-Stewart believes the Trump administration has created even more urgency around the need to take action toward repairing the law enforcement breach. “If we don’t do something, nothing is going to change,” she says. “And most likely, it’s going to get worse now that we have a ‘law and order’ President again. We know what ‘law and order’ means in this country – it means mass incarceration. Trump said the other day to the major city [police] chiefs, ‘You don't have the weapons you need.’ Weapons? Are you going to war? And if you're going to war, who's your enemy? And if the community is the enemy, that's a problem. And it makes it dangerous for civilians and the police.”
The conference will provide attendees with concrete tools to engage in this work toward change. “There is so much to do that you can get paralyzed with inaction because you don’t know where to start,” Fisher-Stewart says. “This conference is a way to start, because the church is about relationship. And if everybody who comes to this conference makes one contact with the chief of their jurisdiction face-to-face, then we start seeing each other as human beings as opposed to enemies.”
“The Police are Public; The Public are the Police – Repairing the Breach” will take place Saturday, April 1 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. The free event is limited to 200 participants. Breakfast and lunch will be served. Register online by February 28.
March 13, 2017
The following is a letter from Bishop Mariann to the Diocese:
Dear Friends of the Diocese of Washington,
We are thrilled to report that the Diocese of Washington has received a $100,000 grant, approved by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, to support the launch of a new bi-lingual worshipping community, Misa Magdalena. Here is how the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, diocesan Latino missioner, described the new worshipping community in our grant application:
We wish to plant a sacramental, bi-lingual neighborhood church in the Aspen Hill neighborhood of Silver Spring, a Maryland suburb with one of the highest concentrations of Latino populations in the Washington DC metro area. Our target population will be drawn from the unchurched and under-churched community neighbors, many of whom are culturally Roman Catholic but do not attend church. The neighborhood is comprised primarily of immigrants who are stable and well rooted and New Generation Latinos, those who were born abroad or in the US, many of whom are highly acculturated but appreciate their Latino language.
We are blessed by this new collaborative endeavor, the leadership of Sarabeth Goodwin and the enthusiastic partnership with St. Mary Magdalene parish in Silver Spring, and I am not the only one who thinks so. The Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s missioner of new church starts & missional initiatives, commended Sarabeth and the Diocese of Washington for the strength of our application.
The grant is “a huge vote of confidence in the work we are doing in the diocese,” Sarabeth notes, and says she is excited to continue the work of establishing Misa Magdalena as “a vibrant Spanish language congregation working in partnership with St. Mary Magdalene Church to spread the good news of Christ's love.”
I have spoken frequently about the importance of parishes collaborating with one another in ministry. It is no less important for us, as a diocese, to collaborate with the wider church. This is a wonderful example of such collaboration, and I look forward with great anticipation to our work in Aspen Hill, and on other initiatives that deepen our shared commitment to congregational vitality and evangelism.
March 09, 2017
By the Rev. Elizabeth Gardner
I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this, all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
Episcopalians have mastered Ashes-to-Go. By taking church to the streets, many of you have made brief but meaningful connections to people who don’t have regular church attendance on their radar. They are the majority in society today--people who don’t feel right going into church but who crave a deeper connection with God.
As life-changing as Ashes-to-Go can be, it is only one of many opportunities for evangelism and neighborhood engagement. Below are some ways you can continue to take your church outdoors to meet folks where they are.
Go to the same spot where you distributed ashes (Metro stop, coffee shop, parking lot, etc.), put up a folding sign and offer the following:
Palms on the Monday following Palm Sunday
Hand Washing on Maundy Thursday
Flowers on Easter Monday or throughout Easter Week
Alleluias-to-Go during the Season of Easter until Pentecost
Prayers for the dead on All Saints Day
Caroling after the last Sunday of Advent and before your Christmas Eve services
Healing prayers and anointing outside your church throughout the year
And as you do these things, remember to resist the temptation to look at them as recruiting opportunities. The goal of evangelism is to share God’s love, not to get more people in the pews on Sunday morning.
