"Every separation is a link."

Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine, has written an honest, eriudite and deeply moving essay in The American Scholar on language, love, faith, doubt, illness and one or two other things.

This passage conveys a sense of the whole:

There is a passage in the writings of Simone Weil that has long been important to me. In the passage, Weil describes two prisoners who are in solitary confinement next to each other. Between them is a stone wall. Over a period of time — and I think we have to imagine it as a very long time — they find a way to communicate using taps and scratches. The wall is what separates them, but it is also the only means they have of communicating. “It is the same with us and God,” she says. “Every separation is a link.”

It’s probably obvious why this metaphor would appeal to me. If you never quite feel at home in your life, if being conscious means primarily being conscious of your own separation from the world and from divinity (and perhaps any sentient person after modernism has to feel these things) then any idea or image that can translate that depletion into energy, those absences into presences, is going to be powerful. And then there are those taps and scratches: what are they but language, and if language is the way we communicate with the divine, well, what kind of language is more refined a nd transcendent than poetry? You could almost embrace this vision of life — if, that is, there were any actual life to embrace: Weil’s image for the human condition is a person in solitary confinement. There is real hope in the image, but still, in human terms, it is a bare and lonely hope.

It has taken three events, each shattering in its way, for me to recognize both the full beauty, and the final insufficiency, of Weil’s image. The events are radically different, but so closely linked in time, and so inextricable from one another in their consequences, that there is an uncanny feeling of unity to them. There is definitely some wisdom in learning to see our moments of necessity and glory and tragedy not as disparate experiences but as facets of the single experience that is a life. The pity, at least for some of us, is that we cannot truly have this knowledge of life, can only feel it as some sort of abstract “wisdom,” until we come very close to death


Silence your cell

Over 20,000 people from all faiths in over 20 countries have already signed up to join the worldwide initiative, with businesspeople, schoolchildren, religious groups, dance groups and even 4,000 children from a refugee camp in Darfur joining in. The Religious Intelligence website reports:

The focal point of the Just This Day in the UK will be three minutes of quiet at St. Martins in the Field, in central London. Joining Elizabeth Edmunds will be representatives from the all the major faiths, including, the Bishop of Reading, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, from the Muslim Council of Great Britain; Rabbi Alan Plancey, from the office of the Chief Rabbi; Bryan Appleyard, Vice-President and Chairman of The Buddhist Society, Mr SH Ruparell from the Swami Narayan Temple in Neasden and Brahma Charini Sumarti Chaitanya, Chinmaya Mission UK.

Mrs Edmunds says: “The noise and fast pace of life has made us prisoners in our own worlds, with little space for connecting with ourselves. Putting our mobiles and minds on silent mode for just three minutes and doing nothing will give access to stillness which I believe can truly change our own lives and the world for the better.”

The Anglican Bishop of Reading, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, author of the book ‘Do Nothing and Change Your Life’ which he famously publicised by handing out egg timers at a railway station, rediscovered his love for poetry in a moment of stillness. He says, “Our world is busy and in the turmoil we forget we all share the same space. Regardless of your faith, age or background, going into silent mode is something we could all do more of.”

Read it all here and silence your cell phone and your mind Wednesday at 10 a.m. GMT. Of course most in the US will be asleep so it should not be too hard.

Blogging and your soul

Well known Episcopal commentator, Doug LeBlanc reflects on an essay by Buddhist blogger EJ Eskow about the challenge of balancing blog-inspired activism with Buddhist disciplines. LeBlanc mention[s] Eskow’s essay by way of confession. "Blogging is not my default setting as a writer, and I’m not sure I’ve ever found a relaxed, unguarded voice in this medium. Blogging has sometimes made it too easy to lapse from noting irony to indulging unkind sarcasm."

How do I blog without losing something important in my soul? For now, this is my answer: I must blog less, and do more long-view writing that generates joy — both in my life and, I hope, in the lives of my readers.

Read it all here

Spiritual life without church

According to a recent survey adults who do not attend church are cultivating their spiritual life through retreats, prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices.

USAToday reports "a growing number of Americans are recognizing a need to develop their inner life — if not as a spiritual practice, as a way to cultivate balance and depth in an increasingly hectic, chaotic, 24/7 world."

To many people, focusing on their "inner life" means cultivating a closer relationship with God, perhaps by developing a meditation or prayer practice or developing other spiritual disciplines. To others, it may be a more secular quest for tranquility and connectedness.

"An inner life is something everybody has, but we lose touch with it," says Bill Dietrich, executive director of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Md. As Americans, "our lives don't support a contemplative lifestyle" so much as "a constant search for efficiency. We've got to have some way of breaking through to what's really important for us, and spiritual discipline helps us to do that."

Whether religious or secular in nature, Dietrich and others say, an inner life blossoms as its four key components are purposefully cultivated. These involve:

•Taking time for quiet and solitude.

•Cultivating some type of regular spiritual practice or discipline.

•Grounding this spiritual practice in the support of a community.

•Bringing reflection and heightened awareness to everything you do.

