Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A saint is a person the light shines through

You've probably heard the story -- the one about the little girl in the cathedral entranced by the beautiful windows and pointing and asking her aunt "Who's that?" at one after the other after the other ...

Saint John.
Saint Peter.
Saint Martha.
Saint Mary.

... until she finally said with triumph "Now I know what a saint is! A saint is a person the light shines through!"

This window is one of the ones in the chapel at All Saints Church in Pasadena -- and when we gathered there on Monday for noonday Eucharist and reflected on the texts for the Sunday-coming ... All Saints Day ... I found myself telling that story and then inviting the "two or three gathered" to join in a time of silence together as we called to mind -- and gave thanks for -- all those people in our lives who have been saints to us. All those who have let the light of God's love, justice and compassion shine through -- and changed our lives as a result. Saints alive in this realm and in the next. All Saints.

It was a great way to start the week. And I've found myself adding to my list ever since. And then it occurred to me to invite you to "go and do likewise" by way of this blog post. Who are YOUR saints?
Almighty God, you have knit us together in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

How We Got From There To Here: 1976 - 2014

As the number of dioceses in states or jurisdictions with marriage equality continues to climb and the countdown clock to General Convention 2015 continues to tick, I've gotten more and more questions from folks who want "background" on how we got to where we are in the Episcopal Church on the complicated issue of the church's response to same-sex couples/unions/relationships/marriages.

 So here is my first shot at trying to use "Google Slides" to put a presentation online. It is a distillation of presentations I've made over the years -- updated and edited to specifically address the institutional journey the Episcopal Church as been on over the last nearly-forty years. Hope it's helpful!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reprising my "Litany for Js & Ps"

The flurry of Myers-Briggs tests on Facebook this week inspired me to go look up this "oldie but goodie" from my archives -- a litany for Js & Ps to pray for and with each other.


For the gift of new visions for the future and for the ability to implement and expedite them,
We give you thanks, O Lord.

From the temptation to become so focused on the goal we vision that we do not see the possibilities you offer,
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the grace you give us to be present in the moment and for the gift of spontaneity and openness to changing direction,
We give you thanks, O Lord.

From the danger of being so present in the moment that we settle for what is rather than risk partnering with you to achieve what could be,
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the wholeness and joy you offer us in our relationships with one another,
We give you thanks, O Lord.

From being so defined by our relationships that we lose sight of ourselves in the process, and from the fears of abandonment and rejection that being vulnerable to such loving can bring,
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the strength of self and independence you give us as beloved, empowered and gifted children of God,
We give you thanks, O Lord.

From the temptation to focus so much on the gift of our individuality that we lose sight of our call to mutuality,
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the love you have given us to share, which has been a source of strength and comfort, joy and support, growth and grace,
We give you thanks, O Lord.

For the hurts we have inflicted, the wounds we have created, the trusts we have betrayed and the pain we have caused,
Forgive us, O Lord.

Gracious God, we know that you call us all into wholeness in body, mind and spirit … and we come to you today to pray for your help in that journey. Open to your healing spirit of love and compassion, we ask for your guidance as we seek to grow more fully into the people you have created us to be.

Trusting in your presence within us and between us, we ask for your wisdom as we seek to live more authentically into the relationships you have given us with one another and with you. Claiming the blessing of the vocations with which you have gifted us, we ask you to gift us once more with both hope and discernment as we journey into your future. All this we ask in the name of your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On Gays, the Vatican and the Episcopal Church

"It is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church." -- Resolution of the Episcopal Church, 1976

"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?" -- Working document from the Vatican, 2014
Two statements -- issued decades apart -- by church councils struggling to respond to the conflict between ancient doctrines and new understandings: each case greeted by some as "too little, too late" and by others as "the end of the world as we know it."

As an Episcopalian busily ministering in a church on the cusp of finishing the work of fully including the LGBT baptized in all the sacraments it would be easy to dismiss the recent news from the Vatican as the former -- especially as the final version "walked back" the more revolutionary language under pressure from conservative prelates.

And yet -- as my brilliant friend Diana Butler Bass said in response -- "When it comes to God's justice, all of us move too slow, too late."

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Remembering Tom Shaw: "God Depends On Us For That"

We lost a bishop, an activist, a monk and a friend today. Bishop Tom Shaw died in Massachusetts at the age of 69 after a valiant battle against cancer. The Diocese of Massachusetts released this remembrance ... which included these words which are, for me, the essence of the leader and mentor I knew:
Shaw saw no dichotomy between the daily hours he spent in solitary prayer and the public demonstrations he joined on city streets and State House steps; he believed that prayer leads to action, and sought to make the Episcopal Church a visible and vocal presence in the public arena.

