Dear all,

I don’t have any new words in the face of another horrific school shooting, especially one that comes on the heels of the white supremacist attack in Buffalo two weeks ago. So let me offer you words from others in our Church. Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a group of over “100 Episcopal bishops who have come together to explore means of reducing the appalling levels of gun violence in our society, and to advocate for policies and legislation that save lives.” (Bishop Sutton and Bishop Ihloff, our bishops here in MD, are both members.) They offer liturgical, educational, spiritual, and advocacy resources to combat the evils of poverty, racism, and violence.  Below is a series of prayers (adapted) remembering people who have been affected by gun violence, around our country and here in Baltimore.

If you are looking for ways to respond at this time, the Episcopal Public Policy Network has a variety of advocacy resources available. On their Action Alerts page you can find a template of a letter you can email to your senators (though calling and leaving a voicemail is even better!) about expanding background checks. Organizations like Baltimore Ceasefire 365 work to promote peace here in Baltimore, with quarterly Ceasefire Weekends and community events.

Yesterday, May 25, was the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. The work of preventing gun violence is connected to movements for racial justice and equality: the work of each is to bring about a world where all people can flourish, without fear of harm, no matter who they are, fully alive. As we pray for God’s kingdom to come, let us remember that we are part of its realization and revelation. May our prayers drive us to actions of love, made stronger by our God whose power, working in us and with us and through us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

Love,
Rebecca+

Remembering All Who Have Been Affected By Gun Violence

(Adapted from A Moral Call: a Vermont Interfaith Prayer and Remembrance Vigil, December 15, 2015 and June 1, 2020 Bishops United Against Gun Violence)

Leader: We raise our prayers in remembrance of the victims of gun violence, both those who have been injured and those who have been killed, in Uvalde, Texas and in Buffalo, New York; in cities and towns across our country, and close to home in Baltimore. We hold their memories dear. We treasure those lives permanently altered through injury or those taken in senseless acts of violence, and we pray that they might find rest and peace. May their lives continue to make a difference in our world.

Together we pray.

All: God of Mercy, heal our broken hearts.

Leader: We raise our prayers in remembrance of the families and friends of the victims of gun violence in our nation and in Baltimore. Comfort those who mourn. Dry the tears of those who weep. Sustain those who feel diminished. Impart courage to the hearts of those who feel helpless.

Together we pray.

All: God of Peace, sustain our broken hearts.

Leader: We raise our prayers in remembrance of all communities torn apart by gun violence. We are too familiar with places like Parkland and Orlando, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbine and Aurora, Colorado; El Paso, Texas; Newtown, Connecticut; Charleston, South Carolina; and the neighborhoods of our own city. Each incident of violence affects all of us in our daily lives and work. Renew our resolve to pursue peace in our cities and towns and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

Together we pray.

All: God of Comfort, encourage our broken hearts.

 Leader: We raise our prayers in remembrance of school teachers and administrators who put their students’ needs ahead of their own safety. We pray for security guards and first responders, including police, fire and rescue personnel who witness the horror of gun violence while in service to our communities, and we pray for all those with responsibility for law enforcement. We give thanks for the call to protect and serve and to seek justice, and we pray that their emotional wounds will be healed.

Together we pray.

All: God of Courage, inspire our broken hearts.

 Leader: We raise our prayers for those lives taken by gun violence through suicide, and also for those lives taken through accidental shootings, especially when those shootings involve children. Console and strengthen those whose despair is great.

Together we pray.

 All: God of Hope, comfort our broken hearts.

 Leader: We raise our prayers in remembrance of all people impacted by gun violence, as gun violence knows no boundaries but can affect all peoples; it can affect us where we live, where we worship, where we work, where we study, and where we play. We especially pray for communities that live in fear of hatred and harm, targeted for who they are, that they may see the coming of your kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

Together we pray.

All: God of Love, transform our broken hearts.

Leader: We raise our prayers for those who have committed acts of gun violence and for their families, in our nation and especially here in Baltimore. We remember those suffering from mental illness who have gone untreated, and those suffering from loneliness and isolation. We recognize and condemn the scourge of hatred and racism that too often leads to acts of violence. We pray for those who would use guns, power, and violence rather than respect and dignity to reconcile differences. Grant us the strength to pursue justice with a voice of love.

Together we pray.

All: God of Forgiveness, enlighten our broken hearts.

 Leader: We raise our prayers for all community leaders and elected officials. Give them insight, wisdom, and courage to address head on the epidemic of gun violence. Give them fortitude and courage to stand for peace and justice, shoring up abundant life in our communities rather than coveting profit or power. Prevent their discouragement in the face of frustration or failure. Pour forth your Spirit on all our neighborhoods and break the chains of violence that bind your people.

All: God of Power, strengthen our broken hearts.

