May 28, 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost Letter

Renewal in the Spirit

to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion

1. ‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak’ (Acts 2.4). At Pentecost, we celebrate the gift God gives us of being able to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various languages of the whole human world. The Gospel is not the property of any one group, any one culture or history, but is what God intends for the salvation of all who will listen and respond.

St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is also what God gives us so that we can call God ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8.15, Gal. 4.6). The Spirit is given not only so that we can speak to the world about God but so that we can speak to God in the words of his own beloved Son. The Good News we share is not just a story about Jesus but the possibility of living in and through the life of Jesus and praying his prayer to the Father.

And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies’.

When the Church is living by the Spirit, what the world will see is a community of people who joyfully and gratefully hear the prayer of Jesus being offered in each other’s words and lives, and are able to recognise the one Christ working through human diversity. And if the world sees this, the Church is a true sign of hope in a world of bitter conflict and rivalry.

2. From the very first, as the New Testament makes plain, the Church has experienced division and internal hostilities. From the very first, the Church has had to repent of its failure to live fully in the light and truth of the Spirit. Jesus tells us in St John’s gospel that the Spirit of truth will ‘prove the world wrong’ in respect of sin and righteousness and judgement (Jn 16.8). But if the Spirit is leading us all further into the truth, the Spirit will convict the Church too of its wrongness and lead it into repentance. And if the Church is a community where we serve each other in the name of Christ, it is a community where we can and should call each other to repentance in the name of Christ and his Spirit – not to make the other feel inferior (because we all need to be called to repentance) but to remind them of the glory of Christ’s gift and the promise that we lose sight of when we fail in our common life as a Church.

Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.

All are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church. The recent Global South encounter in Singapore articulated a strong and welcome plea for the priority of mission in the Communion; and in my own message to that meeting I prayed for a ‘new Pentecost’ for all of us. This is a good season of the year to pray earnestly for renewal in the Spirit, so that we may indeed do what God asks of us and let all people know that new and forgiven life in Christ is possible and that created men and women may by the Spirit’s power be given the amazing liberty to call God ‘Abba, Father!’

It is my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority; the Covenant is nothing if not a tool for mission. I want to stress yet again that the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control. And this is perhaps a good place to clarify that the place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty: the Committee is identical to the former Joint Standing Committee, fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates; nor is there any intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately. The reference to the Standing Committee reflected widespread unease about leaving certain processes only to the ACC or only to the Primates.

But we are constantly reminded that the priorities of mission are experienced differently in different places, and that trying to communicate the Gospel in the diverse tongues of human beings can itself lead to misunderstandings and failures of communication between Christians. The sobering truth is that often our attempts to share the Gospel effectively in our own setting can create problems for those in other settings.

3. We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.

It may be said – quite understandably, in one way – that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth.

Yet at the moment we face a dilemma. To maintain outward unity at a formal level while we are convinced that the divisions are not only deep but damaging to our local mission is not a good thing. Neither is it a good thing to break away from each other so dramatically that we no longer see Christ in each other and risk trying to create a church of the ‘perfect’ – people like us. It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. And, as has often been pointed out, there are things that Anglicans across the world need and want to do together for the care of God’s poor and vulnerable that can and do go on even when division over doctrine or discipline is sharp.

4. More and more, Anglicans are aware of living through a time of substantial transition, a time when the structures that have served us need reviewing and refreshing, perhaps radical changing, when the voice and witness in the Communion of Christians from the developing world is more articulate and creative than ever, and when the rapidity of social change in ‘developed’ nations leaves even some of the most faithful and traditional Christian communities uncertain where to draw the boundaries in controversial matters – not only sexuality but issues of bioethics, for example, or the complexities of morality in the financial world.

A time of transition, by definition, does not allow quick solutions to such questions, and it is a time when, ideally, we need more than ever to stay in conversation. As I have said many times before, whatever happens to our structures, we still need to preserve both working relationships and places for exchange and discussion. New vehicles for conversations across these boundaries are being developed with much energy.

But some decisions cannot be avoided. We began by thinking about Pentecost and the diverse peoples of the earth finding a common voice, recognising that each was speaking a truth recognised by all. However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.

