Coming to Center

In throwing a piece of pottery, the most essential element comes right at the beginning of the process: centering the clay. One has to take the ball of clay and get it perfectly centered on the spinning wheel if making any vessel is going to be possible. And centering, it’s not always easy. It can be tricky and one can think a ball is on center when it isn’t. As you begin to open the clay and pull up the sides, it becomes evident quite quickly that the piece is off center because the pot will be lopsided, with one side thicker or thinner than the others. When it happens, you can keep working for fun or practice, but it will get harder and harder, as the pot bounces and the lopsidedness grows more evident. Manipulating the pot becomes frustrating and eventually, it grows too unwieldy and beyond control.

When my life is un-centered, it has much in common with a bouncing, unwieldy ball of clay, spinning toward entropy not towards purpose. This most often occurs when I’ve forgotten where my true center lies. I get off kilter when I think that my value and worth derive from what others think, how well I guide or contribute to the organizations to which I belong, whether my work is successful. Being off center creates a certain spiritual thinness that leaves me vulnerable to outside voices and internal critique; it thickens the wall between my current emotional space and healthy behavior.

The only way to re-center is to stop the chaotic spinning, quiet all the voices, and sit still in the presence of God. When I lose center, it is because I forget that there is only One voice that actually matters and defines my worth. My faith journey is about coming to center in God’s love, trusting in my deepest place that I am God’s beloved, and knowing that nothing can change that truth. When I summon the trust required to fall into God’s love, it always catches me, always welcomes me back, and slowly, spins me back to center. Knowing I am loved beyond anything I can actually understand changes me and transforms every aspect of my life. No longer do other voices have power over me; no longer do the external things, like success or failure, define me. God has called me beloved, has adopted me as a child and heir, and longs for me to center peacefully in that truth.

And unlike an un-centered ball tending towards entropy, centeredness gives meaning and purpose. When I know who I am and whose I am, I can work in the world in life-giving ways. I do not need to control every outcome or give into anger when the world does not work my way. I can give of my time generously without demands and create spaces in which those around me are loved and accepted for who they are. Being centered means I know what is mine and what is not mine to do; I can work with a helpful detachment from outcome, trusting God is present. By trusting God’s love for me, I can freely give love and compassion to others in ways that foster healthy relationships and communities.

When I live in that centered space, certain of God’s love for me and for all the created order, everything is balanced. I’m not lopsided; I’m not coming unglued. I’m spinning in the right direction, a willing participant in what God is doing in my life and in the world. And there is no other way I want to live and no other place I want to be than right there, in the joyful center of God’s belovedness.

The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville, and Church of Our Saviour, DuBois. 

Different Kinds of Love

In today’s world, when love in the Bible is discussed, people typically want to know what word is used in the New Testament Greek. Many of us have heard about the different Greek words for love and their meanings. Eros, philia, storge, agape, ludus, pragma, philautia: sensual love, familial love, long term loyalty love, love for everyone and everything, playful love, practical love, and love of self. Knowing the differences between these words and how they are used in the New Testament helps us understand the scriptures better and deepen our relationship with God. Much less discussed though are the multiple words for love used in the Old Testament Hebrew. Knowing their meanings and usages can also be helpful in understanding the ways of Love between God and people. The four most commonly used words which end up being translated as love found in the Old Testament Hebrew are ahav, yada, raham, and hesed.

Ahav is typically the word used to describe relationships between people, such as between men and women, and parents and children. Ahav is used in Genesis multiple times to describe the relationships between Abraham and Isaac, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Joseph. It has an understanding of attraction and attachment, sometimes in a very mechanical or materialistic way. The relationships of children to their parents is not usually described with ahav. (The commandment to honor your mother and father uses the word kabad, which literally translates to something with weight or value.)

Yada means to know. It is used both in contexts of knowing something intellectually, and knowing someone intimately. In Hebrew you learned knowledge through the senses, through seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, and hearing. Knowing God was an intimate learning through the senses. Knowing someone else intimately, such as being in a sexual relationship with them, was understood as learning about them through the senses as well. Most of the marriages in the Old Testament are described in this manner; Jacob knew Rachel.

Raham is typically used in relationships with compassion or mercy involved. Isaiah uses it to describe the relationship of a mother to her baby, while the Psalms uses it to describe a father’s love for his son. In a number of passages, raham is used to describe God’s mercy to the people, God’s love for them, even when they didn’t follow the commandments.

Hesed is the Hebrew word most translated as lovingkindness in the King James Version of the Bible. Hesed is a steadfast loyalty kind of love, a relationship built on kindness and trust. Many of these relationships in the scriptures are formalized in some way, such as in a covenant. Marriages, the covenantal relationship between Abraham and God, or the relationship between God and the people are all formalized legal relationships described by using the word hesed.

