Part 1: Journeying to the Song and Gesture

by Donald Schell

Headwaters are places of beginning and ongoing generation. Headwaters can be huge like the Blue Nile Falls, where the Blue Nile begins in a wild rush of falling water a rising cloud of spray that make a lush riverbank in the arid Ethiopia of our first human ancestors. Or headwaters may be tiny and look insignificant like the divided rivulets flowing off ridges in the high Rockies, half flowing east into the Missouri and on to the Gulf of Mexico and half south and west into the Colorado and down though the Grand Canyon where dams and viaducts divert it from the sea to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In 2004 and 2005, not yet knowing I’d begun searching for headwaters, I was obsessively asking musicians and composers what they knew of traditional, pre-literate music-making. Did they know of anyone composing music in the old forms? I was looking for liturgical music including chants and new hymns that our congregation could sing together in dim candlelight. Working to problem-solve for that service prompted me to wonder what we might learn from the ways people sang together in evenings not just before electric lights, but before printed music and texts. Spirituals, work songs, world music, summer camp music, ancient liturgical music fell into this category. What about Russian and South African choral folk traditions? What was happening with rhythm and melody? How did these forms find energy in dissonance and resolution in harmony without notes on the page? What basic underlying forms made it easy to learn by ear and join in? Repetition obviously, but more than that; What intuitive strategies for making musical and textual variety kept structure evident to people so they they could sing tune and words moment to moment?

In 2005 Yale School of Sacred Music sent Emily Scott to All Saints Company for a summer internship. By then I had found a dozen and a half composers around the country for her to interview by phone, people who were interested in the questions of traditional forms or for other reasons were asking similar questions to mine - what kinds of singing would draw everyone in and what beauties we might find in old ways of singing?

Emily and I talked at length and developed a series of observations and questions to ask the church composers we hoped would help us. Emily took extensive notes from the rich conversations and distilled from them an initial description of the old way of singing. Then she called the composers back to describe what she was hearing, and found eight composers whose enthusiasm for the conversation told us they wanted to join in creating something new, robustly congregational and musically satisfying from these inherited forms – simple melody, call and echo, call and response, layered, and rounds.

In late spring of 2006, All Saints Company gathered those eight composers for a working retreat at St. Dorothy’s Rest, an Episcopal Retreat Center, in the redwoods north of San Francisco. There I scrambled to edit and re-edit words from scripture, from mystics and poets so the composers could find new music in or for the words. Together we reflected on their fresh work, sang it together in workshop as it was born, tried it different ways, and offered impressions and ideas, all the time shaping our thinking about the forms. By the end of the retreat we had about fifty short new pieces of music, and with that core of a book, Marilyn Haskel joined Emily in soliciting more music adding about a dozen more contributors from around the country, and from the core work and further compilation, in 2008 Church Publishing published Music by Heart, Paperless Songs for Evening Worship.

At the composers’ retreat, Ben Allaway, made the astute observation that litereate people buying a book of pre-literate formed music would still be tied to the page - without coaching, they’d photocopy to leaflets or project the music on a screen when we knew a skilled leader could teach it by ear and in the moment. So with Music By Heart still on the press, we held our first Music that Makes Community Workshop Intensives, three days of teaching participants the practices of leading what we were calling “paperless music.” As of this March, we’ve had sixteen more of these three day workshops around the country and our ten or so leaders/teachers have continued to discover as much as the seventeen workshops’ four hundred seventy-five participants about music and leadership and group dynamics and the creativity of the Spirit. Our Eighteenth workshop will be this June in St. Mary’s City, Maryland.

The workshops and this way of singing drew on theological and process discoveries we’d made in forty years of mostly unaccompanied congregational singing in a college chaplaincy, a small town congregation and in founding St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco. We mirror the leader, as St. Paul says, ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ.’ Singing together is a crucible for our undeclared collaboration in learning – a practice in which we discover that ‘we have the mind of Christ.’ Dynamically and literally, singing forms us. We breathe one Spirit together in common in-spiration. We listen to one another. We negotiate and discern leadership. We practice forgiveness. We create together. We ride the sparkling currents of consonance and music-energizing dissonance. And all singing, but particularly the old way of singing, shapes minds and bodies in community. Singing is a practice of reconciliation and at-onement. It also births individual freedom as we learn together to trust the voices God gave us.

The challenge of finding composers to make new music for a candlelit evening liturgy plunged us into startling discoveries of how it felt to learn music relationally, how a leader modeled the music and gave it away, and how people singing claimed the music as their own and lived into their own authority as music-makers. I felt and saw this in people’s faces and bodies. In singing together, something powerful emerged in embodied relationship and a common mind. Singing emerged and grew in face to face embodied relationship. Even with years of sung liturgy behind us, this felt like a discovery – not better music, not always even different music, but a musical path that had taken us into the forests of humanity’s earliest days. We’d stumbled on to the fresh, cold spring of human embodied consciousness and community, the gushing headwaters of the great river of our liturgy and shared meaning.

Through these last seven years of gathering shared leadership teams from a dozen or so wonderful musicians to lead seventeen Music that Makes Community Workshop Intensives, I’ve become a hungry reader of neuroscientific and anthropological studies that point to music and gesture at our beginning.

What made human community, speech, and articulate thought possible for our first human ancestors? How did we form groups that could hunt stronger and more dangerous prey? How did we care for our slow maturing babies? What made it possible for us to work and think together? How are freedom and individual thought and imagination possible when we’re so dependent on groups for our survival? We can touch this holy genesis in singing.

In secular neuroscientific research, primatology and studies of other mirror-neuron- equipped mammals, music research, therapies for stroke damaged brains, and more; we’re making daily new discoveries about human formation that inescapably inform our best understanding of Christian formation.

Any regular listener to NPR or reader of The New York Times or any viewer of TED talks will hear, read or see countless leads to new books sharing discoveries of the workings of our minds and consciousness. Learnings are coming to us from human and primate behavior, from neurology (especially in our new capabilities to monitor blood flow and electric impulses in our living, working brain) from watching how brains recover from strokes, from new understandings of the unique workings of differing kinds of human minds and differing ways we learn.

In the two essays that follow, I’ll offer additional hints that finding a common mind points to an antidote to the heresy of individual salvation in the theological truth that communities birth individual people (more truly and deeply than complete individuals aggregate to make a collective whole). And then I’ll offer a quick tour of some accessible books on neuroscience research, hoping I’m not the only complete natural theology geek who reads the Episcopal Café.


The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is President of All Saints Company.

Walking out of the abyss

by Maria L. Evans

"Christian contemplation is precipitated by crisis within crisis and anguish within anguish. It is born of spiritual conflict. It is a victory that suddenly appears in the hour of defeat. It is the providential solution of problems that seem to have no solution. It is the reconciliation of enemies that seem to be irreconcilable."
~Thomas Merton, "Ascent to Truth"

"Oh, you have several choices," the cashier at Carlsbad Caverns told me. "You can take the elevator down and up, you can take the natural entrance in and out, or you could do one going in and the other going out."

It had been thirty years since I had visited the caverns, and I had all morning. So I chose to take the elevator down and walk out the natural entrance. I figured it was a nice mix of quiet time and exercise.

But when I started out the pathway to the natural exit, I had discovered that literally everyone--EVERYONE--I met was going INTO the caverns via this route, not OUT. I did not see another single person on this journey going out the natural exit. I had to maneuver past people going downhill while I was going uphill. Some people were considerate of that; some were oblivious that going up out of it is a little trickier than going down into it. One woman looked right at me and very sternly announced, "You are going the WRONG WAY." It was truly disconcerting to her!

After a while, I started taking note of the places to rest on the way out, and making use of them here and there. I particularly remember one at a time I was breaking out in a good sweat and had ignored the previous resting place. It was a place to sit and observe a rather open room in the cavern. So, with my chest heaving, and the sound of my heartbeat in my ears, I just sat and observed for a while.

