A Word for These Times

Steven Charleston

Like many of you I watched yesterday’s events in front of the White House unfold in real time. It was a stage managed show of force, using law abiding citizens as expendable extras in a macho movie and the Bible as a prop for a macabre photo-op, as awkward and isolated an image as history has ever recorded. Every element was choreographed. The Attorney General coming out to review his troops. The timing of the charge into the crowd. The sound of explosions in the background of the get tough speech. The triumphant stroll with the dominator attended by his entourage. The pantomime at the church. I watched it all. As some people used the death of George Floyd as an excuse to smash windows and burn cars, so some of our leaders used it as an excuse to distract our attention from the cause and meaning of his death for political expediency. For me, both are criminal acts. The right of free speech and assembly has been as violated as the right to humane treatment while in custody of the law. It will now be up to each of us to declare what we have seen and what we intend to do as a consequence. I cannot speak for you. I can only speak for myself. I know what I saw and I know what I believe. Therefore I will remain steadfast in my witness: the murder of George Floyd in public as a blatant act of the racism that infects this nation is the issue. We have to face that reality and deal with it through truth telling and constructive change. Criminals who try to steal televisions or politicians who try to steal elections are looters. We have to confront them in court or at the ballot box.


Steven Charleston

Do you believe something good can come from something bad? Most of us do because our own life experience verifies that it can happen. Disaster, loss, grief, conflict: they are all frightening and painful, but each one can also be a catalyst for deep change in our lives, positive change, healing change. I can tell a story about that in my life history and I bet you can too. And there, in our own experience, is the common thread of hope that can unite us in this historic moment. We can see something good arise from the ashes if we are open to the lessons it teaches and if we are willing to change. We know that is true. We have seen it ourselves. In the midst of chaos the Spirit offers us the way forward: transformation.


Steven Charleston

Now is the moment for which a lifetime of faith has prepared you. All of those years of prayer and study, all of the worship services, all of the time devoted to a community of faith: it all comes down to this, this sorrowful moment when life seems chaotic and the anarchy of fear haunts the thin borders of reason. Your faith has prepared you for this. It has given you the tools you need to respond: to proclaim justice while standing for peace. Long ago the Spirit called you to commit your life to faith. Now you know why. You are a source of strength for those who have lost hope. You are a voice of calm in the midst of chaos. You are a steady light in days of darkness. The time has come to be what you believe.


Presiding Bishop Curry’s Word to the Church: When the Cameras are Gone, We Will Still Be Here

May 30, 2020

A word to the Church from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry:

“Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone.”
 

In the midst of COVID-19 and the pressure cooker of a society in turmoil, a Minnesota man named George Floyd was brutally killed. His basic human dignity was stripped by someone charged to protect our common humanity. 

Perhaps the deeper pain is the fact that this was not an isolated incident. It happened to Breonna Taylor on March 13 in Kentucky. It happened to Ahmaud Arbery on February 23 in Georgia. Racial terror in this form occurred when I was a teenager growing up black in Buffalo, New York. It extends back to the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and well before that. It’s not just our present or our history. It is part of the fabric of American life. 

But we need not be paralyzed by our past or our present. We are not slaves to fate but people of faith. Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone.

That work of racial reconciliation and justice – what we know as Becoming Beloved Community – is happening across our Episcopal Church. It is happening in Minnesota and in the Dioceses of Kentucky, Georgia and Atlanta, across America and around the world. That mission matters now more than ever, and it is work that belongs to all of us.

It must go on when racist violence and police brutality are no longer front-page news. It must go on when the work is not fashionable, and the way seems hard, and we feel utterly alone. It is the difficult labor of picking up the cross of Jesus like Simon of Cyrene, and carrying it until no one – no matter their color, no matter their class, no matter their caste – until no child of God is degraded and disrespected by anybody. That is God's dream, this is our work, and we shall not cease until God's dream is realized. 

Is this hopelessly naïve? No, the vision of God’s dream is no idealistic utopia. It is our only real hope. And, St. Paul says, “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Real love is the dogged commitment to live my life in the most unselfish, even sacrificial ways; to love God, love my neighbor, love the earth and truly love myself. Perhaps most difficult in times like this, it is even love for my enemy. That is why we cannot condone violence. Violence against any person – conducted by some police officers or by some protesters – is violence against a child of God created in God’s image. No, as followers of Christ, we do not condone violence.

Neither do we condone our nation’s collective, complicit silence in the face of injustice and violent death. The anger of so many on our streets is born out  of the accumulated frustration that so few seem to care when another black, brown or native life is snuffed out. 

But there is another way. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a broken man lay on the side of the road. The religious leaders who passed were largely indifferent. Only the Samaritan saw the wounded stranger and acted. He provided medical care and housing. He made provision for this stranger’s well-being. He helped and healed a fellow child of God.

Love, as Jesus teaches, is action like this as well as attitude. It seeks the good, the well-being, and the welfare of others as well as one’s self. That way of real love is the only way there is. 

Opening and changing hearts does not happen overnight. The Christian race is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Our prayers and our work for justice, healing and truth-telling must be unceasing. Let us recommit ourselves to following in the footsteps of Jesus, the way that leads to healing, justice and love.


