The National Cathedral is shaken, and so am I

By Ellen Painter Dollar

I spent much of the final week of August in a vacation bubble, ignoring the bad news that showed up on my iGoogle news feed each morning. Instead, I pondered such vital questions as where my family should get our daily ice cream fix or which Cape Cod beach to explore. But one news story pierced my bubble and left me shaken—the photos of the National Cathedral, its spires decapitated, crooked, and cracked after the Virginia earthquake.

Twenty-one years ago, I arrived in D.C. after college graduation to be part of the Cathedral Volunteer Service Community (CVSC), a now-defunct program that provided housing, a small stipend, and a spiritual adviser to six young people every year. We shared a Cathedral-owned house on Woodley Road (which flanks the Cathedral’s north side) and worked full-time as volunteers for various urban ministry agencies.

In college, my primary community had been InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). At IVCF, I found the ease with which people talked about Jesus and their faith refreshing, after growing up in an Episcopal church where my faith walk was centered more on singing in the church choir than on exploring what it means to follow Jesus. Through IVCF, I learned to pray and to read the Bible, to claim Jesus as my savior, to explore how my faith intersected with daily life, and to love a rousing guitar-accompanied, hand-clapping praise song.

But my formative Episcopal childhood lingered. I could not embrace my IVCF friends’ positions on many social issues. Attending a nondenominational church decorated in shades of mauve with all the charm of a doctor’s waiting room, and where sermons took the form of plodding 45-minute “teachings,” I missed the structured liturgies, artful spaces, and poetic language of Episcopal worship. I was also seeking more guidance on how to model Jesus’ ministry with the poor, the sick, and the outcast. In my sheltered college world where “mission” involved mowing elderly people’s lawns and going to Fort Lauderdale over spring break to talk to drunk people about Jesus, there was little opportunity to explore Christian responses to poverty and related issues.

So when I learned about CVSC, I jumped at the chance to apply, and when I was accepted, didn’t think twice before saying, “Yes, I’ll come.” In both CVSC and my workplace (an Episcopal agency called Samaritan Ministry, where I provided job counseling and other support, mostly to homeless men), I was engaged with progressive Christians who often spoke a different language than my IVCF friends, but whose faith was equally vital and vibrant. Each Sunday, I worshipped somewhere different—the Cathedral’s cave-like lower chapels, the nontraditional Church of the Saviour in the diverse, ethnic-restaurant­‑saturated Adams Morgan neighborhood, and Episcopal churches ranging from St. Alban’s (nestled in the Cathedral’s shadow and spiritual home for many a U.S. congressperson) to St. Stephen and the Incarnation (a small, diverse, funky congregation in the not-yet-gentrified Columbia Heights neighborhood). My office occupied St. Stephen’s worn basement space; one morning I arrived at work to see a crowd gathered around a stabbing victim who later died, while another day, my colleague was robbed at gunpoint as he ate lunch at his desk.

My CVSC year fundamentally influenced the trajectory of my life and work. I continue to live out my faith with one foot in the progressive, mainline world of rich liturgy, Mozart anthems, and the “big tent,” and one in the evangelical world of Jesus-centered language, praise music, and an intimate, well-defined, and personally transformative faith. My CVSC housemates are still some of my closest and most trusted friends. At Samaritan Ministry, I started editing the newsletter along with providing counseling, which first led to a career in nonprofit communications and eventually to my current freelance writing work.

On one of my first days in D.C. in 1990, my housemates and I stood in the Cathedral nave, listening to the choir practice while we waited for our adviser to show up. I breathed in the Cathedral’s unmistakable smell, a mix of damp stone, incense, and communion wine. When I visit the Cathedral now, I breathe in that smell and immediately feel grounded, reminded of who and whose I am. During my CVSC year, I would lie in bed in my tiny third-floor bedroom, turning my face toward the window that looked directly onto the Cathedral’s central tower. I would stare at the tower, letting its transcendent but firmly planted heft remind me that I was here, in this bewildering city, doing this important but confidence-shaking work, because God had brought me here. The Cathedral was my talisman, my towering and sturdy reminder that the God of heaven and earth was here with me, in my tiny bedroom, in my work with ex-cons and addicts whose lives were so very different than mine, in my house full of seeking and flawed and wise young Christians figuring out our place in this world, what exactly we believed, and what God wanted us to do next.

Though I haven’t lived in D.C. for 12 years, the Cathedral still feels like my spiritual home, the place where I first started figuring out what I really believe as a Christian, and how God was calling me to live out that faith. After my CVSC year was over, I continued to live in the Cathedral neighborhood, in two different apartments on Wisconsin Avenue. Even after I joined one of the Church of the Saviour worship communities, I continued to attend Cathedral services and events. My husband proposed to me on the Cathedral’s south transept steps, and we were married at St. Alban’s church next door. Every time we visit D.C., we drag our sometimes-reluctant kids to the Cathedral for a visit, pointing out the house where I lived, the moon rock in the space window, the statues of presidents, the mighty towers with their clever gargoyles.

My attachment to this grand building is somewhat out of character. I tend to look for signs of God’s presence far from church buildings, in the broken, muddled, messy corners of this baffling world, where faithful people hang onto resurrection hope even as wars rage, children suffer, bodies fail, and loved ones betray. The Church of the Saviour purposefully avoided having dedicated worship space; we worshipped in a coffee house that served food during the day and hosted local musicians at night. Now, at my Episcopal church in Connecticut, I am the type of congregant who only reluctantly writes checks to help replace the roof or fix the furnace, because while I understand the need for building maintenance, it’s so much more compelling to give money to suffering people than to suburban church buildings.

Yet this one building, this National Cathedral, continues to shore up my faith in a most concrete way. The Cathedral is both solid and soaring, tangible and transcendent, rooted in this beautiful, complicated, hurting world even as it reminds me to look beyond it, to the God whose beauty is everlasting, in whose complexity lies the most simple truth, and who heals every hurt.

Seeing the towers that I gazed on from my little third-floor bedroom so badly shaken has left me shaken. The Cathedral’s earthquake damage appears to be significant, but far from fatal. The Cathedral still stands, and likely will (please God) for many years. It will continue to be one of my spiritual homes, one of the places I have encountered God in obvious and life-changing ways. The Cathedral will continue to remind me that I worship a God who is intimately engaged in this earthquake- and sin-ravaged world, who abides in all the cracked and crooked and crumbling places, while offering us a wholeness, healing, and grace that rises from the rubble. Our God, unlike my beloved Cathedral towers, is rock solid. Into his hands I offer my shaky, shaken faith.

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer whose work focuses on faith, parenthood and disability. She is writing a book on the ethics and theology of reproductive technology, genetic screening and disability, and she blogs at Choices That Matter and Five Dollars and Some Common Sense.

Courting the Holy Spirit by practicing retail politics

This article appeared earlier this week on the Times of London's blog Articles of Faith.

By Jim Naughton

Last week, while the Church of England was dealing with embarrassing revelations about how badly the Archbishops of Canterbury and York had behaved while selecting the current Bishop of Southwark, I was observing the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D. C. as it prepared to choose the successor of Bishop John Bryson Chane, who retires in November.

The process that I witnessed was so different than the one described by the late Dean Colin Slee in his now-famous memo, that it seems almost unfair to draw comparisons. In filling the vacancy in Southwark, the English method of appointing bishops was clearly at its worst. Or so one hopes. A story of subterfuge leavened with a dash of Python-like absurdity, it featured a media leak meant to scuttle two candidacies, clumsy attempts to blame the leak on an innocent party, an investigation into the leak whose findings have been kept secret, and a delicious moment in which the Archbishop of York lobbied for votes while leading a group outing to the toilet. Little wonder that members of the Crown Nominating Committee were reduced to tears during the proceedings.

The process in Washington, on the other hand, has run relatively smoothly so far, although the election will not be held until June 18. Like most Episcopal Church elections, it has been a homey affair, featuring five nominees touring the diocese on a bus, visiting parish halls, a school gymnasium and a retirement community where they gave brief talks, answered questions, and engaged voters in a dance of mutual ingratiation. In the parlance of political reporting, this four-day program was an exercise in “retail politics”, and resembled our small-market political campaigns in which candidates woo voters at coffee klatches and community picnics, and futures are made and lost over crullers or ham salad.

The five nominees comprised a cathedral dean from Atlanta and rectors from Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and Washington itself. Three were men, two were women, and one of the men was an African-American. They had been selected from a field of ten priests who had attended a three-day retreat with the diocesan search committee in January. Those ten had been chosen from a pool of some 80 would-be candidates who had either “allowed their name to go forward,” or had put their names forward themselves.

On the evening that I caught up with the candidates, some 300 people had assembled in the gymnasium of an Episcopal school located in one of the four Maryland counties included in the diocese. A crowd of similar size had greeted them on the previous evening at a church in Washington near the State Department.

The average Episcopalian is older than the average American, a fact evident in the gymnasium that night. But the crowd was more diverse than the diocese as a whole, as it had been the previous evening. While certain Washington churches are home to the capitol’s elite, the sometimes-tedious work of running a church or diocese falls here, as elsewhere, to dedicated, but largely anonymous believers. There were no talk show fixtures in the gym, no deputy undersecretaries, but, this being Washington, there were probably several lawyers on hand.

Episcopalians refer to these events as “walkabouts,” realizing that Australians mean something different when they use that phrase. The gatherings are instructive as much for the sometimes deliberate and sometimes unintentional ways the nominees give glimpses into their characters, their passions and their leadership styles, as for their responses to questions about controversial issues.

One couldn’t leave the gym that night without knowing that the Rev. Marianne Budde of Minneapolis is fired by the opportunity to meld the insights of her faith with the insights of psychology and organizational behavior in running a complex faith-based organization, or that the Very Rev. Sam Candler of Atlanta thinks as deeply and speaks as movingly about what happens when a person comes forward to receive the Eucharist than any five people you know, or that the Rev. Jane Gould has responded with pastoral acumen and sensitivity when trouble came to her door in the depressed former mill town of Lynn, Massachusetts.

Over the course of the evening, one couldn’t help but notice that the Rev. Canon John Harmon of Washington, the most formal of the nominees, has a particular rapport with older members of the audience, and a disarming way of talking about the ways in which mother figures had shaped his ministry, or that the Rev. Ronald Abrams of Wilmington, N. C. built his ministry one relationship at a time, and that his direct and unpretentious nature spoke of a genuineness that was probably most impressive in a smaller format.

This sort of information may be more valuable than knowing where the nominees fit in the grand scheme of church politics. Bishop Chane, for instance, was a leader of our church’s left wing, but enjoyed an excellent relationship with the leaders of the diocese’s most conservative parish, who felt warmly toward him on a personal level, even though they thought he was a heretic.

Some controversial issues, however, are matters of immediate pastoral concern. The nominees were unanimous in their support for permitting—but not requiring—parishes to offer Holy Communion to the unbaptized, though most expressed the hope that the reception of Communion would lead to Baptism. (If you are in need of someone to defend this position in a room-quieting, pulse-quickening kind of way, Sam Candler is your man.) I believe they were unanimous in permitting clergy to bless same-sex relationships throughout the diocese—although it wasn’t clear how most felt about allowing clergy to marry such couples in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal. Canon Harmon’s answer was the most nuanced of the five on this issue—He spoke of “building on” the current permissive policy—and I am not sure that I understood him.

I don’t believe that the election in Washington will turn on the question of the Anglican Covenant because the document has been largely ignored at the grassroots level in the Episcopal Church, just as it has in the wider Communion. Only Candler and Gould, the two nominees who have played significant roles at our church’s General Convention, offered firm opinions on whether Episcopalians should adopt or reject the covenant. Gould, who helped design a comprehensive review of the document in her diocese, said that Massachusetts wanted no part of the covenant, calling it “legalistic and punitive.” Candler, knowing that most of his usual allies in the church differ with him on this issue, acknowledged the weaknesses of the covenant, especially the disciplinary provisions in the fourth section, but argued that the church should sign it anyway. “I am not afraid of the Anglican Covenant,” he said, expressing confidence in the Episcopal Church’s ability to remain true to its moral convictions whether it signs the covenant or not.

As a member of the diocese, getting some sense of the candidate’s characters, styles and priorities was important to me, but I wondered to about the lessons that an outsider, especially a member of another church in the Anglican Communion, would have taken from the evening. Here are four:

1. That those who say that the leaders of the Episcopal Church are less interested in Christianity than in liberal social engineering are making sweeping generalizations based on too small a sample. Each of the nominees spoke movingly about his or her religious upbringing or moment of conversion, call to ordained ministry and prayer life.

2. That Episcopalians are guided by two Jewish rabbis, one who has risen from the dead, and one who has not. The work of Rabbi Edwin Freidman in using the insights of family systems therapy to make sense of congregational behavior, set healthy boundaries and manage resistance to change, was mentioned several times in this gathering, as it often is when Episcopal clergy get together.

3. That Episcopalians realize that their membership is dwindling, that numerous congregations in every diocese may be too small to succeed, and that no one quite knows what to do about this beyond merging or closing struggling parishes.

4. That on the questions of doctrine that threaten to break the Communion, Episcopalians are comfortable with the notion that doctrine develops over time, that our knowledge of God’s will is culturally and historically conditioned, and that what is morally sound in one era is an outrage in another. They have gained confidence in their ability to worry complex issues through to a proper conclusion—one that usually involves room for disagreement. And after they do so, they believe it is wrong not to act.