It wasn't long before my eyes caught a glimpse of a particular rock formation on the wall of that room--it looked like Christ hanging on a cross. I found myself sitting there in quiet meditation for half an hour, and as the noise of my own heartbeat began to subside, I discovered thoughts in my head that hadn't surfaced in ages. I thought about the time I was there thirty years ago. I was 22 years old, and I had felt that I had failed miserably at my first teaching job. The guy I was planning on marrying was now planning to marry someone else. I was discovering that "going home" wasn't a great option because some heavy-duty dysfunction was brewing. I was dealing with that feeling of having started out in the penthouse of elation as a recent college graduate, ready to take on the world, and now being sent to the outhouse. I had gone to the desert to clear my head and get my bearings on a great solo adventure.

My mind turned to other stories like that in my life, and I began to see the pattern. My subconscious choice that day, perhaps wasn't so subconscious. I had chosen to take an elevator ride to the abyss, wander around in it a while, and then choose to walk out uphill. I've been told before on those journeys that I was going the wrong way, but in retrospect, it was always the best way. I sat there and looked at that cavern wall and it suddenly hit me: "This is the way of the Cross--to be plunged into the depths and emerge. This is the way of baptism. This is the path to resurrection."

As I got up to leave, I looked back the other direction. Had I gone into the cavern via the natural entrance, the rock formation that had so captivated me was not really visible from that angle. Had I chosen to go in the cavern that way, I would have missed it. I would not have seen the Corpus that nature had molded. I would have missed the most profound part of my trip. When I reached the opening, I was surprised to discover from the ranger that going out the natural exit was the equivalent of climbing 75 stories. Had I known that, I would not have chosen this path. I would never have known the things I now knew were on that path. I would have been in the dark about it rather than have been shown a wonderful light.

As much as we yearn for those inner joys of a life in Christ, the truth of Holy Week is that its uniqueness is framed by the road to the Cross. The joys are there, but so are the sorrows--and it is in the 75 story journeys we didn't know we had in us, where we most see the presence of Christ.


Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

Part 2: The story the budget tells

by George Clifford

The first part of this post analyzed TEC’s financial plight arguing that the proposed 2012-2015 budget shows that TEC:

1. Highly values ecclesial governance and structure
2. Faces significant organizational problems
3. Intends to continue business as usual
4. Lacks a clear vision of, and focus on, TEC’s mission.

This post recommends a four-part strategy for charting and fixing TEC finances.

First, the story that TEC’s budget tells should be one of mission rather than Canonical, Corporate, and Program. The latter reflect nineteenth century concerns; today, those few Christians still committed to a denomination want to participate in mission. General Convention 2009 Resolution D027 actually called for moving in this direction, adopting the five Anglican Marks of Mission as TEC’s mission, and requiring budget priorities to reflect that mission.

The five Anglican Marks of Mission are:

1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

With computerized accounting systems, reformatting the budget to tell the story of TEC engaged in mission is a relatively simple task (people familiar with accounting might describe this change as moving form an organizational to a product/service budget). For example, the percent of her time that the Presiding Bishop (PB) spends proclaiming the Good News is the percent of costs associated with her office attributable to the first mark. This form of cost accounting can quickly identify any activity unrelated to the five Marks of Mission. Expenses not directly attributable to one or more of the five Marks of Mission may be reasonable overhead (e.g., accounting, human resources management, or information systems); otherwise, TEC should probably eliminate the expense from the budget. If the five Marks of Mission are an incomplete or incorrect statement of TEC’s mission, then General Convention 2012 should revise the Mission Statement accordingly.

A TEC budget focused on mission provides leaders and opinion makers the material with which to excite the passions and stimulate the commitment of Episcopalians. Discussing funding for General Convention (GC) evokes yawns or worse; funding the five Marks of Mission can give people a reason to feel good about being part of the Episcopal Church and is a story that TEC should tell frequently, loudly, and proudly.

Second, TEC should aggressively minimize governance and other overhead costs. Few people put their money in the offering plate wanting to fund costly TEC governance or overhead. Since two consecutive GCs must approve canonical changes, TEC needs to move quickly and aggressively to reduce governance and overhead costs; each triennium budget appears certain to force progressively more painful program cuts.

Sadly, the current budget dramatically understates the true cost of governance. For example, the proposed GC budget shows a net cost of $10.5 million. That sum does not include the PB’s time and travel, time and travel of other TEC staffers, the time and travel of all other attendees, and costs associated with all of the preliminary meetings related to GC. The true cost of GC is probably closer to $20 if not $50 million. Other national governance costs include audits, legal advice and representation, Executive Council costs, etc. Framed differently, I suspect that national governance costs each of the 2 million Episcopalians $25 per year from diocesan and national funds. Given the choice, I wonder how many Episcopalians would spend their $25 on governance or one of the five Marks of Mission.

TEC benefits from democratic governance but current structures and procedures are not the only or perhaps even the preferred democratic option. For example, technology can help to reduce governance costs. I’ve previously suggested conducting GC and other meetings using a virtual format (Rethinking Episcopal Church structure - part 1 and Rethinking Episcopal Church structure - part 2).

Selling TEC’s New York headquarters might cut operating costs, reduce staffing costs, and result in a net gain for the endowment after purchase of a new headquarters. With the internet and other forms of electronic communication, relocation need not disrupt ecumenical/interfaith relations, diminish TEC’s public profile, or make travel more difficult (indeed, TEC might find relocating cuts travel costs). TEC moving some of its offices out of New York is a first step in this direction.

Virtual meetings and relocating TEC offices may not be the best tactics for reducing governance and overhead costs. However, TEC failing to adopt a strategy that substantially cuts governance and overhead costs will be one bell chiming TEC’s death knell. If not virtual meetings and relocation, what tactics will TEC choose?

Third, the subsidiarity principle provides TEC a heuristic for evaluating all TEC activities and programs. Which programs/activities could congregations, dioceses, or provinces operate more effectively and perhaps less expensively than TEC does? Reformatting TEC’s budget to include overhead in program line items is an essential preliminary step for answering that question. By excluding overhead, the current budget understates TEC program. Furthermore, shifting programming to provinces, dioceses, and congregations will generally broaden opportunity for involvement and can increase the sense of ownership that Episcopalians feel toward various programs and activities. Congregational development, for example, seems basic to the work of dioceses rather than to TEC.

Fourth, TEC should assess the effectiveness of its activities and programs, terminating those endeavors deemed unlikely to produce results proportionate to costs. For example, although I have strong personal sympathies with the work of the Office of Government Relations (OGR), in an era of billion dollar presidential campaigns, funding this office with a paltry $2.6 million may not produce significant results. Focusing the OGR on anti-poverty instead of its current shotgun approach (i.e., shoot at every legitimate target) may produce greater results. TEC could apply any savings to reducing fiscal shortfalls, asking for a smaller percentage of diocesan budgets, or expanding efforts that are more effective.

The $0.5 million included in the proposed budget for funding a Churchwide Consultation is a step (probably too small) in the right direction. However, that step fails to express the urgency with which TEC must act and the magnitude of the problems. Speed can kill. However, speed can also liberate, allowing TEC to discard outmoded processes, refocus on mission, and generate fresh enthusiasm. For such a time as this, God will bring us together in Indianapolis.


George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

Part 1: The story the budget tells

by George Clifford

Budgets – plans to obtain and to spend money – express values and tell stories. Good budgets tell good stories. Unfortunately, The Episcopal Church (TEC) proposed 2013-2015 budget suggests that TEC:

1. Highly values ecclesial governance and structure
2. Faces significant organizational problems
3.Intends to continue business as usual
4. Lacks a clear vision of, and focus on, TEC’s mission.

First, the budget’s three major expense categories are Canonical, Corporate, and Program. Compliance with the Canons – which is commendable – is not the Church’s mission. The Canons exist to support the Church in its mission by establishing internal order, i.e., the Canons are a means to an end. Similarly, the Church’s corporate structure is important to the extent that it facilitates the Church living into its mission. Otherwise, preserving the structure becomes an end in itself, a form of idolatry. Approximately half of TEC’s proposed budget supports those two categories, leaving only half for Program.

Second, projected revenues are down about 5% from the previous triennium. Diocesan commitments reflect a 9% decrease and investment income an 8% decrease. Withdrawing $3.8 million from the endowment funds a Development Office. Leasing three and a half floors of TEC’s New York headquarters to other organizations substantially increases rental income ($1.2 million). Together, these moves balance the budget. Any inflation during the triennium will further erode the budget’s actual purchasing power.