Grief.
Anger.
Fear.
Isolation.
Pentecost.
Perhaps, in God’s economy, it is no trivial matter that the day a mighty wind, Holy Spirit wind, blew through that little room and disrupted everything, is also the day that we see without blinders, without excuses, without conditions, the depth of injustice in our nation’s structures. Perhaps now (like then), we (like them) will allow our hearts to be transformed, our spirits to be strengthened, our voices to be released. For justice, for truth, for repentance, for a new day that is genuinely aligned with God’s love, and Jesus’ message. 

George Floyd is dead. Ahmaud Arbery is dead. Breonna Taylor is dead. For the color of their skin. We stand at the edge of a new day, God willing. For such a day as this, we have received the Body and Blood of Christ, freely given, for years and years. We have been practicing beloved community, crossing self-imposed boundaries and imaginary borders, from time to time. We have been formed in the stillness of pandemic. A mighty wind is blowing. Tomorrow, we shall gather to pray, to hear God’s word, to continue walking the Way of Christ: into God’s future.


The Union of Black Episcopalians is hosting a sacred conversation for the naming of racial realities in this nation, acknowledging the pain and anger of black people, praying for repentance and healing, and empowering all people to do what must be done to end racism and cultivate God’s Beloved Community. Prayers and personal witness will be offered by a broad spectrum of people from across the Episcopal Church. All are welcome.
 
What: Prayer Vigil for Racial Justice and the Healing of our Nation
 
When: Sunday, May 31, 2020
4:00 PM to 5:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
 
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Meeting ID: 921 4319 6842
Password: 476808
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Steven Charleston 

One man dies in the street, pleading for his life, and overnight those streets erupt in anger at the injustice, not only for that dreadful moment, but for a lifetime of oppression. One hundred thousand die from a virus, all innocent victims of a heartless disease, but a balance of color shows more die from one community than others. Racism breeds death, either visibly for all the world to see, or silently, hidden beneath the statistics and the excuses. May the Spirit empower us to face this reality and not turn away: racism is as virulent as covid-19, infecting people who seem to have no outward symptoms, until behavior reveals their disease. The vaccine for racism is justice, the cure is equality, and the prevention is love.


Powerful true insight to ponder. Thank you, Callie Swanlund !

In Brené Brown's research, she found a group of individuals who displayed traits of vulnerability, courage, and engaged in their lives from a place of worthiness. She was puzzling over what to call this group of people who exhibited these attributes, until she was sitting in church one Sunday. In The Episcopal Church, we pray a weekly prayer of confession, acknowledging our communal sins—those things done and left undone—before God.

We have not loved you with our whole heart
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent

We have not loved you with our whole heart. To be wholehearted means not watching out only for ourselves and our own best interests, but weeping with Rachel for her dead children in Ramah, overturning the tables of injustice, and standing alongside the widow and orphan, outcast and stranger.

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. To be wholehearted means when one of us is broken, none of us is whole. We are broken, dear ones. The sins of privilege and racism are literally killing our Black and Brown siblings. The lynching of Ahmaud, the murder of George, the unjust treatment of Christian.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. To be wholehearted means to name the ways in which we’ve hurt one another or remained complicit. To repent means to turn. We must turn our attention to God’s children whose world is on fire and declare with our words and actions that Black Lives Matter.

Wholehearted Beloveds, how can we better love our neighbors as ourselves? In what ways can we truly repent for the evil we have done or the evil done on our behalf?

God has created each and every one of us in God’s own image. Let us love God with our whole heart by bravely and boldly letting that principle guide our lives.

#WholeheartedWednesday


We’re rounding the corner into summer. Some of us have ventured out. Others are staying put. There’s an increasing divergence of opinion as to the way forward. Perhaps the one thing upon which we can all agree is that this is no temporary hiccup after which we’ll go back to the lives we were living in January.

What is sure and certain is that we will never again live without pandemic. The losses that we have experienced will abide, accompanying us all the days of our lives. This is our new reality. The stories we tell matter now more than ever as we live into these extraordinary times.

Here is the story I’m telling.

Without a doubt, God is with us. God is doing a new thing. God has always been doing a new thing in human lives and communities. It’s just that, sometimes, our eyes and our hearts are open to that possibility and we see, we love, we imagine, we create. Now is a great opening into divine possibility.

This is the narrative that sustains me.

Death (and loss) do not have the final word. Life awaits us on the other side of death - including the little everyday deaths that we experience when expectations are not met, or we realize we were wrong. Enlightenment comes on the other side of disillusionment. Jesus was absolutely right when he said that we have to lose our life to gain our life - and the life we gain is everything. We have to let go and be emptied before we can be filled.

God willing, we will come one day to a new day and wonder what we were afraid of and why we dragged our feet. But, in the meantime, let us live in the beauty of the moment. Let us find a gratitude, no matter how very small it may be, to savor. Let us be still and trust that we are finding the way - that God is making a way out of no way. We will come through this. That which is broken will be made whole; those who are lost will be found; that which has died will live.

Thanks be to God.


The God Article is with Verna Wood.


Steven Charleston

What can restore our economy? That is a question we frequently hear and I must admit I am not qualified to answer it. I am not very good with numbers and Dow Jones is someone I thought I went to school with. But wiser people tell me it is all about confidence. Trust and confidence are the foundation of a strong economy. Now that is something I can understand. So what can restore confidence? In a word: honesty. We believe and act on what we trust as being honest. Tell the truth. Tell it without the embellishments of spin or blame or denial. Build a culture of honesty and I believe people will take care of the economy themselves.


"Walk toward what you dream." Amen!