Of course, there are other words which get used to describe love or loving relationships in the Old Testament Hebrew as well. These four, however, are the most common. Knowing the different kinds of love described can help us understand the relationships we read about in the scriptures. Love is an amazing aspect of human and divine life, in all its glorious facets.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale is Priest in Charge at St. John’s, Franklin. 

Living the Way of Love

In the fall of 2018, I did a sermon series at Resurrection Church Called “The Way of Love: Practice for a Jesus-Centered Life.”  The series was based on Presiding Bishop Curry’s invitation to the Episcopal Church to explore various practices each day that would help us live a life of love as Jesus taught.  During that time, we also used the study for the basis of our “Food and Faith” conversation- a monthly gathering that takes place at the Panera Bread in Hermitage.

As part of the invitation to live the way of love, Bishop Curry used seven words and seven Scripture passages as the basis for the “Way of Love.”  The words are Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest and Turn. Each one when lived out and practiced in daily life could help us live a life modeled on Jesus and embody the love that he brought to this world through his life, death and resurrection.

Each week during the sermon series, we looked at each word and a Scripture passage that connected with that word.  We asked the questions, how does the world connect us to God’s love and if lived out how can this practice help us live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loves us?  I found the sermon series to be very powerful and practical. As we got further into the series, I saw my own life and the life of Resurrection Church being shaped by these words and by the daily practice that drew us closer to God’s love. The practical takeaways were amazing.

The more we learn about Jesus’ life the more we can live like him.  The stronger our prayer lives become, the more we can be filled with God’s love and in turn love others. As we turn away from our own sin, we can turn toward the life God has called us to live and to be an example of his love in the communities we live and work.

For those who are interested in trying out the way of love, I first recommend checking out “The Way of Love” material at the Episcopal Church website:

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love

The site gives great information about the Way of Love and resources you can use to read, experience and live the practices each day.  What I encouraged Resurrection Church to do is to think about that week’s word each day and to read the Scripture passage throughout the week.  Let it become part of your devotional time or your daily prayer life. What does each appointed word mean for you in your life? How can that word draw you closer to God in a way that connects you to the love of God?  How can those words be turned into daily and weekly practices that help you experience God’s love and then live out that love in your community?

Give “The Way of Love” a try and see how the practices change your life and how God’s love becomes more real each and every day.

As Bishop Curry is famous for saying, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God!”

The Rev. Jason Shank is the priest of Resurrection Church in Hermitage. 

Province III Opioid Response Task Force Resources

Items submitted by Province III Opioid Response Task Force Members:

Books

  • Dreamland: The True Tale of American’s Opiate Epidemic, Sam Quinones, April 2016
  • Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, Beth Macy, 2018
  • American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic, John Temple, 2015
  • Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All American Town, Brian Alexander, 2017
  • Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Robert Putnam, March 2015

Web-based Resources

Recordings of 2018 Webinars featuring Faith and Community Leaders

Throughout 2018, The Partnership Center hosted a series of national webinars featuring community-based innovative and promising practices and models addressing the opioid epidemic.

2017 Department of Health and Human Services National Webinars

In 2017, the Center hosted webinars featuring subject matter experts from HHS, including those from the CDC, NIDA, and SAMHSA, sharing timely information about the opioid epidemic, the brain science of addiction, treatment, the recovery process, prevention and pain management.

Do I Need this Pill? Understanding Pain and Prescription Drugs (Dec. 7)

Hope in Action: An Overview Of The Practical Toolkit For Faith And Community Leaders In The Face Of The Opioid Epidemic (Oct. 18)

There is Hope: Treatment, Recovery & Prevention (Aug. 16)

Understanding the Opioid Crisis: What’s at the Heart of the Matter? (Aug. 9)

HHS Live Stream of “Opioids: Recovery, Prevention & Hope, National Experts Equip Faith and Community Leaders” (Sept. 27).

Federal Government Information and Handout Materials

       U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the White House

                  Help, Resources and Information on the National Opioids Crisis

                  Opioids Crisis Next Door

      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

          Opioid Basics

          Rx Awareness Campaign

          Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain Factsheet

      Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)           Factsheets and Help-Lines

          Managing Your Pain: Which Approach is Right for You

          What are the Risks of Opioid Medications?

          What to do if Your Medication Isn’t Working?

