This past weekend Bill and I enjoyed a return trip to Linville, NC. I was honored to be asked once again to lead the chapel service at All Saints Episcopal Church, one of the most spiritually infused worship spaces I have ever been in. Although the physical sanctuary is rather small, the enormity of God’s spirit looms large and powerful. The visiting clergy are housed in a dear sweet rectory right next to the chapel and are welcome to arrive Wednesday stay until Tuesday. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, the landscape oozes God’s holy creation through every part of the tall hemlock trees, blooming rhododendrons, moss covered paths and running trout streams. Bill would add that a fabulous golf course within the community contributes to his appreciation for our visits!

To get to Linville is not always what I would call a ‘spiritual’ journey! We go to Frederick via 70, then head to I-81 getting on at Winchester. From there we head south for 4 ½ (long, long) hours before exiting at Damascus VA which is almost to Bristol. From Damascus to Linville, we wind our way up and down mountains, a scenic respite from the superhighway, before arriving in Linville. With several stops, total time for the trip is a bit over 8 hours. Normally the trip goes fairly quickly especially with some downloaded movies on my I-pad. But this time, returning on Memorial Day, I confess to becoming inpatient and annoyed. As we made our way north on I-81, the traffic got heavier and heavier, the rain storms more frequent, and the rolling backups (for no seeming reason) became more frequent. As we approached Stanton VA, out of aggravation I suggested to Bill that we find another way….that we get off the familiar route and take some backroads. He was just as grumpy so he agreed. We took the next exit and found ourselves on Rt. 340…wow!

Our trip immediately went from congestion and frustration to idyllic Virginia 2 lane country roads nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We passed beautiful green pastures with cows grazing peacefully or standing chest deep in country ponds; we encountered neatly cut lawns of modest houses as well as trailer homes whose random piles of abandoned  cars, rusted trucks and corroded tractors from another era signaled poverty and hard times. We came to appreciate the beautiful Shenandoah River as RT 340 crisscrosses it several times and with the recent rain, it was not a lazy river. We found ourselves going through small towns with unfamiliar names, like Grottes, Port Republic, Elkton and Boyce among others.

Three things struck us about these little communities. First, the vast majority of the houses had front porches complete with rocking chairs, many of which were occupied on Monday afternoon. There was such a sweet element of hospitality about that. People clearly felt it important to ‘sit and rock a spell’. Some seemed engaged in conversations, many had a dog in their lap or at their feet while others were quietly just watching us drive by, seemingly in contemplation about who knows what. I was drawn to their sense of rural serenity.

The second observation we made was the abundance of American Flags that predominated our route. Large ones hanging by the front doors, little ones stuck in the ground lining the fences of yards, red/white/blue bunting hanging from second floor balconies of old brick farmhouses…they seemed to be everywhere. It was a poignant reminder how ‘country folk’ display their love of country and respect for those in the military whose lives were lost.

The final unexpected surprise was the number of signs I saw for Episcopal Churches in these very small communities. Without really looking for them, I counted almost 10. That is a lot but I also have to say, some seemed in better shape than others which I assume reflected the health of the parishes.

We finally got home and while yes, it was long, Bill and I appreciated a whole new adventure. When the 3 wise men journeyed to find Jesus in the manager, they were advised not to return the way they came because of Herod’s threats.  In Matthew 2:1 it says ‘and so they went home another way.’ Indeed that is what we did….literally…..we chose to go home another way….and it was good!

I think I am going to try that more often….to deliberately take a new route from home to church occasionally or other destinations as well. Why not? Sort of fun…..

PS: If you want to know more about All Saints Church in Linville, click on the link:



Dear Folks,

The boys of Baltimore Collegiate School hold their “tie ceremony” on a September Saturday.  The 3-year-old public charter on Woodbourne Avenue calls its students “gents,” and this annual ritual invites them to embody that moniker.  “You have the opportunity every day to represent this community and your best self,” said one speaker, and after African drumming, a prayer, and singing, a mentor chosen by each boy knotted the school tie under his chin.   The young man seated behind me didn’t have anyone with him, so I asked him if he wanted some help.  He nodded, shook my hand when we finished, and asked me about how I was dressed.  “What does that kind of collar mean,” he wondered.  I told him a couple of things about the Episcopal Church and my job, but he waved all that off.  “I think you look sharp,” he said, a 6th grader through and through.

Think about the symbolic quality of our dressing: brides in white gowns, scrubs at the hospital, service uniforms, vestments at church, business casual… In community organizing we were trained to wear what we thought the person at the head of the table would be wearing, in order to honor her and invite mutual respect.    Do we teach our children what their clothes communicate, by design or unintentionally, why a hoodie on a lonely street corner can be threatening, how fashion can be used to empower or shame, why Jesus says if someone takes your coat, to give him your shirt, as well?