Steven Charleston

The great migration has begun. Long ago my ancestors walked across this continent on just such a journey. They walked as a people in search of a promised land. They made a holy covenant with the Spirit and chose a direction: to the east and a new beginning. Today all of us are on a migration as well. We did not choose it. It chose us. A transformation is happening that will shape us for generations to come. But which direction will we take? What is the vision of our promised land? My ancestors were blessed by their decision to walk toward light, toward a free and loving future. May we be blessed with that same sacred promise. The great migration has begun. Walk toward what you dream.


As this time of un-knowing and physical distancing elongates itself, many of us are getting antsy, anxious, stir-crazy, impatient…. We don’t know if this is sustainable, and cannot envision an alternative. 

Our sense of reality yo-yos worse than our weight. One moment it seems that a new day might be emerging which will bring about much-needed changes that bend our communities and economies toward justice. Then some bit of information flits across our screen and we are filled with dread that the haters will win, and only mayhem and devastation await us.

Grief wrestles with gratitude. Gratitude gives way to dread. Dread is quieted by hope. Hope yields to sorrow. Sorrow stills my heart and I hear the birds sing. And that was before I finished this morning cup of coffee (which, today, is delicious - best ever).

Then I remember what we read in our daily evening prayer last week. Every day, there is something in Scripture that is spot-on and helps us continue to step into God’s future. But this one is standing by me, holding me up, easing my heart for the work that we’ve all been given to do, real-time, here-and-now. 

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34, The Message)

Funny, how often a Scripture passage appointed for the day is precisely what we need to be hearing, isn’t it? 
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.
Give your entire attention to what you are doing right now.
Give your entire attention to the living of this day. �
Give your entire attention.
Here and now.
God is present.

It is in giving our entire attention to right now, that we will have the courage, strength, creativity, energy, and imagination to do what needs doing when the time comes (when that “here-and-now” arrives).

In this here-and-now may you find peace.


Steven Charleston

I think you are using good judgment. That is one of my mother's most important benedictions. She is ninety two years old now. Whenever you ask her for advice, she listens carefully, asks her questions, then gives you her verdict. It is not important that you have a good idea or a good plan or a good chance. All of that is hopeful, but not necessarily grounded in the careful process of discernment. My mother wants to know if you have done your homework before making a decision. Good judgment to her is not a leap of faith, but a bridge of faith. It means you have understood that belief is not a guess, but an answer. How you arrive at that answer is the question.


The things we wear remind us who we are (nuns and monks have known this for centuries).
Police officers. Delivery truck drivers. Nurses. 
Muslim women who wear hijab.
Jewish men in their kippah.
Me in my mask.

The first time I ventured into public space after we began physical distancing, I wore a mask. The only thing that kept me from feeling ridiculous was my sense that this is sacramental: an outward and visible sign of my internal commitment to love as God loves. Wearing a mask reminds me that I am - or desire to be - a person who loves extravagantly and without boundaries.

Until I see someone who is not wearing a mask. It’s hard to love the ones who won’t. I am brought up short by my own judging nature. I am pushed back into the hard work that is love. 

I try to see them with compassion and curiosity. Why won’t they wear a mask?  There are many stories that I can imagine might be their story.

Perhaps they cannot. Claustrophobia is a real thing, so are other health issues that make mask-wearing untenable. I wear a mask for them. 

Perhaps they don’t have the means to get a mask. I commit to working for a more just society for them. 

Pretty sure some are straight-up selfish and self-centered.  I feel sorry for them, and love sneaks in under the radar of my indignation. 

I suspect that many of the most recalcitrant won’t wear a mask because they are afraid and in grief - and dare not admit it. So they lash out and shout about their personal freedoms. Really hard to love them. Perhaps because I share the fear and grief and wishing we could just have a do-over. But we can’t. We can only go forward into this day, always this day. Knowing that God is working in us more than we can ever ask or imagine.

So I wear my mask in public. And pray that it will help me love the least lovable. Like God does.


Steven Charleston 

I have good reason to believe that at the end of the day we are going to be alright. I do not feel this way because I am overly optimistic or in denial about the depth or complexity of the problems we confront. I feel positive for one very simple reason: this is not the first challenge we have faced. Ever member of this community could stand and give witness to the number of crises they have weathered over the years. Each of us is a veteran of many conflicts. We have our scars and we have our medals. We have come out on the other side shaken, but stronger. I am believing we will do it again. I am believing in you. Experience and faith will see us through.


The Psalm appointed for Sunday, May 17th, recalls the Exodus. Remembers the hard and frightening times. The treacherous journey through the Red Sea. The paralyzing fear of standing between two sure and certain destructions: at their backs - a mighty army bent on returning whoever lived to slavery and death; ahead of them - deep waters, drowning waters. And beyond those two immediate threats in both directions: Death. Death by starvation and oppression. Death by starvation and alienation. Faced with the certain misery of going back or the imagined misery of going forward, they chose to go forward.

Through the deep sea waters. Into the wilderness. A wandering life with their only guideposts being holy pillars of cloud and fire. (Could they see those pillars, or did they have to blindly trust Moses, Miriam, and Aaron?) They would get lost. They would quarrel. They would hunger and thirst.

AND they would find themselves, there in the wilderness. They would know glory and truth. They would eat manna from heaven, Bread of Angels. They would know God and know themselves. They would live their Salvation Story. And ours.

Perhaps we, too, stand at the shores of our own Red Sea? What direction shall we choose? Who will we become? 