And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.

5. In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican.

Yet no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions and everyone should be reflecting on how to rebuild relations and to move towards a more coherent Anglican identity (which does not mean an Anglican identity with no diversity, a point once again well made by the statement from the Singapore meeting). Some complain that we are condemned to endless meetings that achieve nothing. I believe that in fact we have too few meetings that allow proper mutual exploration. It may well be that such encounters need to take place in a completely different atmosphere from the official meetings of the Communion’s representative bodies, and this needs some imaginative thought and planning. Much work is already going into making this more possible.

But if we do conclude that some public marks of ‘distance’, as the Windsor Continuation Group put it, are unavoidable if our Communion bodies are not to be stripped of credibility and effectiveness, the least Christian thing we can do is to think that this absolves us from prayer and care for each other, or continuing efforts to make sense of each other.

We are praying for a new Pentecost for our Communion. That means above all a vast deepening of our capacity to receive the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It means a deepened capacity to speak of Jesus Christ in the language of our context so that we are heard and the Gospel is made compelling and credible. And it also means a deepened capacity to love and nourish each other within Christ’s Body – especially to love and nourish, as well as to challenge, those whom Christ has given us as neighbours with whom we are in deep and painful dispute.

One remarkable symbol of promise for our Communion is the generous gift received by the Diocese of Jerusalem from His Majesty the King of Jordan, who has provided a site on the banks of the Jordan River, at the traditional site of Our Lord’s Baptism, for the construction of an Anglican church. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of blessing the foundation stone of this church and viewing the plans for its design. It will be a worthy witness at this historic site to the Anglican tradition, a sign of real hope for the long-suffering Christians of the region, and something around which the Communion should gather as a focus of common commitment in Christ and his Spirit. I hope that many in the Communion will give generous support to the project.

‘We have the mind of Christ’ says St Paul (I Cor. 2.16); and, as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has recently written, this means that we must have a ‘kenotic’, a self-emptying approach to each other in the Church. May the Spirit create this in us daily and lead us into that wholeness of truth which is only to be found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.

I wish you all God’s richest blessing at this season.

+Rowan Cantuar:

Lambeth Palace
Pentecost 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury imposes first sanctions on Anglican provinces over gay bishops dispute

The Archbishop of Canterbury has imposed the first punishments on Anglican national churches judged to have inflamed tensions over homosexuality in the church.

By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent, London Telegraph
Published: 4:03PM BST 28 May 2010

Dr Rowan Williams announced that provinces which had ignored his “pleading” for restraint would be banned from attending official discussions with other Christian denominations and prevented from voting on a key body on doctrine.
He admitted the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion was in a time of “substantial transition” but held back from taking the most serious step of expelling national churches from it.

His action, taken after years of patiently asking both conservatives and liberals to abide by agreed rules, will affect both sides in the dispute over whether the Bible permits openly homosexual clergy.

It has been triggered by the progressive Episcopal Church of the USA, which ordained its first lesbian bishop, the Rt Rev Mary Glasspool, earlier this month. The Episcopal Church also elected the first openly homosexual bishop in the Communion, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, in 2003.

But the move will also hit orthodox provinces in the developing world – known as the Global South – that reacted to the liberal innovations in America and Canada by taking conservative American clergy and congregations out of their national churches and giving them roles in Africa and South America. This has triggered bitter legal battles over the fate of church buildings.

The Anglican provinces found to have broken the “moratoria” - on ordaining homosexual clergy; blessing same-sex unions in church; and making “cross-border interventions” - will soon be sent letters telling them about the proposed punishment for straying from the Communion’s agreed positions.
This will involve them being asked to step down from formal ecumenical dialogues such as those with Orthodox Churches or the Roman Catholic Church, and being denied decision-making powers in the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order that handles questions of church doctrine and authority.

The heads of all the national Anglican churches, known as the Primates, will discuss the Archbishop’s plan at their next scheduled meeting in January. The provinces are also going through a lengthy process of establishing a “covenant” of agreed behaviour and consequences for those who break it.

