As the saints of my Diocese all surely know by now, Bishop Mariann has called a two-week suspension of worship services and public gatherings at our parishes all across our Diocese of Washington. The Diocese of Virginia has taken a similar step. Bishop Mariann’s letter to the Diocese is found here, and let me simply affirm that this is not a move made from fear or panic, but a thoughtful service to our people and our communities. Our Bishops are showing wisdom, care and courage in calling for these suspensions.
In the meantime, we Christians formed in the Anglican tradition feel a loss, a real and authentic loss. We value our common prayer and worship, the prayer and worship which is shared among us as a faith community. This time of suspension is a time without that common prayer and celebration. In response to this loss we have many superb clergy across our Diocese and beyond sharing their wisdom and insight for online services and remote sharing, and the Diocese is compiling those resources on EDOW.org. Our Bishop is even popping up on Facebook Live!
To all these efforts I would add only this complimentary addition; as we work to meet virtually and continue our common prayer, let’s not forget that our life of common prayer was never meant to remove or negate our life of personal prayer. This just might be a fantastic opportunity for many of us to reengage our personal prayer lives in dynamic and meaningful ways. There is another important perspective to keep in mind: personal prayer is not really praying alone… we’re engaging with God and all those who similarly pray. Physical proximity with our community is warm, life-giving and central to who we are as Christians. Our connection goes much deeper than just our physical proximity. We are truly surrounded by and connected to a great cloud of witnesses.
There are a couple of resources I’d like to highlight…
There’s good stuff in the Book of Common Prayer! Morning, Noonday and Evening prayers are found beginning on page 37 for Rite I, and page 75 for Rite II. If you didn’t know, Rite I uses older expressions while Rite II uses more contemporary language. Much simpler devotions are found for morning, noon and evening beginning on page 137! There’s no shame in going simple, so maybe start with those devotions. Knowing what Lessons (scripture readings) to use in the daily prayers when prompted can be a struggle. I go online for any day’s readings at The Lectionary Page, or to an app on my iPhone, Electronic Common Prayer. There’s a nice online compilation of the prayers and readings here from our family in Province VIII! We also have a variety of prayers beginning on page 810 and one of my favorite prayers of thanksgiving on page 836. The entire Book of Common Prayer is available online.
Hour by Hour! This is a fantastic little book which simplifies the Daily Prayer Offices of the Book of Common Prayer into a week’s worth of daily Morning, Noon, Evening and Compline prayers. Compline is the late night prayer before bed. The beauty of Hour by Hour is that all the readings and prayers are right there, no page flipping or calendars required. It’s available in print or as an electronic book. It’s even a Nook book.
Finally, just a reminder that though we may suspend gatherings, we never suspend faith, mutual love and concern, or our deep connections to one another. Does your parish record worship services to post on YouTube or Vimeo for those who miss a Sunday? Go back and relive some of that worship when you need a lift. Go back and relive our amazing revival in January! If you need a moment of prayer and blessing with your Priest, contact your parish clergy to set up a phone call. I’d love to pray with you and bless you! Send me a note and I’ll call you. Of course, you don’t need a collar to pray with one another. Reach out to folks in your church you know would be encouraged to hear from you and pray with you.
I was driving in for worship Sunday morning and thinking about St. Paul’s words from Colossians 3, one of our readings for the day. I was reflecting on the shock and pain of a weekend full of death and injury from more gun violence in our country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a Sunday when I was preaching, so I had to wait and write a blog.
8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
The El Paso shooting in particular highlights the growing problem we have with white supremacy in our country. Of course, racism is always there, and the groups who ignorantly fear people of other ethnicities, religions and cultures will always be there, but in today’s U.S.A. we see see them marching safely in our streets, openly propagating their murderous philosophy, and we see their disciples taking action to murder in our shared places of public life.
As Christians, we must stand united to say without any equivocation or hesitation, that there are not very fine people purporting that ideology. Fine people simply do not support racism or white supremacy. White supremacy, hatred of others, fear-driven ignorance and xenophobia are not virtuous or benign. These ideologies foment hate and killing, and drive wedges between us.
St. Paul taught us the theology which debunks white supremacy and hatred, that in Christ, in the knowledge of God, we see that there is no difference in the value, worth or dignity of people, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, culture or socio-economic standing. It is an old way without knowledge of God that allows one human to view another human as a hated enemy because of those differences.
When speaking to the Galatians, St. Pauls points out to them that their baptismal waters wash away that unlearned manner of viewing people as less than valuable, beloved or worthy based on ethnicity, socio-economics or even gender issues. All those things are sublimated under the intrinsic value of a human being.