Read it all here

Spirituality of skiing at 90

Turning 90 means taking a run down the slopes of Massanutten Ski Resort near Harrisonburg, VA, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

For his birthday, Bill Egelhoff pulled on his helmet, goggles and jacket, stepped into his skis and glided down a mountain.

Not a bad way to celebrate turning 90.

"There's really something spiritual about skiing," said Egelhoff, a retired Episcopal minister, among other jobs he's held. "It's hard to identify and hard to explain, but it's a feeling of being with nature and, in a sense, being with God.

"Getting up on top of the mountain is almost like being in heaven and looking down on Earth. It's just a wonderful feeling."

Read Egelhoff's tips for a long life and see a slideshow of him here.

Students become more spiritual, liberal in college

A new study from UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute finds "that while attendance at religious services decreased dramatically for most students between their freshman and junior years, the students’ overall level of spirituality, as defined by the researchers, increases. On hot-button social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, the study finds that students become increasingly liberal."

Read an interview with one of the princiapl investigators, Alexander Astin, Allan M. Cartter Professor Emeritus of Higher Education at the University of California, who says:

It's important to realize that we don't equate religiousness with spirituality; there are students who are highly spiritual but not necessarily religious. The finding surprised us, however, because the two measures are related: Spiritual people tend to be religious and visa versa. If one declines, you'd expect the other to decline as well, but that didn't happen. We're looking for explanations of the apparent contradictions in the college experience and we've settled on two likely possibilities.

One is the fact that many of these students are away from home for the first time, and we suspect that, for some students, religious observance before college is influenced by the presence of the family. The second explanation has to do with the academic demands of the college experience: A greater deal of time is invested in studies during college than before college.

Holy Week at the monastery

The Society of St. John the Evangelist has a web site with readings, videos and resources that takes the reader along the "The Road to Resurrection."

Every year Christians throughout the world join in retracing the steps of Jesus' final week. Join the Brothers of SSJE as they walk the road to resurrection, from Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem to the Last Supper and anguish of Gethsemane, from the agony of the cross to the glory of the empty tomb. Each day will feature a sermon or reflection (or both!), as well as portions of the major liturgies.

Join the Monastery each day of Holy Week.

A Good Friday meditation

Matt Gunter, reflecting on the image of a Soviet sub's nuclear powerplant gone critical reflects on the parallels between the contamination caused by the leaking radiation and the way our sinful natures contaminate our relationships with the people who surround us in our lives.

"We are contaminated. What’s even harder for us to admit is that many of our actions and thoughts contribute to the contamination. The leaking reactor at the heart of the world contaminates everything. The reactor of our own hearts is contaminated. Like the crew on the K-19 we are trapped – unable to escape the toxic contamination.

Into this world comes one who is not contaminated. Jesus enters into the world and acts as a sort of holy Geiger counter setting off a click, click, click as he encounters the contamination radiating from Sin and Death.
Judas, a trusted friend and disciple, comes to him in the darkness. Perhaps it was greed. Perhaps it was disillusionment. Perhaps it as an impatient attempt to force Jesus’ hand and bring about the kingdom as Judas envisioned it. In any event, Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.  And with that lip service, the Geiger counter goes click, click, click, click.

By most standards the high priests, Annas and Caiaphas, were probably decent enough men, trying to maintain as much independence for their nation as they could while appeasing the occupying Romans and forestalling the wrath of the empire.  But Caiaphas was the one who had counseled that it was ‘better to have one person die for the people.’ Jesus was just ‘collateral damage’ in the struggle to preserve the nation’s precarious security.  There is a logic to his thinking.  It is reasoning with which we have become familiar.  But the thinking is contaminated.  And again we hear, click, click, click, click.

Peter, the ‘Rock’, cracks under pressure and lies to avoid being associated with the one who had called him and whom he had followed. He denies Jesus not once but thrice and upon the third denial hears the rooster crow click, click, click, click.

Pilate cynically asks the one who is Truth, ‘What is truth?’ Unable or unwilling to accept the truth and the changes that must follow, Pilate, who claims the power to free or to crucify, hands an innocent man over to be crucified while seeking to remain free of the guilt. But he cannot escape the click, click, click, click measuring the contamination of his actions.
One way or another, each of the characters that Jesus encounters in the passion narrative (excepting only Mary and the other women, along with the disciple Jesus loved) demonstrates his contamination by the radiation of Sin and Death. Each alone and all together act out of fear, pride, and disbelief leading to betrayal, denial, desertion, deceit, collaboration, and the justification of violence."

Read the rest of the essay here.

Good Friday fast or feast

Michael Kinman, the executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, has written a reflection on Christ's self-giving of himself for the world and posted it this Good Friday:

"Poverty and privilege have at least one thing in common -- they are both about choice, or lack of the same.

This first struck me most powerfully during my first trip to Ghana several years ago. I only had to be there a few days when I realized that my most valuable possession wasn't my laptop or my camera ... but my American passport. With it I had the choice whether to stay or to go. Whether to make a life there or leave and make a life elsewhere.