The Episcopal Church’s system is not without flaws. We sometimes elect nominees who are better suited to running for bishop than to being bishop, and women and African-Americans are still underrepresented in the ranks of the episcopacy. I am sure that no English reader will be surprised to learn that there are limits to American wisdom. Yet I do not believe it is necessary to defend the proposition that that all Christians are responsible for the church’s flourishing and its fidelity, and from this conviction flows our ways of electing our bishops and governing our church.

It is tempting, of course, to argue that the openness of the Episcopal system throws a harsh light on the cruel and clownish antics described in Dean Slee’s memo, but no political process, whether it ends in election or appointment, can reliably claim to have discerned the will of God. For that reason it would seem best to let each province in the Anglican Communion chart its own uncertain course, each encouraging the other despite our differences. This is a sentiment so banal that I express it only because it is not widely shared. For those of us outside of the Church of England, the lesson of the see of Southwark is not that the English system for selecting bishops is broken, but rather that disputes within the Anglican Communion cannot be resolved as the covenant would have it: with a small panel of insiders meeting in secret under the guidance of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Jim Naughton is a partner in Canticle Communications and editor of Episcopal Café.

Supporting gay marriage in DC

District of Columbia Council – Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary
Public Hearing on Bill 18-482
Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

My name is Paul Roberts Abernathy. I am the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill – a community of 700 souls and many family configurations. A single mother whose adopted daughter was born in China. A gay couple, together now 21 years, who, eight years ago, adopted their son from Vietnam. A lesbian couple at whose commitment service I was privileged to preside and whose children I have been honored to baptize. Heterosexual couples, white, black, and interracial, married for years ranging from one to nearly fifty. Single people of all ages. St. Mark’s is many families with one set of family values: love and respect, fidelity and stability.

Concerning equality, we believe that God, to paraphrase our national creed, endows us all with the inalienable right of life and love founded in relationships of faithful commitment, and, through such, the right to all civil liberties and legal responsibilities appertaining thereto.

I affirm the right of others to hold other views. Yet, as a Christian, I heed the biblical witness of Jesus who quoted Genesis, “From the beginning, God made them male and female,” specifically in reply to a question about divorce, therefore decidedly not in response (nor do I believe it should be used today to respond) to an issue that, in his day, did not exist: same-sex marriage.

Throughout history we have changed our laws to reflect our ever deepening consciousness about what promotes a productive, stable society. This legislation addresses an issue that in our day does exist and, more importantly, acknowledges the reality that same-sex relationships are a part of the rich tapestry of life in our beloved District of Columbia. Thus, I advocate the passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009.

I close with a very real story. John and Kevin were proud fathers of their son. John was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage. Kevin, considered only a friend by hospital staff, even in possession of a living will and a power of attorney, initially was not allowed to share in life and death decisions. John died. Kevin received no Social Security spousal benefit. (The procurement of Social Security, as a federal benefit, is yet another element of the long journey toward equality.) Had Kevin not been gainfully employed, John’s death, already devastating beyond words to tell, would have proved wholly financially debilitating.

Grave inequality makes for gross injustice, the sort of which no culture of compassion dare tolerate. I pray your benevolent consideration. Thank you.

Read the Rev. Abernathy's All Saints Day sermon, in which he reflects on the experience of offering this testimony.

Crafting a liturgy of remembrance on Día de los Muertos

By Sarabeth Goodwin

St. Stephen and the Incarnation’s Misa Alegría congregation was just six months old when I suggested we might celebrate Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – as a way to invite our English-speaking brothers and sisters to join us around the table. After all, most North Americans have some inkling of this strange and colorful holiday that is the Mexican commemoration of All Souls’ Day. My excitement waned when the proposal was greeted by silence from my mostly Central American congregation. Finally one person ventured, “Madre, this is not our custom.” I replied, “You know, it’s not really mine either, but let’s give it a try. Perhaps it will become our custom.”

With some hesitancy we moved forward… together. At our first celebration in the parish hall, our Mexican members built the communal altar while others watched. We decorated the Ofrenda with colored lights and bright-colored tissue paper cut with smiling skulls. There were flowers and fruit, and a large bone-shaped bread dusted with sugar and hand carried from Oaxaca where the mother of one of our members is the village baker. Photos of deceased loved ones nestled beside handmade paper skeletons. A tiny papier-mâché dog skeleton with a green hat held a loaf of bread in its mouth while little plates of food and even a bottle of Corona stood waiting. In the middle was a cross with a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe in its center.

All Souls’ Day is celebrated in many countries, most often by visits to the graves of loved ones, which are swept, cleaned and often ornately decorated with seasonal flowers. Families spread blankets and share picnics with others who have come to honor and remember their loved ones. These customs have roots in the European Middle Ages. In Mexico, the celebration brought by Spanish missionaries has incorporated elements from pre-Christian native cultures. As with many things Mexican, this fiesta has taken on color and energy with the richness of multi-layered symbolism. Perhaps it is the hint of these indigenous roots that surprise us and attract us too.

At St. Stephen’s, our custom of Día de los Muertos is an evolving one. What began as an experiment in folk religion has become a liturgy of remembrance. Our celebration of All Saints and All Souls are now seamlessly joined by a procession from the nave to the adjoining chapel where the Ofrenda in all its gaudy glory is censed and blessed. Alfredo sounds the conch shell used by generations of his family to summon workers to supper. The deep, mournful tone fills the soaring spaces of St. Stephen’s and fills our hearts as well. We call out the names of those we love but no longer see. We light tapers and set them in the sand in a large cooking pot. Brightly colored sticky notes bear the names of loved ones on the wall of remembrance. And in an extension of our Eucharistic feast, we share our favorite foods in a pot-luck of joy and remembrance.

We can now claim we have worked together to make this custom ours. We have been enriched beyond measure by our common worship. New life has been born out of a splendid celebration of diversity and tradition. The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, a feast day too often forgotten, helps us see the saints we have known, loved and still love side-by-side with the glorious saints that inhabit Butler’s Lives of the Saints sporting the halos in religious iconography. All are part of the Great Cloud of Witnesses that surrounds us. In a bright and shining moment, we recognize the truth of the words the English speakers sing at the Offertory, “for the saints of God are just folk like me...God help me to be one too.”

The Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin is Latino Missioner at St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington, D.C.

Mourning Cathedral College

The Daily Episcopalian will be the Somewhat-Less-Frequent Episcopalian during the Christmas holidays.

By Kathleen Staudt

Like many people I have felt great sadness at the news that the Washington National Cathedral will be “suspending” programs at the Cathedral College beginning March 31, and until further notice. Sad, certainly, about beloved staff members who will be laid off. Two programs that I’m involved in with Esther de Waal, are still a “go” for the month of February – “Approaching God Through Poetry” from February 2-6, and a weekend conference on “Faith, Art and Poetry in a Post-Christian Age” February 27-1. I wouldn’t ordinarily “plug” these except that I think people may not realize that the conferences being offered before March 31 are still a go this year, and may offer a last chance for awhile (we hope not forever) to be in this very special place. But the closing of the College feels to me a bit like a death in the family – and it has me reflecting on what the place has meant to my own spiritual growth over the years.

The College has been a part of my inner spiritual landscape for many years. I first visited there on a Saturday in June, perhaps in 1995 or 1996, for a Quiet Day in honor of Evelyn Underhill, a yearly event that we have held at the College whenever we could reserve the space. We met in the book-lined library, with its black chairs and red cushions, worn but homey rugs, and those high casement windows, facing out on the “garth” at the center of the place, and the thick stone walls that turn out to be soaked with prayers. Especially as we shared communal silence, I was aware that this was sacred space. If you have been there when there aren’t many people around, you may know that feeling—walking into the foyer of the place, one experiences a resonant silence, and a sense of being at home.

I went often to the College for quiet during the years when my two children were attending Cathedral schools, working, with permission, as a kind of always-unofficial “fellow” on various writing projects. I would go there after teaching and before a late-evening carpool pickup, or in the early morning after dropping off my chorister for rehearsal, and spend a few hours in the gentle half-light coming in the windows from the garth, finding a creative energy in the awareness that this was a place where many people have come to find focus, to do one thing for awhile and refresh their ministry.

And over the years I’ve been involved in various programs, mostly locally directed, in the College. I remember gathering in the chapel one year at the end of an Evelyn Underhill day, in a violent thunderstorm, the rain beating on the roof, as we celebrated Eucharist with then-program director Fred Schmidt presiding, and experiencing the white linen, the candle-light, and the gathered community as a kind of stronghold. I remember a retreat for MTS students from Virginia seminary, held in the white-paneled, light-filled lounge, where we began to share stories of how we had experienced God’s call to discipleship, and found ourselves in tears of amazement at the affirmation and welcome that we were able to provide one another – a group of laity called to ministry in the world, in a place so often used for the nurture of clergy. We truly sensed the liveliness and vigor of the Holy Spirit working among us that day. And it wasn’t the first time I’d met Her there.

And I remember two years of regular meetings, in the shabby but lived-in seminar room, with a lively group of gifted spiritual companions, dreaming up together a new educational program on “The Art of Spiritual Companionship” – now in its second run at the Cathedral in 2008-9. I don’t know what will happen to this program, but the fellowship of those planning meetings, in that little room beside the chapel with its worn upholstered chairs and heavy wooden furniture, was charged and fruitful time.

Last year, I worked with Esther de Waal and Bonnie Thornton leading a week long program on “Approaching God through Poetry” with a lively group of more than 30 participants who were in residence for the week. All week we took in and shared the spiritual power of shared imagination, and of the beauty of the place, the silvery bronze light of February in Washington reflecting off the stone cloister around the garth, and illuminating our gatherings. Anyone who has been to the College for some time in residence can appreciate the fellowship that came in gathering for (very good) meals in the refectory, with high-vaulted gothic ceilings and portraits of previous wardens gazing down – and many will remember special insights that come out of those conversations, with a group of people who have stepped out of the swirl of life for a few days, into the sheltered calm of these massive stone walls. Upstairs where overnight guests stay, the rabbit warren of hallways and rooms gives a sense of secret blessings hidden away, and invites withdrawal into solitude with God. It is obvious, if you look closely, how huge the burden of deferred maintenance must be for this quirky old building. There have been leaks and peeling paint and cold radiators here and there for years. Still, living among those prayed-in corners and for a weekend retreat a few years ago taught me a lot about solitude with God – and in learning there I felt myself sustained by the prayers of generations.

At a plenary session during our poetry week last year, Esther de Waal and then-warden Howard Anderson were making connections between the sense of place that flows through Celtic tradition and the reverence for land and locality in Native American tradition. Alluding to our own indigenous tradition, and speaking of the College, Howard affirmed that “an Underground River flows beneath this place.” I have felt that energy, too, gathering with others or coming alone for prayer, learning and reflection, in the “thin place” that the Cathedral College has become for me. I have no inside information on the future, though clearly there are huge financial challenges. I’m told that there are task forces gathering to consider both the Cathedral’s vision for education and the future of the buildings, and I pray for their work. Yet even if the College must be closed soon (hard as that still is for me to imagine), I believe that the Underground River keeps flowing. You can’t stop it. It carries the wellspring of spiritual energy that has brought so many to the College for so many years. And I pray that we will see it springing up again, and bringing renewed life to this beloved and prayed-in place.

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt (Kathy) keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

Homecoming Sunday

By Kathy Staudt

For my church’s 50th anniversary celebration we held a “homecoming” party recently, inviting back former clergy and active members who had moved away, for an evening of food, wine and mingling, a wonderful slide show of our history, a hymn-sing and some remarks from former clergy. The program for the evening was deliberately loose and simple. The point was to come together and to enjoy seeing one another again.

And the evening was full of the usual family-reunion exclamations: “How are you! Look at you! How you’ve grown! You haven’t changed! Wow! Here you are! Here we are! And, since this was across generations: “If only x (not here) could see us now! I really want you to meet x! It’s hard to believe you’ve never met, you’ve both been so important to me!” And of course, the greeting heard most commonly, that evening “It is so good to see you!”

“It is good to see you!” The experience of being together belongs to something that goes even deeper than the conversational details of questions like “How has your week been?” “What are the children up to?” “How’s work/what do you do for a living?” Even without specific personal information, there is something holy about the presence we are for each other when we gather for church. The familiar faces, and companions in worship, tell us something about who we are and what we belong to. I believe it is our way of expressing and experiencing a growing culture of ubuntu that concept that has been held up as a model in our conversations about the Anglican Communion. Ubuntu is the awareness, essential to African culture, that “I am because we are.” In his book God Has a Dream, Archbishop Tutu writes, “The first law of our being is that we are set in a delicate network of interdependence with our fellow human beings and with the rest of God’s creation. . . ubuntu is “the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and inextricably bound up in yours.” (God Has a Dream, p. 25)

“It is good to see you” It is good to be together, because each of us is shaped by what the other brings. Ubuntu, I have come to believe, is an experience, rather than a theological concept; I have learned most about it simply by worshiping with people from various parts of Africa, who make up a large proportion of our congregation now though we started life, 50 years ago, as a suburban “white-flight” congregation like many others in the suburban DC area. At our festival celebration, Bishop John Chane described our congregation today as “ the face of the Anglican Communion,” and this rings true. The welcome we gave each other at our homecoming weekend stretched across generations, cultures and races, reflecting the increasingly multicultural history of this congregation and of the larger church we belong to. It reminded me, repeatedly, about God’s dream for us and who we are called to be as church, both locally and internationally.