It's a bit long, but let us pray...
God of grace and love, we pray your richest blessing upon all mothers in this and every land.  Bless those expectant mothers who eagerly await the birth of their baby; guard those whose pregnancy puts them at risk; console those who are troubled by the prospect of another baby.  Nurture and uphold single mothers; inspire mothers everywhere for the vital soul work they undertake with their own children and, thus, for the good of all humankind.
We pray to you, Blessing God.

Loving God, we give you thanks that Jesus knew a mother’s love and ask your blessing upon all children, young and old: those who had the mothering they needed and those who never knew a mother’s love;  make us mindful of the ways in which every one of us, male and female, can offer nurturing, guiding love to those in need.
We pray to you, Holy God.

God of peace and justice, guide those in authority in the nations of the world, these United States of America, and every  community: that they may make wise decisions for the welfare of all, remembering their responsibility and obligation to exercise power as if they, too, were mothers.
We pray to you, Mighty God.

God of mercy and consolation, we pray your peace upon those who grieve and mourn: those who grieve the loss of a child; those who mourn the absence of children in their life; those who have been devastated by broken bonds of affection between parent and child. Console all who are in need, trouble, or despair.
We pray to you, Merciful God. 

God of abundant love, we give you thanks for all the blessings of life: particularly for relationships that restore and heal us; for our own mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, godmothers, foster mothers, and mothers of the heart. 
We give you thanks, Loving God.

Concluding Collect
Nurturing God, your love is free, your compassion unconditional, and your mercy infinite. You shower upon us abundant grace. Grant that we may know and trust you, that we may discover the joy of life in Christ, and inspire us to love and to serve out of that joy. In the name of the Risen Christ we pray. Amen.

(Thanks to Fred Mathews for the beautiful art.)


As we move toward “opening up” and “returning” to business, many voices clamor for our attention. Conflicting information. Twists and turns in the plot. I am confused, confounded, and torn. I yearn for clarity, compassion, and certainty. I would dearly love to go back to the (naive?) life we were living in the Before. Not happening, is it? 

In the story of Deacon Stephen, (appointed Scripture reading for the 5th Sunday of Easter) the only still point is his clarity of vision. Grounded in the knowledge and love of God in Jesus Christ, he could do what was necessary. He could follow his calling and live with integrity.  Perhaps we can do the same in these tumultuous times?

What does Love require of us - and of you, yourself - today?


So much hatred.
Leaking into our lives, our homes, our Facebook feeds…
Why?

Fear.
I am quite sure that, at the root of all the hatred, hating, and hateful acts of violence, lurks a deep and overwhelming fear that the haters are afraid to name. After all, it is ever so much more invigorating to be aggressive and violent than to reckon with the fact that we fear and tremble for our own safety and our own lives. These haters who loom so large and do so much damage are the biggest fraidy-cats of us all. Pity them.

Pity them for the smallness of their imaginations. Pity them for the weakness of their souls. Pity them because they have - finally - realized their insignificance.

Let us not be overcome by their hatred and violence, but let our pity move us to compassion and from compassion to strength and from strength to action.

Take action for justice.
Take action to right the wrongs that have been done, with impunity and aided by our silence.
Take action to create a new world out of the debris - a world more closely aligned with the Way of the one who said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.

(Remember this always: When we forgive, we do not condone. We take back our power. Power that is needed to do the justice that awaits our action.)


Let’s wear a mask. Always.

Steven Charleston

An Appeal To Friends Who Don't Wear A Mask. If you are a person who does not wear a protective mask in public please give me just a moment to try to convince you to do so. I wear a mask when I go out to the drugstore or grocery store. Wearing a mask is not a political statement. I do it for only one reason: to protect you and your family. I may have covid-19 and not even know it. I may have no symptoms at all but be highly contagious. The last thing on earth I want to do is give that dreadful disease to you. I am counting on the fact that you feel the same way about me and the countless people you pass by on a daily basis. The mask is how we show that we care for one another. So please help keep America healthy: wear a mask.


We pray Psalm 31 this Sunday. It begins, “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge…” As many of us are staying in one place (for the seventh week in a row), a different narrative is emerging “out there”.  An unnerving number of people are acting out in ways that suggest they are framing this experience as one of being forced, required, coerced, mandated, constricted, imprisoned to stay in place. And they resent it. Perhaps you do, too?

Just as my anxiety is ramping up and I feel utterly incapable of making sense of this day and the fierce hatred that leaks into my home through the daily news, here comes Psalm 31 with its opening line: “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge”. 

That works for me.
I will take refuge in God. I will find security and rest, quiet and confidence, in the Holy One who yearned so much for our company (for my company, even) to become one of us and dwell with us. Live with us. Stay awhile in our company. 

In you, alone, O Lord, have I taken refuge.


"Death tried to take my breath, but the Spirit breathed it back within me..."  Holy wisdom from Bishop Charleston.

 

The new numbers took my breath away. I was stunned, but not surprised. Now the long haul continues, I thought. Now the walk turns uphill and it will get harder still. Now the call to faith becomes all the more important, to comfort those bereaved, to support those giving care, to hope in those searching for answers. This is not the moment for me to flinch, even before a wave of numbers, but to keep going in compassion and common sense, to keep sharing every ounce of love I can, to be always praying in these times of tears and unknowing. Death tried to take my breath, but the Spirit breathed it back within me, and within you, and within all of us who will not bend before the bell that tolls our sorrow. Those who have died or will die deserve a better response than resignation. They deserve our courage and our hope never ending.