If you would like me or someone from the diocesan staff to join you, give me a call. I’d love to stand on the street corner and share the love of God in Christ through these and other methods. Have an idea to share, send me an email. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
March 02, 2017
In the wake of raids across the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), diocesan congregations are considering options for supporting undocumented immigrants and their communities that range from providing sanctuary on church properties to offering educational events, according to the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, the diocese’s Latino missioner.
Calvary Church, Church of the Holy Comforter, St. Alban’s and St. Stephen and the Incarnation in the District, Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, St. Matthew/San Mateo in Hyattsville, St. John’s in Mount Rainier, Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, Grace Church in Silver Spring, and Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring are among the churches considering ways to support the sanctuary movement, Goodwin said.
One or more of those churches may decide to offer to host an individual or a family, she added.
The sanctuary movement has gathered momentum since the election of President Donald Trump, who campaigned on promises of increased border security and stringent enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. On February 21, John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, issued new enforcement policies that significantly broaden the categories of undocumented immigrants who are subject to deportation.
“People are at risk in many of our congregations,” said the Rev. Paula Clark, canon for clergy development, multicultural ministries and justice. “Most of us know that people in Latino communities are in danger, but there is great fear in our heavily West African and Caribbean churches as well. This may not be pain we all can see, but you can feel it present in church on Sunday morning.”
Bishop Mariann Budde will lead a diocesan forum on immigration issues on March 28 at 7 p. m. at Church of Our Saviour in the Hillandale section of Silver Spring. Lacy Broemel, refugee and immigration policy analyst for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, an immigration attorney, and representatives of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and Sanctuary DMV, the leading local sanctuary organization, are scheduled to speak.
“I’ve spent too many years working to help bring sanity and compassion into our nation’s immigration system to accept extreme mandates as the best we can do as a nation,” Budde wrote recently to the diocese. “My heart breaks for those who have lived as contributing members of our communities and churches for years and want nothing more than legal status in this country, who are now afraid to leave their homes for fear of deportation.”
Churches can support undocumented immigrants in numerous ways, Goodwin said, including:
Accompanying immigrants to ICE checks or to court. (Immigrants who are accompanied to their hearings are less likely to be deported than those who are not, Goodwin says.)
Hosting educational events to brief immigrants on their rights and non-immigrants on how the immigration system and the sanctuary movement work.
Forming rapid response teams willing to report from the scene of ICE raids.
(For more information on how to assist immigrants in danger of deportation, watch this video featuring Laura Stump Kennedy of St. Stephen and the Incarnation, who led the workshop on sanctuary issues at the recent Leadership Learning Day. Additional videos on the sanctuary movement and immigrants’ rights are available in Spanish and the immigrants’ rights video is available in English.)
The Rev. Charles Wynder, Jr., priest-in-charge at Holy Comforter in the District, preached on the sanctuary movement on Sunday with the ambassador of St. Lucia and the diplomatic corps of several Caribbean countries including Haiti, Barbados, and Grenada in attendance. Wynder, who is also missioner for social justice and advocacy engagement for the Episcopal Church, told Clark that the diplomatic community from the Caribbean is concerned about U. S. immigration issues.
“This will be a group we will be working cooperatively with as we get our arms around sanctuary," Clark said.
Locally, Sanctuary DMV and the PICO National Network have been “the motors” behind the sanctuary movement, Goodwin said. A meeting led by PICO on February 13 drew 240 people from 90 congregations—four of them Episcopal—to All Souls' Unitarian Church in the District. “That meeting included small group conversations according to geographical locations and some decisions were made about how to work collaboratively to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters in the coming days,” Goodwin said.
One third of the churches at the meeting committed to supporting the sanctuary movement in some way, she added.
The next meeting about sanctuary will be held on March 13 at 7 p. m. at All Souls Unitarian, 1500 Harvard St NW, in the District, Goodwin said. Newcomers are welcome.
March 01, 2017
Spring Grants Awarded
This Spring, Diocesan Council awarded six congregational growth grants totaling $82,000.
Parishes in Northern Montgomery County were awarded $20,000 to coordinate and establish regional children, youth and family ministries.
St. Michael and All Angels in Adelphi and Our Saviour in Silver Spring were jointly awarded $10,500 for a collaborative vacation bible school to take place this Summer.
