Q: What is one antidote to being overcome by hopelessness and despair about situations and events happening in our world that are distressing, that we have no control over and feel we can do nothing about?

A: Spend time building relationships and collaborating with people who are acting together to positively influence situations and events that we can do something about, bit by bit, step by step.

This morning a roundtable of roughly 30 local faith, corporate and government leaders gathered in our Parish Hall, including Tom Geddes, CEO, Plank Industries; Don Fry, President & CEO, Greater Baltimore Committee; David Warnock, businessman and founder of Green Street Academy and the Warnock Foundation; Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke; and Councilman Zeke Cohen, with beautiful baby Maya in tow. It was the third time this particular group has met, upon the invitation and coordination of BUILD (Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development) in partnership with Councilman Cohen’s office.

We were joined by Alan Berube, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director (Metropolitan Policy Program) at the Brookings Institution, who shared an informative presentation about Baltimore City and our differing narratives – the story of two Baltimores – through the lens of data and statistics.

In his presentation, Alan included a recent observation from a Cleveland op-ed columnist, who noted that research and studies show that communities and cities that thrive in the face of significant socio-economic challenges, instead of remaining stuck and falling behind, have one key thing in common: a healthy civic table, founded on trust (Chris Thompson, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 26, 2018).

After Alan’s presentation, our large group broke into 3 smaller groups to reflect on what we’d learned and offer next steps. The consensus was to continue to commit to spending time with one another, building trust across lines and cultivating relationships via one-on-one meetings and informal small gatherings. We also committed to stepping out into our neighborhoods and communities together, to convene roundtable listening sessions and to visit organizations and institutions such as Turnaround Tuesday, which has helped 450+ Baltimoreans secure employment with living wages at Johns Hopkins Hospital and other partnering institutions over the last 4 years. David Ware then closed us in prayer.

I left our time together feeling encouraged. Who knows where this will all lead? All I know is we are taking the time to intentionally build relationship and trust across faith, corporate and government lines, bit by bit, step by step. It feels good, worthwhile and Spirit-filled. Stay tuned …


Dear Folks,

How a household responds to its most vulnerable member reveals a lot about the health of the system.  Are a person’s needs addressed or ignored?  Is he blamed for his struggles or offered understanding?  Is her weakness nurtured toward strength or condemned out of hand?  Consider your own experience: was there a person in your family implicitly designated as “the problem,” whose challenges organized everyone else?  Healthy families resist heaping coals on the prodigal’s head, recognizing instead that everyone brings gifts and grief to the party.

In the same way, a nation is judged by how it treats its weakest members, and by that calculus an American dis-ease has been revealed over the past few days.  As Laura Bush wrote on Sunday in the Washington Post, “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel.  It is immoral.  And it breaks my heart.”  A strong country does not work out its immigration policy on the backs of children.  We are better than that.  Nor does a legal system based on the rule of law quote the scripture willy-nilly to coerce behavior or belief.

The ethical teachings of Paul’s letter to the Romans do not compel blind obedience to government authorities.  Rather, they are grounded in the duties of love and hospitality, actions which weave the civic fabric from a community’s diverse strands of people and possibilities.  Paul writes, “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor… Extend hospitality to strangers.” (12: 9-11, 13)

It is fitting that the daughter of Jewish immigrants wrote our country’s most famous sonnet of welcome.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

When your trust is all but shattered, when your faith is all but killed, you can give up, bitter and battered, or you can slowly start to build…  Let us build together a nation whose depth of loving is the true measure of its strength.

Love, David

This coming Sunday the gospel from Mark includes the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and as the preacher assigned for the day, that story has been ruminating in my mind this week. One interpretation among others, in its most simplified form, is that even the tiniest act (the size of a mustard see) can have profound ripple effects on ‘the other’. I have witnessed several such small and significant acts recently and I want to call your attention to them.

  • A member of the parish asked if she could get a prayer shawl from our knitting ministry to take to a friend who was starting chemo. How wonderful that not only did the parishioner think of this kindness but also that she utilized the gift of the blanket that was made by a member of the knitters! (Please know I always have blankets, baby caps etc for you to do the same!)


  • Last week, a beloved member of the choir, Betty Schildwachter, died and her funeral was on Friday. 20 members of our choir, along with Henry Lowe and Bert Landman, collaborated to be a significant part of the service, paying their respects to the fact that Betty sang in our choir for 50 years. The family was extraordinarily touched. And, many of those who sang last week were newer members of the choir so had not known her.