“It is so good to see you!” When we say the to each other on Sundays, or at a reunion, we are not just making conversation. “I see you” is in fact an African greeting. To see each other, gathered for church, is to see who we are in God’s presence. We sing together, with great enthusiasm and expressiveness; we gather at the altar, and we recognize in these experiences glimpses of who God calls us to be as a human family. Even though there is little we fully agree on, even though we have our conflicts, anxieties, financial issues and prejudices, there is at the heart of our common life an awareness that being together has shaped us, each of us and all of us, in our journey with God We are learning, slowly, that church is about welcoming one another and being transformed, sometimes radically, by each other’s experience. We are learning that what draws us together, in song and prayer, worship and common mission, is greater than the differences between us.

“This is what heaven will be like!” one old friend remarked, as more and more familiar faces appeared at the homecoming party. But even more moving for me was the simple joy of being together at this event. It offered a glimpse of how we live into the Dream of God in this life. At the hymn-sing, full of old favorites, we sang the truth about ourselves in God’s eyes: “O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,” we sang. “Come, we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known,” we sang -- “we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground. . , to” the beautiful city of God.” We’re not there yet, but we are on the journey together, and we continue to grow from being together. It is good to celebrate that, each Sunday, as at our home-coming -- good to be together, Good to see everyone again!

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt (Kathy) keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

The Lambeth Conference:
The turning point that wasn't

By John Bryson Chane

The 2008 Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of bishops from around the Anglican Communion, can best be described in two words; optimistic and troublesome.

I have always believed that relationship building must be at the center of all we do in the life of the Anglican Communion, and this year’s conference, which drew more than 650 bishops to the University of Kent in Canterbury, provided a great opportunity for this to begin in a way that was not the case at the previous gathering. The non-legislative nature of this conference was in many ways a success.

The first three days, which had been set aside as a retreat for the bishops at Canterbury Cathedral led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, set a reflective tone. Following the retreat, each day began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist hosted by one of the Communion’s provinces. Daily Bible study in groups of around 12 persons from diverse backgrounds followed, and then we met in Indaba groups of about 40 bishops (Indaba taken from the African experience of meaningful conversation between people of good will.) These groups engaged in discussions ranging from the role of bishops in the Communion to the Millennium Development Goals, and sharing our experiences of ministering in our own dioceses and provinces. Afternoons were spent participating in programs covering everything from the MDGs, human sexuality and canon law to hearings on the drafting of the proposed Anglican Covenant and the ongoing work of refining the Windsor Report. Then came Evening Prayer, followed by special presentations by the Archbishop of Canterbury and outside guests on topics such as evangelism, respectful dialogue, the environment, ecumenical and interfaith issues and the challenges that are present in the life of the Communion.

A powerful “coming together event” involving the bishops and their spouses was a mile-and-a-half march through central London in support of the MDGs, ending at Lambeth Palace where Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Williams and Hellen Wangusa, our Anglican Observer to the United Nations, gave impassioned addresses, challenging the Communion and our respective countries to engage in a more meaningful effort to end poverty and to take seriously the call to halve poverty levels globally by 2015. The event was followed by a luncheon on the grounds of Lambeth Palace, and concluded with a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

All of this was mostly positive, and it gave me the opportunity to describe the polity of the Episcopal Church to bishops from other provinces – how we are governed by the voices and votes of the laity, clergy and bishops and not by the solitary decision making of the bishop or primate of the province. Some African bishops expressed wonderment that American bishops had very little decision making and enforcement power and saw our system as difficult, if not unworkable. One bishop from Sudan came up to me after I spoke at a hearing on the Windsor Report and apologized for his primate’s position on human sexuality. He told me he had been threatened with losing his diocesan oversight if he attended the Lambeth Conference. Others from Africa, India and Asia had not been aware of the incursion of primates and bishops from overseas jurisdictions into the Episcopal Church and were saddened to learn that such behavior was seemingly tolerated by some in leadership positions within the Communion.

It was reassuring to me that many bishops, even those who do not share our understanding of human sexuality in the life of the church, said their disagreement with me and the Episcopal Church was not a “breaking point” in our relationship. Some said they knew in time they would have to be facing the same issue in their own countries, and we all needed to have more conversation about human sexuality in a non-legislative format. All of these reflections, although problematic in some instances, were centered on an optimism that can hold us together as a Communion if we continue to work at it and not remain in isolation from one another. I came away from these engagements with bishops from other provinces with a far clearer understanding of the challenges they face and their near total lack of basic resources to care for their people; resources that we in the West too often take for granted.

What I found troubling was the manner in which the reports from the Indaba and Bible study groups were given, and how the hearings on both the Windsor Continuation study and the Covenant were finally presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his remarks toward the end of the conference. I was troubled because what was reported did not seem to capture the real flavor of what had been going on during the almost three weeks of our time together as bishops. I have always believed that politics plays a huge role in the decision making of the Communion, and the close of the Lambeth Conference was a clear indication that politics trumped the power of conversation, reconciliation and hard work that so many bishops exerted in their time together.

It is my opinion that in order to placate those primates and bishops who chose to absent themselves from the Lambeth Conference and instead attended the GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem, and to quell the growing dissension within the Church of England over the recent decision to ordain women bishops, and the issues of human sexuality in Holy Orders, Archbishop Williams sought what he believed was a middle way that unfortunately continues to marginalize the Canadian and American churches. Once again, more emphasis was placed on the sexuality issue as being the “line drawn in the sand” that threatens Anglican unity, with little attention paid to the invasion of primates and bishops from other provinces who continue to wreak havoc in some dioceses within the Episcopal Church. There was no discussion of the struggle for power within the Communion, so evident in the rhetoric of GAFCON, that would marginalize the historic roots of Anglicanism and the unifying role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. There was far too much recognition of those who chose not to participate in this Lambeth Conference and far too little recognition of those bishops who chose to come; among them some who did not want to have their names released to the press as participants for fear that their boycotting primates would punish them when they returned home.

I believe that this gathering had a great chance to move forward in relationship building, and to some extent, as I have mentioned earlier, it did. But when it came to addressing the pressing needs of the Communion to develop a global Anglican strategy to address the issues of disease, poverty, illiteracy, the environment and state-sponsored violence against civilian populations, this conference succumbed to “blaming the victims.” As in 1998, the victims are those whose sexual orientation happens to be different from the majority. It is far easier to blame our divisions and our inability to act as a united Communion to address pressing global issues on those least able to defend themselves. Blaming the least among us continues to divert our attention away from the issues that threaten the very existence of humankind and the environmental health of our planet.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for sacrifices to be made to keep the garment of the Communion together. And for the American and Canadian churches, that clearly means sacrificing once again the full participation of gay and lesbian persons in the life of our church. I for one will not ask for any more sacrifices to be made by persons in our church who have been made outcasts because of their sexual orientation.

This Lambeth Conference could have been a positive turning point for the Anglican Communion, but instead the powers that be chose to seek a middle way that is neither “the middle” nor “the way.” It will therefore be up to bishops from around the Communion who have continuing partner and companion relationships to work toward a more holistic view of the church. The Anglican Communion must face into the hard truth that when we scapegoat and victimize one group of people in the church, all of us become victims of our own prejudice and sinfulness.

In Christ, all things are made new. May the living presence of Jesus Christ empower us all to be a part of this new creation and may the Anglican Communion become a new creation, filled with the courage to lead, and an unfailing trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls each one of us to be part of a new journey, knowing that to fear in such an effort is to be unfaithful to the one who reminds us, “be not afraid for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane is Bishop of Washington. This column originally appeared in the diocesan newspaper, the Washington Window.

Celebrating Justice Marshall

Bishop John Bryson Chane writes to his diocese:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As you may remember, our diocese is proposing that the Episcopal Church include civil rights leader and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on its liturgical calendar. By resolution of the 2006 Diocesan Convention, we recommended that May 17, the anniversary of Marshall’s victory in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case be observed as his feast day.

The 2006 General Convention referred the resolution to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, which, we hope, will bring it forward at the 2009 General Convention, next summer in Anaheim.

One important criterion that the Commission considers is whether there is widespread local observance of a candidate’s proposed feast day. So to strengthen our presentation at the 2009 General Convention and, more importantly, to hold up before our people the Christian witness of Justice Marshall, please plan to observe Saturday May 17 or Sunday May 18 as Thurgood Marshall Day in your parish.

You can learn more about Justice Marshall at

In Christ’s Peace Power and Love,
Bishop John Bryson Chane

The Washington Window has written numerous stories on the effort to include Marshall's name in the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. (1, 2, 3, 4.) The mainstream media has also paid some note.

Liturgical resources for the feast of Thurgood Marshall, May 17

Propers suggested by the Diocese of Washington. Music suggested by students at Seabury-Western Seminary and St. Augustine’s Church, Washington, D. C.

Eternal and Ever-Gracious God, you blessed your servant Thurgood with special gifts of grace and courage to understand and speak the truth as it has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Grant that by his example we may also know you and seek to realize that we are all your children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, whom you sent to teach us to love one another; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Suggested scripture readings
Amos 5:10-15, 21-24
Psalm 34:15-22
I Corinthians 13:1-13
Matthew 23:1-11

Suggested Music
Song of Praise
Christ Has Arisen from Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS) 41

Zimbabwe Alleluia

Offertory Hymn
How Great Thou Art LEVAS 60

Memorial Acclamation Sung to the tune of We Shall Overcome:

Jesus Christ has died.
Jesus Christ is risen.
Jesus Christ will come again.
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
Jesus Christ will come again.

Communion Hymn
Just As I Am LEVAS 137

Processional Hymn (and Marshall’s personal favorite)
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory LEVAS 226

Coming to Church: a reminiscence

By Greg Jones

I am an Episcopalian. Not by accident of birth, or cultural happenstance. No, I am an Episcopalian because The Episcopal Church welcomed me, embraced me, and initiated me into the mysterious Body of Christ Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the Whole World, of which our church is a vital part.

I do not come from a 'cradle Episcopalian' family. My paternal grandmother was most decidedly uninterested in organized religion. My paternal grandfather was a Baptist. My maternal grandparents were extremely traditional old world Roman Catholics. My father was not raised in any Christian church, my mother left Roman Catholicism as soon as she could, and most of my cousins were almost entirely unchurched in their growing up.

I spent a great deal of time with a family in our neighborhood that had tons of kids and they became like another family for me – the mother of which led the choir in a Methodist church. I joined that choir – and thus began my first experience of church life. "All Thing Bright and Beautiful" was my favorite hymn from those days. I was five years old, to be exact, when I sang in a Methodist children's choir.

My parents separated before I entered the first grade, and for the rest of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, I would shuttle between households. However, and thankfully, at the very time of my parents' divorce, a neighbor invited us to attend worship at his church. It was St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and from the moment we walked in the front door on Albemarle Street, I knew I had a home. Not only a spiritual home – but a home made of bricks and mortar, wood and glass, with a fixed location and a glorious capacity to bring people in. Every time I drove by my parish I would look at it and smile – and know that it was my place too.

St. Columba's was undergoing revival in those days, seeing tremendous growth in worship attendance, music ministry, outreach, mission, education, and spiritual formation – much like St. Michael's is today. I joined the choir there – my mother took classes and was received into the Episcopal Church – and for the rest of my childhood we spent most of our quality time associated with parish life in one form or another.

My first band played there – we played rock and roll at a talent show – and some poor kid in my band even did a break-dancing routine. (It was 1982.) I knew every single square foot of that entire facility. When they had a capital campaign and added significantly to the worship space and bought a world-class organ – it was something I was very excited about, even as a young kid. I took great pride in the beautification and expansion of the nave – and in the glorious sound which came from the organ. The beautiful architecture and the music formed me deeply.

Choir, Sunday School, retreats, youth trips, soup kitchen work, friendships, pancake suppers, weddings, funerals, sneaking around with a pack of kids – it was all what made that parish my home and my way into the Kingdom.

Quite simply, other than my own parents and grandparents, and a few other people – no other place, no other community, no other shaping force has done more to make me who I am than the Episcopal Church – as found on Albemarle Street in Washington, D.C.

If it weren't for the Episcopal Church, as expressed in that congregation with its very specific place in space and time, and its faithfulness to the Gospel, I wouldn't even know who I was. Thank God for the evangelism of the people of St. Columba's who knew that it takes more than talk to spread the Good News. It takes more than getting doctrine right. It takes more than knowing what the Scripture says. It takes more than all of that. It takes the creation of a spiritual home which is alive in the Spirit, and which is truly focused on being the place where disciples of Jesus worship God, meet and grow together, and are formed into the full stature of Christ.

For this I continue to be grateful for and at home in the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ("Greg") was educated at the University of North Carolina and the General Theological Seminary, where he is on the Board. Greg is rector of St. Michael's Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at

Matters of life and death

By Martin L. Smith

I was walking along P Street in Washington, D. C., the other day pondering a phrase our Presiding Bishop used in a recent webcast, when she spoke of the need for the church to move on from the controversies surrounding sexuality to “refocus on matters of life and death like starvation, education, medical care.” I know she was using “life and death” to mean “of the highest priority.” But for gay people it’s hard to hear straight folks using language that, even inadvertently, seems to imply that the struggles we must undergo are not matters of life and death. In fact they are—sometimes in the most literal way. Ironically, I found myself halting outside the paint store on the corner of 15th Street NW. It was here that my partner and I experienced the second of two attempted gay-bashing assaults.

