Dear all,

We are coming up on what I think of as the heart of the church year. Holy Week, the week beginning with Palm Sunday and running to Easter Morning, offers us a chance to live the stories that are foundational to our faith. We shout “Hosanna!” with the crowd that greets Jesus as he enters Jerusalem (Palm Sunday); we share a meal and wash feet with Jesus and his friends (Maundy Thursday); we betray Jesus and condemn him with Peter and the crowd, we weep with Mary at the foot of the cross (Good Friday); we wait through the long hours of the night, remembering the stories of our journey with God and wondering at what is to come until the light of the resurrection breaks through (the Easter Vigil); and we gasp in astonishment with the women when we return to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty (Easter morning). Living these stories through our liturgies, prayers, and hymns connects us through time and space to the Christians across history who have also lived these stories, in whose hearts these stories have also taken root.

This kind of living remembering isn’t just bound to Holy Week – it’s something we do every week during the Eucharist. The fancy church word for it is anamnesis. In the Eucharist, we participate in a meal that is far beyond what we see and hear at Redeemer. We join Jesus and his friends at the Last Supper every week, and every Christian who has celebrated the Eucharist in their own time and place. Holy Week is an opportunity to bring all those foundational stories into close perspective, to roll around in our remembering, even when it’s uncomfortable.

And parts of it are uncomfortable – though perhaps terrible is a better word: Just like we participate in the Last Supper, we also participate in Jesus’s crucifixion. We shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” with the crowd. The man we met as a baby, who has led us and taught us, whose actions as a servant we modeled by washing one another’s feet, becomes someone against whom we rail. How terrible – and how terrifying to know what we as humans are capable of. It’s a terror that I am reminded of this week as we listen to reports of yet another school shooting. We have so much capacity to hurt each other, and in the case of gun control, there is so much we could do to prevent that harm, which makes our country’s continued inaction even more awful. As a body, the Episcopal Church strongly supports efforts to end our deeply shameful and uniquely American crisis of gun violence. Here in Maryland, Bishop Sutton and Bishop Ihloff are both members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence. If you are looking for steps that you can take right now, you can call or write your Senators and Representatives using this script from the Episcopal Public Policy Network.

And yet, in the face of the terror and harm we can inflict on each other, we have so much capacity to love and serve each other, too. That is part of the mystery of Easter, part of its deep grace – that even as we have shown the worst of ourselves, Jesus calls out the best of what we contain, loves us, shows us a better way, and redeems us. What if we were to remember and relive that better way every day – serving one another instead of our own interests? What if we really did beat our swords into plowshares? It’s what we seek to do together as Christians, what our shared life in community aims to help us achieve. May our conviction and commitment to that love and grace be strengthened as we live this Holy Week together.


Dear Folks,

It was cold last Saturday morning in New York, when a group of us circled around to bury our friend Emily. She was just 37 years old, not nearly long enough, and the bitter wind matched our sorrow. And yet there was a sense of victory in the air, as well. Emily definitely had known struggle, but she also had access to unfiltered pleasure and unconditional love, and all of that gathered with us at her grave.

When she was born, Emily’s genetic code conveyed its own kind of poetry, linking letters in unusual ways and inserting spaces in stretches accustomed to connection. Her doctors didn’t expect her to survive infancy. A well-intended social worker asked her parents if they planned to leave Emily behind when they left the hospital. Developmental disabilities and deafness were part of her experience all of her life. But so were determination and an extraordinary capacity to engage with folks she loved. Emily never stopped surprising us.

At her funeral I read from John’s gospel the story of the fishermen who caught no fish. They spend all night deploying their nets on the accustomed side of their boat, and meet the dawn with nothing to show for their labor but sore backs and disgruntled spirits. I appreciate their honest effort and their exhaustion. Most of us, I imagine, can touch some sense of their frustration or anger or fear.

Then an unrecognized fellow approaches and asks them, “Have you caught anything,” and I expect their initial response was not fit for printing or polite company. “Are you kidding me,” they probably thought to themselves. “Who is this guy?” You see, if there is one rule among fisherman, especially if it looks like someone’s basket is empty, it’s that you don’t start with, “Hey Junior, how many fish have you got?” But to their credit, the disciples keep their cool and answer with a shrug of their shoulders and their empty hands.

Then the fellow suggests they throw their nets on the other side. The story continues to not record how they hold their faces or what they mutter under their breath, but eventually they try what he says, and they pull in so many fish that their nets are full to bursting. At this point they realize that they know the stranger: it’s Jesus, their friend who died and yet lives.

