Lent, Worship in the Real World, Service in Africa, PSAs and News…

There’s a lot to read in this issue. Lent and rules of life, taking advantage of everyday situations for worship, some Public Service Announcements, working with the Peace Corps in Africa, and we have new clergy to introduce too.

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources
Sleeping Alleluias – Seen at Church of the Good Shepherd, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

Welcome to the first issue of Spirit in 2019.

Lent, the period when we let sleeping alleluias lie. It’s a well known phenomena that as you age time appears to pass as an ever increasing pace. And here we are in Lent again. It’s a point that Bishop Marty alludes to at the start of his Keeping Watch article, Lent and The Way of Love. He goes on to encourage us to take a close look at the ‘Rule of Life’ proposed by our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry in ‘The Way of Life’.

I’ve found the concept of a Rule of Life to be a huge help, but something that I let lapse all to frequently. So maybe it’s just as well that Lent and my annual review of such things appears to come around more quickly each year.

***

Carolyn Thompson returns with a fourth article on her experiences of Worshiping with other faiths. This time there’s a slightly different spin on things, as she talks about the opportunities to worship out in the everyday world. See Worship Opportunities Are All Around Us.

The first draft of this editorial grew into a major Public Service Announcement. In a fit of ‘editor’s remorse’, I changed the text into a full feature article – Unknowing Victims. Read it and find out about my first hand experience with internet crime, and then help me raise awareness of it.

Speaking of Public Service Announcements, the Rev. Jerry Kolbe sent me an interesting note that he’d shared with the retired clergy. It was well worth sharing with a wider audience, so check out Preparing for the Inevitable.

Julia Tayor is also featured again, this time writing about her 2016 – 2017 service with the Peace Corps in Uganda – A Year in Africa – Preparations & Orientation. We are serializing her African exploits in Spirit.

***

In the news section we introduce the recently ordained Jeff Stevenson, and welcome Mother Terry Deokaran, installed as rector at All Saints’ West Plains, in February. We’ve also included some pictures taken at the recent (March 2) Bishop’s Days workshops held at Grace and Holy Trinity cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri.

***

Finally I’m going to use my editor’s privilege (there aren’t many I can assure you), to further promote an event that is very dear to my heart, and that’s the Stop Human Trafficking & Abuse Event being held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City on March 30. Come and join us.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

Unknowing Victims

Are you a victim? It’s very hard for people to admit to having been the victim of a crime. For some, it is because it’s an embarrassing admission that they were duped. For others, it is because they don’t even know that they are victims.

Gary Allman Ten-minute read.   Resources
Double Trouble – January 19, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

We often see victims in the world, and sometimes it’s obvious to us that they are, in fact, victims. These victims of spousal abuse, victims of addiction, or victims of circumstances sometimes seem oblivious to the fact that they are being victimized. We wonder why they can’t or haven’t seen it, or why they deliberately choose to be in denial about being a victim. If we have any self-awareness we might wonder if we, too, are oblivious victims.

We live in an immoral world. As Christians we are called to live a moral life and to love one another. We should even love those who would do us harm, which can be a challenge. But as Christians, we should also be championing the causes of those who have become victims.

I’m never going to grow tired of saying it (and I know I say it a lot). It’s yet another example of our fifth baptismal covenant.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

But what about the victims who are closer to home? What about you? Are you a victim? No?

Don’t be quite so sure. I’m not going to talk about ‘obvious’ issues such as addiction, which we don’t talk about nearly enough. No, instead I’m going to talk about an old-fashioned crime in a modern guise.

Here’s what happened to me.

Without realizing it I’ve innocently become embroiled in organized crime.

There, I’ve said it. It sounds sort of exciting as we are tempted to think of the scenarios that play out in the movies. At the same time, when put like that, it also sounds rather mundane.

There is no scurrilous money laundering, even though I live in the Ozarks. I’m not being blackmailed, nor have I or my family (thus far) been threatened. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones. The criminals haven’t taken anything of real value from me, and more importantly, I’ve discovered their nefarious activities. I know what they are doing, and for the past several years I’ve been doing what I can do to make their crimes more difficult.