27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
We are a diverse and amazing species, never to be all alike. St. Paul’s theology does not just include a warning to put aside the hatred, malice and slander that can be engendered by differences, but goes on pushing us to embrace compassion and kindness as a response to difference. We are God’s people and, in seeing Christ within all, we are moved to humility, grace and love.
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
As people of faith we have to stand up and be heard that demonizing language directed toward our neighbors and fellow human beings will no longer be tolerated in the public arena from our leaders. Rhetoric which incites violence and casually laughing at threats of violence have no place in our public discourse. White Christians may not feel particularly threatened by the racist rhetoric and may find it easy to debate and argue the nuanced meanings of tweets and statements, but we cannot stand quietly by while that rhetoric becomes deadly episodes of gun violence against our brown and black neighbors, family and friends.There’s no room for debate when guns are in the hands of white supremacists in our streets.
The shooting in Dayton this weekend points to a more general problem we have with gun violence across the country, and access to weapons of war that have no place in civil life. We need more laws to protect us from those who would show such violent hatred and casual disregard for others. We need fewer guns on the streets and in our public places. We need common sense laws such as we have in place to govern the ownership and use of many other things in civil life which pose a threat to safety: chemicals, vehicles, etc. A peaceful and safer way forward will not be more guns in our public places, but fewer. How do we achieve such a goal? We demand action from our elected representatives and we speak out loudly against the waves of hatred, racism and white supremacy, especially when coming from our highest offices.
This is our official statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and the Washington National Cathedral, demanding better leadership from our President: https://cathedral.org/have-we-no-decency-a-response-to-president-trump.html
This is a long post for me, but we have to keep saying these things aloud, over and over. It is painful to keep confronting this in our own society, but we cannot forget the burden laid on us by our rampant gun violence and the racially motivated mass killings, like we saw just four years ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Poway Synagogue shooting in April, or the shooting at Young Israel of Greater Miami last month. Just try keeping up with our gun violence pandemic. We are a broken people, but our leaders in DC refuse to even begin to offer us ways to help us heal, to help us move forward, to bind us up, or to protect us. Giving up and giving in is simply not an option.
A Chilling Historical View of Racism in the US: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/04/adam-serwer-madison-grant-white-nationalism/583258/
We had such a beautiful Sunday, yesterday. Teresa and I fasted for social justice and mercy during the day with our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and many others from the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. We also heard from a special guest in Sunday School, Imam Tarif Shraim of the Islamic Community Center of Potomac (the ICCP). He attended with another teacher from the ICCP and several of their youth.
I met Imam Shraim at his mosque on my birthday, March 31 of this year, when I attended Friday prayers with other guests invited from our parish of St. John’s Episcopal Church Norwood. By the way, both Imam Shraim and Reverend Sari Ateek, our pastor, are Palestinians. When they are together you can feel the contagious energy of two humans thrilled to be present with each other.
Imam Shraim was gracious and wise as he shared with our combined Sunday School of 8th to 12th graders some of what it is like to be a Muslim in America. He shared his own story of facing racial and religious hatred here in America (a high speed pursuit and attempt to run his family off the road) because they have brown skin and his wife chooses to wear a head scarf. He expressed sincere gratitude for his welcome at St. John’s, and he invited us all to visit the ICCP any time we can make it. I plan to visit again as soon as my work schedule allows, hopefully during the coming celebration of Ramadan, beginning the evening of May 27 until June 25.
It warmed my heart to spend our class time helping our students grow in their understanding of our shared humanity with our Muslim neighbors, and our shared religious heritage and aspirations. I loved that our epistle reading in worship that morning was of the Apostle Paul in Athens, Acts 17:22-31. I’ve always believed that this should be a foundational text for our interaction with other faiths and adherents of other faiths. Paul shows respect for them and appreciation for what they share in common, and he even quotes their own poets. There is a humility and graciousness in this text that we have lost in so many of our own interactions with other faiths. Paul has a message to share and his own faith convictions, of course, but he doesn’t belittle, hate, fear or condemn the aspirations of the Athenians.
I pray that this is a week marked by more love, more learning and more service. May we find ourselves drawn to a shared grace and mercy for all people, and may we speak loudly and consistently against the hatred, fear and violence that threaten so many of our neighbors. And to support our prayer, may we do more loving, do more learning, and may we do more service. This is our calling as followers of Christ, to be known by our love: love for neighbors, love for friends and family, love for enemies, love for all. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14