          Treating Overdose with Naloxone

          SAMHSA’s Find Help & Treatment  (Helplines and Resources)

    National Institute on Drug Abuse

          Teens: Drug Use and the Brain

          Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

          Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction

    U.S. Surgeon General

         Turn the Tide Campaign

         Facing Addiction in America

Community Based Resources

While the following is not a comprehensive survey of faith- and community-based recovery support programs and practices, we hope they provide a starting point for communities discerning the possibility of hosting these or similar services.

Faith and Community-based Recovery Support Programs

Faces & Voices of Recovery’s Guide to Mutual Aid Resources

AA.org  Hosting local Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings

NA.org Hosting local Narcotics Anonymous Meetings

Al-Anon.org Hosting local Al-Anon Meetings to support family members

Jewish Center for Addiction supports Chicago’s Jewish community with education, prevention and treatment resources

The Landing, Alateen Meetings  or similar programs for young people

Celebrate Recovery (CR) A 12-step, Christian recovery program.

Celebrate Recovery Inside (CRI)  The prison and jail expression of Celebrate Recovery

Alcoholic Victorious Meetings use 12 Steps, the Bible, & Alcoholics’ Victorious Creed

Overcomers Outreach an international network of Christ-centered 12 Step support groups

Phoenix Multisport: Sober Active Community A sober-active recovery community that provides fitness programming to help foster the strengths necessary to maintain sobriety through physical pursuits and a sober network of friends.

Spiritworks Foundation Williamsburg Virginia SpiritWorks Foundation Center for the Soul is a Recovery Community Organization based in Williamsburg, Virginia.

National Networks, Resources, and Referrals to Local Programs

JAANetwork.org  Jewish Addiction Awareness Network  (JAAN)

YoungPeopleInRecovery.org  Young People in Recovery

CollegiateRecovery.org  Association of Recovery in Higher Education

NACR.org National Association for Christian Recovery (NACR)

BuddhistRecovery.org Buddhist Recovery Network

CalixSociety.org  The Calix Society

Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others (JACS)

Faith Communities Shaped Around Recovery Support

TheRecoverychurch.orgThe Recovery Church, St. Paul, MI

Chapelwood.org/Mercy-StreetMercy Street, Houston, TX

GoDaven.com Congregation Minchas Yitzchok, Washington, D.C.

NorthstarCommunity.comNorthstar Community, Richmond, VA

BeiTtshuvah.org Beit T’shuvah, Los Angeles, CA

Note: The companion piece to this article, “A Compassionate Response: A Statement on Opioids” from the Province III Task Force is available here

A Compassionate Response: A Statement on Opioids

(Prepared by The Task Force of Province III of the Episcopal Church)

Opioid use disorder, like other substance use disorders, profoundly affects the mind, body, and spirit. Scientific research shows that addiction is a disease that originates in the brain – not a moral or spiritual failing. Much like other treatable diseases, many factors contribute to addiction, and the disease affects the whole family. Some factors include behavior, environment, and genetics. Recovery benefits from a variety of support, including medical care, counseling, and faith communities. Often the last line of defense in communities, faith communities now have an important call to foster space for conversation, prevention, education, care, healing, recovery, prayer, and advocacy. Faith communities also have an ongoing responsibility to examine and address problematic contextual factors such as joblessness, trauma, injury, family stability, educational offerings, community resources, and crime.

Faith communities offer a place for modeling life-giving relationship with persons facing the disease of addiction by considering their outreach interactions, pastoral response, and language. Certain practices and ways of avoiding persons who are facing addiction express not only cultural stigma, they actively discriminate against a person with a treatable disease. Sometimes our language labels a person as an “addict” rather than seeing them in a more dignified way as a person facing addiction. Faith communities offer open space for worship, healing, interaction with God and God’s people, safety, and prayer. This helps to break down the secrecy and shame around addicted members of family and community groups that leads to discrimination, and may discourage a person from seeking assistance toward their recovery goals.

Recovery is a life-long process requiring commitment. Addiction, as a chronic illness, requires appropriate resources for recovery. There are many pathways to recovery. For some persons, residential inpatient treatment works best. For others, medication-assisted treatment (https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment) offers a pathway toward health. For still others, twelve step groups provide a pathway to recovery and community. There are recovery support institutions and virtual recovery communities. Many discover that a combination of pathways works best for their recovery journey. As new pathways are created, we celebrate new possibilities for persons seeking healing. Faith communities, depending on their gifts, abilities, and facilities, take on various roles of ongoing support for persons in recovery and their families.

Addiction is a daily struggle. It affects entire families, and children are especially at risk during this crisis. Faith communities can offer belonging, community connection, listening, prayer, comfort, care, worship opportunities, and other resources to persons in households where addiction has caused great pain and damage. Children, parents, grandparents, siblings and spouses require care and support that is open-hearted and free from moralizing judgement.