The bad news is that most of the victims in my position don’t, and possibly never will, know that they are victims. Which is why I ask, are you sure you’re not a victim? You may not know it.

My story only represents one side of the equation. There are victims on the other side who, if they don’t suspect the criminals’ intentions in time, will lose both financially and emotionally. It’s a modern take on a crime that’s as old as the hills. According to the FTC, this crime has cost Americans some $143M in the last year. In my opinion that’s a huge underestimation.

What are these crimes? They’re commonly known as Romance Scams or Catfishing.

In my case what’s being stolen are photographs of me. The pictures are used to create fake profiles used in online social media, games, and dating accounts. The purpose of these accounts, which use my photos, is to defraud people. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that people like me can do to stop these criminals from getting ahold of your online pictures, except perhaps by never appearing on the Internet in the first place.

Michael Lucious – one of stranger monikers the scammers have adopted.

They use my photographs (and the photos of many, many others) to make their fake accounts look real. They claim to be divorced or widowed and are looking for friendship and love. What they are really looking for is a way to separate vulnerable and lonely people from their money. They tend to target older divorced or widowed women, but they are just as likely to use pictures of women to target vulnerable men.

My wife says my pictures are being used because I have a friendly and trustworthy face (who am I to argue?). Also, there are lots of pictures of me doing all sorts of fun things, very useful for the made-up scenarios they weave into their schemes. There I am on planes, in airports, on sailboats, with injuries, out in the woods, and even with my step-daughter. They love to include her pictures because the idea of a widowed man raising a young daughter alone makes them seem far more endearing.

A sample of pictures of Gary Allman used in fake social media accounts. Image credit: Gary Allman

By the way, the irony of this situation isn’t lost on my wife and I, given that we met online, and that at one point her bank account was frozen because her bank thought I was a scammer.

When I first discovered that my pictures were being used, I thought it was a joke. I quickly realized that it wasn’t and I took action to close down all the faux accounts I could find.

And that’s when things got a little bit hairy.

When the fake account suddenly disappeared, the lovelorn victims searched Facebook for their missing beaus and found the real me. In the process, they also discovered the heartbreaking, and ire-raising news that the love of their life was not widowed, but was happily married and living in Missouri. I was not an oil rig worker, or commodities trader living in New York, Geneva, or somewhere in Texas. In short, they thought it was me deceiving them, having a “fling” on the side.

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”


The Mourning Bride by William Congreve

They took to sending abusive messages to my wife and I.

Thankfully, the zero engagement rule seems to work equally well with jilted lovers as it does with Internet Trolls. Foreseeing a long future of such abuse, I created a webpage detailing the scams and my innocent involvement. Now when I find and report a fake account, I post a link to my page and a picture of the fake account publicly on social media. It’s my hope that the grieving lovers will see the pictures of all the different accounts I’ve closed and realize they’ve been taken in by a scam.

To be clear, we are not talking about one or two fake accounts, I’ve closed over a hundred, and I am still closing them to this day. It’s like playing whack-a-mole. And that’s just the ones I’ve found, there will be hundreds more out there. (And of course, I’m not the only one. There are thousands of people in my shoes whether they know it or not).

The messages I get now are no longer abusive. They are the stories of people who are victims of these schemes. Some have, fortunately realized something was up, and didn’t part with any money. But many discovered their error too late.

There was one lady who lost all the insurance money she received after her husband died. Another lost over $160,000. I received a message from the granddaughter of one victim who lost everything, and it was presumed as a consequence she took her life.

It is with a sad and broken heart that I am writing to you. I have been writing to “Gary Brooks” since May 2014 and have sent him over $160,000 of my retirement and credit card money…

… I have finally accepted the fact that I am indeed being scammed. I have had such high hopes of a future with this other guy and really sucked in all the affection and promises he sent me…

… I was wondering what you would suggest me to do next …

This is a serious crime, with serious consequences, and very little chance of redress for the victims.