It happens so quickly, as any victim of a street crime will tell you. Thugs suddenly came pouring out of a huge SUV. They screamed for our blood using anti-gay curses that left their motive in no doubt. As we ran for our lives, with the pounding of their boots on the sidewalk drumming in our ears, we never thought we could outrun them. But we eventually shook them off when we reached an area perhaps too brightly lit for them. This nightmare repeated a similar incident several months earlier that began outside the fire station on 13th Street, as we were walking home after supper. We also managed to escape that time, ending up in an alley retching from the effort, just glad to be alive.

Perhaps you’re thinking murder is an exaggeration. Well, no. A priest friend of mine was the victim of a gay-bashing in Logan Circle so violent that he would almost certainly have died had not a horrified passerby made a 911 call that brought a police car quickly to the scene. I also think of a seminarian friend, who was so brutally smashed up by a homophobic assailant wielding a tire iron that five operations on his head and brain were required. He was too disabled to be ordained and died two years later in an accident caused by the side effects of his medications.

Life and death. I hope we will find other language that can unite us around a cause that our Presiding Bishop is perfectly right to emphasize—global claims of mission and justice. However, I hope we’ll never imply that the claims of gay and lesbian folk to equality, respect and security lie outside the realm of life and death matters. We must be careful what we say.

What will we say when we are trying to comfort two parents, friends, whose teenage son, an acolyte, has committed suicide, leaving a note about his despair in the face of bullying and his lack of faith in the possibility of happiness? They know that issues of sexual orientation are matters of life and death, not merely an irritating distraction from nobler causes. What do we say when a priest friend who has moved into a neighboring parish finds herself being trailed for by a stalker, whom she discovers to be an agent of an anti-gay organization notorious for its tactics of defamation? Not an issue of life and death?

As I paused outside the paint store, I realized I had never told the story of the two attempted assaults from which I had narrowly escaped to more than a few friends. I didn’t want to worry my family, and these are grotesque stories for a middle-aged clergyman to recount. Yet the real reason is that most gay folk are trained to take their vulnerability for granted. We suck it in. But maybe we must change that. Straight people enjoy innumerable unearned privileges denied to gays, just as white folk have unearned privileges denied to people of color. We shouldn’t add another one to the list, the privilege of being spared the pain of hearing about our wearying and incessant experiences of being attacked, condescended to, marginalized, insulted and patronized.

No one looks forward more eagerly than gay folk to the day when issues like the eligibility of partnered gay and lesbian priests for the office of bishop will sink to a lower place in our order of priorities. But in the painful meantime, while the progress of equality in the ministry is temporarily halted, the task of making sure that the life and death stories of gay and lesbian people are heard grows in urgency. And gay and lesbian Christians will have to become more outspoken, not less, even in the face of pressure from those who seem to be signaling that it is high time we fell silent again.

Martin L. Smith is a well-known spiritual writer and priest. He is the senior associate rector at St. Columba’s in Washington, D.C.

Why I am an Anglican

By Kit Carlson

For many years, I was a serious Anglophile. I loved being an Episcopalian, because we talked like Thomas Cranmer every single week (at least until the 1979 revision of the Prayer Book). I was obsessed with the Masterpiece Theater series on Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and the connection between my local church and the its convulsive beginnings in the 15th Century was really powerful for me.

As I got older, I drifted in and out of churches. As a young 20-ish woman, there was nothing that spoke to me in most Sunday services. But on All Saints Sunday 1986, my husband and I wandered into Our Saviour Episcopal Church, just next to the Beltway in suburban Maryland. We had relocated to Silver Spring, I was pregnant with our first child, and I wanted to find a church we could settle down in as a family.

Our Saviour had a pipe organ. And a choir, one that needed a soprano. It worked for me. We joined.

Shortly after, something wonderful began to happen at Our Saviour. It had been founded in the late '50s as a "white flight" church, spun off from another Our Saviour in the Brookland area of Washington when things began to "change" in the neighborhood. But as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, Our Saviour-Hillandale also began to change. Folks started showing up, immigrants from Africa and China and India and the Caribbean.

It was another connection to British history, its history of empire and of conquest. For if once the sun never set on the British Empire, then it also never set on Britain's national church. There were Anglicans all over the world and as they moved to the United States, many of them made their home at Our Saviour.

Harwood Bowman, the founding rector, had planned for Our Saviour to be built next to the Capitol Beltway, then only a dream, because he wanted folks to come to Our Saviour from "all over." Folks were definitely coming to the church from "all over," from places Harwood had never imagined they might come, bringing their culture and customs with them. It became a Pentecostal church ... not the kind that rolls around in the ecstasy of the Spirit, but a church that looks like the feast of Pentecost, when each person heard the good news proclaimed to them in their own language.

Through these changes, Our Saviour flexed, painfully at times, but accommodated the shifts. When I worshipped there last month, for the first time in years (and for the last time for me as a resident of Maryland ...), it was very different and yet the same.

The congregation was more than three-quarters black. But not because the whites fled ... the old-timers were still filling the same pews. The parish had just grown and changed along with them.

The Mother's Union, another exported British tradition, had turned out to make a presentation. In their matching blue dresses and white hats, they claimed their pride of place as a force of feminine leadership. The sermon -- preached by the new young assistant, who is also the parish's pastor to its Latino congregation -- was free-form, delivered from the aisle, and powerful. The music was traditional (with ALL the verses of St. Patrick's Breastplate) and pietistic, with three hymns from LEVAS at communion, sung with great volume and joy. Some people waved their hands in the air. Others silently bowed their heads in prayer. It was my church. It was a homecoming.

Our Saviour is not a perfect parish. It has had its dissensions, its debates, its struggles over what is going on in the wider Communion and what is going on among its own members. But it is a community that has held together through those dissensions and struggles. It is Anglican in all the best definitions of that word ... international, comprehensive, thoughtful, traditional, yet open to the leading of the Spirit.

I am proud to have called it my church home. It has made me the Anglican I am today.

The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich. She was associate and interim rector at the Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, Md., for seven years.

Phyllis Tickle kicks off Cathedral conference

Dispatches from The Church for the 21st Century Conference at Washington National Cathedral, May 10-12, 2007

By Deryl Davis

Is it possible to envision a new direction for the church in the 21st century? Perhaps even a reformation? Author, editor, and Episcopal laywoman Phyllis Tickle (The Divine Hours, The Shaping of a Life) answered both questions with a resounding yes in her opening plenary address at this conference yesterday. Tickle challenged the 150 or so lay and ordained participants to envision this meeting as a new council of the church universal, seeking to divine the way forward in a world where many traditional assumptions about the nature, role, and relevance of the church are being re-examined. “We talk about post-modern, post-Reformation, post-Protestant,” Tickle said, “but what we are really saying is that the institutionalized presentation of Christianity, and of Protestantism specifically, is no longer sufficiently viable to sustain the whole of the living church now or in the next five centuries ahead.”

In fact, Tickle suggested that we are now transitioning from one age of Christian history to another, each age roughly equivalent to a 500-year period. She deconstructed Christian history for conference participants in terms of these half-millennial cycles: Go back 500 years (1517 is a convenient date) and you get the Reformation; another 500 years and you encounter the Great Schism (1054), when Christianity split into Eastern and Western branches; 500 years further on, and you arrive at the great church councils, such as Chalcedon (451), when many of our creeds were hammered out; 500 more years, and you come to the birth of Christ. The paradigm has been noted with other world religions, as well, in books such as Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. These illustrations serve Tickle’s argument that the church, and perhaps Western society in general, is at a unique turning point; it’s time, Tickle said, to meet as the early church did and wrestle with the great questions of who we are as a people of faith, why we are here, and what we are called to do.

The title of Tickle’s address is significant: “The Great Emergence: Reformation in our Time.” Like the other plenary speakers yesterday and today (Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd, III, theologian and Bible scholar Marcus Borg, and religion scholar Diana Butler Bass among them), Tickle sees the mainline denominations at a catalytic moment, when new voices and practices are emerging, even as ancient traditions are being recovered and re-valued. In tracing the paradigm shifts of Christian history, Tickle sees each transformation leading to something larger and more encompassing than what came before.

“Our current reformation fits the pattern of those that came before,” Tickle asserted, and in each transformation “there is always one central question: Where now is the authority? In what, and where, does authority now exist? This determines what the truth is for us.” Tickle argued that, for many of today’s Christians, scriptural authority is no longer enough (Luther’s famous sola scriptura). However, she said it was too soon to determine where authority will rest for the church of the next half-millennium. “Our times call out for no more arrogant individualism,” asserting one point of view above all others, Tickle declared. “But whatever we name as the source of authority must render up a religiously satisfying definition of humanity and of religion.” Tickle noted that, in addition to questions about religious authority, contemporary Westerners (whether religious or not) struggle with notions of what it means to be human, now that science has challenged Cartesian assumptions of the relationship between consciousness, identity, and existence. Tickle said it was important to consider the ways that technology impacts our relationships, human and otherwise, and that the internet is already providing new ways of thinking about faith practice.

Tickle noted that Western culture has been irrevocably shaped by the ideas of the Enlightenment, science, and reason, but that Christianity is now a global (and not simply a Western) phenomenon. While Western Christianity has tended to dominate other forms of the faith over the past millennia, that may not be the case in the future. “There could be a second Christianity emerging that may not be able to be absorbed by our North American . . . Western version,” Tickle said. “In past times, forms of reformation in the West drummed out non-Western forms [of Christianity]. This time it may be the West forced to wait out its time.”

Tickle concluded her address by noting that, for the first time in Christian history, a new configuration or understanding of what it means to be Christian can be disseminated through the means of mass communication – allowing almost instant transmission and sharing of ideas as well as differences. “Unlike our forebears, we can discern together in an intentional, unified way,” Tickle said. “We must decide how together we want to be. That’s what we’re here to see.”

Deryl Davis is producer of the Sunday Forum at Washington National Cathedral and an associate faculty member in religion and drama at Wesley Theological Seminary. This is the first of several reports on The Church for the 21st Century Conference at the Cathedral.

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On Faith examines the shootings at Virgiia Tech

Bishop John Bryson Chane is participating in the Washington Post's On Faith forum regarding the shootings yesterday at Virginia Tech. Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, who led our diocese before Bishop Chane, has made a contribution as well.

Bishop Chane's Easter Sermon

"If we are truly living in the new life of the resurrected Jesus then we are an Easter people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Death has no claim on us, and our lives are fully empowered to heal those whose lives are marginalized by violence, oppression and degradation. It is now time for all of us who believe that Easter can make a difference in the life of the world to walk a new journey of reconciliation, being seekers of peace and players on the world stage empowered by a God who commands us to make a difference by actively working and not just talking about the wholeness of all His people."

Click the "continue reading" tab to read it all.

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An influential rabbi

From Washington Jewish Week:

How influential

Three local rabbis have made it onto a list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. (We're kvelling, but shouldn't there be more from the nation's capital?).

This list, which appears this week in Newsweek, was put together by Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Newscorp's Gary Ginsberg and JTN Productions' Jay Sanderson, with a system that gives points for such questions as: Are the rabbis known nationally/internationally? (20 points); do they have a media presence? (10 points); do they have political/social influence? (20 points); and have they made an impact on Judaism in their career? (10 points).

The three admit their judgments are subjective.

Making the list from Greater Washington are, at No. 10, Bruce Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation; No. 16, David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center; and No. 41, Sid Schwarz, founder and president of Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values.

Lustig says he's flattered to be not just on the list, but ranked so highly. He credits the opportunities he's had working with both Washington Hebrew and the Abrahamic Dialogue he created with Episcopal Bishop John Chane and American University Islamic studies chair Akbar Ahmed for leading to his rank.

And, he says, he doesn't know the three people who created the list, but he found the scoring very interesting.

A new advertising initiative

Eight churches in our diocese are collaborating on an ad campaign. The churches, most of them in southern Montgomery County, have purchased about 20 ads that will run in the weekly Gazette newspapers during the coming year. The advertisement was designed by the Church Ad Project, and it directs people to Have a look.

Bishop Chane writes to the diocese

A Pastoral Letter to the People and Clergy of the Diocese of Washington

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,

I write to you as we begin to close the Spring Session of the House of Bishops, meeting in Navasota, Texas, March 16-21. I am pleased that the House of Bishops was finally able to craft resolutions that seem to best describe how we see the state of the Episcopal Church at this time in its life. The resolutions that were passed did not please everyone, yet there was clearly a shift in the way we have worked together.

This meeting of the House was prayer-centered, with almost two hours each day spent in prayer and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Bible study at our small table groups took place each morning and was a wonderful way to re-connect with one another and to prepare for the work that was before us.

Discussions and debate on the floor as we crafted the resolutions (available here) were respectful, thoughtful. There was none of the mean-spiritedness or “hostage taking” that has occurred on occasion at previous House meetings. We were deliberate in our actions and we spent over three hours in debate to craft what you now have before you.

The first resolution, “Mind of the House of Bishops Resolution Addressed to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church” passed in the House by a simple voice vote after several hours of debate. The second resolution, “To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates' Steering Committee” passed unanimously. The third resolution, which puts forth “A Statement from the House of Bishops-March 20, 2007” passed by a standing vote after some modifications in language.