The privilege of choice that my wealth and education and other aspects of my (white) American life bring infuses every corner of my life. I can choose where to send my children to school. I can choose what kind of car to drive, what neighborhood to live in. I have chosen what kind of education I wanted and have chosen and continue to choose what kind of career I want.

My whole life has been and continues to be an embarrassment of riches of choice. Even the everyday choices ('Do you want fries with that?') when cast against a world where nearly 1,000,000,000 people go to bed hungry every night speak to the extreme privilege of choice I take for granted.

So I have the privilege of choice. I cannot escape it. Do I feel guilty about it? What now?

What word does Christ speak to me?

That word comes crashing through in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2 -- one of the most beautiful lyrics ever written. And it speaks of the events of today -- Good Friday -- in just these terms. Christ, the second person of the holy and undivided Trinity, was in the position of the most extreme privilege. Christ had the power of divinity -- talk about extreme choice! Christ could do anything.

And look at what Christ did.

Christ let go.

Christ let go of the privilege of choice. He saw that privilege not as something to be grasped, but emptied himself -- and even after emptying himself into human form, he continued to give up the privilege of choice and became obedient to the point of death ... even death on a cross."

Read the rest here.

How to spend a downturn

From a blog at the intersection of anthropology and economics:

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Finding Christian community is hard work

Our baptismal covenant teaches us that Christians need community. Still, finding healthy, supportive Christian community is hard work. In this week's Alban Institute e-newsletter, Timothy C. Geoffrion reflects on the obstacles to Christian community and the joys of living within it.

Pursuing God within community, then, can offer many benefits. For greater safety and security, pursuing God within a community of sincere, knowledgeable pilgrims can be reassuring and helpful. For greater knowledge and wisdom, interacting with both learned people and those from other traditions and faiths in the broader world can be quite fruitful. For encouragement and support for the journey, finding the right kind of community offers companionship, perspective, and essential help along the way. On the other hand, those who try to go it alone or who refuse to listen to others set themselves up for futile wandering at best and disaster at worst. Spiritual arrogance, rooted in self-centeredness and an overly self-confident reliance on one’s own thinking and experience, can easily lead to making significant personal mistakes and to hurting others.

Sometimes finding a church that feels like a good fit is really hard. Sometimes others don’t want to resolve their conflicts with us or cannot do so peacefully. Trying to develop authentic, mutually beneficial relationships is often hard work and doing so with some people seems impossible. Most of us have memories of being hurt by someone in Christian community, and some of us still carry the scars from our wounds. Finding, cultivating, and maintaining spiritually vital relationships within community sometimes may seem like too much work with too little promise. Nevertheless, in my experience, without Christian community we simply cannot experience the fullness of life God intends for us, and we will limit our spiritual growth and miss out on important aspects of Spirit-led living.

Adapted from One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim's Guide to Spirit-Led Living by Timothy C. Geoffrion, copyright © 2008 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.

Cross rises from the ashes

Amid the ashes and the rubble, one icon of Mount Calvary remains standing, a silent symbol of salvation and triumph: the wrought-iron cross that was erected in 1949, shortly after the monastery was established, reports the Santa Barbara-Goleta Noozhawk.

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Obama: Life without church community is difficult

President-elect Barack Obama has been without a worship community for about a year now and throughout that time, he says, it’s been difficult according to Christian Post.

“Now, I've got a wonderful community of people who are praying for me every day, and they call me up and – you know, but it's not the same as going to church and the choir's going and you get a good sermon,” he said in an interview aired Sunday by ABC's This Week.

Over the past year, Obama has been attending church sparingly and though it’s been nearly two weeks since he and his family arrived in Washington, the president-elect said they still don’t have a church to attend yet.

But Obama said one of the items on his list of things to do is to visit churches in the area and “seeing what’s comfortable,” preferably before his fast-approaching inauguration date.

“It is tougher as president,” said the incoming commander-in-chief.

And it’s not just an issue of going to church, Obama added. “It’s an issue of going anywhere.”

“You don't want to subject your fellow church members, the rest of the congregation, to being magged every time you go to church,” Obama said. “And so, we're going to try to be balancing, not being disruptive to the city, but also saying we want to be part of Washington D.C.”

Since Obama’s victory in November, churches in the nation’s capital have been extending invitations to him and his family, touting their African-American roots, their ties to past presidents and to Obama himself. According to reports, United Church of Christ, Methodist, nondenominational, and historic black congregations have all extended invitations to the Obamas to attend their services.

“The eclectic nature of Obama’s spiritual pilgrimage, coupled with his coming to Washington unaffiliated with a denomination, has increased the competition among congregations for the involvement of the president-elect and his family,” observed Dr. Gary Scott Smith, author of Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush.

Watch the interview here.

Lenten series from the SSJE

The Society of St. John the Evangelist, based in Cambridge MA, are sharing their Lenten program not only with those able to visit the Monastery this year, but with anyone who wishes to participate online.