The scammer’s techniques are to quickly move the victims from public conversations to private chat, texting, and phone calls. That reduces the chance that the victim will see any evidence of the scam being outed, It also leaves the scammers free to be grooming more victims simultaneously. The scammers weave convincing and sympathy-inducing stories for their victims, often involving accidents, or temporarily delayed business funding to lure their victims into sending money.

Another disturbing aspect is that these criminals often claim to be religious to make their stories sound more trustworthy.

From a family member

The lies and deceit can seem obvious to casual observers. Unfortunately the victims are often desperately invested in their relationship with the scammer, and will not believe anyone who tries to make them realize they are being duped.

Some of the messages I get are heartbreaking

…you don’t know me but I just wanted to get some kind of clarity.

… had been talking to someone she ‘met’ on the game words … and they used your picture… they ended up getting money … My whole family tried warning her but she refused to listen to us because this person told her everything she wanted to hear… this person was supposed to be returning back to the states from an overseas oil rig but conveniently never showed up…

…was found dead in her home with no clear indication of how. All we know is her newly refilled pain pills were gone … We all believe this person lead her on for so long that eventually it just took a toll on her emotionally … I guess I was really just needing your advice. I really want justice for what this person has taken away from my family.

The scammers don’t only use social media. They use dating websites, games sites, and by a stroke of luck I even found one on the Fitbit site!

One scammer created a complete website (now taken down) posing as a cinematographer.

Once their foul schemes have been discovered the scams don’t necessarily stop. They may pretend to be victims themselves and contact their victims (since they know who they are), and create some complex (but costly) plot to get revenge. The scammers have even been known to send people to physically go and meet the victims.

So…

let’s be careful out there.

Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues

What Can We Do?

We can raise awareness. Romance Scams are often treated lightheartedly. For the victims of the scams, their hopes of love and happiness are dashed, and their financial security may be compromised. There’s nothing amusing about either scenario. Spreading the word will warn people that these crimes are taking place, and hopefully reduce the number of victims.

Raising awareness that pictures are being stolen for this purpose should encourage people to check if their pictures are being stolen, and report any fake accounts.

This won’t stop the crimes. There have always been con men and fraudsters. However, widespread awareness of internet catfish scams will make it harder for these criminals to operate. And that can only be good.

Are Your Pictures Being Used?

Facebook search for people with the name "Gary Allman".
This is the result of one of my early Facebook searches for “Gary Allman”

The scammers tend to target people with a good supply of pictures. One of their most popular sources of pictures are people serving in the military. An overseas deployment can explain why they can’t meet their victim in person.

How would you know if someone is using photographs of you in romance scams?

For me, the first ones were easy. They were foolish enough to use my real name and have publicly visible pictures of me. So just do a search in Facebook for your name. If any account with a picture of you shows up and it’s not yours, you’ve found a scammer of one sort or another.

If you can learn the aliases they are using, then trawling through a social media search on that name can unearth a load of these fake profiles. I’ve lost count of the number of ‘Gary Brooks’ I’ve closed down.

How you take down false accounts depends on the organization. In my experience, Facebook and Instagram have been very good at taking down reported accounts. But their record in making it easy to identify them or stop them from being created is appalling. Google is next to useless. Even with copies of my driver’s license, they refuse to remove them.

Are You a Romance Scam Victim?

If you are single and dating partners online, reverse image searches of the profile pictures and any other images your date shares works well for identifying suspect people. This is why I’ve made sure that the pictures of me are easily found with a simple search.

Be on the alert for anything that doesn’t look or feel right. Is the person’s writing style consistent? Does their command of English match their supposed nationality? Are the pictures really taken where and when they claim to be? Do the things in the background of the photo match the story you’re being told? Does the person avoid answering questions about inconsistencies? Does the apparent age of the person in the pictures keep changing? Be careful. There are tens of thousands of scam accounts on Facebook. I wouldn’t be surprised if over 30% of Facebook accounts were scammers of one sort or another.