Dr Williams wrote in a Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion, of which he is the spiritual head: “Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round.

“It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues - equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do.

“I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces - provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) - should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members.”

It is the first time the Archbishop has imposed such sanctions on Anglican provinces. In 2005, Primates called on the Episcopal Church and its Canadian counterpart to "voluntarily withdraw" their representatives from a gathering of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham. The churches still sent delegations and made presentations but did not officially participate.

May 25, 2010

When will Pentecost Come to Beaver?

Sermon by Fr. Scott Homer
In the Name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Most people would not describe me as a wild-eyed liberal or even a progressive. I am pretty conservative in most ways and so it might surpise you to know that I believe that one of the big challenges facing us is a certain dysfunctional unwillingness to embrace change. But I believe that God, especially through the agency of the Holy Spirit is always driving change in the lives of his people. Why would an unchanging God be so devoted to change in his people? Well, because we are not God. We don’t behave like God. We certainly don’t love like God. And most of us don’t even know God particularly well and that means that unless we change we will always be deficient, dysfunctional, and defiant. And so God is in favor of change in our lives—so much so that He sends the Holy Spirit—the great change Agent—to take up residence in our lives in order that we might be changed into the likeness of God’s Son Jesus. Pray for Pentecost in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit comes over you with power and that our faith comes truly alive, truly driven by God.

There is a significant portion of the Beaver Valley that lives their lives adverse to change. This percentage of folks behave as if it is still 1960, Big Steel still provides a sound economic base for the people (or will again soon), as if Big Box stores have not permanently replaced Ma and Pa stores, as if drug and alcohol addiction are just incidental problems in America that afflict certain ethnic groups other than our own, and as if people everywhere still attend Church on Sunday morning seeking to obey the commandments. These people who live adverse to change seem to believe that the ideas that were dominant in 1960 were good, functional ideas that work as well today as they did then, and in a certain sick way its true. They didn’t work then and they don’t work now. Those ideas never really worked which is why things are no longer the way they were, but be that as it may, they act as if the world still ought to operate the way it did in the old days and of course, it doesn’t. The world has changed and the clock will never be set back. It is a new day, worse in some ways, better in other ways, but the clock will never be set back and if life in the Valley is going to improve it is going to improve because the people who live in the Valley are adapting today to the changes that are occuring today. Where things have gotten worse, working for positive change is the only hope for improvement. Where things have gotten better embracing the changes is the best plan but remaining committed to an old way of life that no longer exists traps us in a world where we are victims, continually frightened and perplexed by the things we see happening around us, and wondering whatever happened to the Good Old Days. If you keep doing what you are doing, you keep getting what you are getting.

I mention this as an illustration only because I am not here to talk politics. I am here to talk religion but the same rules apply. Change is inevitable, driven by God and by the world, and we are called to respond appropriately. In politics there are lots of possible responses but in God’s kingdom there is only one legimate response.

Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. It is a very old holiday with roots in ancient Hebrew culture. The disciples were celebrating the Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit visited them with great power. The Holy Spirit actually took up residence in the disciples and as a consequence of the indwelling of God, they declared the mighty works of God to people from every imaginable background, in every imaginable language, even though they were uneducated. People divided by language and culture found themselves actually hearing the message the disciples were speaking in their own native tongue. They found they were listening to the Good News that the God loves them, cares for them, and is inviting them into an eternal relationship. The message was received by Jew and Gentile. It was received by free people and slaves and having heard the Good News in Jesus Christ, in their own native tongue, they came to believe. They were baptized and together they were united into the Church of God in Christ. Today, fifty days after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church was born. The Church was born not out of fond memories and not out of sterile ideas. The Church was born out of wind and fire, out of love and passion, out of the active working of God in the lives of all sorts of people. And the same Spirit, that moved through the disciples and into the lives of people all over the world continues to move today. Today God wants to see every person in the world reborn, every Christian reborn, every church reborn through the Spirit of Pentecost.