After factoring out the $3.8 million draw on the endowment, the proposed budget shows a projected decline of 7.7% in revenue compared to the previous budget. This presumes that future efficiencies will partially offset future income decreases, as occurred with the 2012-2015 rental income increase, and avoids positing a worst-case scenario.

Presuming a constant and continuing 7.7% rate of decline, revenue projections for the next four budget cycles are $93, 85.6, 78.7, and 72.4 million. In other words, by 2025, TEC’s projected revenue is two-thirds of its 2010-2012 revenue. Even with imposing the most stringent cost controls, TEC appears likely to have few funds in 2025 available for programs after paying Canonical and Corporate expenses, most of which are not discretionary items. Any inflation, which these calculations ignore, will worsen the financial difficulties; any exceptional investment returns will improve the outlook. Realistically, TEC faces significant challenges to sustain its current organization and level of programming.

Third, the proposed budget largely represents continuing business as usual. Adjustments to the Canonical and Corporate portions of the budget ($1.5 million of $53.6 million) total just a 3.6% decrease. The changes in the Program half of the budget are more substantial. Critically, these changes are largely irrelevant except as a warning of what lies ahead. No amount of realigning program elements will substantially increase income. TEC has two primary revenue sources: endowment income and diocesan commitments. The revenue shortfalls appear likely to be so substantial that TEC must reverse the declines, find new sources of revenue (seems improbable), or radically reinvent itself.

Pressure to reduce the 19% commitment currently requested from dioceses is growing. Dioceses are experiencing their own financial struggles. A diminishing minority of Episcopalians feels a close connection with the national church; the growing majority perceives little value or benefit from monies that flow from congregations to dioceses and TEC. Any reduction in requested diocesan commitments will only exacerbate TEC financial woes. Conversely, proposing to increase the 19% is a non-starter. In part, dioceses and congregations, like TEC, struggle financially because of a continuing numerical decline in attendance and membership (cf. my earlier post, Is the Episcopal Church going the way of the Grange?).

Reversing the decline in endowment income appears unlikely to offer a quick fix. Forecasts for investment returns over the next decade are mediocre rather than stellar. Establishing a Development Office to increase the size of the endowment feels like a last chance, desperate Hail Mary pass. Perhaps some wealthy Episcopalians are ready, if and when asked, to give TEC substantial sum (tens or hundreds of millions of dollars). Lesser amounts will not solve the problem (endowment income is only 5% of the gift, e.g., a $100,000 gift yields only $5,000 per year, less than 0.1% of the revenue decrease).

National trends of growing disaffection with organized religion suggest that few, if any, such individuals are in our pews or on our membership rosters. Indeed, unless the persons responsible for preparing the budget have reasonable expectations of substantial gifts from particular donors, funding the Development Office with monies drawn from the endowment seems more likely to worsen rather than to ease future financial shortfalls. If budget drafters have reasonable expectations of substantial gifts from particular donors, why does TEC need an expanded Development Office? Why not solicit the gifts today?

Fourth, the budget proposal lacks a clear vision of, and focus on, mission. Given TEC’s numerical and financial declines, this lack of clarity and focus is an existential issue that threatens TEC’s future. Although each issue considered at General Convention (GC) is somebody’s passion and each TEC program office linked to one more interest groups in the Church, the larger reality is that the majority of Episcopalians cares little about these matters. The diocese evokes somewhat more interest and slightly stronger feelings. However, most Episcopalians care only about what happens (or does not happen) in their local congregation.

A minority of us (including me) greatly appreciates the importance of being a connectional church. A larger number pay lip service to the importance of being a connectional church, actually recognize a few of its benefits, and support the status quo primarily out of inertia. An even larger number of us (probably a majority) tolerate our connectional system but increasingly voice doubts about its utility and the value of giving the diocese/national church such a large percent of local income. In short, Episcopalians have lost confidence in TEC, its structures, and programming. If this were not true, then Episcopalians would enthusiastically fund dioceses and TEC. Episcopalians – like most Christians – give willingly and generously when passionately committed to a cause.

What can TEC do? The second part of this post answers that question.


George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

Of puppies and missionaries ...

By Lauren R. Stanley

We have a new addition in our household, a giant-pawed Great Dane puppy named Julian.

She came into our lives recently as a 10-week-old, gangly, runt-of-the-litter, Brindle-colored baby and immediately wriggled her way into our hearts and minds.

Watching her adjust to her new surroundings, with three new people and two new dogs (who are, as they constantly remind us, Not. Amused.) reminds me of missionaries and the adjustments they go through when they arrive in a new land.

Just as missionaries need to leave behind all whom they love to live with new people, whom hopefully they will come to love, Julian had to leave behind her sire and dam and three brothers, as well as the breeders.

Just as missionaries have to learn to live in new housing situations (sometimes mud huts, sometimes tents, sometimes very Western-style apartments), Julian has had to learn to live in our house, which is very different from the farm where she was bred and spent the first 10 weeks of her life.

Just as missionaries need to learn a new language, with all of its colloquialisms, Julian is learning her own new language: “Come. Out. Sit. Down. Off. No bite. Leave it. No. Good girl!” It is not easy for missionaries or puppies to untangle the nuances of new languages.

You go into a new place, and everything is new: the people; the food; the customs; the language. It doesn’t matter if you are a missionary or a puppy, there’s still a lot of learning going on, and every day is a day of discovery.

Her first night with us, Julian did what most every puppy does when it was time to go to bed: She cried. She sat in her crate, with blankets and toys, and whimpering and cried for a long, long, long time. Eventually, she slept, mainly because she was so very tired.

My first night as a missionary in Sudan? I cried as well. Even though I had worked like the dickens to get to Sudan, even though I really, really wanted to be there, I still cried. Everything was new and foreign and I was so very far from all that I knew and loved. Like Julian, I cried myself to sleep that night. (And did so again when I moved to Haiti, four years later.)

No matter how hard you try, as a new person in a new place, you make mistakes. You go to the wrong places, say the wrong things, do the wrong things at the wrong time. Anyone who has had a puppy knows that puppies do all that – and more – all the time. Missionaries and puppies are constantly learning, constantly striving, constantly attempting to please, to fit in, to not be seen as an “outsider” who doesn’t belong there.

Every day is a day of discovery and adventure, of new things to do, new people to meet. Every day also presents new opportunities to make mistakes, to get lost, to realize that what you “know” may only be what you thought you knew.

The more I watch this Great Dane puppy, the more I see my life as a missionary. Things that scared me at first, or that seemed too hard to do, became so normal that they stopped meriting a mention.

Julian grows at an astonishing rate. Where once she was the same size as the 10-year-old spaniels, she now towers over them. Where once she was confused and timid, she is now confident and bold. She still stumbles around a bit – she’s growing into her body, we like to say – but she stumbles a lot more boldly than when she first arrived. She knows she is loved and cared for, which gives her the confidence to go forth into the world, seeking new adventures, new friends, new challenges.

My life as a missionary was much the same. There was constant growth (not physically; I’d already grown into my body). I, too, was timid at first, and made lots of mistakes, not understanding what was happening to me or around me. But the longer I stayed, the more I learned, the bolder I became, and as I grew bolder, I was more willing to even more new things.

Yep, welcoming Julian into my life has made me realize: Missionaries could learn a lot from watching a puppy. Their lives are, more than I ever realized, so very similar.

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The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is a priest of the Diocese of Virginia who spent four years as a missionary in Sudan, and one year as a missionary in Haiti. She now is a missionary and consultant in the United States.

Exercising "power with"

by Marshall Scott

There’s been a lot of talk about power lately. Perhaps it’s the political season (oh, how I envy the limited campaigning season in some countries). Certainly, it’s been part of the conversation about the Anglican Covenant.

Perhaps it’s because of that old and well known aphorism: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The author was John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton. He was a believer in power spread around and not concentrated. His was one of the voices in England that during the American Civil war supported states’ rights, and so the Confederacy.

But that wasn’t the context of his most famous statement. Lord Acton was also a Roman Catholic, and with his sentiments he was opposed to papal infallibility. Some years after the First Vatican Council, he wrote,

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means.

It is of interest that he wrote that to a scholar of the papacy – not a Roman scholar, but an Anglican. Mandell Creighton was a Cambridge scholar and a future Bishop first of Peterborough and then of London. It was in reviewing Creighton’s A History of the Papacy During the Period of Restoration that Acton wrote perhaps his most famous words. (Perhaps these days that seems an observation that continues to be entirely too apt.)

