Dear Folks,

How about some good news?!  A newly minted, young priest has said “Yes” to Redeemer’s call.

Our young people have been ably led and served by first Paul Smith and then Vivian Campagna over the last four years, working with a dedicated group of volunteers.  Paul pioneered new service opportunities for youth, connecting recent graduates and other young adults with community partners.  He added experience portfolios to our confirmation curriculum and invited young people and their parents together over dinner to celebrate this milestone.  When professional opportunities beckoned Paul, I asked Vivian to lead youth ministries.  Vivian brought her extensive yoga experience to the work, integrated Sunday morning leaders and learning into the youth program, and deepened the experience of silence, reflection, and worship.  She is now discerning a call to ordained ministry.  I am so thankful for both Paul and Vivian.

Listening to graduates and teenagers currently in RYG, I felt called to further support the life of youth at Redeemer, to draw more people to our programs, and to expand our vision to serve young adults in their 20’s.  With several middle, high school, and colleges nearby and so many young adults drawn to live in Baltimore, I asked the vestry to create a new clergy position, Associate for Youth and Young Adults, and they unanimously agreed.  One said recently, “In this time when so much is being re-imagined within the church and in our world, it is exactly the right moment to redouble our efforts on behalf of young people.”

I am excited to announce that The Rev. Rebecca Ogus will join our clergy team on August 3.  Rebecca graduated from Berkeley Divinity School (Yale) three weeks ago.  While there, she was the program director for the Episcopal Church at Yale, mentoring student leaders and providing undergraduates with pastoral care.  Prior to Yale she was an Americorps volunteer at Benevolence Farm in Graham, North Carolina, a farm-based residential program which assists women in transition from incarceration to re-entry.  Beyond her work with the women, Rebecca supervised service learning volunteers from Elon College and UNC Chapel Hill.  Before her time at Benevolence Farm, Rebecca lived in an intentional community with seven other young adults, developing spiritual practices, communication, and conflict resolution skills.  A year ago Rebecca married Zach, who just completed his PhD at UNC and accepted a position at NASA in Greenbelt.

Rebecca wrote to me this morning and said this: “I feel called to Redeemer because it seems to be a place of honest conversation, reflection, prayer, and action. From talking with staff and parishioners, the parish seems full of people who are actively engaged in their community and life together, figuring out how to live out God’s love in the world. In any moment, and during this moment in particular, I cannot think of a better place to be. In particular, I’m looking forward to getting to know Redeemer’s youth, and to learning how God is speaking and acting in their lives. How are they being called by God right now? How can the church support that call? And what can the rest of the church learn from youth and young adults? Baltimore is a city that sparks deep allegiance from its residents, with a distinct history and personality. As someone new to the area, I can’t wait to learn more about it!”

We are blessed to welcome Rebecca and Zach to Baltimore.


In JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins, discouraged by the seemingly impossible task before him — to destroy the evil ring he carries by returning it to the fires of Mordor — a task on which the whole salvation of Middle Earth depends, bemoans: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened …” to which the wise wizard Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”

I imagine each of us, in our own way, has felt something similar lately to what Frodo expresses in Tolkien’s mythological tale. I wish none of this had ever happened. Whether the yearning is to turn the clock back hours, months, decades or centuries for a “do-over”, this ache is familiar.

But as we all know, unlike the opportunity to take part in our new weekend worship videos (which usually allows the time to record a few takes as needed), our individual and collective lives play out in real time with no “rewind” or “re-record”. We cannot take back the words we said in the heat of anger. We cannot return to life pre-COVID. We cannot erase centuries of injustice inflicted upon fellow human beings because of race.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.

A beloved “icon” of our parish, Dottie Hopkins, returned Home earlier this week. She was 92 and headed up our altar guild for over 40 years. She loved the church, loved Redeemer, and loved the ministry to which she devoted her time and energy for decades. When she came to understand during a recent visit that we as a parish would not be worshiping together indoors in the numbers and manner that we have been accustomed, until perhaps sometime next year, it was as if the last “question mark” was finally answered for her. Next year was too long to hang on and wait around for.

“How do you want to go?” she asked me as we sat in the sun on her back patio, six-feet apart.

“Do you mean, how would I like to die?”

“Well … yeah …” she said.

I thought for a moment. “Well if I have a choice, I’d like to live to a ripe old age and die in my own bed, in my sleep, with my loved ones nearby.”

“Yep, that sounds about right,” she said, softly and matter-of-factly.

And that’s how she went.

May we, like Dottie, with the time given to us, set our hearts and minds to tasks which demand our best efforts, so that we may, when our Time comes, “Go in Peace,” having loved and served Our Lord in one another.


Dear Folks,

With the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, it is not possible to remain silent.  This moment presents itself as an opportunity, for some to wake up and for others who have been awake to go more deeply, to consider and confront the systems of racism that we have created, perpetuated, and from which many have benefitted.

We stand with black Americans and especially with young people in your anger.  Systemic racism is not right and should not continue.  As people of faith, we believe that racism is a sin, not just a sociological issue, so there is personal and corporate repentance to be accomplished.  Racism denies the humanity of another, privileges one class or group of individuals over another on the basis of skin color or ethnicity.  It has played out over 400 years in our country, and so its perversions will not change overnight, but we believe it will change if we work together, beginning today.