Needless to say, never send money or give financial information to someone you’ve not met in person and don’t really know, regardless of how convincing they may be.

There are several groups to help you identify potential scammers (links below).

Even harder than dealing with a scammer yourself is convincing someone you know that they may be in danger of becoming a victim. They usually refuse to listen, even when they may have their own suspicions.

In the worst case, if you’ve become a victim of a scammer, you can report the crime to the FBI online (ironic isn’t it?).

Resources

Back to Contents

I Think I’ve Been Scammed Resources

Reverse Image Searches: support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808

Romance Scam Forum: www.romancescam.com/forum/index.php (this one is particularly good)

Nigerian Dating Scams: www.watchforscams.com/nigerian-dating-scams.html

Social Catfish: Scams: socialcatfish.com/category/scams/

FBI Cyber Crime Page: www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber

Facebook ‘Scam Haters’ page: www.facebook.com/thefightbackstartshere/

About Romance Scams

Gizmodo Article (I agreed to take part in this piece): Pray for the Souls of the People Sucked Into This Dating Site Hell.

BBC article: Scam baiter: Why I risk death threats to expose online cons.

Washington Post Romance Scam Article (May 2018): When a stranger takes your face: Facebook’s failed crackdown on fake accounts.

Washington Post Romance Scam Article (Feb. 2019): Romance scams cost Americans $143 million last year, FTC says.

FBI (February 2018): FBI Cautions Public to be Wary of Online Romance Scams.

Federal Trade Commission (Feb. 2019): Romance scams rank number one on total reported losses.

Reporting a Scammer

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Federal Trade Commission:
https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/Information#crnt&panel1-3

Building Community in West Missouri

People from across the diocese tell their stories of how diocesan grants and funds are being used in their ministries and outreach.

Gary Allman 15 minute read.   Resources

Bishop’s Ball and Youth Awards 2018

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources
Award Winners Image: Gary Allman

Christ Episcopal Church Springfield hosted this year’s Bishop’s Ball on Saturday November 3. There was good food, awards, and dancing to be enjoyed.

Awards

Above and Beyond Youth – Liam McKeown. Presented by Meredith Seaton. Image: Gary Allman
Outstanding Adult Volunteer – Frank Miller. Presented by Rosie Garza and Jayme Trader. Image: Gary Allman
Outstanding Youth – Jayme Trader, presented by Spencer Orr. Image: Gary Allman
Leaving a Legacy – Natalie Telep, presented by Alexandra Connors. Image: Gary Allman
Outstanding YMC Member – Amanda Colburn, presented by Krista Heuett. Image: Gary Allman
Above and Beyond Adult – Alexandra Connors, presented by Josh Trader. Image: Gary Allman
Purple Cross awarded to Fr. Jonathan Callison, St. Paul’s Kansas City. Presented by Amanda Colburn. Image: Gary Allman

Food

Dancing

Awards over, it’s time for dancing. Image: Gary Allman

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Resources

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Fall Confirmations at St. James, Springfield

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources
Thursday November 1, Area Confirmations at St. James Episcopal Church, Springfield. Image: Gary Allman

On Thursday November 1, 2018, St. James Episcopal Church, Springfield hosted diocesan Area Confirmations. Taking part were members of St. James Episcopal Church, Springfield; St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Ozark; Shepherd of the Hills, Branson; St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Monett; Trinity Episcopal Church, Lebanon.


Those Being Confirmed

  • St. James, Springfield: Matt Hopper, Reidar Hammond, Julie Giggoly, Tatum Trader, Asha Tharakan.
  • St. Matthew’s, Ozark: Alica Thomas.
  • Shepherd of the Hills, Branson: Blake Smith, Cinnamon Smith.
  • St. Stephen’s, Monett: Kayla Christen, Missy Jones.
  • Trinity, Lebanon: Tiffany Elkins, Joshua Sherrer.