And yet that is not the comment on power that has proven most interesting and most compelling to me. Long ago, during my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education a CPE Supervisor said to me, “Power is the ability to persuade.” I don’t know where he came up with this, but with some digging I found two similar quotations. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote, “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.” President Eisenhower wrote, “I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Remarkable, I think, that these two warriors, accomplished leaders of armies, were convicted of the value of persuasion over force.

The point, of course, is if we think about the end rather than the means, the ability to persuade can well be more powerful than power as we usually think of it: the ability to coerce. Indeed, coercion is simply one means of persuading – and if our two generals, separated by so many centuries, are to be believed, a means not all that effective.

From those seminary days that thought stayed with me. It was reinforced when I encountered Touching Our Strength by Carter Heyward. Heyward called her readers to a different approach to power: power with instead of power over. Power with calls for respect and mutuality. It is about what we can do together, and not about what you will do for me or I will do to you.

Much of the anxiety around us reflects a concern about power over. Consider, for example, our controversy about the Anglican Communion Covenant. Many are concerned (and I believe rightly concerned) about Section 4. It seems designed to create power over, even as much of the rest of the document tries to persuade that it’s about power with.

Or consider our recent discussions about the structure of the Episcopal Church, and whether it needs revision. Much of our discussion has seemed to reflect distrust – distrust of leadership and distrust among leaders. At times our concern about who might lead, about how to prevent power over, leads to suggestion of leadership so distributed – indeed, so disparate – that there seems hardly to be enough with for power with to function.

But in both cases this is based on a presumption power over, of power as enforcement, power as coercion. What if we were instead to embrace the concept of power with, and of power as the ability to persuade? What structures, for example, would best reflect the mutuality and engagement that power with requires? Certainly, too much would not meet the need; but neither would too little. Again, leadership is not truly shared if we are not all actively engaged. There can be no power with if there is no with.

Or, what might mission mean? We have discussed at this site mission as vocation and mission as message and mission as activity. We have talked about buildings as encumbrances and buildings as tools for ministry. What if we began with considering how we might exercise the ability to persuade? Sure, we will begin with the critical questions of “Persuade whom?” and “Persuade to what?” And after our first immediate responses, we’ll get into the real discussions. We’ll wrestle with persuading our own community, and then persuading the wider world. We’ll wrestle with what we ought to be persuading to. We’ll wrestle with what structures and leadership and tools might be required. We’ll wrestle, really, with all the things we’re wrestling with now. But, we’ll be wrestling, I think, in a different spirit – even in a different Spirit.

If we turn our concern from a fear of power over to a commitment to power with, how will that shape our expectations of our leaders? If we expect our leaders – if we expect ourselves as leaders - to measure success not simply by the ability to effect change but by the ability to persuade, that may well change the qualifications we expect, the structures we require, and the tools we provide.

And after all, isn’t that the model of the One that we follow? As recently as Good Friday we heard again Pilate’s examination of Jesus. When Pilate asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus’ ultimate answer was, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” And again and again, when the resurrected Jesus appeared to his followers, it was not to command but to persuade. “Here,” he said, “look at my wounded hands. Look at my wounded side.” On the road to Emmaus he did not assert his glory, but instead “opened the scriptures.” It was persuasion that warmed hearts, and brought Thomas to his confession. When we look at our Lord who spent his time preaching and teaching, healing and hobnobbing, and doing almost no commanding, surely we see most profoundly the power of God expressed not in coercion or enforcement, but in the ability to persuade.

So, I have to ask what that would mean for us – for us as leaders, certainly; but also for us as the Episcopal Church. We argue about many things precisely because we see them through the worldview of power over. What would it mean for us if we turned to the model of Christ, and sought to exercise power with, and to measure our own power first and foremost in our ability to persuade?


The Rev. Marshall Scott is a hospital chaplain in the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Blindness

by Maria L. Evans

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

~Collect for Proper 11, Book of Common Prayer, p.231

In the spring of 2010, I took a train trip to central and upstate New York to visit some blogging friends. I had an opportunity to upgrade to the sleeper car from the Utica to Chicago leg of the trip, and jumped at the chance. Although I find sleeping in coach fairly easy, these days my neck doesn't always agree with that decision.

Now, if you've never ridden in a sleeper car...well...there's not a whole lot of room, especially when it's the kind that has the toilet right in your compartment. I did a very foolish thing. I put my glasses on top of the toilet lid when I went to sleep for the night. (I bet you are already guessing what happened next.)

Yep...in the middle of the night, I got up to use the facilities, and without thinking, flipped up the toilet seat in the dark, and pulverized my glasses.

Now, I can't see doodly-squat in front of my face without my glasses. I am farsighted and astigmatic, and these days, presbyopic, with progressive bifocals. I can see the landscape, but my arms stopped being long enough to read without them long ago.

In short, I was totally plunged into a blindness right in front of my face.

I couldn't read the screen of my cell phone. I couldn't read a book. I couldn't see my watch, and when I returned home, I realized I wasn't safe to drive because I can't see my own dashboard without my glasses (and I have a "glasses only" restriction on my driver's license anyway.)

To be able to see the big or distant picture but not what's right in front of one's nose is a frustrating thing. It requires being dependent on a lot of people just to move off the spot in which one is standing. It requires thinking about things one normally doesn't think about, and in advance. The hardest part for me was not being able to entertain myself by reading. I was stuck only with my own thoughts when there was no one carrying on a conversation with me (and I wasn't really hot to sit in the club car and have a conversation explaining I broke my glasses, and "would you please help me read this?")

I had to have other people help me read menus, dial the phone, and get a friend to meet me at the train station in Ottumwa, IA with a spare pair of glasses. The most unsettling part was trying to get someone in Union Station in Chicago to help me figure out which gate I needed to make my connection. Were they really giving me the right directions? Did they even know? Were they messing with me? Was I going to end up on the wrong train? Were they stealing stuff from my suitcase as we spoke? I was also sure for all my best efforts, there were things I was missing or forgetting because I knew I was not seeing them, and all my efforts were trained on the most basic means of getting by until I got home.

Our collect reminds us that, despite our best efforts in making our way through the world, there are times of blindness--both blindnesses we suddenly find ourselves in, by accident, and blindnesses where we're so blind we don't even know our vision is impaired. We only know "our way of seeing things." It's hard to trust another way of seeing things. One of the highlights of real spiritual growth is that there is a place in our growing process where we begin to get a glimpse of how blind we've been and not even know it. It can create periods of guilt and shame, and if we're careful, we can remain there too long, and can become paralyzed--both afraid to move off the spot where we're standing (after all, we know where we are, even if it's a very tiny corner of the world)--and too prideful to ask for help. After all, our culture prizes independence over all things.

We have a terrible tendency to dwell on what we perceive as our unworthiness. But what if we trust the notion that Jesus' worthiness covers the playing field? What if God is not bothered in the least by our asking for things where we clearly don't see either the big picture, or what's right in front of our noses?

I remember decades ago as a high school student preparing to take the SAT and the ACT. I spent a lot of time learning how "failing to answer questions" or "wrong answers" affected one's score. Now, I can't remember which was which anymore, but I remember that in one test, your score was only based on your correct answers, and on one, wrong answers and omitted answers counted against your right ones. That knowledge changed how I approached each test.

Our relationship with God, I believe, is one where the things we ask in our blindness don't count against us--I suspect God considers the source and loves us in our blindness--even humors us in that way we laughed at those old Mr. Magoo cartoons. Mr. Magoo's blindness got him in some pretty laughable places, frankly.

Asking God for direction when we are blind to outcomes can be a rather scary proposition--but no scarier than asking strangers to help us change trains when we've crushed our glasses. Can we step forward in the next leg of our spiritual journeys with that kind of faith?


Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

My grandchildren ask big questions: compassion

by Margaret Treadwell

“Church is what you do” was the family mantra in my small hometown where the Episcopal Church became my spiritual, intellectual, emotional and social stronghold from an early age. My teenage involvement and service with the Diocese of Alabama jump-started my adventuresome life. Grace Church was a lifesaver for my mother when she suffered from depression following a car accident, which left her with significant injuries and almost took my father’s life.