  • This past week I took 2 large plastic bags of prayer shawls, baby caps and blankets to GBMC for patient distribution from the Chaplain’s office. The abundance of love, generosity and talent represented was huge. Thank you to all who have contributed to this ministry….it continues to flourish!


  • Recently one of you told me the story that on a Sunday morning, she noticed a ‘stranger’ sitting in the pew alone in front of her. Our parishioner introduced herself and asked if the ‘stranger’ knew anyone. When the reply was ‘no’, our parishioner immediately said, “Well you do now”, and then moved up to sit beside her. They engaged in conversation until the service began. Right before communion, the ‘stranger’ indicated that she needed to get to the airport to catch her plane back to Texas. As she thanked ‘our’ parishioner for her hospitality, she took off a simple silver ring that had “LOVE” engraved on it and insisted she receive it. With that she was gone. Hearing that story makes me teary.

This parish is so full of sowers of seeds of kindness and generosity towards one another and our community. You are a big hearted congregation! In Mark’s gospel, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as someone would scatter seeds on the ground.” I think it safe to say, The Church of the Redeemer is like the kingdom of God as each of you continue to scatter your seeds of spiritiuality….so many blessings! Thank you, thank you dear people of Redeemer!


Dear Folks,

When our daughter was a year and a half, she took her first chubby step toward leaving us and home behind.  We were at a Greek festival in Wilmington, Delaware, and we’d had a fairly typical dinner with a toddler—some foods rejected out of hand, other foods enthusiastically embraced, consumed, rubbed in hair, on Daddy’s knee, and Momma’s dress.  And we were very mobile.  The same child who would copy our folded hands, say grace, and sit throughout a meal in her high chair at home, needed to take a stroll every two minutes whenever we ate in public.  I made a mental note of our third walkabout, trailing stuffed grape leaves and moussaka, to see if other parents were wearing as much of their dinner as I was—they weren’t.  When I crouched down to adjust one of her sandals, an accommodating golden retriever licked my face clean, and I’m pretty sure the dog winked at me, one parent to another.

Like a farmer in pint-sized overalls, my daughter measured the scope of her domain, making her way toward each corner of the blacktop, all the while trailing dad, her tiny, olive-oil covered hand wrapped around one of my fingers.  But then something new happened, and my wife and I caught a glimpse of her launching into the fast approaching future.  The festival band started to play, and she let go of my hand, and she never looked back.  Instinctively, I followed her out onto the dance floor, but she didn’t need me.  I was cramping her style, so I stepped to the sideline.  For ten minutes she bobbed up and down, chattered with other small fry, and happily greeted people she’d never seen before.

At first my wife and I chuckled—look at her go!  Look how independent she’s becoming.  And then it hit us: look at how independent she’s becoming… Look at her go.

A rabbi tells this story: “I remember the first week I spent at college.  I took the Baltimore & Ohio sleeper from Detroit down to Cincinnati.  I had to register for courses, move into a dorm room, meet classmates, open my first checking account, buy textbooks, attend orientation, do homework—and of course, set the world on fire.  There was no turning back.  I remember sitting at my desk, watching the cars go by on Clifton Avenue, thinking how nice it would be to be back home, but deciding that since it was going to be like this for the rest of my life, I’d better get used to it.  But I cried anyway—How could I have known that at that very moment my parents also held each other and wept?  Why do people cry about everything that they have prayed for?”  (Lawrence Kushner)

Around town and across the country this month, thousands of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and guardians will watch their little girls and little boys graduate from high school or trade school or graduate school.  Where did the time go?  Are they ready?  Are we?

Last Saturday at Redeemer, 65 adolescent boys from Next One Up experienced their first annual retreat.  This innovative Baltimore mentoring program engages ‘high-risk’ middle and high school students confronting significant barriers to achievement by providing long term mentoring and coaching in the classroom and on the field. The theme of the retreat was “Boys to Men,” and the program chaplain used an image from First Corinthians in his homily, as the retreat joined an exuberant Faith at Five service.  “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”  He said, “We are committed to your childhood, to help you be boys now—playing, exploring, wondering, experimenting—so that when the time comes for you to put away childish ways, you’ll be ready.  However challenging things may be at home or at school, you have a family here, and Next One Up offers you a hand at becoming the adults you were born to be.  Not only scholar-athletes, with God’s help and ours, you’ll become men.”  Around the altar, as boy after boy came to me for communion and blessing, it really did feel like all of us were graduating into something important and new.

Whatever you age, the commencement band has started its music.  Are you willing to unwrap your fingers from some childish way?

Love, David