I mostly wore a clerical collar during my years at St. Albans School.  The Headmaster, a lay person, felt strongly about having a priest in the role of Head of Upper School when he hired me, so I dressed the part.  The chaplains and I were meant to stand out among the 300 blue blazers which filled the halls to bursting every 50 minutes, to signal safe harbor or discipline, as needed.  “Be a presence,” he said to all the clergy. “This school functions as an old-fashioned parish, and you’re the village parson.”  Despite that pastoral image, the hubbub between classes could be overwhelming—noisy and irreverent and free.  Boys on crutches often chose to walk outside, one with chronic mobility issues was sometimes lifted above our heads to keep him safe, and if I had my toddler daughter with me, I learned to carry her and announce “little ears” to keep the boys’ language G-rated.  Some days our dress code felt like it was what kept chaos at bay, the only way we were buttoned up.

When we moved to Long Island, which has a large Roman Catholic population, I found when I wore a collar that conversations changed at the barber shop or at the deli.  Sometimes I was told I didn’t have to pay for my sandwich!  So I began to wear a coat and tie during the work week, unconsciously at first, so that I would be treated like everyone else.  By the time we got to Baltimore, I reserved “priest clothes” for services or pastoral calls.

Something happened this weekend that might change all that.  Saturday was a full day, with a memorial service in the morning and a wedding that afternoon.  By 6:30 p.m. I’d lost my voice, so I stopped in a Royal Farms for gas and hot tea.  The woman behind the counter took me to the tea bags and hot water, showed me sugar and cream and stirrers, and lingered near me as I poured a cup.  “Are you some kind of minister,” she asked me, pulling on her uniform collar.  I told her who I was, and she stepped closer to me.  “Why is everyone talking about Jerusalem on the news,” she asked.  I talked about moving the embassy from Tel Aviv and the religious rhetoric being bandied about, and she wondered about the Second Coming of Christ.  Stories began to tumble out: her fear of thunderstorms, the intensity of the lightening on Friday, the daughter she had when she was 14, her grandmother’s faith in those years, the violence in her neighborhood and around the country, the power of the Holy Spirit, whether she was doing the right thing in taking care of herself and not her relatives.  As we parted, she thanked me for listening, and said this: “A whole lot of people need a minister to talk to, and they are not going to go to church to find them.”   We had church that evening at Royal Farms.

We need each other in Baltimore, and more often than not, I think we are looking for a way to connect, to be heard, to make sense of things.  And every one of us is some kind of minister, however we might be dressed.

Love, David

At 7:42am on Tuesday last week, Ben turned 10 years old. At the same moment, I was headed to the airport, to catch a flight to attend the annual shareholders’ meeting of Sturm Ruger, our country’s second largest firearms manufacturing company, as part of a team with BUILD/MetroIAF and the “Do Not Stand Idly By” campaign . The meeting was held at the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott, AZ, and our team traveled there to support a resolution sponsored by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, calling on Sturm Ruger to produce a report on the risks and liability associated with its business. The majority of shareholders voted in favor of this resolution

Making the decision to go was difficult. A couple of weeks ago, when I was struggling with what to do, I told Ben about the meeting, why it was important, and shared my dilemma with him. He is a bright and thoughtful boy, and I wanted to know what he thought.

First, Ben said he needed more time to think about it. An hour later, I checked back in with him. He looked at me seriously, eyebrows furrowed, and said, “Mom, I really think you should go.”

“But why?”I asked. “It means I’d be gone for your birthday!”

“Because it’s a really big problem,” he said, “And if you can do something to help, then you should go.”

A week shy of his 10th birthday, Ben gave voice to a basic, human, moral truth: If there is a problem and it’s within your power to do something to help, then you should.

When it comes to the problem of human life being needlessly wasted, the 16th verse in the 19th chapter of the Book of Leviticus puts it this way : “Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened.”

I was grateful to be able to share my story about  Ben with the folks at the Hassayampa Inn last week, and grateful that they listened. I am also grateful to my 10-year-old boy for his giant heart and his pure wisdom. (And his birthday party sleepover is tomorrow so I didn’t miss it!)

Often the biggest changes happen in small, incremental steps, when folks  step out of their “boxes” and try to see, hear and meet each other, not as “gun safety activists” and “gun manufacturers” but as people. A resolution was passed at a meeting at The Hassayampa Inn last week. But more importantly, perhaps, people on “opposite sides of a fence” took down a piece of that fence long enough to interact with one another as human beings.



Dear Folks,

How do wars end? Why are some societies capable of peaceful political transitions while others descend into violence? How can violent turf battles between gangs be addressed and resolved?  Tim Phillips has traveled the globe with Beyond Conflict, giving voice to courageous individuals who have led their communities from seemingly intractable conflicts through peaceful transitions.  From South Africa to Guatemala, Northern Ireland to Israel, Chile to Czechoslovakia, and now in several places in the United States, Phillips has helped leaders sit down with sworn enemies and confront their greatest fears, paving the way for reconciliation and lasting peace.