So I fret when I read the statistics about young adults, and consequently their children moving away from spiritual communities. True, there are plausible distractions - busy family down time on Sunday, homework, sports - that erase “ church is what you do.”’ Where will these folks find a caring, generous, spiritual community in our materialistic world? How will their children make informed faithful decisions when they have only Christmas and Easter experiences?

All four of our grandchildren are un-Sunday-schooled despite – or perhaps because of -our two children’s church involvement until they flew the nest. Respecting their parents’ message for the grandparents to “zip it” on this matter, I broke my resolve on Palm Sunday to timidly ask our New York City son if we could take John, 7, and Katja, 3 ½ to the children’s passion play at an Episcopal church we’d never attended down the street from their apartment. His quick acquiescence surprised me.

We were the first to arrive, so John and Katja had free run of the Sunday school classroom. Tables were set up with crayons for coloring paper palm leaves which kept them busy until other children began drifting in all spit polished and dressed in Upper East Side finery featuring big bows in little girls’ hair and bow ties on small boys.

A vivacious young woman soon arrived, introduced herself as Claire and immediately took charge of the Passover story by coaching the kids to act out scenes from that time and place. John’s jeans and Katja’s tights proved ideal attire for reclining on the oriental rug provided for their Passover bread and water “meal” and for falling asleep on the brown rug representing the dirt in the Garden of Gethsemane where the children turned disciples had promised to stay awake.

But then the tenor shifted to the Holy Week story complete with vivid pictures of the 12 Stations of the Cross. Parents looked anxious as Claire moved toward the crucifixion.
No worries. Their Sunday schooled kids began fidgeting, punching each other or simply glazing over. Perhaps sensing their parents’ discomfort, the teacher quickly passed over the 6th picture of Jesus nailed to the cross represented by his nail punctured hand with blood streaming from the wound and moved to the 7th station showing Mary kneeling at the foot of the cross.

“ Wait! “ Katja called out. “What about that one?” She pointed to the bloody hand. “ Did it hurt?”

“Yes, it hurt, “ Claire responded turning back to Mary with Jesus already dead upon the cross.

“No! Wait! That one!” Katja persisted. “ Did it really hurt?” The youngest child present was truly present, leaning forward, straining to see and understand.

Once again, Claire patiently said, “Yes it did hurt.”

But having found her voice, Katja asked a third time, “Did it really REALLY hurt?”
Most every child and adult in the room stopped their drifting away from the story to listen to this tiny girl persist and Claire’s affirmation.” Yes, and that’s a very important question,” she said.

Then she managed to end the painful part by suggesting that all of us move to the columbarium, which she explained was like the empty tomb where Jesus was buried and rose from the dead. Before we could follow her directive, John asked in his outdoor voice, “How come there’re 12 stations and 14 pictures?” Claire did her best but, face it, seven year olds can’t inspire the patience three year olds require. Time was running out as she ushered us like a good shepherd down the stairs to the basement.

The tomb was indeed dark and empty. While kids wandered around searching for Jesus or perhaps just something interesting to do in the bare tomb, John stood riveted in solemn thought listening to Claire explain resurrection in sixty seconds. When it was clear the teacher had nothing else to say, he raised his hand and asked, “If God did that for Jesus, why couldn’t he do that for us?”

The other children ignored him but the teacher and parents shook their heads in amazement that this unknown child had so completely gotten the crux of the story. I wondered if it was easier to see and hear with an open heart because John was experiencing the story with no preconceptions from former Sunday school lessons.

Palm Sunday morning filled me with awe and wonder such that all anxiety over no grandchildren in church dissipated to be left in the tomb. It felt like rolling my own stone away for a journey through Holy Week to an Easter Resurrection where my focus shifted from changing my family to changing myself.


Margaret M. “Peggy” Treadwell, LICSW, is a family, individual and couples therapist and teacher in private practice. She can be contacted at Peggy McDT@gmail.com

Are we sure the budget won't focus our mission?

by Benedict Varnum

In all the responses to the budget debate before Holy Week, I was surprised that I didn’t hear anyone wondering if the budget could be the right move.

It seems to me that many Episcopalians have been viewing the proposed budget in TEC as analogous to the Anglican Covenant: that there is an inappropriate effort to centralize authority where it has no place being centralized. In the Anglican Covenant debate, I know that I and others have a decent amount of frustration with the notion that we ought to centralize international Anglican authority in order for that central authority to place “clarity” into the diversity of our theological sensibilities. But I don’t think the analogy holds.

Episcopalians, who are not only tuned in to this problematic push for Anglican centralization, but also live in an America that is increasingly suspicious of ANY organized group (the Congress, either major political party, the Supreme Court, organized religion, organized media, Occupy protestors, Tea-Partyers, big business, super-PACS) may well have a good deal of extra energy for slamming a foot down on the brakes of anything that looks like a move towards greater organized, institutional authority. We’re struggling with our institutions. We’re not sure they can provide for us. We’re not sure they can hand us a good-enough reason to participate in them. We’re not sure we can trust their leadership. For some of us, it’ll be hard to untangle which parts of this are “America” tensions, which are “Anglican Covenant” tensions, and which are “TEC” tensions.

The problem I see is that in response to the proposed budget, and perhaps out of this emotional soupiness, a lot of anti-institutional anger has landed on “815 Second Avenue” (which doesn’t propose the budget) and the Executive Council, especially the Executive Committee (which does, and includes a few 815 folks). Some of this is, no doubt, appropriate and productive.

But how much isn’t? And, to the point, does it help us focus, or distract us from focusing, on the question of how we discern together as a national church whether streamlining our budget in this way will help us proclaim and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ? Many voices have been raised at the proposed budget, saying it could never could help us do so, but very few voices have offered an idea of what might. And I can think of at least a few reasons why the budget might have that in it after all.

Here we are, as a national church, at a budgeting moment, in a tough time for budgets. The national church has had a fierce conversation going for several years about how to become a more missional church. They have ideas; surely they want to try them. I have no doubt that the staffers feel the tension between opportunity and accountability even more acutely as our belts get tightened. We are a church that cheered on our presiding bishop when she explained that neither she nor our House of Bishops alone could immediately declare the position of the Episcopal Church to the international Anglican Communion after Gene Robinson’s confirmation in 2006 (because only General Convention speaks for the Episcopal Church), yet we also expect her to be the representative of our branch of Anglicanism to member churches in the Anglican Communion, and tend to be appalled when she’s not accepted abroad because of her gender or their disapproval of the theological positions that we arrive at (undertaking considerable wrestling and difficult discernment to get there).

Which is to say, even the top of our “org chart” (which is less of a “top” than her parallels in other Anglican Communion provinces are) is caught in tension between having a great deal of opportunity and responsibility on the one hand, and very little organizational authority on the other hand. My sense of the principle of “subsidiarity” is sympathetic to this: if we want clearer vision from the top, we have to staff it. We have to pay enough staffers that they have time to return phone calls and focus on things . . . and I’ll take a prophetic stance far enough to say we should pay enough staff that they can work 40-48 hour weeks, and not 60-80 hour weeks. Meanwhile, subsidiarity suggests (as this budget says) that other things need to be handled more locally.

I have no doubt that the budget was developed with input from some people who would love to streamline some processes so that they can pursue opportunities as they arrive, and that this budgeting was largely done in good faith, and not for mere power-gathering or political gain. We as a church get to have the conversation of whether we want to grant them that agility, or insist on our current model.

So far much of that conversation has been a fairly reactive discourse around what’s being cut. I have extensive thoughts as to what’s being cut to accomplish that streamlining, but they boil down to 1) some things must be cut to meet giving realities and 2) my background in formation as a youth, college student, parish seminarian working with youth, campus ministry intern, diocesan consultant for youth ministries, consultant for summer camp, and participant in national youth event planning through an Episcopal Relief and Development program show me very little that would be lost by acknowledging that the national office does very little youth or young adult ministry.

