Gladness and Thankfulness

This is the second installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When I was asked to write about gratitude, I realized that I have spent much of this year being thankful for so very much—my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, my coworkers, the people who attend Grace, Ridgway, and the people of this diocese. But there’s more than just the long, long list of people for whom I am thankful. There’s a lifetime of events, and a whole lot of mistakes, that have shaped who I am, the kind of person, the kind of Christian I am. I started out thinking about my gratitude for these people.

But then I started writing, and I kept finding myself back, just over eighteen months ago, on my knees in church on a typical Sunday. Maybe not so typical in that I was so frustrated that what I believed I was being called to do simply wasn’t happening. I felt overwhelmed with the burden of not knowing where I was supposed to even begin; I had no idea what I needed to do. I was angry–more angry and frustrated–than I’ve ever felt in my life. I felt lost, invisible, and ignored. And I was exhausted from what feels like a lifetime of fighting to be heard and to be seen. I was tired of arguing with managers at work for fair treatment; I was tired of defending my parenting choices with my mother. Add in years of being a single parent, a history of clinical depression, and the hundreds of times I was the only one on the PTA or the Bishop’s Committee speaking up on certain topics. I was, in my own words, tired of having to fight all the time.

During the sermon that day, Fr Alan was telling a story about God taking a man and placing him near a very large boulder. God tells the man, “Push the rock.” The man pushes the rock; the rock doesn’t move.  The man continues to push the rock; the rock continues to not move. After a time, God returns to see the man. The man complains, “Lord, I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I can’t move this rock!” God responds, “My son, I didn’t tell you to move the rock. But now you are strong enough for the work I have for you. Come with me.”

Then, I’m on my knees, begging God to take my anger away. I’m telling Him how very tired I am over and over and over. And I’m crying. I can’t see, because that happens sometimes. I’m repeating the litany of battles I’ve fought, begging to have it end. And in my blindness, in my tears, God responds, “Just what do you think all that was for?”

In the months since then, I have moved through a good many conversations with God, as well as conversations with others who have shared their thoughts and insights. There’s been a lot of scripture, some found and some searched for.

I am overwhelmed with gladness and thankfulness for the people God has given me. For the ones who have guided, for the ones who have listened, for the ones who have simply loved. I’m even thankful for the ones who have caused pain and grief, for the lessons they’ve taught me.

I’ve heard it said that all prayer can be boiled down to two things:  help me and thank you. I have spent a lot of my life asking for help. I find myself, more and more these days, saying, “Thank You,” to God for His mercy in forgiving and loving me, His wisdom in those persons He has given me, and His peace as I learn to rest in Him. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” ~Ephesians 1:16

Cheryl Whipple Mumford is a member of Grace Episcopal Church, Ridgway. 

And on the 7th Day, the Budget Was Presented…

With committees beginning to conclude their work so it can be brought to the attention of the House of Deputies, this 8th consecutive General Convention has been the most moving for me – from the listening session on #MeToo to riding on one of 19 filled buses to the T Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, TX for a prayer service for the women detained there.  We were welcomed by the mayor-elect, and yes it was hot, 86 degrees under cloudless skies, but every drop of perspiration was worth it.  I was told that some detainees wept, others applauded and still others slid pieces of white paper up and down the windows as a message that they could hear and see us. We were loud and loving.  All this occurred after attending the Bishops Against Gun Violence rally in the park across from the Austin Hilton and hearing from the parents about the Parkland High School shooting whose daughter was one of the 17 killed. Sunday was filled with what, as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, God had planned for us that day. That was Day 4.

But my day is the 7th day, July 11, and it wasn’t a day of rest. Our legislative calendar is backed up, which led to an evening session and a couple long days ahead before the 79th General Convention adjourns on Friday. After the morning legislative session and a lunch break, a joint session of both houses gathered in the House of Deputies for the presentation of the budget for the next triennium as presented by PB&F – Program, Budget & Finance.