These resolutions make clear that in spite of our differences on human sexuality and other issues, a solid majority of the House viewed the recommendations contained in the Primates' communiqué from Tanzania as offensive to our Church and disrespectful of the way that we discern and respond to God’s will. Our democratic polity is not universally admired within the Communion, but I was encouraged to see so many bishops resist the Primates’ call for our House to act unilaterally. We are a hierarchical church to be sure, but in our governance, the voice of bishops is balanced by the voices of the clergy and laity.

It was the hope of the bishops that the statement we have released will be a helpful teaching tool for the Church as we continue to discuss how best to respond to the Primates’ ultimatum by their September 30th deadline. As always I ask your prayers for the Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop Katharine, and all of our brothers and sisters throughout the Anglican Communion as we seek ways to walk together during these times of great challenge and change.

In Christ’s Peace, Power and Love,
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane

We can't promise this to all of our guests

SInce I am in the midst of sharing stories from this month's edition of Washington Window (see one item down) I must pass on this tale of the girls from a South African township who went to tea at the White House. It begins:

Sheila Radebe sat on the edge of the bed in Northwest Washington, D.C., staring at the photograph of herself standing with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office. That morning she and six fellow South Africans had been invited to the White House, where they had tea with First Lady Laura Bush and met with the President. Radebe, a teacher at a township preprimary school near Johannesburg, had a hard time believing it had really happened.

"People back home asked me to make sure and get a picture of the White House," she said. "I never dreamed I would actually be inside the White House, talking with the President, having tea with Mrs. Bush. Now they'll have to believe me.

"This was a God-given gift to be a delegate for Kwasa."

For St. John's, Lafayette Square, the God-given gift was the week-long presence of Radebe and her fellow travelers at the end of January. Since 2004, St. John's has enjoyed an ongoing partnership with the Diocese of Highveld, South Africa, with an emphasis on the Kwasa Centre, where Radebe teaches. The partnership is multi-layered. In addition to providing financial support for Kwasa, groups of St. John's parishioners have traveled twice to South Africa, and two groups of South Africans have visited Washington, D.C. St. John's Sunday school classes have raised money to buy soccer goals for Kwasa, and this year collected soccer clothes and shoes to send back with the South African visitors.

Read it all. And then a little more.

Patrolling the grates

Lucy Chumbley, the editor of Washington Window, has written a wonderful story about the Grate Patrol, a ministry to the homeless carried out by parishioners of St. Paul's Church on K Street, in the Foggy Bottom section of Washington D. C. Have a look. I'd be happy to have you share links to stories about good ministries in your necks of the woods as well.

An excerpt:

Tina Mallett's map of the Mall is not like the ones used by tourists. And Mallett is not your typical cartographer, with an eye for unchanging topography.

This gentle woman, who wears a knitted orange headband and an equally warm smile, maintains an ever-evolving guide for the Grate Patrol team.

There are no monuments on her map, no museums or attractions. Just markings that indicate the spots where the destitute are usually to be found.

Mallett gathers her updates on the streets - "mainly from one person saying, 'There's someone else over there.'"

Marks are erased if someone isn't in a particular spot for a month or so, and new ones chart the ebb and flow of those struggling to survive in the parks, alleys and wide avenues of the nation's capital city.

Weekend forecast

Light to non-existent blogging this weekend due to birthdays of sons, brother, father and self falling within 23 days of one another, thus providing pretext for annual gathering in coalbelt hometown.

The item below ought to provide fodder for conversation. Keep an eye on Political Spaghetti for news from Nigeria, and ENS for coverage of Executive Council.

Two diocesan clergy respond

Two of our diocesan clergy, the Revs Elizabeth Carl and Carol Cole Flanagan have responded, individually, to the Primates' communique. You can read both responses by clicking on the "continue reading" tab.

Read more »

A new book from Martin Smith

We received the release below today from Church Publishing. It is news of a new book that collects the Rev. Martin Smith's columns for our diocesan newspaper Washington Window. You can read some of those columns here.

NEW YORK (February, 2007) -Taking his imagery from the ancient art of navigation, noted speaker and columnist Martin Smith's new title from Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing Incorporated, Compass and Stars, presents a collection of spiritual essays about feelings of loss, confusion, and failure. In his first book since leaving the religious life, he explores the truth in his own experiences while inviting his readers to come along for the voyage.

"These short reflections arose at a time when radical changes in my life brought the images of compass and stars to the forefront of my imagination," says Smith. "In 2001, after 28 years on the monastic path, I took my leave of it for good, and found myself for the first time facing the challenge of finding my own way. No one was shaping my life for me: now to find my bearings, in a new life and a new city, with possibilities yet unknown. Within hours of starting my job search, I was asked to join the staff of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a writer."

Smith's reflections act as a guide to readers as they strive to calculate their own spiritual bearings despite the endless sea changes and challenges of life. By deftly using humor mixed with pastoral sensitivity, his essays are like a fresh salt breeze chasing the staleness out of spiritual practices. Whether he is writing about the spirituality of social justice, vocational discernment, or channel-surfing, his thought-provoking pieces will inspire and delight.

Martin Smith, a noted speaker, retreat leader, spiritual director, and columnist, is senior associate rector at St. Columba's Episcopal Church, Washington, DC, and former superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. He is the author of several other books on spirituality, including the classic Season for the Spirit, written for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Order here.

Bishop Chane's radio interview

Sister Maureen Fielder of Interfaith Voices radio, which airs on many PBS stations, has interviewed Bishop John Bryson Chane about his trip to Iran. Listen here.

The New York Times follows our lead

We are popping our buttons twice over this morning: First, because The New York Times today carries a wonderful story about Street Church, a ministry to the homeless conducted by the Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffrey of Church of the Epiphany, which is downtown at Metro Center, and second, because the story was first told by our own Lucy Chumbley in the July/August issue of Washington Window. Have a look.

There's more info about Street Church here. And you can learn about Epiphany's Sunday morning breakfast ministry by clicking on Part 2 of this film.

A small slice of the Times' story:

“When you become homeless, you become very aware of how people treat you,” said the Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery, who runs Street Church. “It’s hard to walk into a church, and it’s even harder when you are homeless because you’re worried about how you will be received, or if you smell bad. Some people never go inside at all, because they worry that they can lose all their stuff,” as in shopping carts that must be left outside, “or be sent to a mental hospital or to jail.”

Street Church began last February. Though Epiphany keeps its doors open during the day for everyone, and offers breakfast and an indoor service for the homeless on Sundays, the rector, the Rev. Randolph Charles, had wanted to expand into some type of outdoor worship, Ms. Jeffery said. So Mr. Charles met with the Rev. Deborah Little Wyman, another Episcopal priest, who started an outdoor worship mainly for the homeless in Boston 11 years ago and who wanted to find a church in Washington to begin a similar service.

Stuart Kenworthy receives the Bishop's Award

Perhaps you are familiar with the Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, who spent several months last year as a military chaplain in Baghdad from previous entries.

Last weekend, at our diocesan convention, Bishop John Bryson Chane presented him with the Bishop's Award, an honor we bestow not quite annually upon someone in our diocese who has done extraordinary work. Previous winners are Verna Dozier, Iris Harris and the Rev. Loren Mead.

Stuart's acceptance speech is beneath the continue reading tab, and I urge you to read it.

Read more »

Diocesan Convention II

I seldom think that the resolutions are the most interesting part of a diocesan convention; nonetheless, they are worth reporting. We passed one on gender equity, one on studying the impact of slavery, one on immigration, one supporting the Millennium Development Goals, and one on the upcoming meeting of the Primates in February. The first four are lurking beneath the continue reading tab. The fifth one will appear in an item I will post in a few minutes.

The highlight of the convention were a presentation this morning by Diana Butler Bass on her research on church growth and vitality--( She doesn't speak from a text, so I am afraid you will have to wait for the special convention issue of the Washington Window to learn about her presentation.); and the speech given last night by the Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown in accepting the Bishop's Award. Stuart returned in August from serving as a military chaplain in Iraq. We hope to have that one online for you by the middle of next week.

Read more »

Diocesan Convention I

We have just concluded our diocesan convention. Bishop John Bryson Chane's address, which deals almost entirely with the life of our diocese, can be found here.

You will notice that about three-quarters of the way through the speech, he mentions a development that will cut into the time I can devote to this blog. But reinforcements are on the way. More on this in the days ahead.

Bishop MacPherson is also going to Tanzania

Mark Harris has the story.

Bishop Chane on

The Washington Post has asked members of its "On Faith" panel the following question:

As the presidential campaign begins to take shape, do you think it is appropriate and or important for the candidates to express their personal religious views and to use religious rhetoric? Why?

Bishop John Bryson Chane's response is currently featured in a link from the Post's homepage.

I am glad the Post has initiated the"On Faith" feature, but even in comparison to other online religion sites, the comments tend to stray off topic almost immediately as people ride their favorite hobby horses.

The Living Church on Bishop Chane's trip to Iran

Steve Waring of The Living Church has just posted a story on Bishop John Bryson Chane's recent trip to Iran. The article is here. The bishop's column on his trip, which ran in the January issue of Washington Window, is here.

The article begins:

Washington Bishop John B. Chane participated in three days of talks with senior Iranian religious and political officials in the capital of Tehran as guests of Muhammad Khatami, the country’s former president, in early December. Later he spoke about the visit in person with President George W. Bush.

Bishop Chane was accompanied on the Dec. 5-7 visit by the Rt. Rev. Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe; the Rev. Canon John Peterson, canon for global justice and reconciliation at Washington National Cathedral; and Evan Anderson, deputy director, International Reconciliation and Peacekeeping, Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation at the Cathedral College.

Bishop Chane spoke with President Bush prior to the start of the Jan. 2 memorial service for former President Gerald Ford. He said President Bush was very pleased the visit had been so productive.

Where hope meets hip-hop

The Washington Post spends some time with the "positive rap" artists who will be performing a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., at Washington National Cathedral today.

"A Bishop in Tehran"

From the blog of Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible, Abraham, Where God was Born and other books:

As someone who has been to Iran twice in the last decade, including a long trip chronicled in Where God Was Born, I believe that a lot of the hype of surrounding Iran in the media these days bears an all-to-comfortable connection to the alarm that was hyped about Iraq a number of years ago, with the aid of a vicious dictator with a track record of gassing his own people. The voice of pause are too few, and too rare. But they seem to correspond to nearly anyone who's visited the country.

John Chane is the Bishop of Washington and a friend I made through the interfaith work I began in 2002 with the publication of Abraham. Long before that book was featured on the cover of TIME and became what it became, he offered his clout to an Abraham Salon I was trying to organize in WDC. Since then we've done a number of events together and I find him to be a gracious and passionate advocate of moderation and humanity in religion.

Read it all.

A flurry of attention for "Following the Money"

Following the Money, our two-part series on donors and activists on the Anglican right is mentioned twice today in local papers. Alan Cooperman of The Washington Post cites it in his story on a skirmish over funding sources between the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Institute on Religion and Democracy. And Nicholas F. Benton of the Falls Church paper refers to it in passing in a column on President Bush's new plans for Iraq.

One comment on the Post's story: I have no problem with the NCCC and the IRD raising money from whomever they wish to advance their agendas in the political arena. The primary difference between the two organizations is that the NCCC does not take money from outside sources to destabilize denominations who disagree with its policies. The IRD does. Indeed, that is its primary reason for existing--to destroy the mainline Protestant churches with whom its donors are in political disagreement. It admitted as much in a 2000 fundraising letter for its Reforming America 's Churches Project" telling donors it wanted to "restructure the permanent governing structure" of "theologically flawed" Protestant denominations.

For permanent governing structures read democratically elected leadership, and you get a sense of what is going on here. Certain conservative foundations are attempting to limit freedom of religion under the guise of purifying it. The IRD portrays itself as a champion of religious liberty, but religious liberty in this country has few greater foes.

Celebrate MLK Day at the National Cathedral

A celebration of youth non-violence will be held at Washington National Cathedral on Monday January 15, 2-4 p. m. to commemorate the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of the bestseller Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States will speak and sign her book.

Recording artist Bomani Armah will lead an innovative presentation using hip-hop music and other elements of popular culture as a tool for positive change. Chris Bacon, subject of the award-winning documentary,
Blue Line: Destination Christylez will appear with Armah.

The event will also feature the Urban Nation H.I.P.-H.O.P. Choir of Washington. Focusing on the acronym H.I.P.-H.O.P. (Hope, Integrity, Power—Helping Our People), the choir’s mission is to channel the creative and artistic energies of a targeted group of youth into a dynamic, structured ensemble that will foster excellence
in all facets of their lives.

The event is free. For more information visit

Diocesan Convention

Our diocesan convention meets on the last weekend of this month at Washington National Cathedral. You can learn more about convention business in this booklet. I can save some visitors to the blog a little time by disclosing that there are no resolutions dealing with human sexuality. Not a single one. Believe me, I am as surprised as you are.

Bishop Chane on Beliefnet

Bishop John Bryson Chane's column on his recent trip to Iran has been picked up by "God's Politics," Jim Wallis' new blog at Beliefnet.

President's funeral on the Web

The Washington Post will be webcasting President Gerald R. Ford's funeral on Tuesday from Washington National Cathedral. Guest commentators include Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, and John Johnson, domestic policy analyst in the same office.