We aren’t the only people resistent to change. The disciples were still living like they were poor fisherman in Galilee. They seemed content to live in the past. They were ignoring the fact that the world around them had changed and that God was calling them into a new life. The didn’t seem to understand that the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus changed everything. They were adverse to change. ..until the Holy Spirit fell upon them on the day of Pentecost. Then they changed. Then they embraced the new day. Then they began to live out God’s call upon their lives, the call to be the living Body of Christ, to love one another, and to invite people from every tongue and tribe and nation to give their lives to Christ and to live as members of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And my question this morning is, when will Pentecost come to Beaver?

I am praying that Pentecost will come to Beaver. Will you pray with me? The Bible says that the disciples were all together praying and we ought to be doing the same. Are you anticipating an inbreaking of the Holy Spirit in your life? Will you join with me in looking for it, hoping for it, searching for it. The Bible tells us that the disciples were looking for it. Jesus had told them that the Spirit was coming and although they didn’t quite know what that would look like or feel like, still they were anticipating the gift that Jesus had promised. Are you anxious to see what the Spirit will do in our midst? Are we actively seeking the Holy Spirit’s powerful presence or are we content to live in the past, adverse to change?

I have been praying for Pentecost in Beaver for three years now. Ever since I visited with the leadership here in the Spring of 2007 I have been praying that the Holy Spirit would come upon you with power, that acting in unity and love this church would experience the immense joy of declaring God’s mighty acts to the world around us, declaring His mighty acts, not acts that you have read about in books or heard about from preachers but the mighty acts of God that you are seeing and experiencing firsthand. I have prayed that you would experience the gifts of the Spirit, not primarily so that you might become better people, because that is never the primary reason that people receive gifts of the Spirit, but so that you can reveal Jesus to the world, so that you can show his power, so that they might know that God loves them, so that they might believe in the Christ.

For three years now I have been praying for Pentecost here in Beaver because when Pentecost comes, we are changed forever. The old is stripped away and the new comes. God’s kingdom really does come “on earth as it is in heaven.” God ceases to be academic, institutional, and inert. When Pentecost comes, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell—that is to say, God himself comes to dwell with us and in us. When Pentecost comes, we are overwhelmed by the overpowering love of God that washes over us and we know with certainty that God is indeed love and that he loves us! He loves you and me! And not as the world loves us but with a love that is so immense, so remarkeable that in his presence we are reduced to tears of joy and gratitude.

I have been praying for Pentecost in Beaver for three years now because I know that when Pentecost comes church ceases to be a duty and becomes a joy. When the Spirit comes studying the Bible ceases to be a burden and becomes a blessing. When we are overwhelmed by God’s love serving others flows naturally out of the love that is in us. God’s love in us is constantly recreating, restoring and renewing so that our service to others is merely an outflowing of the love we are experiencing. And on the Day of Pentecost we discover that our faith is the only thing that really matters, the only thing required of us. Will you pray for the Day of Pentecost in Beaver?

It is coming soon. In the Bible it says that there were signs that the Spirit was coming—the disciples heard the sound of wind. Wind is often used as a symbol for the Spirit. Remember in John chapter three Jesus said that the Spirit is like the wind? And so, the disciples hear wind—the Spirit is coming soon. And then the disciples see “tongues of fire.” Remember that John the Baptist describes the Spirit as fire but this fire is not a consuming heat, this Divine Fire is an all consuming love. Before the Spirit came and as the Spirit was coming there were signs that the Holy Spirit was coming soon and there are signs that the Spirit is coming to us soon. The wind of change is blowing all around us. We are seeing new people coming and using our space, and that can be a little unsettling. We might worry that our status is at risk, that these new people will destroy the things we love but not to worry. The Spirit will care for all of us, old and new. And there are signs that there is new fire and new vitality. The Spirit has begun to work in our hearts, begun the big thaw, begun to draw us out of ourselves and into the lives on one another, and into the lives of the commmunity around us. The Spirit has begun to loose our lips to declare his mighty works. The Spirit is showering our community with gifts of the Spirit and people are actually beginning to use those gifts for God’s glory and not the glory of men. The Day of Pentecost is coming soon. In fact, it just might be today.