As we are seeing a push to "go back to business as usual", this is an important read by Jim Wallis. It is all verifiable and accurate. We can and MUST see what intrinsic inequities and injustices are embedded in our business-as-usual, and use this time to do better, change our ways, be the kind of country we think we are. Faithful people of all religions are calling for this kind of sea-change. (PS there's no going back, never was, never will be - only forward: how shall we go forward? What how does your thinking change if you imagine yourself walking into God's intended future for humanity?)

Unequal suffering: Here's how Congress should help


“Hope is slow and steady"

 

Steven Charleston

Let me paraphrase a well-known quote from the Good Book: "you will hear of cures and rumors of cures." Already there is word of a possible breakthrough in the search for a vaccine. As the excitement builds, there will likely be other discoveries and other possibilities. All of this is very hopeful, but the important thing to remember about hope is that it is not a racehorse. It is slow and steady. We trust in it precisely because it moves forward deliberately, just like scientific research. Hope arises from reality. We may hope for what we do not see but become disappointed if what we see is not what we hoped. One step at a time lets us walk beside hope, not ahead of it.

Let me paraphrase a well-known quote from the Good Book: "you will hear of cures and rumors of cures." Already there is word of a possible breakthrough in the search for a vaccine. As the excitement builds, there will likely be other discoveries and other possibilities. All of this is very hopeful, but the important thing to remember about hope is that it is not a racehorse. It is slow and steady. We trust in it precisely because it moves forward deliberately, just like scientific research. Hope arises from reality. We may hope for what we do not see but become disappointed if what we see is not what we hoped. One step at a time lets us walk beside hope, not ahead of it.


We always pray Psalm 22 on Good Friday. It is the Psalm that gave holy truth to Jesus’ excruciating desolation on the cross.  Remember when he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”? That is straight out of the 22nd Psalm. Written on his heart. Spoken from the depths of his grief. True word spoken by the True Word.

This morning, as I pour over the service and prepare to adapt it for our evening worship tonight, I am particularly struck by this from that same psalm:

I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint; 
my heart within my breast is melting wax.

I’ve known this kind of grief. I’ve felt this kind of fatigue. Have you?
For some, these days of forced isolation cause this feeling.
Others are offering their bodies and hearts in the relentless tasks of “essential labor” that utterly exhaust the body and deplete the soul. 
Too many grieve the passing of loved ones taken by covid-19 or other traumas - with a grief that pours from the heart like water from an overturned pitcher.

When my heart resonates with such words, ancient words, prayed by innumerable unknown children of God, I know that I am not alone. I know that my grief, my loneliness, my exhaustion, are experienced in the company of others who “get it” - and perhaps most importantly of all: are known to God. Held in the heart of God. 

Let it be. 
Feel the feelings. 
Know you are not alone. 
Never alone.


Stay the course. Hold steady and focused. Thank you, Bishop.

 

Steven Charleston

 

Slow and steady wins the race. That phrase keeps coming to mind and for good reason. It describes what is happening. Gradually, person by person, as we are being mindful of all that we do to keep the virus in its own quarantine, we are winning the race to save as many lives as we can. But we have to stay with it. We have to stay in the race for the long haul and pace ourselves for the marathon before us. We can run this illness into a full stop one day, but only if we keep doing what we're doing. Remember, at this stage of the race your mindfulness is more than a simple act of patience: it is the gift of life to those around you. We run that they may live.


This is incredibly beautiful. May this prayer bring healing into your heart, your life, your spirit. Peace be with you.

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zCYoikGaI6U&index=2&list=PLCROriwpUvh9VJJx1MckD2MKj_xaK8_27


This is an important message from our companions along the Way in the AME Church. Dr. Fauci said something very similar about the systemic inequities (some of which are intentional and others stem from ignorance or inertia) in our nation's health care universe. 

There will be an end to this moment. We will emerge into community and connection. The question that we must contemplate (and we certainly have time right now for contemplation, don't we?) is: What kind of people will we be? What kind of world will we choose? Which direction shall we look: backwards to "the way it was" or forward to "what could be"? 

There are choices to be made. This global "reboot" gives us a unique opportunity. Will we be courageous and visionary? or cautious and reactionary?

Good thing we have some time - will we use it wisely?

https://religionnews.com/2020/04/08/statement-from-the-ame-church-regarding-the-racial-impacts-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/


The storm was fierce last night. The wind blew noisily and the thunder sounded like an earthquake. Even snug abed, it was a little scary.

When I awoke this morning, and opened the shades, the cherry tree had blossomed. Little, very tiny, white blossoms barely emerging from their cocoons. But blooming. Beautiful. Still, silent offering of grace and consolation. All will be well.  

I am grateful for this message of hope and reminder of a bigger life. That’s today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What small sign are you grateful for?


It’s Tuesday in Holy Week. 
Jesus tells his followers that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:20-36) 

Like so many of his teachings, Jesus speaks a world of truth with a handful of words. Transformation and growth frequently (always?) look like death and disappearance. 

Sometimes, we know in advance that we are planting seeds:  that which is being buried is fecund and will give rise to great fruit and good life. We just have to wait for it. 

There are other times when all we can see is the loss, the burying, the death. In those times, may we reclaim hope and confidence that God is doing a new thing. 

Today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What goodness do you know today that was hidden before?