“We are what God has to do good in the world. Every one of us has a voice and can make a difference if we exercise that,” he said in a 2004 interview. “I don’t think that on most civil rights issues, for instance, we can point to one huge event that’s changed everything. I think instead it’s thousands of ordinary people doing what they think is right, taking risks, speaking out in their lives in big ways and small ways. Eventually that turns the tide. God really depends on us for that.”
As the whole church mourns the passing of this powerful witness to God's love, justice and compassion, we also mourn the loss of our friend, companion and example.

I think today about the scene in the documentary "Love Free or Die" where Bishop Shaw romped on the beach with the family whose children were not welcomed to be baptized in another tradition -- because they had two dads -- and how +Tom embraced that family with joy, grace and playfulness.

I remember a moment in the Episcopal House of Bishops -- I've lost track of which year -- when he rose to speak about his vocation of celibacy and to challenge a brother bishop who was insisting LGBT folks were welcome in the church as long as they were celibate: "celibacy is a gift to be received by God -- not a sanction to be imposed by the church."

And I remember his quiet, gentle presence during the long month of Lambeth 2008 as we struggled with the Inclusive Communion team to give witness to the good news of God's inclusive love present in LGBT people around the communion. I remember a particular moment when he put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, "It is so important that you all are here. Thank you."

That's what I remembered when I read the quote above. "Eventually that turns the tide. God really depends on us for that."

God depended on Tom Shaw for that and Tom Shaw never disappointed. Now it's our job to take the baton -- to carry the torch -- to keep up the work ... taking risks, speaking out in big ways and small ways. Because eventually the tide will turn. And God is depending on us to turn it.

Rest in peace, Tom. We've got this.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#spiritday and the #episcopalchurch

Spirit Day. The day millions go purple on Spirit Day in a stand against bullying and to show their support for LGBT youth. Observed annually since 2010, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and public figures wear purple, which symbolizes 'spirit' on the rainbow flag. And some of us change our FB profile pics purple.

And then the question becomes: what do we do tomorrow? When the purple is back in the closet (so to speak) and kids are still at risk and homophobia and transphobia are still real and present and bullying and killing our youth?

Here's what the Episcopal Church did -- at its General Convention in 2012: pass a resolution calling the whole church to take up the challenge of being the change we want to see in the lives of our precious young people by creating a church wide response to bullying 24/7 ... not just 10/16.

Respond to Bullying | 2012-D022

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls for a church wide response to the epidemic of bullying, particularly of those perceived as being “different” by virtue of economic, ethnic, racial or physical characteristics, religious status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; bullying is defined as the recurring use of single or combined written, verbal or electronic expressions or physical acts or gestures, directed at any person that: result in physical or emotional harm to the person or damage to his/her property; places the person in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself or of damage to her/his property; creates an intimidating or hostile environment for the person; impacts the rights of the victim. Bullying shall include cyber-bullying through electronic/social media, telephonic technology or other means; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention encourage new partnerships among our congregations, dioceses, campus ministries, National Association of Episcopal Schools, public schools, counseling centers, and governmental organizations in order to support and offer preventative programs addressing bullying, harassment, and other related violence, especially with higher risk populations; and be it further

Resolved, That these partnerships be encouraged to create or join with existing required programs designed to recognize and prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation in our church settings which:
  • utilize positive, inclusive, empowering and developmentally appropriate materials
  • raise participants' awareness about the issue
  • focus on prevention
  • seek to change bystander behavior into ally behavior
  • create partnerships between youth and adults
  • provide intervention and treatment for those who exhibit bullying behavior.
Will one resolution passed by one church council end the scourge of bullying that plagues our LGBT kids? Of course not.

But we do believe -- I do believe -- that lifting our collective voice, putting the official energy of the Episcopal Church behind this challenge to speak out, reach out, step out and -- when necessary -- ACT out on behalf of our vulnerable youth is exactly what we both can and should be doing. And this resolution is part of that commitment.

So Happy Spirit Day! Put on your purple, stand up against bullying and together let's be that change we want to see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dear George,

       To: George Waite
   From: Susan Russell
Subject: Thanks for stopping by

Dear George,

Just a quick note to thank you for your interest in this blog and for stopping by so frequently to comment. Since your comment is, unfortunately, always the same...
Religion is boring, stupid, expensive and a waste of time.
... you will no doubt have noticed that I ceased moderating those comments up a good long while ago.

You are, of course, more than welcome to continue to comment. Just be clear I'll continue to delete. Unless, of course, you'd like to post something helpful or substantive. And in the meantime -- this is just a suggestion for you to take or leave -- you might want to talk to your therapist (if you have one) about why you continue to be drawn to a blog that focuses primarily on something you hold in such contempt.

God bless and have a great day!

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
All Saints Church, Pasadena CA