They will be online beginning at about 9:15 on Tuesday when President Ford’s body is scheduled to be taken from the Capitol to the Cathedral. The funeral begins at 10:30 a. m.

Alex is a parishioner at St. Paul's, K Street and John is a parishioner at St. Thomas', Dupont Circle.

On the death of President Ford

Statement of the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington, on the death of President Gerald R. Ford

Early this morning I was awakened with the news that President Gerald R. Ford had died in California after several years of deteriorating health.

The former President, a faithful Episcopalian, was a man known for his great integrity and his firm belief in God. He never sought the Presidency, yet when it was thrust upon him he led wisely, guiding our nation well during a time of high inflation, fuel shortages, and the complex foreign policy challenges presented by the Cold War. A kind man who worked hard at building bridges and shaping consensus, he will be remembered for his dignity, his humility and his devotion to healing a divided nation.

On behalf of the Diocese of Washington I extend our prayers to his wife, Betty and his family during this time of sadness, and I ask God’s blessing upon our former President as he enters the land of light and joy where there is no more sorrow or pain, but only life everlasting.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington
December 27, 2006

Glad tidings

Glad tidings from various sources:

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas sermon.

Bishop John Bryson Chane's Christmas sermon.

Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III's Christmas sermon.

All the windows are now open on our online Advent calendar, and we've saved the best for last. Window 25 opens on a magnificent creche made entirely of driftwood pulled from the Gulf of Mexico.

As the accompanying text says:

"This lovely driftwood nativity was created by Mildred Hanson of Gasque, Alabama. Mildred came across an unusual, small knotted and dented piece of driftwood while walking on a beach and thought it resembled Mother Mary, with her hands lifted in prayer, looking down at Jesus in the manger. Over many years she collected other interesting little pieces of driftwood in the hopes that she could build the manger scene with Mary and her family. The shape of the driftwood dictated the posture of each figure. Mildred interfered little with the forms. Diluted acrylic paint, brushed on in thin coats, reveals the unifying flow of the driftwood grain from figure to figure. Imperfections in the wood are not “corrected” but allowed to stand proud."

My other favorites were windows 5, 7 and 23.

There has been news today, as readers of The New York Times know, but we will discuss it at another time.

Merry Christmas.

Bishop Chane on Good Morning America

Bishop John Bryson Chane will appear on Good Morning America on Christmas morning, as he has for the last three or four years. The show airs on ABC stations between 7 and 9 a. m.

After the show, our local ABC station will carry the 9 a. m. Eucharist live from Washington National Cathedral. That broadcast is also available in some other television markets. Check with local stations. In addition, the Cathedral is webcasting many of its services today and tomorrow.

In his interview with GMA anchor Robin Roberts (It looks live, but was actually taped last week.), the bishop mentions his recent trip to Iran. You can learn more about the trip by reading the column he wrote for the January issue of our diocesan newspaper, Washington Window. Just click on the "continue reading" tab.

Read more »

Christmas Music

Please visit our Web site and listen to the Princeton Singers' renditions of In the Bleak Midwinter and Once in Royal David's City.

I don't know whether these two songs are distinctively Anglican, but I think of them that way, probably because neither figured in my Christmas memories until I joined the Episcopal Church nine years ago. Both are now favorites, perhaps because I remember how much I enjoyed trying to master the tenor part of In the Bleak Midwinter in the dark, chilly choir at my old parish, Church of the Ascenion in Silver Spring. The service at Ascension once began with a child singing the first verse of Once in Royal David's City a cappella. Both of my sons had the opportunity to sing that verse, and I can recall those moments with proud-parent clarity.

If you are looking for someplace to worship this weekend, please visit the Find a Church page of our Web site, or of the Episcopal Church Web site.

Merry Christmas from the Diocese of Washington

Merry Christmas. We hope to have a few carols, sung by the fabulous Princeton Singers, available on our web site by this evening.

If you are looking for someplace to worship this Christmas, please visit the site, and use our Find a Church function.

And don't forget to open the last few windows in our online Advent calendar.

(The blog will be in moderation mode during much of the holidays, so don't be alarmed if comments don't appear immediately.)

Campus ministry at the University of Maryland

Our diocese's ministry at the University Maryland is featured on the cover of this week's issue of The Living Church. (See the photo on their homepage.) The opening of the Episcopal Living Learning Center on the College Park campus was also covered in The Diamondback.

Three cheers for the Rev. Peter Antoci, the students at the U of M, parishioners at St. Andrew's College Park, and eveyone else who made the center possible.

Local priest makes good

The Rev. Rich Kukowski, longtime pastor of Transfiguration Church in Colesville, Md., retired recently. The Gazette newspapers took note:

Father Richard Kukowski’s home sits across New Hampshire Avenue from The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, which he led for 27 years. But save for a funeral, wedding or other milestone event for a friend, he has not returned since he retired earlier this year.

‘‘I’m surprised I don’t miss it more,” Kukowski said of the Colesville church. ‘‘I thought I would, but to me that’s a real strong sign that this was the right decision at the right time.”

On Sunday, members of the congregation held their traditional ‘‘greening” of the church for the holidays, and Christmas services will continue as usual under the leadership of the Rev. Carla Thompson, the interim rector. ‘‘We’re going to adhere to the traditions and understandings Transfiguration has until a new rector comes along. Then change comes if it’s wanted,” she said. ‘‘Now is not the time to make small changes or significant changes.”

Local church makes good

Melissa Chadwick writes in the Gazette newspapers of Montgomery County:

The first shovel of dirt was turned Saturday to mark the beginning of a 10-year construction project to build the first new Episcopal church in the Washington diocese in 40 years.

On an unseasonably warm December day, congregants of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church gathered at the church’s 13-acre campus at 14419 Darnestown Road, near the corner of Route 118.

‘‘It’s the quality of the life we live together and the quality of the services we do in God’s name that matters, it’s not the building,” said the Rev. Ken Howard, the congregation’s longtime rector.

St. Nicholas Church, which has grown from 12 families to more than 300 members in a decade, hopes to complete the worship and ministry center by Christmas 2007.

Read it all.

Today's Advent window

I wanted to say a special word about the giving opportunity in today's window on our online Advent calendar.

Last month, a fire destroyed 400 shanty homes in the Dukathole settlement outside of Johannesburg in the Diocese of the Highveld. The blaze left more than 1,000 children homeless. We are trying to raise money to help some of those children and their families get back on their feet.

Children in our dioceses are filling mite boxes to aid in the effort. If you can help out, we'd appreciate it.

God Bless the LC

From The Living Church:

An online calendar designed by the Diocese of Washington in part to help parents teach their children about Advent becomes active Dec. 1. In addition to the calendar there are other Advent-related activities available at the site for children.

Read it all.

Thanks, again

I wanted to thank everyone who has visited our Web site since last December 1. For the first time in any 12-month period, we've had over 1 million visitors and over 2.5 million "page views." I haven't done the research yet, but I believe that's an increase of more than 300 percent over any previous 12-month period.

If you are new to the site and unfamiliar with some of our resources, please look in on the Spirituality section, especially the audio visual meditations. Have a look at the diocesan movie, and the diocesan newspaper, and our online Advent calendar. If you are trying to get up to speed on the Anglican controversy, have a look at Following the Money.

We'd love to have you join us some Sunday morning, or any time, really. So if you live in Washington, or suburban Maryland, and are looking for a church home, please visit our Find a Church page and, um, find a church. (If you don't live near D.C., you can find a church here.)

Thanks again for visiting, and if you would like to support our work with a contribution, please give to the Bishop's Appeal.

Please consider...

...including our online Advent calendar in your daily devotions this December.

Washington area Episcopalians prominent in Post's new On Faith feature

Newsweek and The Washington Post this week launched a new Web-based conversation on religion called On Faith. A number of prominent panelists have agreed to respond weekly (more or less) to a question posed by hosts Jon Meachem and Sally Quinn.

This week's question: If some religious people believe they have a monopoly on truth, then are conversation and common ground possible? If so, what would be the difficulties and benefits of such a conversation?

I like this new feature already because so many Episcopalians, local and otherwise are included on the panel.

Panelists include: Bishop John Bryson Chane, Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, the Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's, Lafayette Square, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, III, dean of Washington National Cathedral and the Rev. William Tully, rector of St. Bartholomew's in New York, who is still remembered fondly by his former parishioners at St. Columba's in DC.

Mohammed Khatami is also on the panel. Someone had better alert Bishops John Lipscomb, Edward Little and Geralyn Wolf. After raising such a ruckus about Khatami's invitation to speak at Washington National Cathedral back in September, they were silent when Khatami met with the Archbishop of Canterbury two weeks ago, and I'd hate for them to miss another opportunity to express their concerns. People might begin to think that they were grandstanding back in September, and that would be deeply unfortunate.

Congrats, Diana

Christianity for the Rest of Us, by Diana Butler Bass, has been named one of the Best Religion Books of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. Diana, a member of the Church of the Epiphany, will be the homilist and keynote speaker at our diocesan convention in late January.

You can learn more about her work here, here and here, and learn more about the Epiphany's outreach ministries in this article by Lucy Chumbley, and in part two of Hugh Drescher's film on our diocese.

An article on Epiphany's environmental ministry, "Rooftop gardens" resides here.

O gracious light

If you need a moment today to catch your breath, slow your pulse, or set your mind on higher things, please visit our home page and take two minutes to watch and listen to a new meditation inspired by the vesper prayer Phos Hilaron.

O gracious light, features the photos of Walter Calahan, the music of The Princeton Singers, the stained glass of Washington National Cathedral, and the "pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven."


Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane received the Peacemaker Award last night from our diocesan Commission on Peace. His remarks are here.

An excerpt:

"Our hearts are too small, our generosity is too limited – because we know that a stable and lasting peace can only be founded on justice and equality of dignity and equality of opportunity, and those who have more than enough are too often unwilling to do what it takes to meet the needs of those who have less than sufficient.

This is the great tragedy of Afghanistan , and the unfolding heartbreak we now see in Iraq .

Politicians were prepared to make a military commitment, and to win a war – misguided though they may have been.

But, far worse, they have not been prepared to make the necessary commitment to stay the course and follow through by building the peace.

Indeed, it is unclear whether they even understood, as they deployed their forces, that without a firm and concrete undertaking to pursue the process of rebuilding, they would fatally undermine their own objectives.

Strong words, you may say. But there is no part of this world that is not God's world, there is no area of human endeavour that is beyond his concern. Christians cannot rest unless we pursue God's best in every area of creation – and that includes the pursuit of his peace which passes all understanding."

Previous winners of the award include Lee Hamilton, Helen Caldicott, the Arab/Evangelical Episcopal School in Ramallah, CARE, George Mitchell, Desmond Tutu and Marian Wright Edelman.

The calendar is coming

This year, for the third year, our diocesan Web site will host an Advent calendar. Previous editions are here, and here. The calendar has been among our most popular features, both in numbers of visits, and number of links from other sites, and I'd really appreciate it if those of you who are preparing lists of Advent resources would consider including our Web address, The calendar will eventually have its own address, but it will always be visible from the homepage.

If you aren't familiar with the calendar, a few quick words are in order. We create it in cooperation with Washington National Cathedral which, each year, hosts an exhibition of crèches (Nativity scenes) from around the world.

Clicking on the number for the appointed day takes the user to a picture of a figure from one of the crèches. That page contains further links to a daily meditation (much like those in our spirituality section) and a daily online giving opportunity, many of which are gleaned from Episcopal Relief and Development's Gifts for Life catalog.

The calendar will go live on December 1, and I will post updates about its arrival as the day approaches.

We also have some online Advent activities for children if you are in the market.

Sneak preview

In the upcoming issue of Washington Window , the Rev. Dr. George Clifford, III spells out an agenda for Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's tenure as presiding bishop. The issue won't be arriving in mailboxes until this weekend at the earliest, but you can read the Rev. Clifford's piece by clicking on "continue reading."

Read more »

A supplmental oversight arrangement in our diocese

Bishop John Bryson Chane has appointed the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, bishop of South Carolina , to provide supplemental episcopal oversight to All Saints Church, Chevy Chase, Md.

The story is here. Bishop Chane's letter to All Saints' parishioners is here.

Tutu's biographer to speak at Cathedral

John Allen, author of Rabble-Rouser for Peace, a biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will speak on Thursday at 7 p. m. in the Common Room of the Cathedral College on the grounds of the National Cathedral.

Here is a map of the Cathedral close. The College is the last building on the left before you leave the grounds via the Woodely Road exit.)

Allen, Tutu's former press secretary is managing editor of the African news Web site

Additional details can be found here. A recent profile of Archbishop Tutu is here.

It's Revival time

It's Revival time in the Diocese of Washington.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, will be the featured preacher at our second annual “Word to the City” revival at Washington National Cathedral (7 p. m. on October 19, 20.)

St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church Gospel Choir and the Rev. Christine Wiley of Covenant Baptist Church will perform on Oct. 19, and PAUL (Performing Artists Under Our Lord) will sing on Oct. 20.

There's more information here.

Open the Window

The October issue of the Washington Window is online. It includes a column on "the sacred bond that we have with animals" by the Rev. Martin L. Smith that you can find beneath the "continue reading" button.

Read more »

The Rev. Sanford Garner has died

The Rev. Sanford Garner, Jr., who served 17 years as the rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, one of our largest parishes, has died. The Washington Post's obituary is here. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress called him "a model of how important a priest can be in the modern world."