From their website:

We invite you to join us, either in person or virtually, for our Lenten preaching series, Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Living. Each Tuesday in March, the 5.15 Eucharist at the Monastery Chapel will feature a sermon reflecting on a specific practice from the SSJE Rule of Life. After the service there will be a soup supper and further conversation with the evening's preacher.

March 3 - Br. Kevin Hackett, on Silence
March 10 - Br. Bruce Neal, on The Grace of Friendship
March 17 - Br. Robert L'Esperance, on Engaging Poverty
March 24 - Br. David Vryhof, on Prayer and Life
March 31 - Br. Geoffrey Tristram, on The Challenges of Community Life

If you cannot join us in person, check back here for a weekly update, featuring an audio recording of the sermon and suggestions for further reading.

Celebrate World Labyrinth Day

The first Saturday in May has been declared World Labyrinth Day.
A press release from The Labyrinth Society states:

The Labyrinth Society has declared the first Saturday in May as World Labyrinth Day a global day of celebration of the labyrinth with an invitation to walk a labyrinth at 1PM around the world, in your local time zone. The first annual World Labyrinth Day will be celebrated on May 2nd, 2009.

World Labyrinth Day has been established as a day for bringing people from all over the planet together... World Labyrinth Day is a vehicle for informing and educating the public, hosting walks, building permanent and temporary labyrinths, making labyrinth-related art and more.


The Washington (DC) National Cathedral holds labyrinth walks each month. Directions for walking are as follows:

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Some people walk with the intention of addressing an issue in their lives, others to pray and meditate. It is helpful to pause before you enter to center your thoughts on your intention.

Walk between the lines of the circuit, being aware that you are sharing the labyrinth with others. You may pass other walkers, or let them step around you. When you reach the center you have entered the most sacred space in the labyrinth. The center is a place to pause, reflect, and receive insight.
Walking the path back out of the labyrinth is a time for deep reflection and a chance to consider what it might mean for your daily living.

A photo essay of the Labyrinth at the Cathedral is here

More on labyrinths here

Find a labyrinth near you here.

What is Greenbelt anyway?

This past week we have been reporting on the UK Greenbelt Festival. For more on what it is and how it is the Rev. Sam Norton, Rector of West Mersea, Essex provides photos and commentary at his blog.

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A right way to pray?

Ask a dozen Episcopalians how to pray, and you're likely to get at least a dozen different answers back. For some, a more personalized view of prayer might be the evidence of good teaching taking hold, while for others such diversity might raise eyebrows: "Can't they agree on anything?"

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Living full lives to the end

Two stories of living a life of service in the face of death:

A Good Life to the End, Forrest Church, Death and Dying -- AARP
Source: www.aarp.org
Can a minister follow his own advice about embracing life in the face of death?

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Speaking to the Soul, the book version

According to the secular calendar, Christmas is hard approaching; at least according to my local Mall. If you're looking for a gift suggestion this year, you would do very well consider the new book by Episcopal Café contributor Vicki Black.

Vicki tends the "Speaking to the Soul" portion of this site, and she's now put together a lovely compilation of daily readings in bound form.

You can browse the book here and finding ordering information from your preferred online retailer as well.

Thanksgiving Haikus

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Every year Heidi Shott, Canon for Communications and Social Justice in the Diocese of Maine asks the members of the Episcopal Communicators Lis-Serv to write a Thanksgiving haiku. These are this year's results.

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Longest night services

In recent years there's been a new sort of Christmas observance gaining popularity. Many Episcopal congregation and churches of other denominations will be holding "Longest Night" or "Blue Christmas" events tonight, the longest night of the year. They are ways that the congregations are caring for the pastoral needs of those for whom this is not a happy time.

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Candlemas by Denise Levertov

The text of this poem follows. We also have a multi-media presentation. Watch it with the sound on.

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Prayer on a deep winter night

The following was offered as the closing prayer this past weekend for the Diocese of Iowa's meeting of the Commission on Ministry. May it warm us all.

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The God spot in the brain?

There's a report in New Scientist this week that neurologists may have found the location in our brains that is related to feelings of "transcendence". Scientists have been looking for the "seat of religion" for years now, and the research just published may be the breakthrough they needed.

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Simplicity itself

Bob Sitze, writing for the Alban Institute:

At this moment in history, the world God loves is groaning under the weight of injustice and slowly being robbed of its capacity to sustain life. All around you, the people God loves are increasingly burdened by lifestyles they can't keep up for very much longer. You and your congregation are called to help turn that around.

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The news of the day and our Lenten obligation

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook Chile over the weekend killed more than 700 persons and displaced a few million more. At this point - remembering that these numbers are expected to increase but we know not by how much - the news is relatively sparse, so far-reaching conclusions aren't easily deduced.

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A meditation on Holy Saturday

Canon Giles Frazier was deeply moved by Bishop Pierre Whalon's account of his recent visit to Haiti on behalf of the Episcopal Church. Canon Frazier used a detail of the eyewitness account as the jumping off point for a meditation of the work of Christ during the most Holy Sabbath of the Triduum, and the need for new understandings of the Atonement.