The budget presentation is always interesting – a case of limited resources and much need. Today’s presentation was no exception.  The joint session saw the assessment rate for dioceses reduced from 18% to 15% and the exemption was also reduced from $150K to $140K. Exemption reduction was done so ‘additional money could be found’. Questions were asked and answered seemingly to the satisfaction of those asking and the joint session ended.

The budget is always one of the main events of the convention but perhaps not today. Today’s main event that brought the House to its feet was the passage of Resolution A238 calling for the reinstatement of the Diocese of Cuba! Five decades of absence ended with the unanimous passage of this resolution.  The applause lasted for several minutes as their bishop and deputation were escorted to the front and greeted with shouts of ‘Welcome Home’ and ended with the doxology in wonderful harmony. It was powerful and emotional for many of us and that’s all I have to say about that.  Looking forward to coming home…

Blessings to all of you from Austin.

Anne Bardol is a member of Holy Cross, North East and a lay deputy to General Convention. 

Greetings from Austin on Day 6: July 10, 2018

Many thoughts as I traveled at 7:30 this morning on my scooter 8 blocks to my last committee meeting… a beautiful, warm day with little traffic… friendly folks along the way.

I was a “newbie” on the Committee for Christian Formation & Discipleship but was welcomed by others who had served several times. We had met 10 times and worked to send along several resolutions for consideration to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

The days have been full with legislative sessions and other activities. The work is challenging and rewarding. The time has flown by. I’ve learned a lot about diversity and discrimination in our church, as well as much about the good work being done with reconciliation, caring for creation, and evangelism.

We have heard testimonies in committee hearings and legislative sessions that were painful and difficult to hear… but also extraordinary stories of grace, courage, bravery and determination.

Worship services are beautiful and bring us back to center. The Texas Night Revival was fabulous. I hope perhaps some of you have listened to the Presiding Bishops’s sermons on the internet. (Editor’s note: PB Curry’s sermons are available here in the Video Highlights section.)

The Bishops’ Anti-Gun Rally and our trip to Hutto Women’s Detention Center on Sunday were eye-opening and heartbreaking. Indeed, time is up! We need to speak up and work to correct wrongs we see being done. As Christians we are called to seek justice, safety, respect and dignity for all people… that includes food, drinkable water and shelter…. together we can do this and more, WITH GOD’S HELP.

You’ve heard me say before that General Convention is an amazing experience… I truly wish all of our Diocese could be here to feel the energy. The Church is struggling, but it is also alive and exciting, blessed with strong leadership, and full of people determined to be part of the Episcopal branch of the Loving, Liberating, Life-Giving Jesus Movement!

Looking forward to seeing y’all soon!

Kaycee Reib is Senior Warden of St. John’s, Franklin, and a lay deputy to General Convention. 

Passionately Sharing Truth – General Convention Day 3

Greetings from Austin!

As a first time deputy to General Convention, this experience has been a whirlwind so far for me. Being a cradle Episcopalian, I’ve heard about General Convention throughout my life. I am grateful to be able to experience this gathering at this time. I have also been blessed by being an officer on a committee (Assistant Secretary for Congregation and Diocesan Vitality). This experience has been eye-opening in terms of the workings of polity and how things are created. It’s amazing how detail oriented arguments are in every part of the process of creation of legislation. I am a detail oriented person and this goes even beyond my normal detail oriented specifications. Today, the House of Deputies voted to start the process for revision on the Book of Common Prayer. Next, this resolution for revision goes to the House of Bishops in order to be approved or rejected by the bishops of the church. No matter what, the process of revision of the BCP is a long one, spanning many years.

I want to offer you a slightly different kind of reflection about what is going on here at General Convention in this poem I have composed.