Parish at play

The Washington Post Magazine presents St. Mark's, Capitol Hill, in the process of having a very good time.

Funeral arrangements for Verna Dozier

The funeral of Verna Dozier will be held on Saturday September 30 at 10:30 a. m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, 118 Third Street SE. Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, retired suffragan of Washington, will preside. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina will be among the eulogists.

An icon, no question about it

From the Episcopal Diocese of Washington

By Lucy Chumbley

Verna Dozier, a well-loved lay theologian, author, mentor and Christian educator in the Episcopal Church, died on Friday September 1, at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville, Md. She was 88.

“She was without a doubt one of the most creative thinkers in the 20th century church,” said the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington. “She made us all very proud to be from this diocese and to have known her.”

Dozier attended St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill for more than 45 years, and was that church’s first black parishioner.

She is something of a legend at St. Mark’s, where she often preached and where, in 1999, around 500 people attended the dedication of a stained glass window created in her honor, lining up to shake her hand and tell her what she meant to them.

In her window, Dozier is pictured with her younger sister, Lois – who died the year before the window was dedicated – and the prophet Amos, a champion of social justice.

“She’s an icon at St. Mark’s, no question about it,” said Jan Hoffman, one of Dozier’s closest friends.

A third generation Washingtonian, Dozier started life as a Baptist, attending the 19th Street Baptist Church with Lois and her mother, Lucie, who were lifelong members of that congregation.

Her family was poor: Her father, Lonnie, had never graduated from high school and had to work two jobs to make ends meet. Yet each night, the two girls would read aloud from the Bible and from Shakespeare – the only books they owned.

Building on this solid foundation, Dozier attended Howard University, where she earned a master’s degree in English literature and went on to become a school teacher.

As a young woman, Dozier was drawn to the Episcopal Church by the beauty of its liturgy, and was invited to join the all-white congregation of St. Mark’s by its young rector, the Rev. Bill Baxter.

“He said, ‘Verna, this church is ready for a black,’” Hoffman said.

“He told her a lie, really, that St. Mark’s was ready to be integrated,” said Dee Hahn Rollins, another friend. “But she dealt with that in a wonderful way.”

Not everyone was ready for integration, Hoffman said, recalling that she and her roommate were evicted from their Arlington apartment in 1955 for having Dozier to visit.

In 1975, after more than 30 years of teaching Shakespeare to inner city students, Dozier retired from the school system. But always the teacher, her Bible study began in earnest.

Rollins, who was in charge of women’s activities in the Diocese of Indianapolis at the time, heard about Dozier’s method of Bible study, in which scripture is examined in significant sections using different translations of the Bible.

She invited her to lead a conference at the diocese.

“I went to the airport and picked her up, and it changed my life,” Rollins said. “It changed her life, too.”

It was Dozier’s first real job teaching the Bible and the start of her second career.

She went on to give workshops all over the country – even traveling to Kenya on several occasions – and quickly became a sought-after speaker for retreats and conventions.

“She was tremendous with the Bible,” Hoffman said. “She knew so much, and she was such a vital person… She certainly was an excellent teacher. She used to preach a lot, too – she preached all over.”

Her sermons were always rooted in scripture, Hoffman said. And although social justice was often a theme, her actions spoke louder than her words, her friends said.

“She didn’t have an edge with her preaching,” Rollins said. “She never pushed an agenda, so to speak. When you listened to Verna, who she was spoke louder.”

“She was an activist with words,” Hoffman said. “But she had a feeling that there was a way that you dealt with things that did not make the gap wider, with things like racism.”

A powerful presence in the pulpit, Dozier was clear about her role as a lay preacher, and never felt the need to wear vestments, said Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon.

“She really saw the ministry of the laity as critical for the life and fulfillment of the church,” Dixon said. “She was never in awe of clergy – not with bishops or anyone else. She just saw them as people with another role to fulfill.”

For the 30 years she knew her, Dozier was her friend, mentor and advocate, Dixon said.

“When I first met Verna, she was really just taking off – her life with the church,” she said. “I saw, watched and learned from this extraordinary woman at the height of her ability.”

Dozier’s ability to ask wonderful questions and to really pay attention to the answers impressed her. “She never put anyone down – she never patronized, no matter what you did,” Dixon said.

But she also wasn’t afraid to tell it straight.

“Besides her love and friendship, Verna always called you to be your best,” Hoffman said. “She was affirming, but she was always so real.”

“That was her gift to me,” Dixon said. “That she loved me enough to tell me the truth.”

While her book “Equipping the Saints” sets out her style of Bible study, those close to her say her book, “The Dream of God: A Call to Return” best describes her beliefs.

“That really tells you who Verna is more than anything else,” Hoffman said. “What she believed.”

The book claims that as an institution, the church has fallen short of the dream of God. It reminds Christians that they are not called to worship Jesus, but to follow him.

Strong in her faith, Dozier was also emphatic that there was no way to truly be certain.

“Verna used to say that faith in God is that there are no guarantees,” Dixon said. “It is a faith enterprise. It is a risk. She was clear that that certainty that people so yearned for in a religious faith was not given to human beings.”

But she was willing to risk her life for the promise of the Gospel.

“She always used to say, ‘I might be wrong,’” Dixon said, breaking into a smile. “’But I believe it.’”

Verna J. Dozier; D. C. Teacher, Episcopal theologian (from The Washington Post)

The Washington Post's obituary on Verna Dozier appeared in this morning's editions, along with this nice photograph by her friend Dee Hahn Rollis (the second item on this page.) The obit was prepared by Bart Barnes, former head of the Post's obit desk. He is a parishioner at St. Mark's, Capitol Hill, just as Verna was.

An excerpt:

"She taught us to understand the ministry of the laity," the Very Rev. Martha Horne, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, wrote about Ms. Dozier in a 1999 article in the Living Church magazine. "In her speaking and writing, she challenged people to accept the authority they received in baptism, and to live out their faith in their homes and offices."

With a beautiful speaking voice, imbued with the cadences of the Bible and Shakespeare, and a vivid personality, she was able to express then-radical thoughts with tact, said friend Dee Hahn-Rollins. She said Ms. Dozier insisted that "what we did from Monday to Saturday was most important and we come to our Sunday experience to be refueled."

Verna Dozier, teacher and prophet, has died

(with updates at bottom)

Verna Dozier, author, teacher and theologian, died Friday afternoon at the age of 88.

Dozier, a parishioner at St. Mark's Church on Capitol Hill, taught in the District of Columbia's public schools for 34 years before retiring in 1975 to devote herself exclusively to a ministry of writing and religious education. A popular lecturer and workshop presenter, her most influential book was The Dream of God: A Call to Return (1991.) Earlier this year, Seabury Press published Confronted by God: The Essential Verna Dozier, a collection of her writings.

Dozier lived at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville, Md. for 14 years. In 1992, she preached at the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Washington. In 1999, St. Mark's installed a stained glass window in honor of Dozier and her sister Lois, who had died a year earlier. The window features the prophet Amos, Dozier's favorite, and figures of the two Dozier sisters. In 2003, Dozier won the first Bishop's Award from the Diocese of Washington.

Funeral arrangements are not yet complete. The Washington Post is preparing an obituary which may be published on Sunday, September 3.

A full biography by Fredrica Haris Thompsett is available here.

Updates: The Episcopal News Service has filed an obituary, a bibliography and some quotes from her writing.

Local kids make good

Our diocesan youth ministry earned a little ink in the KidsPost section of The Washington Post this morning. The story focuses on area kids who participated in the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Here is the relevant excerpt:

"About 30 kids from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington spent their spring break in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Bayou La Batre, Alabama -- two towns hit hard by Katrina.

They helped rebuild a church. They unloaded trucks filled with donated furniture. They interviewed displaced residents about their needs.

Rockville's Jack Stonesifer, 14, found the damage 'pretty surprising.'

'There were some casinos on the beach -- one of the major ways the town [Gulfport] gets money -- and a lot of them were totally demolished,' he said, 'and a church where the entire thing was wiped out.'

He also was struck by the size of the trailers the federal government supplied to some who lost their homes: 'There were four people [in a space] barely as big as your room. And some people have to live there for months. That amazed a lot of us.'

Kelly Crabtree, who lives in the District, helped in a couple of ways. First, her family adopted a 3-year-old terrier, Sadie, who had been rescued in New Orleans, Louisiana. Then Kelly signed up for the Episcopal Diocese trip 'because I thought it was the best way to help. It's hard to send money when you're only 14.'

Her tasks included shopping for supplies, unloading trucks of furniture and painting a church.

Said Kelly: 'A woman at the church told us, 'I can't tell you how grateful I am. I'd give you the moon if I could.' I was so happy we could help them.' "

Jack is from Christ Church, Rockville. Kelly is from St. Columba's. Three cheers for them, for the other 28 kids on these mission trips, and for Paul Canady, the diocesan deputy for youth.

Former Iranian President to speak at Cathedral on Sept. 7

If today's story in The Washington Post is on the money, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will be speaking at Washington National Cathedral on Thursday evening September 7. This has been in the works for a couple of weeks, and until the State Department says publicly that they will issue Khatami a visa, the deal isn't entirely done, but that process must have progressed far enough for the Cathedral, and the Post, to feel comfortable in going public with the possibility.

My understanding is that Khatami, who is coming to the U. S. to attend a conference at the U. N., was approached by several local organizations about extending his visit to speak in D. C. He expressed a desire to speak in a religious setting. The Cathedral's Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation under Canon John L. Peterson took up the task from there.

According to the Post, Khatami "plans to speak on the dialogue of civilizations and the role the three Abrahamic faiths -- Islam, Judaism and Christianity -- can play in the peace process. Plans call for the event, at the National Cathedral at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, to be free and open to the public."

The Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation previously sponsored a gathering of religious leaders to address issues of global poverty, and to rally support for the Millennium Development Goals.

Bishop John Chane and other groups in the diocese have also been involved in numerous interfaith activities, including the upcoming September 11 Unity Walk, which you can learn more about here.

Ministering with the deaf

Have a look at this signed morning prayer service, that was held by St. Barnabas Church for the Deaf in our diocese in late July. To learn more about St. Barnabas, visit their Web site. Or read about their activities here. We have a feature on this congregation coming up in the September issue of Washington Window.

Safe and Sound

What a lift we've all had here at Church House this afternoon! The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, who had been serving as a chaplain with our armed forces in Iraq came walking through the door a little while ago, hale and hearty. We knew he would be home this month, but weren't sure when. Turns out he got back about six days ago. It was great to see him. He looks a little thinner than he did when he left, but he's in great spirits. He's off to the University of Deleware to see his son, a punter, scrimmage with the football team, and then he and his family are heading off on vacation.

If you haven't read Stuart's dispatch from Iraq that ran in the most recent issue of the Washington Window, please have a look at it on our home page.

Welcome back, Stuart.

While I'm away...

I will be away for three weeks, beginning today. While I am gone, I hope regular visitors will avail themselves of the daily meditations offered in the spirituality section of our Web site. I hope newcomers curious about our Church will watch our diocesan movie, and meet a few people living out their faith. And I hope those of you interested in supporting this blog will do so by contributing to our Bishop's Appeal.

Also, please visit some of the good folks whose blogs are listed in our blog roll.

Bishop John Bryson Chane's pastoral letter on the violence in Israel and Lebanon

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

These past days the morning paper and evening newscast have brought us graphic stories of violence, bloodshed, and warfare. We have lived on a steady diet of such stories since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the violence shows no signs of abating. At times I worry that we, as a nation, will becoming accustomed to this brutality that we will loose our capacity to be outraged by the daily killing and wounding of soldiers, civilians and children caught up in conflicts that convulse our world.

The latest outbreak of violence involves Israel and the Hezbollah movement in southern Lebanon. Once again our efforts to find diplomatic solutions to complex political realities have failed, and once again we are left with the horror of these consequences.

Three weeks ago, I meet with six ambassadors from Middle Eastern countries to explore ways in which inter-faith religious leaders from around the globe might contribute to a diplomatic initiative that might end terror and bloodshed in that region. We were mindful that four years ago, George Carey, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, played a key role in crafting the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land. In that document, more than a dozen senior Christian, Jewish and Moslem leaders in the Middle East pledged to use their religious and moral authority to work for an end to violence and the resumption of the peace process. God willing, we will find a way to resurrect the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation that made their agreement possible, for religion continues to be the primary fault line in the Middle East.

My staff and I have also been in conversation with the Israeli Embassy about the situation unfolding in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. In those conversations we expressed our belief that Israel must have secure borders and our concerns about the impact that the ongoing construction of the Wall is having as it divides Israelis and Palestinians. This impact includes the restriction of access to Christian holy sites.

As Christians, we must possess a passion to work and pray for an end to violent conflicts throughout our world. In Jesus name we must become ambassadors for peace. I ask you to add to your intercessions this Sunday prayers for a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah. Pray for an end to the violence in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, and pray that this nation, as the leader of the free world, will now exercise its moral leadership and political influence to bring such a cease fire on all fronts to fruition.

I also ask you to pray for those Palestinians in Gaza who have suffered immeasurably over these recent months and for Israelis who continue to seek security for themselves and for their state. I ask you to pray for an end to terrorism and hostage taking in all forms.