Try a different way, they must have heard him say. Fear not, you’re not done, you’re not alone, there’s more. What if you turn this daunting situation on its head, the story suggests, and see possibility where there seemed to be only problems before?

Emily evokes this narrative in me. The old way is most likely not going to work, she taught us. We’re in the boat together, but it’s probably not going to go in the direction you expect. But come close, see me for who I am, and there will be abundance and life in surprising ways and places, on a side of the boat you didn’t even know to look for. And maybe such an encounter means we will see ourselves differently, too. The journey together is the point, I believe, and there’s no need to worry about whether you are in first class or steerage, hired as the crew, or swimming along beside.

Emily showed us that less is more, that limits are gifts, and that a “too much world” might be made manageable in smaller bites. She thrived on dependability and regularity, and who doesn’t, really? She was happy to meet anyone, but if we were going to connect, we had to do it on her terms. Fair enough. Love and thriving are often where the world and we least expect to find them.


Alongside the lie that we human beings live a life separate from that of the divine life at our core, is the lie that Rest is of little use except as a necessity when we lay our heads on our pillows at night. Hogwash I say!  Just like quantum scientists admit a great mystery at the core of the cosmos as they know it, I believe Rest is the mystery of living more fully on planet earth. Why else should we “Remember the Sabbath Day…?” (Shabbat)

Dr. Meeks, who is the Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, wrote a recent article, “Rest As an Act of Resistance.”    In it, she quotes Tricia Hervey, a woman activist and founder of The Nap Ministry whose primary work centers around the concept of Rest as more than relaxation.  Dr. Meeks, though chiefly speaks to people on the margins who are oppressed by systems that respect their utility with little respect or compassion for their dignity as human beings who carry the image of GOD within.  In a recent article, she stated that “folks who are oppressed believe they have no right to rest… Along with this is the deep sense of having to stay vigilant in order to barely stay a few steps ahead of all of the negativity that the forces of oppression offer.”   Neither of my parents, nor their parents, nor anyone we knew ever considered the thing called “retirement.”  What was that, anyway?

I believe, though, that REST in its truest form is an act of resistance for anyone who begins to understand themselves as more than what they can express or do at any given moment in time.   If we accept that our bodies actually carry the precious cargo of the divine image within, we can accept that our bodies are holy by right of what they carry.  And if our bodies are holy, then they have the right to be treated respectfully, with dignity and honor.  The external landscape must never dictate the realities of our unseen and internal landscapes.  Our flesh suits carry real treasures inside.

We may intend to do more, but those who have been hospitalized for physical or mental exhaustion will tell you that such an intention can result in a dreadful impact on their lives and the lives of those whom they love.

So, when was the last time you stopped to simply enjoy being alive?  When did you last take a nap?  Don’t wait too long to do so.  Everyone deserves to do something good for themselves that does not include dollars of any kind.  Be good to yourself.  Daydream—take a nap—they are both good for your soul.

Freda Marie+

I am reflecting this Lent on the practice of Presence; and I am practicing being more fully present where I am, with whoever I am, with whatever they and I are feeling.

I am practicing keeping my body, mind and spirit aligned and integrated: keeping my mind where my body is, and keeping my spirit and my heart there, too.

Sometimes, it’s easier to do than others.

Last night, as many of us sat in the church and listened to Professor Richard Bell speak about the reverse railroad, and adults kidnapping children, and slave owners favoring 14-year- old, light-skinned enslaved girls because they had just the right-sized fingers to pick cotton for 12 hours straight, I had to fight to be fully present in that room. I had to breathe, and walk, and pace, and breathe and walk, some more.

Sometimes, being fully Present is easier to do than others.

In the Gospel lesson this weekend, we will hear and see how Jesus practices being fully present with the woman at the well, and how she does the same, with him. He doesn’t run away, nor does she. He stays present enough to see her, to really see her. And what transpires is transforming and transformative.

Being present, showing up fully with all of who we are, and not rushing to fix or solve or analyze or understand or judge or say or do anything, but rather, to simply Be –  Be With – can be especially difficult when the person we are with is someone we love who is dying.

I recently had the opportunity to write about how my mother’s passing provided me with an opportunity to try and be as fully present as I could be, beside her. I thought I’d share what I wrote with you.

Thank you for the gift of your presence as we walk the Way together at Redeemer.



I am eating pistachios – unroasted, unsalted – and thinking about you, Mom.

I don’t remember when I first became aware that you enjoyed eating them.

I don’t remember you eating them when I was a child growing up, or when I came home from college, or when Grace and I came to live with you and Dad that summer I had to start my life all over and begin again, in Timonium.

No, it must have been later: your pistachio-kick must have been a “late-in-life” thing.