For the Victims of Addiction
O blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost our health and freedom. Restore to us the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from us the fears that beset us; strengthen us in the work of our recovery; and to those who care for us, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church, page 831 with pronouns modified for solidarity.)

Learn more here:
http://www.provisionsforthejourney.org/
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help

A companion piece with a bibliography of resources gathered by the Opioid Response Task Force is available here

Life Transformed: The Way of Love in Lent and Easter

This release originally appeared at the Episcopal News Service site on January 18, 2019.

The journey through Lent into Easter is a journey with Jesus. We are baptized into his life, self-giving and death; then we rise in hope to life transformed. This Lent, faith communities are invited to walk with Jesus in his Way of Love and into the experience of transformed life.New Way of Love resources for Lent and Easter include three components; additional resources from partnering organizations and churches are also featured:     

Adult Forum: This set of seven Adult Forums, suitable to diverse settings, ties the Easter Vigil readings to the seven practices of the Way of Love. Drawing on the ancient practice of setting aside Lent as a period of study and preparation for living as a Christian disciple (known as the catechumenate), the forums draw participants to reflect on salvation history, walk toward the empty tomb, and embrace the transforming reality of love, life, and liberation. As we stand with the three women at the empty tomb, we hear his call to go and live that transformed reality. Curriculum will be available in Spanish before the end of this month. (Format: Digital download, available here.)     

Quiet Day: The Quiet Day curriculum condenses the forums into a single-day journey. Offered as an option for churches and dioceses seeking an alternative to the weekly class. (Format: Digital download, available here.)

Test Kitchen: “Living the Way of Love, Transformed.” After the forty days of Lent, this Facebook-based platform will invite participants into a fifty-day Eastertide “Test Kitchen.” People everywhere will actively “GO” with Jesus from the tomb to bless the world – and then share and inspire each other with accounts of how they are living the Way of Love. Consider joining this closed Facebook group now to receive regular messages of support as you live the way of love through Lent. (Format: Multiple platforms, including Facebook group with daily prompts, available here.)

Resources shared by partnering organizations and churches:

     Way of Love resources from Church Publishing, Inc. (CPI) include Living the Way of
Love,
a 40-day devotional by Mary Bea Sullivan, along their recently published Little
Books of Guidance – one for each of the seven Way of Love practices.

Coming in early February are a series of sermons based on the Year C lectionary readings
offered by St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania as well as video
classes that track with the Life Transformed curriculum offered by The Hive.

Additional seasonal resources include:
Ashes to Go Resources
Daily Devotionals from d365
Episcopal Relief & Development’s Lenten Meditations
Lent Madness
Living Compass: Living Well Through Lent
Living the Way of Love: A 40-Day Devotional
Sermons That Work for Lent (available in English and Spanish)
United Thank Offering Lenten Calendar

If your ministry has developed a seasonal Way of Love offering, please share at wayoflove@episcopalchurch.org. We’d love to feature it on the website and pray for our shared journey into new life.

Explore the Way. Start a small group. Follow Jesus. Let God’s love transform you and your ministry. Find resources for every liturgical season here:  www.episcopalchurch.org/wayoflove.

Seek the Face of God

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(The Epiphany, BCP p. 214 )

An epiphany, an encounter with the living God, is sometimes fleeting – a moment in time where we know that we know God is powerfully present. And while the above collect is beautifully worded, it can easily be misconstrued to mean we will only see God face to face in the heavenly hereafter. That is not true.

We see the face of God in everyone we meet. We see the face of God in those we love and in those we barely know. We see the face of God in the poor, the homeless, the outcast and the lonely. Intellectually we know this to be true, but it is much harder to live into this reality because to do so requires much of us.

First it requires an awareness of the other – an acknowledgment that everyone is beloved of God. This is true regardless of their skin color, political persuasion, social status, or income. Second, it requires listening to the other. Listening is a powerful way to bring someone into the fullness of who they were created to be. This is as true of a young child as it is those who are frail and at the end of their years. Their faces light up as they tell their stories. We see the face of God in others also when we take action to relieve suffering. Sometimes this requires hands on work at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Other times it requires sharing our financial resources. Most times it simply means putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own.

The season of Epiphany ushers in a new year full of hope and promise. My prayer is that as we seek the face of God, there will be a double blessing – first for those we encounter, and second for ourselves. May you all have a very blessed New Year.