St. Mark’s and Calvary on Capitol Hill were jointly awarded $8,500 for a collaborative effort to provide community programs. Activities planned include art lessons, afternoon jazz sessions and yoga to connect spirituality to everyday events.
Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg was awarded $20,000 to continue its ministry to reach the growing latino population.
St. Peter's in Poolesville was awarded $20,000 to help seed a new nursery school to meet the growing need for childcare in the community.
St. George’s in the District was awarded $13,600 to launch a service aimed at appealing to those in their neighborhood are interested in new liturgy.
February 23, 2017
Ash Wednesday is on March 1, and more than 30 parishes across the diocese will be offering Ashes-to-Go. Part of a church-wide movement, Ashes-to-Go brings the Ash Wednesday tradition from the confines church buildings directly to people in their daily lives and commutes. Interested passers-by are marked with the sign of the cross and invited to seek forgiveness and renewal. Locations to receive ashes are designed to meet people wherever they are including train stations, Metro stops and street corners.
Morning locations are listed in blue while afternoon/evening locations are in red. If you have questions about a specific church's offering, please contact the parish directly. Contact information can be found using our church finder. Let us know via email if your church is participating in Ashes-to-Go and not listed on our map.
February 23, 2017
- Alpha Course Videos
- Taking Care of Business: The Ministry of Administration Packet
- Grant Writing Slideshow
- The Church's Role in Forming Disciples
- Multicultural/Racial Social Justice Reconciliation Packet
- Sanctuary Resources
- Marketing and Social Media
February 16, 2017
Members of the diocese can immerse themselves in a new expression of the Stations of the Cross this Lent by meditating on 14 works of art at locations including Washington National Cathedral and Church of the Epiphany in the District, beginning on March 1.
“Stations of the Cross” is a combination pilgrimage and art exhibit that uses monuments, paintings by old masters, and newly commissioned art installations to tell the story of the Passion in a new way. Stops on the pilgrimage include the National Gallery of Art, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Marine Corps, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vietnam Women’s Memorials.
Featured artists include Ndume Olatushani—once falsely imprisoned on death row—and Michael Takeo Magruder, one of the world’s leading artists in digital media, who has created a haunting Shroud of Turin filled with the faces of Syrian refugees. Stations is curated by the Rev. Dr. Catriona Laing and Dr. Aaron Rosen and supported by grants from the Episcopal Evangelism Society and Trinity Church, Wall Street among others.
“Instead of easy answers, the Stations aim to provoke the passions: artistically, spiritually, and politically,” its organizers say.
The pilgrimage is supported by several events and an ecumenical worship service.
At 6:30 p. m. on March 3 at Church of the Epiphany, 1317 G Street NW, in the District, Magruder will discuss his piece “Lamentation for the Forsaken," and how the current struggles of today's forsaken are representative of the ninth station, “Jesus Falls for the Third Time. ”
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde will lead an ecumenical service at 1:30 p. m. on March 4 in the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea at Washington National Cathedral, where a mural by Jan Henrik DeRosen depicts the fourteenth station, the burial of Jesus.
Visitors can follow the stations by downloading the smartphone app, “Alight: Art & Sacred.” The app offers a guided tour and includes podcasts from clergy, artists, and scholars, along with maps leading to each of the stations.
January 05, 2017
By Lu Stanton León
For most of her adult, life Susan Walker has been a servant leader—feeding the hungry, serving the sick, working with the marginalized and underserved. Yet despite all the work with her church and community, she felt a deeper call to service. In 2012, she was ordained a deacon.
Now, Walker works during the week as resident services director and leasing agent at St. Mary’s Court, an apartment community for seniors with low-to-moderate-income, and at 8 a. m. on Sundays she serves as a deacon at St. Stephen and the Incarnation in the District. She is also helping guide the diocese’s first class of people seeking ordination to the diaconate.
Under the leadership of Bishop Mariann Budde, diaconal training has become a priority. Last March, the bishop called the Rev. Sue von Rautenkranz as the diocese’s first archdeacon. In this role, von Rautenkranz, a deacon and Christian formation coordinator at St. Dunstan’s in Bethesda, oversees the discernment, formation and deployment process for deacons in the diocese.