Or maybe, could it be, that I just never noticed before?

Noticed the great big jar of pistachios on your kitchen counter, to the left of the fridge?

Noticed the Ziploc bag of pistachios that you had already freed from their shells, so you could enjoy eating them liberally whenever you wanted to, without having to bother with the shells?

Noticed you cracking them open, one by one, sitting in your pink, rolling chair at the kitchen table, surrounded by projects and cards and notes and lists and your reading glasses, somewhere in the mix, with your mirror and makeup bag close by?

I remember that week leading up to just after midnight on the 4th of May, that night you finally surrendered your strong spirit, allowing it – allowing You – to let go and Let Be.

I remember how Nerissa and I took turns by your bedside in the upstairs room that had once been Lola’s room, then my room, then Nerissa’s room, then Grace’s and my room, then Nerissa’s room again, before becoming your room, and finally, your hospice room.

I remember how Nerissa and I cleared it out to prepare it for you, like first-time parents preparing a nursery, only different.

We filled up brown paper grocery bags and cardboard boxes with old books and a textbook or two, from high school and college, that had settled in side by side on the rickety bamboo bookcase, along with some dust and some papers and some other happy residents.

“Time to clear out,” was the message they all received that week, “It’s time.”

In their place, we put a wash basin and your favorite house dresses, easy to pull on and off; some no-rinse soap and shampoo; a package of Depends; and other essential items.

Like a nursery, only different.

And we brought up the flowers from the living room, those luxurious arrangements of silk flowers you assembled when you still felt well: the glorious one of yellow roses, another one with white lilies, a third with red roses.

As your range of life and living became smaller and smaller, and you settled more and more into your hospital bed, it became important to place objects in your line of vision that would bring you joy: your flowers, and photos of you and Dad (that one from a cruise, with both of you in matching Hawaiian shirts and a flower behind your ear), your daughters, your grandchildren, and of course, Olmsted, our green-eyed, snow white cat (whose regal bearing you adored).

On those last sit-ins by your bedside, I found myself eating pistachios.

I found it soothing, comforting, somehow, to eat them while sitting and keeping watch beside you, as the life and spirit that were yours slowly but surely found their way Home: the feeling and rhythm of taking a small nut between my fingers (fingers that more and more remind me of yours) and my thumbs in just the right way, applying just the right amount of pressure, slightly different for each and every nut, to free it from its case.

I’d place each newly freed jewel in my mouth and chew and swallow … and then repeat … over and over and over again …  release, chew, swallow … release, chew, swallow … release, chew, swallow …. pausing every once in awhile to gaze at your beautiful, familiar face as it lost its glow but never its character … pausing every once in awhile to place my hand in yours ….

“I release you,” small jewel.

“I release you,” Mama.

“I release you.”

I have now had the joy of watching two RYG (Redeemer Youth Group) plays come together during my time at Redeemer. Both years, I have been struck by the way the entire community has collaborated to pull off the productions. In addition to the work put in by our cast and crew of RYG members, there are the efforts of Maggie, Laura, and Val, our director, choreographer, and music director, each of whom puts in extra hours at church and at home getting the show just right. Members of the staff dedicated extra time to help produce and print our bulletins. Parents of RYG members past and present turn up to design and sew costumes; run lights and sound; coordinate props; design, build, and paint sets; stage manage; and get everyone’s hair and makeup just right. And then there are the members of the parish who, though not directly connected to RYG, donate to the bake sale, provide meals at rehearsal, attend productions, ask after our progress, pray for us, and cheer on our youth.

In the three years that I have been a part of it, this is what I have seen RYG to be about: showing up for each other to create a space where everyone feels welcomed and loved (and a space that invites a healthy amount of goofiness, too!). To me, this is an outgrowth of the love of Christ, who embraces all of us, even when we’re at our messiest, and calls us to do the same. However – if you have ever been a part of any kind of community (like church, for example), you will know that this is much easier said than done. No matter how old you are, we all have bad days – we all make mistakes – we all get annoyed – we all act out of our own pride and pettiness. The trick is how we continue to show in in spite of that, expecting better of ourselves and one another. Together, we figure out how to look through our own shame at a misdeed to take responsibility and ask for forgiveness; or through a friend’s snappishness to their fear, and offer grace in response. If we can do that, working through the icky feelings to reach and meet the desire for love and acceptance that is beneath, there is so much beauty to be found.

This is an ideal – as I wrote, bad days happen. No one is perfect. But striving to create a place of welcome and love, that expects our care and compassion towards one another and all of God’s creation is a worthy task, and the world could use more idealists. So thank you to everyone for helping RYG create that kind of place with the play and in our parish.