(The programs that likely will be lost with a much smaller national-level youth budget – Gather, EYE, annual conferences for campus ministers – are good programs; this falls under “1” above, though we might well have a conversation on what the network of diocesan youth coordinators who volunteer their time to these events would need to keep the programs running)

Add to that 3) the incredibly successful Young Adult Service Corps is (appropriately) being given additional funds to continue developing its work, and the budget reads to me the way it was presented in its brief explanatory document: an acknowledgment that different ministries are done more effectively on different levels, that the Episcopal Church does not – despite stereotypes – have all the money in the world, and that our funding is therefore being shifted to be used effectively. These statements can stir up our anxieties; it’s up to us to have a serious conversation about whether that anxiety is covering grief that we can’t do everything we used to be able to, fear that we won’t be able to do enough, confusion about how to do the work of the present moment and the road ahead, or a mistrust of anything centralized and institutional, now that the internet is letting us see a bit more of how the sausage is made.

But one thing I’ll say to that anxiety: my parish’s youth ministry will not vanish without a national church office. Neither will the youth ministry in either diocese I’ve been part of in the last ten years, nor at my sponsoring parish, or the parish I interned with during my postulancy. And beyond that, parents and families will continue to be among the primary spiritual and formative influences on their children, as they have been for generations.

Finally, I feel the most significant complaint that has been raised about the budget is that it is presented as a fait accompli – a budget we must pass . . . because the General Convention doesn’t present enough time to do anything else. This methodological critique may well point us not only to the greatest challenges, but also the new opportunities that the budget anxiety has made visible in the life of our church.

Because maybe that same interconnectedness and social technologies that let us cycle up our anxieties can offer us something else to do with that energy.

In considering how the church can do things differently, one of my go-to sources is the work of Clay Shirkey, who’s written several books (Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus) about how the internet has changed the ways people can organize themselves. Shirkey links the internet to the police forensic model: “means + motive + opportunity = outcome,” noting that the internet (like the printing press before it) has changed the “means” available to us. In the church, we have the motive and the opportunity; can we use these means to create new outcomes?

The internet and e-mail are allowing us to see more of the budget earlier, and more of the budget process . . . and it’s also revealing how little we DO see and how much more we might be able to. This strikes me not as any subterfuge on the part of the budget-drafters, but rather the fact of a pre-internet budget methodology without a seriously defined alternative – we haven’t figured out how to make use of technology to have the broader, more transparent conversation we feel might be possible now – but that’s not the budget-drafters “fault.” It’s our common growing-pain as a church, and our common responsibility to address.

In practice, I believe this looks like an effort by people with concerns to use their voices on the internet to identify each other, connect, and refine and then offer back a response to the budget (some of this is happening in comment threads here and here). There are websites out there for the price of a google search that will set up a conference call for free. In three hours, a dedicated person could set up a Wordpress or Blogspot page as a central hub to link to all the blogs out there, and for an hour a week, 6 people could offer 6 summations of what’s going on. Facebook and our blogs could be used to channel the conversation to that central site. The comment board at Program, Budget and Finance could be used to offer reflections (a later post notes that they’re reading it, although they haven’t engaged commenters directly – a position I can see some logic to without too much trouble).

As a parish assistant rector, I’m hardly the closest member of the church to the structure of these issues. But I’ve seen the reactions. And I believe that the people reacting care about the church. But if that care can be organized into a voice in the conversation, it might be able to offer that more-challenging gift: construction, rather than mere critique. What if we took our internet forums and made them the place where our voices meet? What if those who worked on the budget so far and those who might want to work on it before General Convention made the effort to trust that we all care about the gospel and the Church? I believe that the energy and passion is there. Much of it has been spent in critique; the question I’ll have in mind as I watch the next few months is, can we find it in ourselves to construct instead?

The Rev. Benedict Varnum has an M.Div from the University of Chicago's Divinity School. He is currently ordained as a transitional deacon, and anticipates ordination to the priesthood in early May. Benedict serves as Assistant Rector at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS. Benedict has directed some continuing education focus towards an interest in Systems Theory and its applications in the life of the church on various levels.

Keeping Easter alive

by Kaze Gadaway

Five Native young adults from eighteen to twenty-one walk somberly up the aisle to receive the sacrament. Their hands hang comfortably by their sides and they proceed confidently to kneel at the front of the altar. They act like they belong. “This is so awesome,” one of the youth whisper. “Everyone here treats us like we should be here.”

It’s been a long journey. I remember when they first came to the youth group with heads down and not looking at anything too closely. For some this is the first time being in a Church building. For others they had been burned with the ‘in your face’ evangelism. Most had someone in the older generation who had taught them something about Native spirituality. Wariness is a mild description of their general attitude. They always made sure the exits were clear if they wanted to leave. They grudgingly responded to comments and questions. Unsure of how even to sit comfortably, they squirmed constantly. One youth who was invited by a friend told me a year later that “You had a Simpson cartoon on the TV when I came in the first time and that told me that this would be different. I kept coming back because we always had fun.”

So how did they change?

Their journey evolved sometimes with the help of some caring congregations and often in spite of those who are still focusing on replicating itself for the sake of its own members. Youth are not always valued, especially when they bring something new into the milieu.

We began by transporting them to a local Church service and having a traditional youth meeting after the services. That didn’t work at all. There was no interest.

We started meeting in smaller groups in homes, parks and cafes. Every time we met we tried something new until we found what worked for us. Being retired, I was able to keep my focus and spend a lot of energy for this group of at risk, unchurched Natives living in a border town of radical poverty that treats them with abuse and disdain.

1) We connected to the Native spiritual tradition and began having Native ceremonies alongside our Christian ones.
2) We took trips outside our local toxic situation to expose them to people who did not despise them on sight and to give them alternatives to their reduced future.
3) We sent them to National youth programs that opened them up to meeting diverse ethnic groups and discovering others with whom they could talk openly about their sacred experiences.
4) We found Churches that would welcome the Native youth and began to participate in their ceremonies. There are still not that many Churches who welcome them.
5) We created our own study curriculum that combined Native, Christian and youth elements.
6) We created our own worship service based on the Episcopal service but with adaptions.
7) Relationships were created slowly with the youth and their families and promises were kept.
8) And above all we learned how to pray and to recognize the sacred in all things by reflection and spiritual exercises.

Now we have forty two Native youth who want to be a part of something larger than small town dreams. There seems to be a lot of complaints from local parishes that they are losing members and yet are not willing to spend the personal effort it takes to develop spirituality in youth.

With the trend of cutting off national programs and leaving youth formation to dioceses, I am afraid of what is going to happen to these youth when I retire in one year and six months. Dioceses don’t have extra money for youth programs. And new youth programs will not be generated simply because they are not being supplied from somewhere else. In talking with other youth ministers we realize that many do not appreciate how influential National programs have been for youth in all ethnic groups.

I am guessing that with the present direction of the Church I will have to create the plan to provide spiritual formation for these youth when I leave.

The difficulty is that I have been a volunteer for almost twelve years who had the time to establish the relationships needed for this ethnic group. Since we are not on the diocesan budget, all funds have to be raised slowly through grants, family and friends. Since we are isolated in Northern Arizona in a town of 5,000 people and with no local priest, we drive long distances for Church services or for relevant youth activities or even traditional Native ceremonies. Something new has to come into being.

Creative discussions are taking place on house churches and alternative forms of community worship. That’s all good. But how do we not lose these awesome youth that are now on a roll who need mentorship? I refuse to let them be cut loose to find their own way and be lost back to an unviable environment of poverty and addiction.

The only suggestion made to me that show promise is to pair off each of the youth with someone in the larger Church who will agree to mentor and advise the young one on their continued spiritual journey. This will most likely be done on line. Perhaps once a year we can meet for a community gathering.

Another suggestion is to find Churches in different places who will sponsor a youth and spend time with him or her and give encouragement as needed.

I don’t know what is going to happen to other youth groups who will be vulnerable by this change. If they are from rich white Churches who have the money to have programs, they will endure for a while. If they are ethnic groups in isolated situations, I fear they will die out. Without programs that push the young ones to think Globally and not be stuck in the local situation, only those with financial resources will be able to get beyond their village.

My prayer is that there will continue to be enough people in the Church who care about the youth that they will help with creative approaches to keep youth formation alive in one fashion or another.

I pray that Easter may continue to be a reality in their lives.