Over head the descending star
Light patterns on the ceiling
Breaking up monotony
All these meetings
People speaking
Arguing in logically fallacious ways
Yet passionately sharing truth
A changing church
A dying church
A church in the midst of active resurrection
Not quite sure where the future lies
We thought we were rising stars.
We want to be superstars
yet, we are descending
Changing
Moving in the world
accepting our new position like glass stars
Hanging in suspension
Between the earth and the heavens
Lights which show the way
Breakable yet strong together
Environment changes subconscious
We know we must hang together
So many stalactites
Creating new patterns in the world
Steps on Jacob’s ladder
Where angels move with great intention
Back and forth
For the gateway to heaven has been demolished
In the overwhelming flood of love
What stars hang in our future
What stars meet the road ahead
We must reflect the light before us
We are the light of love today.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale is Priest-in-Charge at St. John’s, Franklin, and a first time deputy to General Convention. 

The Case Against Revision

Reprinted from the House of Deputies News

As a parish priest, I see a need for Common Prayer revision, but I am strongly opposed to Book of Common Prayer revision. Lest you imagine I am preparing to found the 1979 BCP Society, let me explain.

Certainly, parts of the Book of Common Prayer need to be revised and refreshed. From marriage liturgies that no longer reflect our current usage to limited options for gender-neutral or expanded language for God, our prayer book occasionally makes it clear that our church is in a different place than we were in the 1970’s (for which we can mostly be grateful). Many of the proposals at the General Convention for BCP revisions deal with important issues that our liturgical life will need to address to move forward.

At the same time, I desperately want to see revision that allows us to expand our resources without requiring a brand new Book of Common Prayer.  I say this practically. My church probably has about four hundred 1979 BCPs in our building. On an average week, less than twenty of them get opened, and they are almost never touched on Sunday morning. Everything the congregation needs for our public worship services is in a bulletin. We’ve found that visitors are more likely to return if they can use a bulletin instead of a BCP and a hymnal and a bulletin.  As a quick glance of the pages shows, even when we did use a couple hundred BCPs every week, mostly we used the same pages over and over again.

I have found, surprisingly, that I don’t even use my own BCP very often. I use apps for the daily office. When I go to the hospital, I have found that my phone contains the BCP, the Bible, and any hymns I might want to sing or play. I would also note that most of the BCPs I own currently have the wrong lectionary in them, so I have to use the internet or another resource to find the Sunday readings.

What I hope does not happen is that over the next six years we create the 2024 Book of Common Prayer that requires my congregation either to spend thousands of dollars on physical books that will never be used (and that we will want to change three years after they are published), or to have only the “old” prayer book in our pews. Our current prayer books are very helpful to find a collect before a meeting or to go into the chapel and read compline with the youth group. I also am not hearing any great outcry to remove significant pieces of the prayer book. Is anyone really suggesting we eliminate Rite I, for example, or forbid a couple from using the current marriage rite? Instead of focusing on what is in our printed books, which is cutting edge technology from 1550, let’s make the needed changes in our liturgical life in preparation for whatever the right technology will be for 2050.

Instead of a new book, we need new resources and a canonically appropriate avenue to authorize them for the whole church. At this convention, I would like to see the first reading of a constitutional amendment that creates such a process. Instead of new print publications, we need the capacity to create the resources that the church needs on an ongoing basis. Such a process will also be the easiest way to continue to offer the church’s liturgical resources in an increasing variety of languages (Spanish and French are only the beginning of the translations we currently need, and if our evangelism efforts are successful we will need translations in ten years into languages we have not even started to consider.).

I hope also that as we develop new resources, they are free to download in easily accessible formats for the entire church to use. Our pension fund does not need profits from our liturgical resources to keep retired clergy from poverty, and using an authorized Eucharistic prayer should not require an extra hour of work on the part of the parish staff.

I know that there are many reasons to look at the revision of our Book of Common Prayer. Focusing on the needs of our church’s congregational liturgical and prayer life, however, leads me to strongly support common prayer revision without revising the book.

The Rev. Adam Trambley, a deputy from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, is co-author of “Acts to Action: The New Testament’s guide to Evangelism and Mission.”