“In my favorite shorthand,” von Rautenkranz says, “the priest (pastor and teacher) invites people into community for feeding and nurture while the deacon pushes you back out into the world to do mission.
“We currently have 18 persons officially in the process toward ordination to the diaconate,” von Rautenkranz says. “Five of those are now candidates and, if all goes as planned and God is willing and the people are consenting, these five will be ordained in the fall. Thirteen are postulants and will begin the diocesan deacons school this month. They have been taking academic classes for the last year.
“The canons require that deacons receive academic training in scripture, theology and the traditions of the church,” von Rautenkranz says. “Our diocese is requiring basic survey courses in Old and New Testament, church history—including Anglican and Episcopal Church history—ethics and systematic theology.”
The candidates who will be ordained in the fall already have master of divinity degrees or “equivalent master’s level work in religious or theological studies,” Rautenkranz says. The postulants are taking classes locally as well as participating in an online classes through the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership, a program of Church Divinity School of the Pacific, an Episcopal seminary in Berkeley, California. CALL works with partner dioceses around the country to develop curricula and online courses that support local formation for ordained ministry. Students are taught by experienced instructors.
“The diocese has a special agreement with CDSP to provide the classes we need every calendar year if we have at least four to five students in those classes,” von Rautenkranz says. “This group [of postulants] will go before the Standing Committee in the fall of 2017. If all things proceed as expected, then members of that cohort will be ordained one year later, in the fall of 2018.”
Von Rautenkranz says the 18 people in the process now “are a very diverse group with skills and passions for ministry from chaplaincy with the elderly to jail ministry. They bring years of work in many social service settings and jobs, and many have waited a long time for the diocese to commit itself more fully to nurturing vocational deacons.
Walker, who serves as spiritual formation advisor to the diaconate program, says “We are supposed to model servant leadership so others can say, ‘I want to do that in my life.’ It’s helping people own their own ministry.”
Sandra Bramble, a part-time parish secretary at St. John's, Mount Rainier, Maryland, says the diocese’s new diaconate program is just what she has been looking for. A native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island in the Caribbean, she’s been active in her parish more than 20 years “doing the work I actually love.” She’s the head verger and a member of the altar guild, the Episcopal Church Women, Daughters of the King, Mothers’ Union, and St. John’s social and cultural committee. She also works with the youth and volunteers in community feeding and service programs.
“What I feel about this program for deacons is that a person might be involved in a lot of things and want to be a part of what happens in the church, but they may not feel that call to be an ordained deacon or priest,” Bramble says. “I think it is a call that you hear from God. I felt this call. I finally had to realize that God was calling me to this type of ministry, to serve in the church in this way.”
A deacon, she says, is “the go between of the people out there and the priest. It’s about serving others. This is why I like the community work that I do, because I am able to be a servant of the people, servant of the Christ, servant of the church.”
The Rev. Joseph Constant, rector of St. John's, Beltsville, testifies to the value of deacons. The Rev. Tyler Jones, who was in a diaconate program that the diocese piloted under Bishop John Bryson Chane, was ordained with Walker and the Rev. Terri Murphy, who now serves at Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, in 2012, served as deacon at St. John’s until moving out of the area.
“I think the services that Tyler provided to St. John’s were invaluable,” Constant says. “Especially for a parish that can only afford a full-time rector and nothing else, to have another ordained person is so valuable.” Most deacons are non-stipendiary.
Deacons wear a clerical collar, and Constant says that makes a particular difference hospital visits. “As you know, we can all do ministry and pastoral care,” he says. “We are all ministers of the church. But when it comes to death and dying, it certainly helps to walk in there in a collar. It also helps to actually have someone who is ordained at the end of life service.”
“I think being ordained brings with it, for me, this inner sense of being, this identity as a person of God who is called to be with people in a loving relationship no matter who they are,” Walker says. “Wearing a collar when at I’m at St. Stephen’s … that identifies me as a person of God. So perhaps that gives people some more accessibility to me in terms of their spiritual needs.”
Walker says she’s excited about the upcoming group of deacons.
“With so many deacons being ordained in the next few years, it will be an eye opener,” she says. “We’re not junior priests, and we’re not taking anything away from priests or laity. It is a calling, not just what I want to do but what God is calling me to do.”