Come Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

Reaching Out, What Would It Look Like, Take 2

The people of the Kajire village in Kenya (the home village of Rev. Ferdinand M'bwangi, a past Trinity Church seminarian) are walking miles through the African desert in the wee hours of the morning to collect a couple of gallons of water for their use every day. They do not have clean, drinkable, potable, water... which is real concern and has life and death consequences as a result.

The people of Trinity Church, our family, and friends have been able to raise almost enough money to be able to have a borehole well drilled in the center of the village. This borehole well will provide the villagers with clean, drinkable, potable water. Water is life in this region of the world and what we are bringing to this village is just that... life... but life through our our Lord Jesus as we will ensure that the people of the village know that He is responsible for this well, that God is the source of all life and all things in heaven and on earth, and that only GOD has made this possible. Hopefully through this borehole well project, the people of the Kajire village will experience His awesome wonder and power. Hopefully, if they do not know GOD they will open their hearts to find His love.Thank you to all who have pledged money toward this project.

We have raised a total of $11,500 ($6,500 last week alone). We need an additional $3,500 in order to start the project. We are so close.... Please prayerfully consider supporting this project so that the people of the Kajire village, through our Lord Jesus, might be able to taste clean, drinkable water soon. If you have already pledged money toward this project, please make your check payable to Trinity Church and reference the Kajire Well Project. You may put your donation in the offering plate or deliver it to the church office. All donations need to be received by the church no later than Sunday, June 6, 2010.

For more information please see Father Scott or contact Geoff Taylor

Reaching Out, What Would that Look Like?

Here is the weekly email sent by Canon Mary Hays to leadership of the Diocese. In it she publishes a response I sent to her and the Archbishop concerning who it is that God might be calling us to reach. --Scott+

Pittsburgh Advance
May 21, 2010

As most of you know, the Archbishop and I have asked clergy to consider this question in preparation for our meetings in district fellowships: “What "people group" would you most like to reach? (for example: skateboarders; soccer moms who hang out at starbucks; local prison; elderly apartment-bound; local college students; internationals or international students?) Why this group? What would it look like if God blessed your efforts of reaching this group? What obstacles are in the way? How could any of us help?” We have met with three districts so far, and I must say that our conversations have been some of the most interesting, exciting and challenging ever. Two weeks from now, when we’ve met with all of you, I’ll report to you some of the themes that have emerged from our conversations. This week’s Pittsburgh Advance includes some of my thoughts about the corporate dimension of our outreach and a reflection from Scott Homer’s (Trinity, Beaver) response to the question posed by the Archbishop.

Who’s missing?
I think it is always worth walking (or even driving) around the neighborhood where your church building is situated and noticing the people you encounter. What do they look like? What color is their skin? What clothes do they wear? Then compare what you see with what you see in church on Sunday morning. A number of years ago, I was talking to a search committee about the fact that all of the vestry and all of the people in congregational pictures had white faces. “Is this because your neighborhood is all white?” I asked. They insisted that it was. A little later, my husband and I drove to the nearest convenience store. We were the only white faces in the store! These dear people hadn’t noticed what their neighborhood really looked like; they hadn’t seen the multitude of ethnicities that lived among them.

Who’s up front?
When my husband and I served our first parish in Connecticut, there was no one our age. Everyone in the congregation seemed to be a little younger than our parents – about the same age of the rector and his wife. Within six weeks of our arrival there were a number of young couples with young children. Now, I’d love to think that our wonderful personalities and vibrant preaching was the reason, but I think the real reason for this influx was the simple fact that young couples saw people “like them” up front and somehow felt welcomed as a result. A parish in Northern Virginia noticed that its African-American representation was much lower than the community’s 10%. As the staff discussed this, they noticed that none of their African-American members served on the vestry and none participated in the “upfront” lay leadership roles. The rector made a conscious effort to change this, and soon the population percentages matched up. St. Philip’s, Moon has a call to families and youth. Their worship leaders, who stand up front on stage, include teenagers, young parents and several “gray-hairs.” Not surprisingly, the congregation does, too.