As your bishop, I continue to seek God’s forgiveness through personal prayer for our inability as a global community to embrace the very word and presence of Peace which so much defines the core of the Holy Books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

If you so choose please feel free to share this Pastoral Letter with your congregation.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane DD
Bishop of Washington

Chaplain Kenworthy's letter home is in international circulation

The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy's letter home from Iraq, where he is serving as a military chaplain, has been picked up by the Anglican Communion News Service, and sent around the world via its list-serv. If you haven't read the letter to parishioners at Christ Church, Georgetown in this month's isue of the Washington Window, or seen it on our diocese's home page, have a look at it here.

What Bishop Chane did on his summer vacation

Bishop John Byrson Chane spent the first week of July as a chaplain at the Chautauqua Institute in the Finger Lakes region of New York where he recorded an interview with the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, director of the institute's department of religion.

To listen, visit here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.
The site also features interviews with Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times and the prominent evangelical leader the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo.

A chaplain writes from Iraq

The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, is serving as an Army chaplain with the 372nd Military Police Battalion in Iraq. He's due home next month.

Please take a look at one of his recent letters home.

An excerpt:

Once you have “broken the wire” and security of the camp, the sound of radios crackling with transmissions begins, with all eyes reporting any movement around us, both pedestrian and vehicular. The driver and right side rider and gunner are all connected by headphones for easy communication. The sounds of the roaring engine, air conditioner, radio transmissions and voices within the vehicle all make that necessary. The vehicles are in a constant state of radio communication with each other. Tactical distances are observed as well as evasive maneuvers around underpasses and other places with high incidents of IED attacks or snipers. The sirens are intermittently sounded along with strong and practiced hand signals by the gunner (who is sticking out of the top of the hummer) to move other vehicles away from our path. If that does not work there is a microphone which can broadcast warnings to anyone approaching the convoy too closely.

Vehicle-borne IEDs are one of the big threat in these scenarios. They simply pull up along side and detonate. They are generally very large blasts because they are packed to the hilt with large ordnance. And then as we speed along toward our destination all eyes – chaplain included – scan every sector looking for anything that could bring immediate threat or danger. I have been amazed how calm I have felt throughout these missions and not sure whether to attribute it to inexperience or a deeper and abiding trust in God's protection. Both could be true. I hope that question will not be tested to further limits, but that is always possible.

The return trip is all of the above described, in reverse, except for the palpable sense of relief and even exhilaration that comes with being back inside the walls of safety. And lastly and most importantly, there is the sound of a whispered prayer of thanks for safe passage out and back.

Lost Boys Found

This story in this morning's Washington Post reminded me of the work that one of our parishes, St. Stephen and the Incarnation, has done in helping to resettle some of the boys who were orphaned by Sudan's civil war.

It's a boy!

Our wondrous webkeeper Amy Elliott had her baby this morning. Emmett James Elliott entered the world just a little after 6 a. m. weighing just over 8 pounds. Our heartfelt congratulations to Amy and her husband Peter.

Hey little Emmett, the Episcopal Church welcomes you!

A holiday welcome

We've had many newcomers to the blog in recent weeks. We hope you feel welcome, and would like to invite you to deepen your daily prayer life by visiting our Spirituality section.

If you are exploring the Episcopal faith, please take a few minutes to watch this film we've made about a few people and parishes of our acquaintance.

To find out more about churches in our diocese, start here. If you don't live in our diocese, start here.

And, finally, if you've become a regular visitor, and would like to support the blog by supporting the diocese, please consider contributing to our Bishop's Appeal.

Thank you.

Tributes to Judi Greene

Judi Greene died unexpectedly last weekend. She was Bishop Chane's verger and liturgical assistant, and had worked in a number of parishes in our diocese. She also had many friends at the National Cathedral.

Here is some of what Washington Times columnist Adrienne Washington had to say:

"Judi," as she was known to those fortunate to come into contact with her quick tongue, wit and infectious laughter, suffered a heart attack in her Northwest home Friday. She had turned 62 this month.
"Judi was a daughter of Washington," D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said during the presentation of a council proclamation honoring her neighbor.
Note that the standing-room-only congregation had as many white clerical collars as the Virginia Theological Seminary's cafeteria at lunchtime.
Mrs. Cropp recalled that when her family moved to the District, Judi "came across the street and brought rolls and gossip and we became fast friends."
Bishop Chane called her "a pistol of a woman" -- all 4 feet 10 inches of her.
But no one ever dared mistake her size for her stature.
"We all have Judi stories," said Bishop Chane, noting that he spent more time with her than anyone else, save his wife.
During a solemn occasion when they were walking out of the Washington National Cathedral, he said, Judi stopped and reached over to Bishop Chane's wife and put the couple's hands together. That move raised some eyebrows.
"Hey, you didn't get here by yourself," he recalled her saying.

Click the "keep reading" button to read the eulogy offered by the Rev. Susan S. Keller of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wheaton at Judi's funeral on Wednesday at St. Luke's in D. C.

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Happy Birthday, church

The Diocese of Washington wishes everyone an inspiring Pentecost.

Getting ready for GC2006

The June issue of Washington Window is online.

We've got a story on some recent forums on the Windsor Report, and some capsule profiles--culled from Episcopal Life--on the candidates for presiding bishop. We've also got some interesting comments from Bishop N. T. Wright, the well-known British Biblical scholar who was a member of the panel that wrote the Windsor Report.

Lastly, I am afixing beneath the "keep reading" button a sidebar on some of the non-Windsor related legislation that the Convention will consider.

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Here Comes Everybody

One of our very own parishes, the Church of the Epiphany near Metro Center in downtown DC, is among the congregations featured in the Web cast Here Comes Everybody, from Trinity Church, Wall Street, tonight at 8 p. m.

You can watch it here.

Here's your TV Guide type blurb:
Three prominent advocates for progressive discipleship gather for a discussion on how to build new kinds of Christian communities. This telecast is for lay and clergy leaders who want to learn how to strengthen their faith communities through the renewal of basic practices such as hospitality, discernment of the church's calling, personal testimony, observing the Sabbath, and open conversation.

And here's our hometown pitch:
One of the three advocates is Diana Butler Bass, a parishioner at Epiphany and senior research fellow and director of the Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice at Virginia Theological Seminary. If you are even remotely involved in attempting to build up your congregation's membership, its spiritual offerings or it social outreach programs, you will be interested in Diana's book Practicing Congregations and her Web site.

You can learn more about Epiphany here, and you can watch a lovely little film clip about their Sunday morning Eucharist and feeding for the homeless by visiting here and clicking on Part 2.

Our own horn

Every year Episcopal Communicators, a group of, well, Episcopal communicators gathers for an annual meeting which includes an awards dinner. Our diocese won 13 awards of various sorts this year, and while some of them were for date-specific stuff whose shelf life has ended, or for things best appreciated by an audience of other communicators, we did pick up a few honors for work that some of you may find interesting. Some of this material will be familiar to regular visitors to the site if you will permit me:

Have a look at our diocesan movie by Hugh Drescher of Drescher Films, which won an award of excellence (the top award) in its category.

Bishop Chane won an award of merit (runner-up award) for this commentary on the Middle East.

The Rev. Albert Scariato of St. John’s in Georgetown who an award of excellence for commentary. You can find it on page 15 of this pdf. We will try to get a more easily accessible version up later.

The Rev. Martin Smith won an honorable mention and an award of merit in the “devotional and inspirational” category. The latter piece is on page15 of this pdf. We will try to get a more easily accessible version up later.

And photographer Walter Calahan won an award of excellence for a photo essay on walking the Labyrinth at the National Cathedral. You can find an online version of that essay here, or in a printed version here, beginning on page 8.

Washington National Cathedral and St. Columba’s parish in northwest D. C. also won multiple awards. You can find the full list here.

A curious move by George Carey

We've had a curious development in the Anglican Communion's struggle over the role of gay Christians in the Church right here in our diocese. At least, it seems that it has taken place here in our diocese. Although all I have to offer as evidence is that a certain post office box is here in our diocese. In the Chevy Chase section of DC, it seems.

Here is the story: Last week, members of the U. S. House of Bishops received a note from the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, asking them to fill out an attached survey. (You can see a copy of his note here, thanks tot Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans. If the type is too smal to read, drag your cursor to the lower right hand corner of the document and click on the document expander.)

The survey is from a group--although I can't swear that the collective noun is appropriate--called Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion whose cover letter is here. (Thanks, again, to Simon.) In this letter the group(?) suggests that if members of the HoB got a do-over by secret ballot on the issues of +Gene Robinson and same-sex blessings, they might come to different decisions. The only contact info we have on the group, which has not publicly named any of its members, is a zip code (20015) in the Chevy Chase section of Washington, D. C., and a PO Box number.

The survey asks three questions: if you could vote in SECRET right NOW on +GR how would you vote? 2. if you could vote in SECRET NOW they are big on upper case letters) how would you vote on blessing same-sex unions? and 3. If push comes to shove (I am paraphrasing) would you side with the Episcopal Church if it were being kicked out of the Communion, or would you stick with the Communion and leave the Church?

I wish this were sinister because that would be good fun, but alas it is merely weird. Let's review: The former AoC, who has vigorously opposed the consecration of +Gene and the blessing of same sex unions, and whose knowledge of our church can charitably be described as partial, has apparently hooked up with a group whose membership is known to him, but which he does not feel he can disclose to members of the HoB. But he knows these people well enough to assure the HoB that they can be trusted with a confidential survey on sensitive matters. The comically leading survey (We think you have changed your mind: Have you changed your mind?) is to be mailed to the PO Box whence they will pass into the hands of a secretive "sponsor" at which point the results of the survey will be collated and released at an as-yet-unknown audience at an as yet unannounced time. And this will save the Anglican Communion! (And I think we all get ponies, but that is pure speculation.)

Three quick points:

1. Consecrating a bishop differs from a round of duffers' golf in that there are no mulligans.

2. The archbishop has done either the Diocese of Washington nor the people of one of our parishes, All Saints, Chevy Chase, any favors. He is in-residence at All Saints, part-time, when he is in this country, on and off, on a research fellowship with the Library of Congress. All Saints is one of the two Network-affiliated parishes in our diocese, and its bounds include much, if not all, of the 20015 zip code. If people become interested enough in finding out who the Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion are, the handling of this mailing leaves you only two lines of inquiry: call George Carey, or call All Saints.

3. Tobias Haller, who made the following comment on Simon’s site has hit the nail on the head as he often does with numbing regularity:

“The most serious problem with this survey is that it is being sent to the entire House of Bishops. It is a common misunderstanding to think that the House of Bishops voted on the consent to the election of Bishop Robinson. They did not. According to our canons, only bishops with jurisdiction are eligible to consent to elections. This is done, apart from meetings of the General Convention, by sending a ballot to each diocesan bishop, which he or she is then free to return (as consent) or simply disregard. An absolute majority of "consents" is required for confirmation; so every consent "withheld" in this way is an effective "no."

I do not know who is behind this survey, but whoever put it together does not understand this fundamental feature of the polity of the Episcopal Church, concerning the election of its bishops.”

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King has died, and her death has me thinking of her husband. Although he was not an Episcopalian, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s name is included in our Church's book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. That means churches have the option of celebrating a Martin Luther King feast day, complete with its own designated Scripture readings. Some Episcopalians characterize those included in Lesser Feasts and Fasts as "saints," while other Episcopalians are uncomfortable with that term.

Last weekend, at our diocesan convention, we approved a resolution asking our General Convention--that's the governing body of the Church--to include Thurgood Marshall's name in the same book. Inclusion requires approval by two consecutive sessions of GC. The first would have to come in Columbus this June, and the second in 2009.

People who don't think Marshall should be included argue, among other things, that his candidacy is too political, that he may be a hero to liberal Americans, but that that doesn't mean he was a saint. You can accomplish great things, this argument runs, but if you don't accomplish them in the name of the Gospel it isn't necessarily holy work. Folks who argue against including Marshall in LFF also say that participation in a great moral movement does not necessarily indicate you were a moral person.

I have more sympathy with the second of these arguments than with the first. But it is the first argument I'd like to focus on.

To what extent has someone who accomplishes a great social good--such as school desegregation--done something holy? And to what extent does it matter if they did it in the name of Christ, or just because it seemed to them like the right thing to do? I think Thurgood Marshall was motivated by faith, at least in part, but supposing he wasn't, and he still made this extremely significant contribution to the lives of the people of God. Wouldn't we have to acknowledge the sacred nature of this achievment? Or am I missing something?

Saintly Thurgood?

Our diocesan convention is this weekend. Here is a press release regarding one of the issues we will be considering. It's received more play in the media than most of what we do:

Thurgood Marshall was a pioneer in the struggle against racial injustice. Now his friends and fellow parishioners in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington are proposing that he be considered a saint.

Marhsall’s window, Cissy, a parishioner at St. Augustine’s Church in southwest Washington, D.C., will accompany Marshall’s former rector, the Rev. William Pregnall, and members of St. Augustine’s congregation to Washington National Cathedral on Friday January 27 at 3 p. m. when delegates to the diocesan convention will consider a resolution recommending that Marshall’s name be added to the Church’s Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.* (see definition below.)

If the resolution passes, and is approved by consecutive meetings of the Church’s national convention, Episcopal churches will have the opportunity to celebrate May 17 as Marshall’s feast day beginning in 2010. Marshall’s supporters chose May 17 because it is the anniversary of his victory in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark school desegregation case.

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