An important read from our Anglican cousins "down under".   These times demand courage and honesty, as well as radical change (which might feel like death, but is very much more likely to be resurrection)

What cancer, coronavirus and climate change have in common.

https://www.abc.net.au/religion/byron-smith-what-cancer-coronavirus-and-climate-change-have-in/12117926


It’s Monday. It’s Holy Week.

We begin to remember (literally re-member: bring back into ourselves) the story at the center of Christian faith and practice. It begins with an extravagant gift. Mary anoints her friend, Jesus, with fragrant, priceless, and rare oil. She sees him. She knows what is coming. Hers is an enormous gift of compassion and love. A tangible sign of her own outpouring love for this great friend who has been family to her, her sister Martha, and brother Lazarus.

What compelled her? Did she know what was coming? Could she read the signs? See his fatigue or sorrow? Was she simply grateful for him and all that he was and gave what she could?

Today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: Who are you most grateful for and why?


April 4

 

The palms are out. It’s a glorious day. May you always see Jesus on the road and be glad.


Each night, we zoom in to pray together at 7pm. Tonight, we were able to record the prayers so that you may join in "later".  This links you to Prayers for the Evening of April 3rd. Peace be with you.

https://www.facebook.com/172227972918805/posts/1735183746623212/?sfnsn=mo


In the middle of an earthquake, it is very hard to stand still. It’s impossible to maintain equilibrium, stay centered and balanced. Our inability to move is made worse by our flight-or-fight response on overdrive. Fear. Amazement. Horror. Surprise. Worry for those whom we love. Concern about our stuff. And our mortality. 

Is this it? Will the walls collapse and close me in? Will anyone come to my rescue? Who needs my help? Am I up to the task? 

Then there are the aftershocks. Sometimes bigger than the initial unsettling. Always unpredictable. Sometimes never happening. 

Earthquakes have a way of putting us in our place.
So do pandemics.

How are you being relocated within the givens of your life? 
What have you learned about what you hold most dear?

Which is today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What is at the center of your life? What is the most precious and beloved core of your existence? Give thanks.


A good word for this night...

 

Steven Charleston 

 

This is the hard part, this long, lonely walk through the valley of shadows. We know we are not walking alone, but it is hard to see the others. The Earth seems to have grown silent. The clouded sun offers a pale light and the stars are only small beads on the shawl of night. Then, in the darkest hours, a single voice begins to sing. We do not know who it is, but her voice fills the darkness and guides us forward. Her song comforts us, strengthens us, keeps us going. One after another, we all join in her song, until the valley echoes our voices to all four directions. Listen. Can't you hear her? The Spirit is singing for us all.


Sometimes, I just need someone to listen. 
How about you?
Especially these days.

Then, I think to myself “stop complaining” or “just be grateful” or “at least you’re not sick. Or dead” 
(Yep. I can go pretty deep down into self-pity…)
Which is not helpful. Or kind. Or true.
Because the sorrow is still there. I still worry. I still am who I am. These times are still what they are. 
And the oh-so-very-vocal ear-worms of “what if” seem to never cease. 

Then, from somewhere sacred and deep-seated, I hear another little voice. A voice of compassion. Of reassurance. Of Presence.

Out of the depths have I called to you; O God, hear my voice.

For thousands (!) of years, other people have felt the way I do. Other people have called upon God, the Creator of All that Is, the Lover of our Souls.  and they know that God hears.

Then.
Today.
Always.

So… today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What words (Biblical or otherwise) are seeing you through these days?


"Weeping may spend the night; but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
This I know to be absolutely true.

There is both weeping and joy in our lives - even in the lives we are living now.

No matter how many worry-monkeys are jumping on the bed all night long, joy comes in the morning.

No matter how many nights Sorrow stays for a sleep-over,
there will be delight again.

No matter how bleak and desolate night’s grief may be, there will be laughter in the dawn’s early light.

We live in a both/and world, not either/or. 
There is both weeping and there is joy. 
There is both fear and delight. 
There is both sorrow and gladness.

They are inescapable. 
They have their place. 
They make our lives sweet. 

Weeping and joy are so intertwined that whenever I try to silence the weeping, I discover that I’ve muted the joy as well. 
When I allow myself to feel moments of joy, I am also able to weep.

Both. And.

Which brings us to our GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: As we practice sheltering in place, when have you experienced joy?


Shall we be heroes?
I was reading a post about books to read in this season. 
The recommendations are not books I would choose, but they got me thinking.
About heroes, and heroism, and being present.

What about the heroes in your life? 
What can they show you about living a heroic life, even in the midst of the daily minutiae of “just getting through” today?

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What people are you grateful to know? 


Another word of Truth from this faithful and wise bishop.

 

Steven Charleston 

 

It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. These are words we would rather not hear, but they are the words we need to hear if we are to face tomorrow. We have seen the cost of pretending and have no need of that for false hope only prolongs the reality of sorrow. No, it is better to speak the truth, accept the truth, and know where we stand. We are living through an historic moment, a time unlike any other, one that will be remembered by generations to come. We did not ask for this or want this, but here we are. And even if we do not know the outcome in all of its details, we know this much: we want those future generations to know that we lived through this epic time with grace and courage, that we faced our reality together and cared for one another with a fierce love and a relentless hope, that we practiced what we preached and lived what we believed until we got through it and made sure others got through it with us. Look through the eyes of faith, not fear, and see this truth revealed: yes, it will get worse, but we will get stronger. The predictions of things getting worse are grounded in the exponential growth of the virus. But remember, that only triggers the exponential growth of our resolve to overcome it. In the end the virus will do its worst, but we will have done our best.