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Rejoice Now!

Most Episcopal Churches are just now beginning or just concluding their Easter Vigil services. For most of the country it is Easter! And the first part of the service includes the singing of the Exultet. This version, in Spanish, sung at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark NJ is worth your time. Feliz Pacua!

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'Pray for those who persecute you?' Why? How?

Des Moines Register guest columnist Mike Wellman has a point so simple it's easy to overlook when he speaks of the power of religion to create infectious, internecine conflict.

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Recognizing God's activity for spiritual transformation

At the Alban Institute online, Timothy C. Geoffrion reflects on the ways that we might experience spiritual transformation by striving to recognize God's activity and love in our lives:

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Mass church offers service for dog owners

A Danvers, Massachusetts church has offered a service to help dog owners get closer to God while several news sources emphasize that this service is "for the dogs" rather than for dog owners. We often have dogs in church at St. Francis Day but this church has welcomed them all year round at one service.

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These eyes won't judge you

To have the fortitude to gaze into someone, in silence, and then to have your gaze returned to you without judgment, soul to soul: this may just be the essence of a healthy ethic of spiritual direction. After all, as we're told in Mark: before Jesus gave advice to the man who had so precisely followed the commandments, yet still yearned for eternal life, it was that "Jesus, looking at him, loved him." And then he spoke.

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Praying too fast? What's your hurry?

Commenters to blogger Anne Jackson's Flowerdust site point to a critical problem chronically dispersed among the faithful (and, we note, its leaders): we pray way too fast.

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Prayer in prison

The Rev. Petero A. N. Sabune reflects on the rhythm of prayer while serving as chaplain to Sing Sing Prison:

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Changing my religion? Social media and church

USAToday reflects on the effect of social media on religious communities:

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Finding hope in desperate times

Bob Seitz writing for the Alban Institute wonder how many preachers have the courage and vision to preach authentically in troubled times:

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Praying your way to a bigger brain?

Correlations between brain activity and spiritual exercises are beginning to bear interesting fruits, scientists and writers who stand in the intersection of the two are reporting.

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The holiness of spiritual journey

As the summer winds down and vacations wind down, people are back to the everyday grind, the everyday, "ordinariness" of life. We are also in the midst of the season of Pentecost, the "Ordinary Time" of our liturgical season. Do you need to leave home to experience the holy? The Washington Post's "On Faith" column takes on the question of leaving home and going on pilgrimage to experience the holy. How does your spiritual tradition take on the practice of pilgrimage, of spiritual journey?

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Le Pichon seeks the deep connections between faith and reason

Xavier Le Pichon's primary work has been in the area of Plate Tectonics. A French scientist, he is very well known in geological circles for his comprehensive mode of plate tectonics. He's won numerous awards for his scientific research. And he lives in an intentional community that cares for the mentally ill because of his faith.

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Seeing the light: Gabrielle Giffords and the season of Epiphany

Riffing on President Obama's "Gabby opened her eyes" made in reference to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Diana Butler Bass says one of the great themes of Epiphany is found in many religions. It is also, she says, one of the areas we're struggling as a country to understand.

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A prayer breakfast for David Kato

Bishop Gene Robinson joins Auburn Theological Seminary in calling for ‘A Prayer for David Kato' on February 3rd, the first day of the National Prayer Breakfast, to honor the Ugandan gay rights activist who was killed last week:

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A priest rediscovers faith

There's a moving story of an Episcopal priest's crisis of faith that started when a medical crisis nearly destroyed his family. The Orange County Register tells the story of The Rev. Brad Karelius, rector of Church of the Messiah, Santa Ana California and how he was able to reconnect with God during a visit to one of the most empty and barren places in United States.

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The angels do sing in the darkness

Is it possible to feel God's presence in the midst of horror and torture? There are numerous histories of the martyrs that claim so. There are more modern reports that make the same claim. Shoshana Garfield, who has spent 20 years of clinical work helping people recover from experiences of torture and abuse writes in the Guardian about what she has learned from her clients.

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Lent makes better leaders

Bishop Scott Benhase of Georgia makes an interesting point in his column on Duke Divinity School's Call and Response blog. Given research that shows that more we multitask, the worse we become at it. Perhaps Lent takes on more urgency for leaders.

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We need to do Lent better

Lent used to be serious business in the Church, much along the same way that Ramadan is for most Muslims. But lately it's become more of a token event in the life of the individual Christian. It's pretty much widely ignored in the non-liturgical traditions. The Prosperity Gospel churches follow, for various reasons, the more Evangelical traditions in America arguing that because Lent is not biblical, it should have no place in our lives.

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Banishing capitulation as Lenten practice

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, interim rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Oklahoma City and Genesis Covenant mover/shaker, says this Lent we'd ought to give up giving up for Lent as a sign of witness.

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Bosco on lay presidency

Bosco Peters writes on his blog Liturgy about the proposal to institute lay presidency of the eucharist in the Diocese of Sydney of the Anglican Church in Australia.