Leader: We pray today for ourselves and for others in our lives who have been touched by gun violence. During the silent pause, I invite you to offer the names (either silently or aloud) of those for whom you pray.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Together we pray.

All: God of Astonishing Mercy, Compassion and Immeasurable Love, restore our broken hearts and enliven our confidence to find new ways to revive our world to become one of peace. Amen

I took a stroll down memory lane this morning, walking through the Gilman and Bryn Mawr campuses on my way to work.

So much has changed … and … so much remains the same: the fields (some now turf, where there used to be just grass) … the buildings (old, familiar nooks and crannies peeping behind newer, brighter additions) … the trees (that sweet tree planted in memory of a fallen classmate still blooming green by the Owl Gate) ….

As I walked by Bryn Mawr’s lower field, I remembered what it felt like to try and scoop up a ball for the first time with a lacrosse stick. I recalled voices cheering from those silver metal bleachers on the sideline and noticed the same orange pipe-frame of the lacrosse net. I saw again, in my mind’s eye, the carpet of autumn gold gingko leaves covering white and grey stones along the driveway by the science building.

And I thought of my mother, where she was born, how she entered the world: in the middle of a world war halfway around the world, her family fleeing from invaders. I thought of her coming to America by herself, what she did with her life, all she accomplished, and all she and my father made possible for me and my sister. I thought of her legacy to us, to me. I thought of her joie-de-vivre, her acts of caring, her faith.

And then, continuing up Melrose, across Charles Street, to our church campus, I thought of our Redeemer community and the times we are living in. I thought of our city and our work together. What shall my legacy be? What shall our legacy be? Shouldn’t all children regardless of zip code, and not just in north Baltimore, have green fields to play on and blooming trees to walk by? How can I, how can we, use our education, power and privilege to serve, love, and live the way Jesus commanded? How shall I spend the time I have left on earth, however long that may be, in a way that my own children, when grown and strolling down their own memory-lanes, might remember me fondly, with love, gratitude, pride, and a sense of legacy, themselves?

There is a Jewish saying, echoing sacred scripture, that goes something like this: Let us not be overwhelmed by the enormity of our world’s grief, the enormity of the tasks before us. Do justly, now (… here, where you are, today …). Walk humbly, now (… here, where you are, today …). Love mercy, now (… here, where you are, today …). We are not obligated to complete the work but neither are we free to abandon it.

So wherever you are, whatever you are doing, however you are feeling, today: Breathe in the air, deeply, because you can. Lend a hand or your heart to someone else who could use a lift, because you can. Be kind and gentle with yourself, because you can.

And remember, always, that you are loved and treasured beyond measure.

Cristina

Do you find yourself using words like never or always to describe experiences or situations in your life?  For example, do you say things like: “Oh, I NEVER win anything” or “He ALWAYS forgets my birthday?”

The tribe I currently run with say that our thoughts, the way we perceive our reality, and the way we speak of it all contribute to whatever it is we are currently experiencing in life.  In other words, when I say “it always rains when I wash my car,” sets me up to experience an inevitable thunderstorm on the day I wash my car; not because the Universe or G-D has colluded against me, but because my subconscious mind is living a self-limiting belief that directs my conscious mind to deliver.  Subconsciously, I hold this belief to be true—and so it is.  We human beings are way more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.

Trust me, we ALL hold self-limiting beliefs that we have developed early on and we have to intentionally engage them in order to be liberated from who we may believe we are into who we really are.  Y’all, we really are divine reflections of GOD.  Let’s look at a case in point from the Scriptures.

In the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is teaching the crowd on the lake of Gennesaret from a fishing boat.  After speaking he tells Simon Peter, one of the fisherman, to put out his net into deeper water for a catch.  The first thing Peter says is, “well we’ve been doing this all night and have caught nothing.”  You can just hear the self-limiting belief that is driving his lived reality.  Sometimes you catch fish, sometimes you don’t.  But what if life is not as arbitrary as that?  What if you can “catch” all of the time?

A new belief…that fish can be caught if he does something differently…works.  This new belief was acted upon based on Jesus’ suggestion that Peter should go into deep waters and then verse nine says that the disciples were amazed at the number of fish they caught.  It was actually an overabundance.

We can never do what we have always done and get a different result; we all know what that way of thinking is called.  So what would happen, I wonder, if we began to think about the issues we are faced with in our lives like the great political divide in our nation or the murders in our city differently?  What if we began to ask a different kind of question in order to receive a different kind of answer?  Is it possible that we, like Peter, are fishing for answers in our “usual” way when new questions need to be asked instead?

Back to never and always.  What if we let go of the extreme ways we speak and show up in the world in order to take on more life-giving and liberating realities?  I know it is hard; I am working on it too.  But, if there is ONE thing I believe about the resurrection and life in the Risen Christ, it is that the old ways of being must  be retired in order for a new way to take hold and grow.