Those Being Received

  • St. James, Springfield: Robert Jackson.
  • St. Matthew’s, Ozark: Laura Rushing
  • Shepherd of the Hills, Branson: Daniel Crawford
  • Trinity, Lebanon: Cody Elkins.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Of Sorrow, Of Joy

Gary Allman Eight-minute read.   Resources
Quiet Reflection – Convention Chapel 2018 General Convention, Austin, Texas.Image: Gary Allman

Of Sorrow

I noticed some movement across the street from the corner of my eye and I turned to see what it was. It’s a distracting problem when your office is at the front of the building, facing the street.

What I saw was a woman runner jogging down the far side of the road, closely followed by a big dark Buick. She stopped and the vehicle pulled up opposite her. There was a brief exchange across the road, then the woman resumed running, and the car continued following, staying around ten paces behind. In the time it took me to watch the exchange and then get to the outside door, the woman was already a couple of hundred feet away. As I emerged onto the step, the Buick briskly accelerated and disappeared from view. The woman carried on until she, too, disappeared from view as she rounded the corner at the end of the street.

Why did I leave my office? I was going to ask the woman if she was being bothered by the driver of the vehicle, and if I could be of assistance.

It’s tempting to just dismiss this as an exaggerated reaction on my part. Except. Except that I have some very good reasons to believe the woman was being harassed. I could tell by her body language when she stopped and briefly spoke to the driver, by the way the vehicle followed behind her and not by her side. And finally, this is not the first time I’ve heard of this happening.

Both of my step-daughters have had similar experiences, attracting the unwanted, intimidating, attention of men. One has been stalked multiple times by vehicles while out running. This is a young woman who quite happily toured Asia and Ecuador on her own, and yet she feels more at risk here in Springfield. Her sister dislikes using her bike to get to classes because of the comments and cat-calls she receives and she runs in a cemetery near her apartment to avoid being followed.

Why is this happening? Or more to the point, why are we allowing this to happen? My personal opinion is that it comes down to two basic factors. Firstly, the men involved feel empowered to act in the way they do, and secondly, they have precious little respect for women.

I believe that we are all, to an extent, to blame. When we enable boys or men by encouraging or turning a blind eye to inappropriate behavior, we are empowering them. I will admit to the latter, by not speaking out against inappropriate remarks, something I suspect most of us, both male and female might be able to admit to. What we need is to do is to set examples, to our children and to other youth, of mutual respect for each other — everyone — and not condone inappropriate behavior by anyone, not even by omission. This is a basic tenet of our fifth baptismal promise:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

In our homes and churches we have lots of opportunities to influence our children and youth. Trying to change the values and attitude of adults within our reach is harder, but not impossible. Mike McDonnell, member at St. George, Camdenton, and Vice President, Social Justice with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew is passionate about raising awareness of this basic issue of respect. He feels that it is the lack of respect for others, and women in particular, that is at the root of sex trafficking. In his article — The Sexual Immorality of Pornography — Mike talks about the role of men in the demand for pornography, and pornography’s impact on families and sex trafficking. Sex trafficking will be one of the topics discussed at this year’s diocesan convention, and on 30 March 2019 there will be workshop held at St. Andrew’s in Kansas City on the topic.

Footnote. Overtaken by recent news reports, the timing of the above text is purely coincidental (or fortuitous depending on your viewpoint). It was prompted by an event I witnessed in August and the past and present experiences of my stepdaughters. I should also mention that I was a minor contributor to Mike McDonnell’s article on pornography, and that I occasionally don the honorary hat of Communications Director, Social Justice, with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

Of Joy

WEMO Youth with the diocesan communications director, Gary Allman at the 2018 General Convention. It’s not often that you’ll see me on this side of the camera. Image: Liz Trader

I’ve written before of how I am blessed to be able to attend many of the celebrations that make up the church year: confirmations, ordinations, and installations. (Baptisms are typically a more private affair). This year I was able to add attending the General Convention of The Episcopal Church to that list. Much ink has been spent on the debates and conclusions of the convention, so I’m not going to add to that, but I have shared my experiences in a photo essay. Speaking of General Convention, Hayley Cobb
one of the WEMO Youth Summer Interns has written about the youth’s convention experience.