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The Harrowing of Hell

Resurrection2"The icon of the Harrowing of Hell reminds us that God reaches into the deepest depths to pull forth souls into the kingdom of light. It reminds us how much we are unable to comprehend – let alone take to heart as our own – our creedal statement about Christ’s descent into Hell – ‘He descended into Hell.’

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The light of Christ

Easter Fire

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Rest on Sunday or else!

Our colleague, Derek Olsen, who often writes for Daily Episcopalian, discusses the "letter from Jesus" found in Anglo-Saxon England that commands resting on Sunday and relates the punishments that will be visited upon the people who do not rest:

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Oprah: icon of spiritual but not religious

Elizabeth Tenety, writing at the Under God blog of the Washington Post proposes that Oprah is a spiritual leader, especially of those who claim to be spiritual but not religious:

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Underhill remembered

Evelyn Underhill, one of the best loved modern writers on spirituality, is being remembered on the 100th anniversary of the publication of her book "Mysticism". The Church Times has a wonderful profile of her work and the reach of her influence written by the new dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Jane Shaw.

For instance, Shaw details the way Underhill started off as person more focused on the idea of individual spirituality that needed no community:

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When sermons take on lives of their own

Michael R. Duncan, on Faith Lab, reflects on preaching and how what is heard is not always what is said. Also how what is written by the preacher often ends up having little relationship to what is preached.

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Simplicity at the heart

In the Alban Institute's weekly offering, Bruce G. Epperly , Katherine Gould Epperly, reflect on simplicity as being at the heart of the pastoral task because to pray constantly is at heart of the Christian journey.

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Quiet to mark the moment

Stop. Listen. Is it at all silent where you are?

It still seems impossible for most of us to forget where we were ten years ago and how, amidst everything else, there was an edgy stillness at the heart of it.

Writer Suzi P. remembers:

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You remember a little ... I'll add a piece

On his blog Becoming, hospice physician and Episcopal priest Steve Thomason recounts some of his memories of what happened at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest on 9/11/2001.

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Walking the labyrinth: a brief autobiography

Washington Post columnist and "On Faith" Editor in Chief Sally Quinn visits with CNN Belief Blog about her experiences of walking the labyrinth:

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Godly gardening

Norman Wirzba, author of Food and Faith: a theology of eating, reflects on Godly Gardening.

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Enough with the holiday guilt already

Fr. Tim of Clergy Family Confidential, etc., says guilt is pointless after New Year's.

When you make a resolution you can’t keep, you’re left with one thing: guilt. This is the reason I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

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What are we feeding the spiritually hungry?

Does your parish offer any organized teaching about, exposure to, or immersion in any Christian spiritual practices? Lectio Divina? Centering Prayer? The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius? The writings of the great Carmelite mystics? I have a vague sense that most people who come through our doors for the first time are looking for something that they can’t find elsewhere, and that we don’t provide it in a consistent fashion.

Thoughts? Experiences?

Bad religion: American heresies

Ross Douhat, author of Bad Religion: How we became a nation of heretics, interviewed about his new book on NPR. The 3 main heresies of today are found in the popularity of the DaVinci Code, the preaching of Joel Osteen and the prosperity gospel, and of the narcissism of books like Eat, Pray, Love:

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Communion on the moon

The Atlantic explores the intersection of faith and science as we explore space, wondering, "Our secular endeavor of space exploration is flush with religious observance. Why is that?"

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This month, take the 'Gratitude Challenge'

Jana Reiss, author of the wise and irreverent book "Flunking Sainthood," offers an opportunity to join her this month in a disciplined effort to practice gratitude. She writes:

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Praying to an impersonal God

Writing for the Huffington Post, Joshua Stanton, associate director of the Center for Global Judaism, explains why he believes it is both possible and worthwhile to pray to "an impersonal God."

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10 spiritual practices for Advent and Christmas

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia features 10 spiritual practices Towards a Peaceful Christmas by the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, rector of Trinity, Everett, WA:

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Reflections on the life of Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, a giant of 20th century spirituality, died 44 years ago today. The Rev. James Martin reflects on Merton's life.

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Silent retreat - great in theory, difficult in practice

While silent retreats are gaining popularity in our busy, noisy culture, many people have a lot of trouble adjusting to the quiet. And what does it mean to be on retreat when we can stay connected to the outside world through cellphones and iPads? The Washington Post reports:

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A New Year's Prayer

A New Year's Prayer:

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Making marriage work when only one spouse believes in God

NPR reports on making a marriage work when only one spouse believes in God:

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Experiences that change the heart

Can one experience change us forever? On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, this might be a question worth pondering.

Mike Hayes reflects on the dynamics of conversion on his blog "Googling God."

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Celebrating the 150th anniversary of "the tube" - the London Underground with labyrinths. The Guardian reports:

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Online retreats gather seekers

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) notes the growth of online retreats:

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Lent changing in U.S.