Have you found your stride yet? 
Do your days have a bit more shape to them than when we first began? 
Or is it still all a mishmash of “whatever”?

Many have compared this era “flying the plane while we’re building it” It is true that we are ill-equipped for this experience and our learning curve is very steep.

Nevertheless, we have stories to guide us. Stories of compassion and perseverance. Stories of tending and mending. Stories of sacrifice and love. These are the stories we need to live by now. These are the narratives that will connect our neighborhoods, tend our cities, mend our country, heal our global village. These are the narratives that will unite us in heart and mind and spirit as we find wholeness and healing, whatever may come.

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What is your favorite quote and why?


Let us pray...
Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.


Let us pray...
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

(From the Book of Common Prayer, a Prayer for Those who Influence Public Opinion)


I think this new routine is most difficult when the thought comes unbidden: “I just want my old life back.” 

Perhaps, from time to time, most of us yearn for that which has been lost to us, for the “good old days”, for our old normal. Then, the illusion passes and I remember that others have lost something much dearer than their daily routines. I remember that the “good old days” had their own problems and are merely “old” now, perhaps never were all that “good”. I remember that the old normal had more than its share of difficulty, chaos, and hardship. I come back to Now and know I can do this. However long it takes. I am renewed in my openness to seeing what is good about this new day.  

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What is good about how we are living now?


Have you heard about the global invitation to pray at noon, wherever we are?
Christian leaders are encouraging us to pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in Heaven.
Hallowed be your Name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial, 
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and for ever. �Amen.

Say it out loud. Say it slow. Say it with intention and purpose. Think about what we are asking. Imagine if love, selflessness, mutuality, and compassion were to spread across the globe as quickly and extravagantly as covid-19 and fear have done. 

And… Here’s today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
What prayer have you seen answered recently?

Peace be with you.


Let us pray…
O God, the life of all who live, 
the light of the faithful, 
the strength of those who labor, 
and the repose of the dead: 
We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again fours, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. 
Amen.


Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: 
Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 
Amen.

This is the Collect appointed for Sunday, March 29th. We will pray it together when we zoom Morning Prayer. Seems like a very good prayer to be praying each day this week. Perhaps every day of our lives. When we wake up. When we sit still. When the “what if” goblins begin to wreak havoc with our hearts and trample our hope.  

Sometimes, even more powerful than the words of a powerful prayer, is the realization that it was not written for this day in particular. This prayer has been passed along from generation to generation - each one finding themselves in the maelstrom of their own peculiar covid-19 pandemic.  

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
What are you learning about yourself?


When we run out of closets to clean and chocolates to eat, what shall we do?
Without meetings and errands, work schedules and family get-togethers to tether us to our daily lives, how shall we mark our days? 
Where is the rhythm in this unfamiliar time?

(Spoiler alert: “Beats me” is pretty much my go-to response these days)

Perhaps this is the rhythm? 
Perhaps we are being invited, even in our separate-ness, to seek out that which unites us in this moment, and to learn how to live abundantly when we are not in charge. When we have Nothing to Do - when that which has given us status and place, purpose and significance, is no longer easily accessible (perhaps even denied to us) - who are we? When we are alone and apart, who will keep us company? When we can’t even hold onto our familiar illusion of knowing what tomorrow will bring, where are we?

Still in God’s heart.
Still in community with those who know us and miss us, love us and pray for us.
Still in this life, this body, this moment.
Still in sacred time and holy life.

… which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
Where did you see God in your life today?


Let us pray...
Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. 
Amen.


Steven Charleston

Where do we begin in prayer, great Spirit, where do we turn first? There are so many for us to remember: the isolated elder, the over-extended health care worker, the frustrated nurse or doctor, the small factory trying to make enough masks? In every direction we look there is need for care and support. Even for our own family and friends. Even for ourselves. No, we cannot name them all. We can only trust that you know already who needs your help the most. Safety, strength, and mercy to all who are fighting this disease, holy Spirit, here and around the world. Drive back the illness and save your people, in every direction we look.


We enter Week Two.
At least many of us enter our second week of pandemic life. Some among us have been dealing with this pandemic for far longer: a shout-out of deep gratitude to Dr. Fauci and others who have toiled and learned and explored quietly, heroically, without notice for years: for days such as these. Thank you.

For the rest of us…
Now we begin to figure out how to live as if this is our new normal. For most of us, this is neither the bubonic plague nor a free spring break. It is “how we live”. It doesn’t really matter how long this will last. It matters tremendously how we live today. What practices await you? What old habits have served you well? What will make today a life-worth-living. Do that.

Perhaps it will be useful to build upon today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
Name a highlight of your day?


It's amazing - how we find ways to care and to connect even when it's important that we keep our distance. Our Community Free Meal tonight gave people delicious take-out meals. We had plenty for all. Feasts happened.

We are also trying Zoom Morning Prayer tomorrow. At 9:30 eastern time. Meeting ID is 988739700. ("Zoom.us" will get you there)

Others are wending their way toward sewing face masks and gowns for health care providers who need them.

The Holy Spirit connects us, even when we are apart. As we bring ourselves into silence, and hopefully sweet rest, let us pray:

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.