Kaze Gadway has worked with the emerging leaders of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona as a volunteer for eleven years. They are youth of promise from ages twelve to twenty-four. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She is on Facebook and blogs at infaith's posterous

Resurrection

by Sylvia Miller-Mutia

Some people want to see you...the disciples tell Jesus. In the light of all that's just happened, they might have been thinking, Maybe they want your autograph or something. After all, the disciples have just witnessed Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. They have just watched as people crowded into the streets to greet Jesus with blessings and shouts of “Hosanna!”

Jesus answers: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Glorified. If we stop right there, it sounds pretty good...Glorified. Like maybe there will be a spotlight, some applause, some glitter & a crown.

Some people want to see you...the disciples tell Jesus.

The disciples might still be optimistic or naive (or clueless) about where things are headed, but Jesus knows better...

It's like when you come into a room and your friend tells you “so and so wants to see you”...and your heart sinks because you think you know what's coming next...and it's not good.

Like your boss wants to see you, and you think, “Uh oh. The hour has come to look for a new job.”

Or the person you've been dating wants to see you and you're pretty sure they're going to say, “The hour has come for us to start seeing other people.”

Your teacher wants to see you and you think “The hour has come to register for summer school because there's no way I'm going to pass the class.”

Or your parent wants to see you and you think, “The hour has come to go to my room or get out of the house.”

Your doctor wants to see you because the hour has come to look at the test results and discuss what treatment options are left.

“Some people want to see you” the disciples tell Jesus.
“So this is it,” thinks Jesus, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

But there will be no spotlight, or applause, or glitter. There will be a crown, but it will be made of thorns. Because in John's Gospel when Jesus speaks of being “Glorified” he's talking about being crucified.

If that doesn't make any sense to you, you're not alone. It' didn't make any sense to the disciples, either. And sometimes it doesn't make sense to me.

My friend Sharon, an upstanding leader in her Unitarian Universalist congregation has started (religiously, I'd say) attending a Christian church in west Berkeley on Sunday nights. She finds the community compelling...she finds their faith compelling...she finds their prayer life compelling...she finds their action in the world compelling. The only thing that she finds really mystifying is the cross. “I just don't understand why they seem so EXCITED about this terrible thing that happened,” she says.

When I was a youth minister I would often get phone calls from salespeople trying to sell me the newest curriculum or trying to get me to buy tickets for my youth group to come to the next big youth revival. (Apparently they had missed the memo that Episcopalian youth were not exactly the “target demographic” for giant youth revivals where leaders dress in fatigues and rally kids to join the battle against the forces of sin and evil.) At the end of a phone conversation with one such salesperson, the guy (in attempt to be generous, I think) said, “It's all about the guy that died on a tree, right?” To which I replied (in my head or out loud, I can't recall), “Actually, it's all about the guy God raised from the dead.”

The truth is—it's both. Resurrection without crucifixion is meaningless. It doesn't tell the truth about our real human experience of evil, suffering, brokenness, and death. But crucifixion without resurrection is also meaningless. It doesn't tell the truth about the real power of a God who IS life, who is constantly calling forth new life, bit by bit, from every nook and cranny of our broken existence.

In John's Gospel when Jesus speaks of being “Glorified” he is talking about crucifixion AND resurrection. John testifies to this truth: crucifixion and resurrection go together. They are two sides of the same coin...two aspects of a single reality.

When Jesus talks about being “glorified” he's talking about the crucifixion AND the resurrection. When Jesus talks about being “lifted up” he's talking about being raised up on the cross...AND being raised up from the tomb, AND ultimately being raised up in glory from the earth and ascending to heaven.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. We don't have to rewind 2,000 years to come close to that hour... and we don't have to fast forward to Passion Sunday or Good Friday or Easter Day to come close to that hour. Because we can experience the moment of Jesus' glory: the moment of crucifixion, resurrection, ascension-- in a single moment; in the PRESENT moment.

The hour has come and now is

NOW is the moment of crucifixion and resurrection
NOW is the moment of judgement and of salvation
NOW is the moment falling apart and being made whole
NOW is the moment death and new life
NOW is the moment of falling down and being lifted up

For Jesus...for us...for the whole world...

I'm not trying to say that good things always come out of bad things. They don't. Sometimes bad things lead to more bad things. What I am saying is this:

Believing in God means staying open to the possibility of new life, even in the face of death.

Believing in the Resurrection means choosing to place every situation---even situations that seem hopeless—in the hands of God, and waiting and watching with hopeful anticipation for signs of new life.

Having faith means allowing ourselves—and allowing others—to be “lifted up” in the hands of God, in the hands of the angels, and in the hands of one another: lifted up to new life.


The Rev. Sylvia Miller-Mutia is the Assistant Rector and Youth and Family Minister at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA

A year of house church and home school in NYC

by Kerlin Richter

I am candidate for ordination from the Diocese of Oregon, who moved to New York City last summer with my husband and seven-year-old son to attend General Theological Seminary. In Portland, Adin was at a really awesome public school, but the school here wasn’t a good fit. He was getting stomach aches every day and feeling overwhelmed and deeply anxious, so we decided to take him out of school, at least for a little while ,and see how homeschooling would work for our family. It has been great. He and my husband are having an incredible time exploring the riches of NYC and his reading level is improving. All in all, it is working out better than we even expected.

This year I am also doing my field placement with an emerging liturgical community called Transmission. They have been meeting for the past five years in members’ homes as a “house church,” exploring ritual planning and creative liturgy. One week before Ash Wednesday, they began a three-month trial of meeting at a Lutheran Church called Grace and St. Paul’s after a long discernment about Transmission’s next steps.

There are definitely similarities between the way we are educating our son and the faith community I am partnering with. Neither one comes out of anger at “traditional” systems. I love church, I have been knit back together and felt the undeniable love of God wash over me in the context of very traditional church services. And while we are having a fabulous time this year homeschooling, Adin will probably go back to public school when the time is right. But, right now, both Transmission and homeschooling are providing space to explore and ask questions and investigate in ways that feel fresh and unique.

Adin is a very smart, self-directed kid, so much of the work I am doing as a homeschooling parent is talking with him about the things he wants to explore and providing resources for that learning to happen. It is also my job to offer him experiences and ideas he might not come up with on his own, to check out books from the library I think he might like, or take him to places he doesn’t yet know.

When I started talking with Transmission last summer, the one thing they were really clear about in wanting a “Seminarian in Residence” -- even though they are very horizontal in their leadership and didn’t need a “leader” -- was that they needed a theological resource. I talk with them about things they would like to explore, help with clairifying plans, and occasionally offer experiences or ideas that might not have come up otherwise.

I believe that authority serves best when it is a helpful resource not a programmatic and prescriptive stance of superiority. I am so grateful for my time with Transmission, not only because I have learned so much from the beautiful amazing people who have let me come along on their faith journey this year, but also for the chance to live into a model of pastor as resource.

Adin is not a blank slate waiting for me to fill in my perspective on the world, any more than the people of Transmission are empty vessels waiting for some well-poured theology. Adin wants me to help him learn. He comes to me to help him figure out the complex world he is making sense of. There are plenty of people in the world who desperately want faith leaders to be supportive of the very real journeys they are already on. People want us to offer support and ideas to broaden their questions. Educated clergy have a wealth of gifts they can offer, especially if we can do it in a spirit of humility, offering ourselves as resources.


Kerlin200.jpegKerlin Richter is a student at the General Theological Seminary in New York City and a candidate for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Oregon. Prior to coming to seminary, Kerlin was the editor of Hip Mama, a countercultural, feminist parenting ’zine. She is currently doing her field placement at Transmission, a liturgical emerging church in NYC. You can read her sermons at Postulant Mama.

Stations of the Cross and Carlsbad Caverns

by Maria L. Evans

"Truth is what is true, and it's not necessarily factual. Truth and fact are not the same thing. Truth does not contradict or deny facts, but it goes through and beyond facts. This is something that it is very difficult for some people to understand. Truth can be dangerous." ~Madeleine L'Engle

On a recent trip to Carlsbad Caverns, I was lucky enough to be visiting on a weekday with few visitors. My last visit there was on a Saturday in 1982, and that day the caverns were packed with visitors. The dearth of visitors allowed me to see something that I had not seen on that first visit--all the various grottos along the cavern walls. I was struck that they looked like miniature views of the main room--little dioramas nested within the walls. It was almost as if one could look at the grotto for a while, then turn around and see a larger recapitulation of the shapes and patterns of the rock formations in the grottos. It was almost as if they were trying to tell a story--the story of how this cave came to be, lived and grew over eons.