In closing, I’d like to offer congratulations to the Rev. Warren Swenson and the Rev. Kim Taube who were ordained to the priesthood at St Paul’s in Kansas City, in September. Sadly earlier in the month I missed the installation of Fr. Chas Marks as the new rector of St. Augustine’s, so I’ve stolen a few pictures from their Facebook page to show here, and in recompense, added a couple of pictures I took when I visited St. Augustine’s.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

General Convention in Pictures

There’s been a lot of words written about the 2018 General Convention in Austin, Texas. Here are the pictures.

Gary Allman Ten-minute read.   Resources

For the 78th General Convention in 2015, I stayed at home and watched the events in Salt Lake City unfold on my computer screen. I felt that I was constantly missing a piece of the puzzle.

In 2017 I applied for funding to attend the 79th General Convention. My request was approved, and there I was in the midst of things, and it was totally overwhelming.

I arrived in Austin, Texas on July 4, and things were already in full swing. First lesson arrive earlier to get the lay of the land, and to be able to hit the ground running when things switch up a gear. We — the diocesan, church, and general media, in total over 100 registered media people covered the convention — were allocated a briefing room, recording area (I won’t call it a studio), the services of the Office of Public Affairs, and set-aside areas in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies to work from. The days were long, with early starts and carrying on late into the evening. Meals were taken ‘on-the-hoof’, between sessions. There were Morning and evening media briefings and so much more to take in and try to follow.

It was tiring, but a fantastic and often moving experience not to be missed.

During the convention I left most of the word smithing to my media expert colleagues and concentrated on curating the fire hose of information they produced. I Relayed the important bits on our Social Media and the in the daily General Convention Round-up magazine I produced. The truth is that that the learning curve is steep, and while the ‘old hands’ take it all in their stride, the many ‘newbies’, myself included, wandered around looking a bit lost for the first couple of days!

Did I find the missing pieces of the puzzle? Not really, what I found was that the puzzle was a whole lot bigger and complicated than the view from my computer screen led me to believe.

***

Rather than bombard you with more words about Convention, I’ve picked some of my favorite pictures, which I hope will give you a flavor of what it was like. As always, you can click/tap on any picture to see it bigger and start a slide show of all the images in the article.

You can see a lot more pictures in our Flickr General Convention album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/diowestmo/albums/72157670856010488

You can read about the diocesan youth’s experience at General Convention in this article: spirit.diowestmo.org/2018/09/wemo-youth-at-general-convention/

Our General Convention Team

Deputies: L-R Fr. Jonathan Frazier, Fr. Tim Coppinger, Mthr. Anne Kyle, Curtis Hamilton, Linda Robertson, Fr. Marshall Scott, Liz Trader, Amanda Perschall.

Alternate Deputies: Fr. Stan Runnels (far Right). At Convention, but not pictured here: Mthr. Megan Castellan, Channing Horner, Christine Morrison.

Also pictured: Bishop Marty, and … WEMO Jesus. Image: Gary Allman

Lay Deputy Linda Robertson (left), Convention Volunteer Louise Horner, Alternate Lay Deputy Channing Horner, Clergy Deputy Mthr. Anne Kyle. Image: Gary Allman

Opening Eucharist

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the opening Eucharist. Image: Gary Allman

Revival

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: ‘God is love and gives life’ Image: Gary Allman

Episcopal Revival in Austin, Texas Image: Gary Allman

Episcopal Revival in Austin, Texas Image: Gary Allman

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: ‘God is love and gives life’ Image: Gary Allman

Even Bishops get selfies with the PB.’ Image: Gary Allman

Bishop’s United Against Gun Violence

Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Image: Gary Allman

Prayers for Justice

Prayers for Justice at T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Image: Gary Allman