The work is about finding common ground.  Proclaiming a truce is not sufficient, Phillips says, and beating one party into submission is never more than a pyrrhic victory.  The hard work of transformative change between adversaries begins when people start to know each other.  When one hears familiar pain being spoken from an unlikely source, walls can be torn down.

In 2014, Phillips wrote about the conflict in Syria.  “Hearing others share their similar, traumatic experiences is a well-worn approach in many fields, and for good reason: It helps people realize that they are not alone in their suffering and that change is possible, both of which are necessary first steps in order to move forward. Syrians are ensnared in the midst of a vicious, horrific war, but they are not the only ones who have seen their countries reduced to rubble and their loved ones tortured and murdered by hated enemies. While that damage can never be undone, hearing that others have shared that experience, and eventually made peace with enemies, is both deeply powerful and instructive.”

Can we beat our swords into ploughshares?  Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post writes, “Some who work with ethnic, racial and religious conflict are pairing with neuroscientists to understand how small advancements in brain research can help explain how we experience emotions like prejudice and disgust and fear. It will be a while before researchers are able to devise many specific strategies for using that knowledge of how the brain works in the peace-building process. But simply teaching people that there is a neurological basis for prejudice has the potential to help them view the deep-seated roots of their conflicts more objectively.”  Check out a TedX talk in which Phillips speaks about how our brains can teach our minds to change: .

Tim Phillips will join us at Redeemer next Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. as part of the VOICES speaker series.  If you care about moving beyond conflict, between countries, within cities, or around your breakfast table, you won’t want to miss it.

~Love,  David

As part of our ongoing health initiative, The Church of the Redeemer is recognizing Mental Health Awareness for the next several weeks. We will be doing this within our worship along with adult forums after church. Specifically, this is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Under Paul Smith’s leadership we will be recognizing this Sunday with some special Sunday School classes for our youth, and a table set up after church with information provided by Children’s Mental Health Matters.  The speaker will be Mirian Ofonedu, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW-C, Director of Training, Maryland Center for Developmental Disability Kennedy Krieger Institute. Her topic will be Promoting Positive Mental Health Outcomes for Inner-City Youth: The Value of Home-School-Community Partnerships.

The issue of mental health in children and teens is one that has not gotten much publicity but it should. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness ( the following statistics are a snapshot of our current situation:

  • 1 in 5 children, ages 13-18, have or will have a serious mental illness.
  • 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
  • 37% of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older drop out of school.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24.
  • 70% of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems have a mental illness.

This past Monday evening NBC Nightly News had a wonderful piece on this very subject. Of special note is that Michael Phelps is part of this awareness campaign.

The interest in talking about and educating ourselves about mental health remains robust within the parish. I want to acknowledge the following individuals who have completed the Mental Health First Aid Training:

Group 1

Ruthie Cromwell
Betsy Willett
Patterson Lacey
Susan Alexander
Margaret Thompson
Norie Olsen
Ann Gavin
Joanne Tetrault
Nancy Bowen

Group 2

Anna Von Lunz
Lynn Prout
Barbara Buck
Karen Ross
Christine Caines
Judith Wright
Beverly McCarthy
Tim Pierce
James Cesarini
Diane Schiano-di-Cola
Doug Ross
Margaret Gibbons

 Group 3

Kelly Henson
Kate Pissano
Joan Partridge
Mary DeKuyper
Georgia Chantile-Ruby
Pamela Clark
Amy Freed
Peter Bain
Millicient Bain
Beck Cowling
Ann Pidcock
John Gephart

Group 4

Torie Hartwig
Becky Kelly
Jen Hobbins
Beth Anderson
Jane Dreyer
Fran Lodder
Margaret Daley
Steve Sutor
Joanne Roswell
Hilary Klein
Susan Larson
Janice Bowie

Group 5 (enrolled May14/15)

Phyllis Taylor
Cathy Bennett
Laila Roth
True Binford
Tamara Pitard
Sherrill Pantle
David Pantle
Mark Walker
Kate Walker
Molly Walker
Doug Riley
Ellen Wallack

Group 6 (enrolled June 1/2)

Cheryl Southern
Lois Schenck
MC Savage
Sara Engram
Ann Warfield
Courtney Martin
Wayne Caskey

Please note that the June 1st (2-6pm) and 2nd (10am – 2pm) workshop has only 5 remaining spaces so feel free to email me if you are interested! What has been an unexpected and joyful surprise is that not only are individuals interested but we also have had couples and parents and children signed up. I hope you might want to talk to some of those who have completed the program about their experience. This fall the Mental Health First Aid will be offered to our entire staff and we are in conversation with our community engagement partners to invite their staff and volunteers to participate as well.

Continue to visit the Mental Health Awareness Resource table in our lobby. The articles are for your education and are being refreshed on a regular basis. Remember our tag line is: “Mental Health at Redeemer: Let’s Talk About It, Let’s Learn About It.”