The Deseret News notes changes in the celebration of Ash Wednesday and Lent in The Episcopal Church and other church that mark this season. Social activism, taking time for reflection and the influence of Latino/Latina cultures all contribute to the evolution of the church season:

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Lenten meditation: The rewards of running uphill with God

Here is a beautiful Lenten meditation from the Rev. Callie Swanlund and the choir of the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Philadelphia. This three-minute podcast is part of a series that the church will present each Wednesday during Lent. (I am inspired by the idea of running without letting the music from my iPod interfere with my time with God. Thanks, Callie.) Sign up to receive St. Martin's weekly meditations via e-mail here.

Ash Wednesday and Lent in Two Minutes

We posted this when it was created a couple of years ago, but it's worth revisiting and sharing with your friends on this Ash Wednesday:

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Episcopal evangelism: Ashes to Go gains momentum

Ashes To Go seems to be gaining momentum, doesn't it? I confess that I started this Ash Wednesday dubious about this increasingly popular Episcopalian phenomenon, thinking haughtily that it's important that people make a personal commitment to cross the threshold of a church, a sacred space, just like I do, to repent of their sins and begin this holy season.

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Giving up God to make room for God

Brandon Ambrosino, an Orthodox Christian, is giving up God for Lent. He writes at Huffington Post:

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The prayer life and practice of 'nones'

On this Maundy Thursday, and all through Holy Week, I find myself thinking about the importance of religious practice to spiritual well-being. This concept is relatively easy for regular church-goers to grasp, I think, but we who are part of faith communities fall short when it comes to opening our hearts and doors to those who might be surprised at how enriching sacred worship within community can be. We don't do enough to make our churches feel safe for those unsure what they believe, but seeking deeper spiritual experience. When I think of how the "nones" might tend to embrace a spiritual practice such as zen meditation, I wonder why the beauty of ritual within Christian liturgy doesn't draw more of our "spiritual but not religious" friends and neighbors.

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Live the moment

Mandy Patinkin discusses his religious practice and spirituality:

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What 'nones' can teach us about prayer

On this National Day of Prayer, Elizabeth Drescher finds certain inspiration in the prayer practices of "nones" who eschew organized religion but demonstrate charity in their spiritual approach. She writes in the Washington Post:

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Katharine Welby talks about depression

Katharine Welby, daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, gives her first interview about depression in
The Telegraph:

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Iona: 1450th anniversary of the arrival of Columba

From Episcopal News Service

The ancient Celts described Iona as a “thin place,” where the veil between heaven and earth is lifted, and where one might glimpse the divine.

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Taizé on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota

This Memorial Day weekend, the brothers of Taizé, an ecumenical monastic community in France, will partner with Lakota people to host hundreds of young people, ages 18-35, for prayer and conversation at Christ Church, an Episcopal church near Red Shirt, South Dakota. The Rapid City Journal reports:

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Be happy. Bobby McFerrin attends an Episcopal Church.

Bobby McFerrin talks with Kim Lawton of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about music for spiritual journey, and remembers wanting to be an Anglican monk. It's worth sitting through the 30 second commercial for this excellent eight minute piece.

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Dear parents with young children in church

"That mom" writes in the blog I am totally *that* mom encouraging parents who bring young children to worship services:

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Taizé community in South Dakota: pilgrimage of trust

Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service reports on the Taizé pilgrimage to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota:

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10 things you can't do and follow Jesus

Mark Sandlin lists 10 things you can't do while following Jesus. Sojourners carries the story:

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Waiting on God

The Rev. Linda Kaufman reflects on falling away from a practice of silence and prayer time with God and how taking it up again has made her fall in love with Jesus all over again:

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Even doing good can be all about me

At The Lamb's War, Micah Bales writes:

So often in my life, I have told myself that I was working for a righteous cause, justice, or even God, but far more often than I would care to admit, my most compelling motivation has been the surge of energy and affirmation from taking a stand, leading the charge or doing the right thing. In the end, my good deeds were more about me than about anything transcendent.

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Marks of the new monasticism

Sharon Ely Pearson has a post on the Building Faith blog on "the marks of the new monasticism." They are:

Marks of a New Monasticism

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Six reasons to pray Compline with kids

Father Jeff Jackson of Hamilton, Ga., makes a beautiful suggestion to enhance your family's prayer life, and create peace as your children get ready for bed. Say Compline daily with the kids. (I wish I had done this with my own children as they were growing up.) He writes:

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Why pray?

Why do you pray?

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Bringing together work and discipleship

Michael Kruse presents six ways congregations can help people integrate work life and the life of faith.

The High Calling:

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5 reasons millennials stay with church

The Barna organization discusses millennials who stay connected to church and the reasons they give:

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How do you make a new building spiritual?

What makes a building speak to one's soul? How does a building become spiritual? Anglican Communion News Service asks:

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Sara Miles and Nadia Bolz-Weber - best one liners from lunch

The Religion Newswriters Association met last week. Saturday Sara Miles and Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke over lunch with the newswriters. Spokane Faith and Values reports:

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Keeping the experience of God alive

In a column for The New York Times, anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann examines why people believe in the supernatural.