Who does the music draw?
Our communications director, David Trautman, told me how his InterVarsity group in Florida was eager to attract black students to their large group gatherings. “We were successful at attracting black students to events which featured a black speaker, but the black students never seemed to stick around,” he told me. It wasn’t until they intentionally recruited black students to serve on their music team and incorporated contemporary gospel into their musical worship that they were able to keep these students coming back week after week. One parish started a service aimed at college students. They even offered dinner after the service, knowing that the campus dining hall was closed on weekends. Their “contemporary” music, however, would have been more suited to the tastes of college students during the early 1960’s. Interestingly, the service never included many college students.

What additions would you make to this list?


A Letter from The Rev. Scott Homer, Rector of Trinity Church in Beaver

Dear Friends,

During our times of clergy fellowships this month, the Archbishop has asked us to consider what people groups we might be called to reach. In considering this question, I came to the conclusion that the Lord is pointing Trinity, Beaver towards a ministry to one of the most isolated, most marginalized groups in America--the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled.

Over the last thirty or forty years, the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled have been increasingly separated out and isolated from any real family or religious community. While we work much harder to take care of their physical and material needs, their spiritual needs, their need for community have been ignored and in fact, exacerbated by creating special homes called "group homes." We pat ourselves on the back for providing for their physical needs even as we ignore and neglect them as members of our society. These folks need a church. They need a church family. They need Christian teaching and preaching but they are unlikely to get it because the people who could afford to provide it don't recognize it as important. So, that takes care of the who and the why, as well as some of the obstacle questions, but what about the vision aspect?

If God blessed our efforts we would be a blended community of rich and poor, mentally challenged and gifted, Christians loving one another in a community centered around worshipping God and reaching the world for Christ.

Pray for two very great challenges to this ministry: 1) funding, the financial resources necessary to serve a people group that is not self-supporting. 2) Pray for God's guidance around the secular social work platform that regulates the lives of this people group.

May 11, 2010

Mothers Modeling Christ

Sermon, Mother’s Day 2010 Fr. Scott Homer

In the Name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I am about to preach a mothers day sermon. It will be my first. I have never preached a mothers day sermon before for at least two reasons. First, my job, as pastor and preacher, is not to make you feel good about secular holidays, no matter how good intentioned that holiday may be. My job is to make the gospel known in a way that you can receive it and apply it to your daily life. And so, I have always concluded that sermons catering to the holiday dujour abandon their primary purpose.

The second reason is a pastoral concern. Although many of us had good mothers who cared for us, and loved and nurtured us, that is by no means universal. Some of us had poor mothers. Some may even have been abandoned buy their mother. The truth is, no mother is good all the time and some mothers just arn’t very good most of the time—and so mothers day sermons that sing the praises of mothers as paragons of virtue may bring fond memories for some of us, they may puff some of us up but they will surely bring bitterness and resentments for others, or shame and remorse to still others.

I have decided to speak to mothers day today because I am convinced that when mothering is done well it more closely models the love of Jesus than just about any other human endeavor. Motherhood, like all other human endeavors, is an enterprise checkered with successes and failures, and yet when it is done well, it is characterized by self-sacrifice, suffering, kindness, compassion and humility. A woman determined to be a good mother becomes a practitioner of patient service for others and she spends her life assisting helpless children to become responsible adults—usually with very little fanfare or reward.

Let's begin with some jokes. One of the characteristics my mother had to demonstrate was the ability to patiently endure jokes. So here goes. I received this by email the other day. Here is a list of things only a mother can teach:

My Mother taught me about ANTICIPATION:
"Just wait until your father gets home."

My Mother taught me about RECEIVING:
"You are going to get it when we get home!"

My Mother taught me LOGIC:
"Because I said so, that's why."

My Mother taught me HUMOR:
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

My Mother taught me about GENETICS:
"You're just like your father."

My Mother taught me about JUSTICE:
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you. Then you'll see what it's like."

My mother taught me RELIGION:
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL:
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

My mother taught me FORESIGHT:
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS:
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper!"

My mother taught me about WEATHER:
"It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."

My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION:
"Stop acting like your father!"

Now those are the jokes, but seriously, there are some priceless lessons we can learn from mothers:
My mother taught me about SERVANTHOOD:
She cooked my meals, cleaned my house, cared for me when I was well and when I was sick.