The Rev. Canon Martha Ishman is Rector at St. James, Titusville, and Canon for Mission Development and Transition for the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

DioNWPA Year in Review: 2018

It’s been a busy year in the diocese: our first church plant in 50 years was consecrated, there were baptisms and confirmations and an ordination to the priesthood, we made history by embarking on a collaboration with the Diocese of Western New York, and so much more. To commemorate all this we’ve put together a little highlight video of diocesan events from throughout the year – we hope you enjoy it.

Have a blessed New Year, and we’ll see what God has in store for us in 2019!

Called For Prayer and Service

“Lord, what would you have me do” is the final sentence in the motto of The Order of the Daughters of the King.  It is both a prayer and a call to serve. We, as a lay order of Episcopal women, pray daily to hear God’s call to serve our parish and our community.  The Daughters of the King in this diocese recently answered His call for prayer and service by participating in two very different activities this fall.

We answered His call to prayer at the recent joint convention of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York in Niagara Falls. When the announcement of a joint convention was made, Daughters in NWPA sought to contact Daughters from WNY to plan a joint activity. Alas, we learned there were no chapters in that diocese, and so we contacted Daughters from that Province. Two Daughters from Albany joined Grace Chapter from St. John’s in Franklin and Martha Chapter from Trinity in New Castle to offer prayer for those in attendance at the convention. A prayer table with candles and prayer request cards was set up in the rear of the meeting room. Attendees were encouraged to use the cards and place their prayer requests in a container on the table. We were astounded by the number of prayer requests which we instantly relayed to our members at home.  Prayer was offered in real time and we continued to pray for the petitions for another 30 days.  We also set up a table with information about the Order in the break area and we were delighted with the interest shown by the convention attendees. Plans are being made to visit a number of churches to give informational talks.

Our call to serve was answered by participating in a joint project with WELCA (Women of the Evangelical Church of America): the Lily Project. The Lily Project is a collaborative effort involving women from Good Hope Lutheran Church in Oil City and Grace Chapter of the Daughters of the King at St. John’s, Franklin. The purpose of the project is to assist women who have been victims of rape or sexual assault. These women often come to the ER with damaged clothing or must surrender their clothing as evidence of their assault.  We know this can be dehumanizing and adds to the trauma of the assault, so the Lily Project provides them with fresh clothing and a prayer for God’s comfort and peace. We have collected donations of underclothing, socks, loose athletic pants and t-shirts. These items are placed in a gift bag with a pack of tissues and a prayer square. Each size from small to extra large is placed in a bin marked with the size and then delivered to five area hospitals with a promise to replace items as they are used.

If you are interested in more information about the Order of the Daughters of the King, you can go to the website doknational.org or contact Kathy Paulo at St. John’s, Franklin.

Kathy Paulo is a member of St. John’s, Franklin. 

Letter to the Episcopal Church from the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies

Statute of Limitations Suspension for Clergy Sexual Misconduct Begins
January 1, 2019

Advent 2018

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:

Nearly a year ago, we issued a call for the church to examine its history and come to a fuller understanding of how we have handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse through the years. In particular, we asked to hear voices from the wider church at General Convention so that deputies and bishops might consider both how to atone for the church’s past and shape a more just future. As followers of Jesus of Nazareth, as children of God with all people, we could do no less, and we must do more.

In July, General Convention considered 26 resolutions and one memorial addressing  issues the #MeToo movement has brought to light, many of them developed by the House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. One of these resolutions, Resolution D034, suspends for three years the canon (church law)  that places a time limit on initiating proceedings in cases of clergy sexual misconduct against adults. There is no time limit on reporting clergy sexual misconduct against children and youth under age 21.

As a result of this resolution, from January 1, 2019 until December 31, 2021, those who wish to bring a case of sexual misconduct against a member of the clergy will be able to do so, regardless of how long ago the alleged misconduct occurred. Allegations of misconduct can be made to the intake officer in the diocese where the alleged misconduct occurred, or, if the allegation is against a bishop, to the Office of Pastoral Development. You can learn how to reach the intake officer in a diocese by checking its website or calling the bishop’s office.

We hope that this temporary suspension of the statute of limitations will be one way for the church to come to terms with cases of sexual misconduct in our collective past. Between now and General Convention in 2021, laypeople, clergy and bishops appointed to several task forces created by the 2018 General Convention will be working on other ways of addressing these issues, including a process to help the church engage in truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation regarding our history of gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence.

We are grateful to the many deputies, bishops and other volunteers across the church whose careful work before, during, and after General Convention is helping our church move closer to the day when, having repented of our sins and amended our common life, we may be restored in love, grace and trust with each other through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Faithfully,

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry                   The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
Presiding Bishop and Primate                        President, House of Deputies