Presiding Bishop Micheal Curry addresses the people from General Convention at Prayers for Justice outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Image: Gary Allman

Business Sessions

House of Deputies

House of Deputies. Image: Gary Allman

House of Bishops

Media

Assembled media representatives at the daily briefing. Image: Gary Allman

Province VII Meeting

Province VII Meeting. Image: Gary Allman

Around Convention

People gathered near the ‘stage’ in the General Convention Exhibition Area. Image: Gary Allman

Closing Eucharist

Convention Eucharist. Image: Gary Allman

It Wasn’t All Work

Pigeons have featured a lot in this convention. No doubt, fed up with tweeting, it seems they finally found someone to speak up on their behalf. Image: Gary Allman

Unfortunately this wasn’t mine, but it was appropriate. Image: Gary Allman

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

Resources

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St. Augustine’s Celebration of the Renewal of Ministry

St. Augustine’s recently held a Celebration of the Renewal of Ministry.

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

On August 28, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City held a Celebration of the Renewal of Ministry, which included the Installation of Fr. Chas Marks as their Rector.


Presentation of the new rector. Supplied image.

Blessing Supplied image.

Fr. Chas is having far too much fun sprinkling Holy Water with the aspergillum. Supplied image.

Confession: The Communications Director stole the above pictures from St. Augustine’s Facebook page.

Sunday September 16

I visited St. Augustine’s in September, here are a few pictures from my visit.

The people of Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri. Sunday, September 16, 2018. Image: Gary Allman

Fr. Chas and all the people helping with the service on Sunday September 16, 2018.
Image: Gary Allman

Communion at St. Augustine’s. Image: Gary Allman

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

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Recharging Spiritual Batteries

Gary Allman Eight-minute read.   Resources

The Cross at Lake Kanuga Image: Gary Allman

It happens. It can happen without warning. A favorite activity, a food, a friend, even our spirituality and connection with God — we suddenly lose interest, become lost and we are left with a residue of obligations. It doesn’t have to happen quickly either. Sometimes the ‘loss’ will slowly and insidiously creep up on you; one decision, word, or event at a time. Each chips away at your interest, resolve, or beliefs.

In the secular world this phenomena is often referred to as ‘Burn-out’, and the terms ‘Crisis of Faith’ and ‘Loss of Faith’ are familiar to us in respect to our spiritual lives. The people affected were once talked about in hushed voices, the very idea that these things can happen, ignored until after the event. Now, fortunately, we are more open to recognizing the importance of balance and being cognizant of the situations that can precipitate issues for people. We provide chaplaincy and support programs that cover a whole gamut of situations, from the needs of disaster first responders and their spiritual supporters, to parish clergy.

For church leaders it’s important to remember the volunteers. My guess is that the Pareto Principle (often referred to as Pareto’s rule), probably understates it, but in essence it suggests that 80% of the volunteering will be done by 20% of the members of the church. It’s an unfortunate truth that it probably turns out that the 20% are the same people every time. We insist on annual training quotas, and make provision for sabbaticals for our clergy, but, what provisions do we make for our volunteers?

It’s an issue I’ve struggled with. There have been times at church when I was unable to fully immerse myself and participate in worship because I was counting the attendance for the Eucharist or patrolling the corridors for potential intruders. I have had to remind myself, that it wasn’t just work, but service. And when it became work, it was time to take a break.

Nowadays, I’m often not as rooted in the worship as I feel I should be. I’m sitting in the back of the church posting something about the service on social media, reviewing pictures to make sure I have what we need, or checking ahead in the order of service, so I can work out what I ought to be doing next. The plus side though, as I’ve mentioned before, is that I get to take part in a great number of life-changing events.