I still can recall vividly the first time I saw a diorama. It was on a childhood trip with my family to Florida, and we had stopped along the way near Chattanooga, TN, to a site that described the Battle of Lookout Mountain. There was a huge diorama in the main room with flashing lights and explosions and row upon row of soldiers in blue and gray. The diorama told the story by using lights and sound to direct one's attention to a different part of it, as the pre-recorded story of the Battle of Lookout Mountain unfolded.

We don't think about things much in terms of laying them out on a diorama. Now, we discover the unfolding of stories at tourist sites via higher tech means like IMAX theaters and computer simulations. But what I've always loved about dioramas are that they are a collection of details, and although the story is the entry point for the experience, they become personalized by the details we choose, so the experience can be different for us each time we view it, based on the details we choose. That doesn't tend to be our pattern when we watch a movie, where the more we see it, the more we wait in bated anticipation for the parts we most enjoy. "Oh, oh, here it comes! I LOVE this part!"

Most of the ways we see the world are linear and dichotomous. Either/or. Up/down. Right/wrong. Good/evil. With this tendency for duality and linearity in our thinking, stories have a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and the characters are generally either good or bad (although sometimes one has to wait till the end to see whether someone was ultimately good or bad.)

L'Engle's quote, however, invites us to see spirituality and religion in a non-dualistic way--as a diorama--thereby making the stories of the Bible "our stories." She invites us to consider the details--the facts, as the portal to truth rather than the definition.

As I looked at those grottos in the cavern walls, they started to remind me of the Stations of the Cross. Although it's one of the oldest forms of devotion used in Lent and Holy Week, it's also the one that can really bring out a visceral negative reaction in people. "It's too Roman Catholic." "I don't like the blood and gore." "There's unsubstantiated myth in it, like Veronica--there's no evidence a woman gave Jesus a cloth." "Jesus really didn't say some of the stuff in the Stations in the way it's told." "There's too much talking and not enough silence." "I'm not into Jesus' death, I'm into the Resurrection."

The visceral nature of some of those negative responses I've heard over the years reminds me how we describe our own pain, or a painful chapter in our lives. When we can finally break the silence, things tend to rush out of us in list upon list of "the very specific details of how we were hurt or harmed." This tends to be linear, and dichotomous--because we are venting in order to control. We control the facts in an attempt to control the truth.

I did not exactly grow up with the Stations as part of my religious tradition, but it was part of the religious tradition of the family of my best childhood friends. I never really got the point of the Stations until I wrote my own a couple of years ago. It was only when I wrote a set of Stations that I began to understand their purpose--that each station is a diorama that urges us to hear our stories within the story of Christ's passion. Who was our Simon of Cyrene, carrying our cross? Who has wept for us by the roadside? When have we encountered Christ in the simplest action of wiping another's face?

Perhaps, just as the cavern had written its own set of Stations of the Cavern, the Stations of the Cross invite us to see our life within the context of a series of dioramas of Christ's passion. What detail will we choose to let the story unfold around us and lead us to a fuller understanding of the truth of the Good News in Christ?


Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

The Hunger Games and moral formation

by Michael Russell

Just after the first Persian Gulf War began we took a family trip to Antietam to show our children, then aged 10 and 13 the place where the bloodiest since day battle of the Civil War as fought. We wanted them to understand, as best they could what the real dimensions of war were like, the close quarters and how it was possible for 23,000 people to die in them. But I did not know how well the lesson sank in until two years later when we sat having pizza after seeing “The Last of the Mohicans”. My daughters were visibly shaken. Both had seen horror films and sci-fi films, so I inquired about why they were particularly affected by this film. One of them replied, “Oh, Poppa, those are just made up stories, this was real.”

I suspect that “The Hunger Games” touches the “this is real” button in teens not because the violence in it is real, but because it is a powerful metaphorical narrative for their middle and high school experiences. There are adults who are either distant and clueless or manipulative and malevolent; social straitjackets in which they feel trapped; and, in the arena, the very embodiment of school cliques. There are the strong, good looking, popular and privileged who join forces to lord it over and inflict a variety of emotional or physical injuries or indignities on nearly everyone else. Bullying and intimidation are the order of the day.

The emotional work of teen years is to differentiate from parents and find their own voice. Peeta’s challenge to the games comes the night before when he tells Katniss he does not want to let the Capitol people win by making him someone he is not. The moral challenge of the film is the moral challenge all teens face, to find a self to be true to and to survive.

In that world, whether we like to hear it or not, parents and most adults are as Mark Twain characterized his father, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Those who are asking the question about their own parental role as moral guides are asking a question about a cohort of humans for whom peers and culture are vastly more important than parents. Moreover, just as Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Rue see the injustice and horror of these games, they see the adults’ acquiescence to its horrors. Teens are hypocrisy meters and these young people identify it as they proceed through the appalling adults they encounter along the journey.

Thus the moral question the movie poses for parents and other adults is, “How are we not like the adults in the movie?” We think we are there to guide the teens, but perhaps we would do better to examine our quietism in a world of injustices. Because, you see, we already live in Panam’s Capitol.

Every three seconds a child dies from totally preventable poverty related causes. Ten million children a year since the mid 1960’s when they started keeping count. Tens of millions more have their brains stunted, hobbling their capacities because they do not receive adequate nutrition between birth and age five. We in the US routinely spend in excess of $450 BILLION dollars in retail sales between November 1 and December 31 on holiday sales: $465bn in 2011, $453bn in 2010. Each year we spend on the holidays for the Prince of Peace more than we spent on the first three years of the Iraq war. To make it real, Jeffrey Sachs in his 2005 article on ending poverty asked the world to increase its assistance from $80bn a year to $160bn a year for ten years. The U.S. was asked for $25bn a year but said it could not afford it. We spend 18 times that much each year on Christmas alone, yet could not afford $25bn a year to end poverty.

Just these past months the Kony 2012 / Invisible Children campaign emerged and sparked remarkable attention to the use of children in fighting civil wars. It used Kony as a focal point to capture the imagination of 85 million viewers on behalf of all the children who were hurt and killed. But then Jason Russell and his colleagues found themselves severely critiqued by adult news media because the LRA had been driven from Sudan in 2005. The adults blistering the film and the foundation missed the point entirely, parsing journalistic issues into what was an exposé of the subjugation of children for war. And of course the journalists themselves had not the same success in rousing the conscience of a society as Mr. Russell had with his movie. We could go on to look at the trafficking of young men and women, honor killings and acid attacks on young Muslim girls, the bombing of schools in Nigeria; on and on go the attacks on children

We are, at the moment, in a broad discussion of when and where governments should intervene in the affairs of other governments. We are as a society exploring the boundary between individual rights and the rights of nations to govern as they please. But so far we have not seen fit to exert moral or military force on governments which simply exploit their citizens to death to enrich the oligarchs. Cell phones and Coca-cola have deeper penetration into Africa than clean water or mosquito eradication. That, too, is a moral issue for those of us in Panam’s Capitol. What moral obligation do we have to the children of other nations?

The Capitol exists in parallel with our other districts, intermingled and international, but it is there none the less. This nearby coexistence is perhaps more cruel than segregating people into districts because every day those whose lives are being sacrificed get to see the Capitol people flout economic and political fairness as they flaunt their wealth.

So the “Hunger Games” is not posing a question for how we as adults oversee the moral formation of our teens. It is our teens who, in seeing this, pose the issue of the moral formation of us adults. We are the ones who are quiescent in the face of the holocaust of children worldwide; we are presumably the ones with the power and wisdom to make a difference and who choose not to take to the streets, the churches or the ballot boxes to demand it stop. We dither over a thousand other issues because to really look at what is happening about us is so painful, so horrendous that it might well drive us mad, as it does to some of the Tribute Victors. And yet, if we hope to be a moral influence we could start in no better place than demanding an end to all the holocausts of children everywhere.

The Rev. Michael Russell is rector of All Souls', Point Loma, in the Diocese of San Diego. He is the author of Hooker's Blueprint: An Essence Outline of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, is a third time Deputy to General Convention, early adopter of technologies and blogs at Anglican Minimalist.

See also film review at The Lead.

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