My mother taught me about SUFFERING:
She carried me, she suffered in childbirth, she worried about me countless times.

My mother taught me about PATIENT ENDURANCE:
She never gave up on me. She never tired of my nonsense. She never abandoned me, no matter how much I deserved to be abandoned.

My mother taught me about FORGIVENESS:
She overlooked my shortcomings. She did not hold a grudge when I hurt her feelings. She continued to care for me even when I acted badly.

My mother taught me about FAITH:
She taught me to pray. She showed me the love of Jesus. She modeled trust in God everyday.

My mother taught me about LOVE:
In John 15.13 Jesus describes true love. He says, 13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” My mother laid down her life for me. She didn’t do it perfectly—far from it. She made mistakes. She sometimes acted selfishly but to the best of her ability she loved in the way Jesus teaches us all to love one another

And that is the message this mothers day. Jesus talks a great deal about love but he doesn’t just talk about it. He does it. He lays down his life for all the people of the world. He sacrifices his life in order to provide a better future for God’s children. And Jesus’ love is the reason we have gathered here this morning. It is the reason that we have hope. But we live some two thousand years after the birth of Christ. We read about it in a book. We are told about it in story but we have never had the opportunity to actually see Jesus’ love played out in the flesh, or have we?

I heard Scott Jessel quoting someone the other day. He said, “there are five Gospels really: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and your life. And your life is the only Gospel many folks are ever going to read.” If people are going to learn about true agape love, if they are going to see sacrifice and forgiveness and compassion and kindness and humility and service to others and associate those things with the love of Christ they are going to do it because they see it modeled to them. And the place where we see Christian love modeled most often and most accurately is in the behavior of good mothers. And this place is full of good mothers this morning—not perfect mothers, mothers that have made all sorts of mistakes—but mothers who have, to the best of their abilities devoted themselves to their children. Thank you all you moms who have modeled the love of Christ in the real nitty gritty of everyday life.

Dear God, Thank you for our Mothers! Thank you for the love and sacrifices that they have made in order to enable us to survive and to grow into the people we are today. We thank you for giving every mother a heart of love, a love that awakens her at her baby's first cries, a love that keeps her watching until her last child finally comes home! Thank You for our mothers, for their caring for us in our struggles, for their comforting us in our suffering, and for their joy when we succeed. Thank You for their hugs, their encouragement, and their faithful love.

Thank you, Father, for St. Mary, our heavenly mother, who supported Your Son in His hopes and dreams, stayed by His side in His devastating death, and rejoiced with Him in His triumphant Resurrection! Please protect and bless all our mothers with Your strength, Your joy, and Your undying love. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

May 6, 2010

The Kajire Water Project Needs Your Help

Can you imagine living in a place with no sink and no water faucet? Worse yet, can you imagine having to walk several miles and carry your day's water back to your home on your shoulders? for us this is a bad dream. For the people of Kajire, where our friend Ferdinand Mbwangi grew up, it is a daily reality.

Kajire is a poor rural village. There are two elemetary schools and one secondary school. A small dispensary is there for medical needs. Kajire is near a national wildlife preserve and it is not uncommon to see elephant, antelope, and even cheetah wandering nearby. There is a significant Christian presence in the village with about 6 Christian denominations represented.

Recently, great progress has been made in preparing for the water well. As many of you may know, The Reverend Ferdinand Mbwangi, the Kenyan priest who spent a couple years with us, while attending seminary here in the US, has been working to get water to his home village for a number of years. Our parish has committed to helping financially and in whatever other way possible.

Recently, a drilling company has been identified that is both trustworthy and substantially lower priced than some other alternatives. This brings the drilling project much closer to completion than we had thought. In fact, it looks like we are within about $2000. of being able to go ahead with it. Would you consider a special contribution in order to get water to this village?

Progress Reported on the Kajire Water Project

This photo shows the proposed well site for the village of Kajire, Kenya. Our friend, Reverend Ferdinand Mabwangi is standing with the members of the village well project committee and the government inspector who is examining the site.