Have you noticed this in your life?
Frequently the struggle I face today seems like (choose one or add your own)
a. The worst thing that ever happened to me
b. A battle that will never end
c. A hardship that fills my entire field of vision
d. A point of no-return on the timeline of my life
e. A riptide of anxiety and fear
f. An unrelenting pain in my backside
g. All that is and ever shall be

More often than not, today’s struggle builds tomorrow’s strength.
Which leads us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
What is a challenge you have struggled with in the past that you are now grateful for?


Let us pray.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


When times are tough, Mr. Rogers encouraged us to look for the helpers. Similarly, in these times, when things get hard, look for the gratitude.

Just as the helpers are not “just in our imagination” or “wishful thinking”, neither is gratitude in a time of deprivation.

Gratitude is real.
Gratitude is subtle.
Gratitude waits to be invited.

Unlike disaster which bursts through the doors and chaotically enters our homes, gratitude gently awaits our attention. Gratitude is always possible. Sometimes, we need to invite her in.

Today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
Where did gratitude knock on your door yesterday?


There might have been grief in your day. Uncertainty. Loss. The kind of melancholic sadness that throws itself around our drooping shoulders like cobweb. Barely there, very hard to catch hold of, let alone remove. If so, perhaps this prayer speaks for you? For those whom you love? For those who grieve and we will never know their names or their sorrows?

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom we pray. Remember them, Lord, in mercy; nourish them with patience; comfort them with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon them; and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

And us, too, good Lord. Remember us, too. Nourish us with patience. Comfort us with a sense of your goodness. Lift up your countenance upon us. Give us peace, too. Just for tonight. Amen.


A message of faith, hope, and love, from our Presiding Bishop.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/3xwpiyyh1j?fbclid=IwAR0qo1GFIN00V362_klr1tPNi8QiCZ936aCmPTG3qg-JRM1Gj0-t6d049ec


The names we use matter. The stories we tell shape our world.

We can hear this in our world now.
“Chinese virus”? Covid-19.
“Social isolation”? Community solidarity.
“Protecting myself”? Watching out for my vulnerable neighbor.

In our tradition - particularly in this season of Lent - fasting is an honored and valuable practice.
Fasting releases us from behaviors and ideas that hold us captive and separate us from God and from one another.

Fasting opens up time for different spiritual practices: practices that are life-giving and restorative
Fasting clears our vision, unclutters our days, and opens our minds.

This is a time of fasting.
Fasting from hustle and bustle.
Fasting from retail therapy (which is only therapeutic in the adrenaline rush of a new shiny thing).
Fasting from the busy-ness which hides our wounds and obscures our pain.

Let us also fast from the angst of “what if” (What-if this goes on for months, not weeks? What-if I get sick? What-if the stock market continues to tank? What-if I run out of toilet paper?)

Let us also fast from tracking every “news flash”, Twitter storm, and Facebook flurry.

In that fasting, may we find our way into a new rhythm of life. One that is more attuned to the rising and setting of the sun. One that embraces the healing balm of enough sleep. One that offers time to write a letter and make a phone call. A rhythm of life that notices the healing of the earth while we are still. A rhythm of life that knows there is enough time for important human work: love, prayer, self-awareness, connection…

And time to clean a cupboard.
 


As evening comes, let us be people of prayer (with gratitude to our Companions of the Way in New Zealand for this prayer in particular)

Holy One, be present to us this night.
As you were present at creation, be present in us now.

We stumble in the darkness.
Light of the world transfigure us.

We have wounded your love.
O God, heal us.

We forget that we are your home.
Spirit of God, dwell in us.

Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done; 
what has not been done, has not been done. 
Let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness 
- of the world and in our own lives - rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

Let us rejoice in God who forgives all our sins and transforms our lives.
Amen.


“Be not afraid.”
If we judged by frequency, this might be the first and great commandment. It is repeated all through Scripture, from beginning to end. Spoken to Noah and to Mary. Repeated to the slaves escaping Egypt and to the shepherds abiding in the fields. Over and over. 

Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

Must be important.

When you think about it, it is. 
When we’re afraid, we fall flat on our faces. 
When we’re afraid, our lizard brains kick in and we make really bad decisions. 
When we’re afraid, we are like deer in the headlights, blinded and immobilized. 
When we’re afraid, we buy up all the toilet paper and stand in long lines to buy ammo.
We lash out. We can’t think. We can’t see. We are lost.

Be not afraid. Not then. Not now.
We can do this. We can take each day as it comes, fully alive to whatever is good and life-giving about this new reality. 

Let go of fear and you just might see shimmers of grace all around.

Panicking About Coronavirus? Here’s What You Can Do


The day draws in and the light shines through my windows (in my Sandusky neighborhood, at this time of year, sun-shininess is a rare thing, so it is a particularly beautiful gift). Reminds me of the beautiful words that begin our Evening Prayers:

“Now, as we come to the setting of the sun,
And our eyes behold the vesper light,
We sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

As your day draws to a close, and the light changes, where have you been blessed today? 
How has God’s light flickered in the long hours of this day?
What gives you a glad heart to remember?
When you lie down to rest, what praise, specifically, will you sing to God?


Let us pray:
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

This prayer in our Book of Common Prayer (p.461) is "For use by a sick person" in the morning. Seems to me that it suits all of us this morning. All of us. From our lips to God's ears, may this be a day when we live with integrity and presence, no matter what our work may be.

Blessing upon you.


We are being asked to do something most of us don’t know how to do. Here is some guidance from one who does.


 

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