“Going deep” may mean different things to different people, yet at its core it means reconsidering who we are and how our humanity has been supra-naturally changed  to make room for more peace and joy in life.  I meditate, some of you garden, run, or wash the car.  Whatever gets us to an inner stillness to connect with our souls, and to hear the small voice within will do the trick .  Ask the Spirit for help.  She is always good for that!

With Love,

Freda Marie

Dear Folks,

On Wednesday, the Office of Government Relations of the Episcopal Church reaffirmed our denomination’s commitment to “equitable access to women’s health care, including women’s reproductive health,” calling this access “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.” Since 1967, the Episcopal Church has maintained its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions (about the termination of pregnancy) and to act upon them.” **

Lay and ordained leaders throughout The Episcopal Church counsel women, men, and families who must make decisions relating to pregnancy and childbirth, adoption, family planning, and infertility, walking alongside individuals in the midst of this intimate and challenging dimension of human life. Informed by this ministry, the Church addresses the topic of abortion from a position of lived experience of both laity and clergy, recognizing the moral, legal, personal, and societal complexity of the issue. The diversity of views within the Church reflects this complexity, as well as our commitment to be a meeting ground of mutual respect and dignity. While the Church opposes abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, or sex selection, it fully supports a woman’s right to make informed decisions on her own health and to act accordingly.

The Church further believes that “legislating abortions will not address the root of the problem,” and expresses the “conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church.” The Office of Government Relations will continue to advocate at the federal level to protect reproductive rights.

If you would like the opportunity to talk and listen in community about the events of this week, Rebecca+ and the clergy team will be offering a time to reflect on the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion and the Episcopal Church’s stance on abortion and reproductive justice and health care after the 10 am service on Sunday. We will gather in the south transept.

Love,
David

** All quotations are taken from episcopalchurch.org

This Sunday, the seventeen pilgrims preparing to travel to Ireland this summer, myself included, will have a conversation about what gifts we bring to our little community of voyagers. (Apologies for the spoiler if I’ll see you at Sunday’s meeting – you have extra time to think about our prompt!) We will share about the gifts we see in ourselves and have the opportunity to share the gifts we see in one another.

No matter our age, sometimes the question of, “What are your gifts?” can be difficult to answer. I have frequently had the conversation with friends that it would be so much easier to write cover letters and do job interviews (or build a dating profile) for one another instead of slogging through our own because we’re great at talking each other up – but not necessarily so good at it for ourselves. In a culture saturated with expectations of self-optimization and perfection, it can be difficult to recognize the gifts we possess when we are taught instead to see only what we lack.

You can be better, we’re told, if only you look this way, or buy that product. You can do better, at school or at work, if you try harder and do more. And not only can you, you should – and you should do it in this way.

I am not knocking the disciplines of perseverance and determination that are the hallmarks of hard work. Sometimes we have to grit our teeth and practice the things that do not come naturally to us. And that’s an important, healthy, experience that, hopefully, teaches us and helps us grow. Serving our communities, as Christ calls us to, can be difficult taxing work, at the same time that it is life giving not only to ourselves but to those around us. To offer our gifts, in their great diversity, is living fully. But living up to expectations set by society, or what the world deems “success,” is often a losing game, an exhausting game.

It’s also a game that excludes people who, for a variety of reasons (think of ability, age, race, gender, class, sexuality) aren’t able to achieve the “success” society demands. What about when our gifts are not seen as gifts at all, but deficits? A quick example: Disability activists and scholars are doing important reframing of the idea of disability as an important and rich piece of identity that contributes to the fullness of life of an individual or community, rather than as a hindrance to a full or good life. (A wonderful conversation on this topic can be found here; it’s a recording of a conversation between Rabbi Julia Watts Belser, Professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University and Associate Dean Bill Goettler of Yale Divinity School from 2019. I commend it to you!)

On Sunday, our group of pilgrims will reflect together on the gifts we bring to our community, and on how God is calling us to use those gifts. What kind of community do we want to build together for our pilgrimage? What are our priorities? How can we commit ourselves to one another and to God in this particular experience?

And these aren’t questions just for pilgrims: they’re questions for all of us. At the beginning of Romans 12, Paul invites his readers not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by renewing their minds to discern God’s will, presenting their whole selves to God (Romans 12:1, NRSV)). He goes on to remind them that just as a body has many different parts, each with their own function, so too does their community – do all members of the body of Christ (12:4). The gifts differ “according to the grace given to us,” but all are important to the body as a whole (12:6).

So I wonder:

What gifts do you bring to your community? What gifts does your community see in you? And where and how is God calling you to use them?

~Rebecca