The ancient scripture is our foundational resource, which studied in community is speaking now: every human being is created in the image of God, deserving mutual respect and compassion.  Loving the neighbor and the stranger, seeking the wellbeing of those who have been cast out, privileging the common good over selfish aims define our faith in God.

We feel the gospel calls us to action—to coalesce our power and gifts on the side of the marginalized, to discover mutual self-interest with people of color and others who have been cast down, to work to raise each other up.

At this moment in the city of Baltimore, we feel particularly called to focus on public safety and reforming the criminal justice system; on public education and providing necessary funds for both students and schools to thrive; on job training and work readiness with a commitment to a living wage; on safe, affordable housing for all.

Systemic change will only come through creating and strengthening relationships with each other and across superficial divides of race, class, gender, and sexuality.  When we know each other, someone else’s pain is not theoretical.  When some suffer, all suffer; when one person bleeds, everyone bleeds.  Societal structures will only change as individuals consistently ask one another: How are you? What hurts? Can I help you? Can you help me?

We believe the church is particularly called to engender these kinds of transformative relationships through action: the courage of personal and mutual accountability, the creation of multi-racial faith communities, and working across faiths to restore our city.

We are people of prayer, but what do you do after you pray?  We build the beloved community by dismantling systems that privilege white people over others.  Black lives matter.

David, Cristina, Freda Marie, Caroline

Dear Folks,

As our public officials invite a gradual re-opening of Baltimore City, many of you are wondering about Redeemer.  When might we gather again for worship?  What about small groups and classes?  What about fellowship and prayer and communion?  I hear your longing and grief, and want to respond to them.

I have asked a group of parishioners to help me imagine a safe and sensible way forward.  They are Keri Frisch, senior warden and MPH; Matt Buck, Calvert School; Noel Morelli, physician assistant; Doug Riley, vestry; Fern Riley, MD, Shepherd’s Clinic; Ruthie Cromwell, community partner and Blakehurst retirement community resident; Bert Landman, Director of Music and choir director; Ellen Chatard, Director of Program; Helena Ware, college junior.  The group includes expertise in medicine and public health, and we are reading closely the guidelines set forward by our Diocese.  Bishop Sutton is in regular conversation with the Bishop of Washington and the Bishop of Virginia, and together they have created a phased approach to re-gathering.

The difficult truth continues to be that in-person worship is still a long way off.  Strict limitations on how close we can stand or sit together, advice against reading out loud in a group or responding with vigor to the liturgy, the expectation of good health for all who attend, the requirement of face masks, and the prohibition of singing together for the foreseeable future all challenge us to be patient.  Since our desire is to be together, but our safety depends on our being physically separated and mostly silent, meaningful worship will have to be re-imagined.

We should expect not to gather for in-person, outdoor worship until after August 1.  Given the intimacy of church activities and the vulnerability of so many of our members, it seems prudent not to gather for worship in this next phase of civic re-opening.  The two months between now and that date correspond to an expected increase in cases of COVID-19, due to the inevitable contact that resuming normal activities will bring, as well as offering time for authorities to ramp up adequate testing and tracing.  With that said, if public health directives allow small groups to meet in this period, prayer groups and fellowships will be invited to meet outside, separated by six feet, and in limited numbers, including the 14 recovery groups that utilize our space.  Redeemer Parish Day School is following the lead of the Maryland State Department of Education, modifying their practices where necessary, utilizing outdoor spaces whenever possible, and hoping to open on time in the Fall.

We will continue to offer online prayer every weekday and online worship on Saturdays and Sundays.  Centering Prayer, Women of Wisdom, the Men’s Fellowship, the Dad’s group, choir check-ins, Knitting, book groups, Center for Wellbeing, the Rector’s Bible Study and more are thriving.  Facebook Live, Zoom, and YouTube have become a part of our pastoral and liturgical repertoire—we have welcomed many new people and re-connected with old friends who had drifted away.  The gifts of this virtual ministry are varied and real, and we expect to incorporate them into our lives long after the pandemic has passed.

Let me know how you are feeling about our plans: I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an email at .


Dear Folks,

Poet Gregory Orr writes, “I want to go back to the beginning.  We all do.  I think: Hurt won’t be there.  But I’m wrong.  Where the water bubbles up at the spring: isn’t that a wound?”  The unrest felt across the country is a response to the violence of racism.  Our human spirit has been bent for generations by first slavery, and then racist laws, and now behavior that still privileges white bodies over brown and black bodies.  George Floyd is only the most recent example of this death-dealing status quo.  And the question is not whether this particularly American sin wounds each of us—it does—but whether we are willing to be a part of the change to which God is calling us.

I want to be part of the change, and so I am listening.

I want to be part of the change, and so I am praying.

I want to be part of the change, and so I am reading: Waking Up White, by Debby Irving; White Fragility, by Robin DeAngelo; Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston; The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison; The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley & Malcolm X.

I want to be part of the change, and so I am acting: with BUILD partners to make sure that COVID-19 testing is available in zip codes that are predominantly black and brown; with ReBuild Metro, to create affordable housing and neighborhood health in Johnston Square; with Turnaround Tuesday, to support job readiness and job training, especially for returning citizens and the working poor.

How can you be part of the change?  Listen, pray, and ACT with me.  Don’t be silent!  Speak the painful truth—of the things we have done and left undone.  Speak the healing truth—that we are truly sorry and we humbly repent.  Speak the compassionate truth—that every human being deserves dignity and respect.  The water bubbling up through our wounds is the Living Water of God.