She tells the story of a young man whom she calls Jack, who created a fox as a tulpa, which she defines as "thought-forms, or imagined creatures." Jack was able to create the fox, but not able to keep it alive indefinitely. She writes:

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Wrong to mix prayers and swears?

When life is frustrating or brutal - do your swear in your prayers?

Peter Manseau writing in Religion Dispatches wonders:

Do people often swear when they talk to God?

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Why go to church?

Ben Myers explains why he goes to church at Faith and Theology:

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Keeping Lent

Ash Wednesday and Lent are coming in 2 weeks. What are your plans this year? Maggie Dawn, associate dean of Marquand Chapel and associate professor of theology and literature at Yale Divinity School, suggests 40 ways to keep a joyful, thankful, holy Lent:

Lent begins ... on Wednesday March 5th - and lasts ... around 40 Days. ...

Today's post is simply 40 ideas for keeping the 40 days of Lent. The Great Commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself" (with the implication that caring for God's earth is rolled into the bargain) so I've thought up 40 ideas for keeping Lent that appeal to the creative and literary, to the development of community and relationships, to promote social action, and to encourage ecological responsibility, as well as individual spiritual concerns. You could:

choose just one of these (such as writing a thank you note) and do it every day.

choose one category and repeat it throughout Lent.

choose one from each category to do throughout Lent.

agree with a group of friends, or with your congregation, on one or more of these to practice together.

(Dawn categorizes the 50 and offers ideas for each category)


Social/community spirituality

Spirituality and prayer

Social action

Ecological/environmental - form a new habit in Lent to care for the earth.

Joy-inspiring spiritual practices


Read all the ideas here.

Montana Episcopalians hold summer camp for kids whose parents are in prison

The Episcopal Diocese of Montana offers summer camp to children and teens whose parents are incarcerated: The
Billings Gazette writes:

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Give ourselves in love

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies offers this Good Friday meditation for Episcopal Relief and Development:

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Through the darkness of Holy Saturday, we wait

Cafe contributor Fr. Andrew Gerns offers this wisdom on Holy Saturday:

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Meditations for the Great 50 Days of Easter

The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead, dean of St.John's Cathedral in Jacksonville (where I happen to work) has recorded a series of less-than-one-minute video messages for the 50 days of Easter, corresponding to meditations in her new book, "Resurrecting Easter."

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Living into the season of Easter

Are you having a joyful Easter season so far? Allan Bevere writes at Christian Century:

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Church garden offers the gift of tranquility for all

St. Gregory's Church in Woodstock, N.Y., offers amazing sacred space in its lush and peaceful gardens. From Hudson Valley magazine:

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's "Conscious Evolution" back in focus

In the American Nuns debate with the Vatican, the role of French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's "Conscious Evolution" is causing Roman Catholic Church officials to take notice:

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What to do when all the news is bad

With a flood of bad news coming out Israel and Palestine, the Ukraine, Syria and Iraq and, finally, along the U.S.-Mexico border, it is easy to be overwhelmed. How does one cope and stay spiritually engaged when all the news is bad?

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, who blogs as the Velveteen Rabbi, shares some thoughts:

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Humor on forgetfulness

Parker Palmer uses humor to "rekindle his memory" (along with some Billy Collins poetry).

You can read Palmer's whole commentary (along with Collins "Forgetfullness") at the On Being website. Here's an excerpt:

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Fitbit for the soul?

SoulPulse tracks patterns of spiritual living according to Vox:

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Prayer and anxiety

Prayer can be very calming. Or very disturbing. It depends on your assumptions about God and how the universe works that makes the difference.

The Atlantic:

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Buyer beware: Exploding caskets

Our parish is planning a panel discussion in the fall on end-of-life issues; hospice services, estate planning, living wills, spiritual preparations for death, etc. Perhaps we should add mention of exploding caskets to the program. Josh Slocum, a funeral industry watchdog, writes at the Washington Post blog:

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How then should we pray?

Andrew WK writes a spirituality advice column in the Village Voice, and he responded to a question on how to pray thusly:

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"Reconciliation is what we practice after we have chosen justice."

The meaning of the word reconciliation, as the word is frequently used in church circles, has always made me uneasy for reasons I couldn't define until today.

Here's an excerpt from Austin Channing's blog, which I hope you will read in its entirety:

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An analogy for grace

Joshua Bell, the renowned violinist who once posed as a typical subway busker for a Washington Post magazine article, is back underground again.

The question posed by the original 2007 story was: "If a world-famous musician and his $3 million fiddle brought some of history’s most beautiful music to a rush-hour crowd [in a DC metro station], would people stop and listen? 'In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?,' the story wondered."

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How does church design affect evangelism?

The Barna Group and Cornerstone Knowledge Network have recently released a study called Making Space for Millennials. This study looks at the preferences of millennials and how that might impact how physical space in worship communities is designed and utilized.

When asked to describe their ideal church, 'community,' 'sanctuary,' 'classic,' and 'quiet' came out on top, which should be good news for most Episcopal churches, however;

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