Evening Prayer at the Chapel Image: Gary Allman

Every year I try to attend the Episcopal Communicators Conference. It’s a great chance to swap stories, learn from each other, and every third year, the conference is held at a retreat center. I think this is a deliberate ploy to give us all a chance to recharge and regroup before the Communications onslaught that is General Convention. So in April, I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of sitting by a lake and spending a few hours hiking at the Kanuga Conference Center on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was able to be ‘fully present’ at morning and evening prayer services. It was a great opportunity to recharge those spiritual batteries, and I heard a lot of things I needed to hear.

In this issue of Spirit, Carolyn Thompson writes again about her continuing ‘project’ to visit the churches of different faiths and how that has resulted in recharging and building her faith. There are lots of things that we can do. So, I’ll ask again. What is your church doing to look after today’s willing volunteers to ensure that they continue to be willing, rather than obliged? What can you do to help them by spreading the workload and broadening the pool of available resources?

General Convention

Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. The 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is nearly upon us. It’s very easy to think that it has nothing to do with what happens at my church on Sunday. In the long run, you’d be wrong. General Convention shapes and steers our direction and outlook, and not just for the next three years. It’s never too late to take an interest and see what resolutions are being debated and voted on. You still have the opportunity to make your thoughts known to the deputies who have been elected to represent you at General Convention.

During the run up to convention we’ll be building and updating the diocesan General Convention website, and we’ll be publishing regular news updates there and on social media. We’ve published a list of the deputies along with their contact information. If there are topics of specific interest that you’d like to be kept informed of, please let me know and I’ll make it my business to ensure they get coverage in our reports. The Diocesan Secretary, Curtis Hamilton, has written an introduction to this Convention, and we’ve also provided a link to a handy General Convention 101 Brochure produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

That Wedding

Despite our best efforts, up until ‘The Wedding’ (and as a Brit I exercise my right to refer to it as such), the light that is Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s preaching, has remained mainly hidden under an Episcopal bushel. No longer, and Bishop Marty writes about it in much more eloquent terms than I in his Keeping Watch article.

However, I’m going to be difficult, and I am going to whine about it. Not the wedding you understand, but that the churches of West Missouri failed to prepare for dealing with a sudden surge of public interest. How so? For four years we’ve been regularly asking church leadership to ensure that their church’s information is included on the Episcopal Asset Map. I think I’d be overstating it if I said that half a dozen of the 48 churches have actually done so. In response to the media frenzy surrounding the PB’s sermon The Episcopal Church actively promoted its ‘Find a Church’ feature — which is (you’ve guessed it) The Episcopal Asset Map — Where was the information about the majority of West Missouri’s churches for anyone searching for an Episcopal Church in West Missouri? Unfortunately, sadly missing.

On the positive side, it’s not too late to do something about it and make sure your church doesn’t get passed over again. Anyone can suggest updates using the online form, you can find out how here.

Human Trafficking

You are going to be hearing a lot about Human Trafficking in the future, and that’s good. The more we can raise awareness, the more can be done to try and eradicate this deplorable crime. In this issue we’ve news about the proposed safe house from Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. A lot of human trafficking has its roots in the baser human condition, specifically the baser male human condition, and that’s going to be hard for some people to read and talk about — we’ll be addressing the role of pornography in human trafficking in the September Spirit. In this issue, Mike McDonnell, VP Human Trafficking Ministries with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, writes about the relationship between Human Trafficking and Slavery, and be warned, he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to calling out how men and their attitudes are a big part of the problem.

And Finally — The June Issue of Spirit

Well, it was supposed to be the May issue of Spirit, but life got in the way, and we encountered some, shall we say, ‘scheduling difficulties’ that can best be summed up as a ready and willing editor, and not a lot to edit. I was going to bluff it out and just publish the May issue in June, but, despite burning the midnight oil, the final version was ready just a little bit too far into June for even me to cheekily call it a May issue.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

Area Confirmations at Calvary Episcopal Church, Sedalia

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources

Area Confirmations a Calvary Episcopal Church Sedalia.
Image: Gary Allman

On Saturday May, 5 2018, Calvary Episcopal Church, Sedalia hosted diocesan Area Confirmations. Taking part were members of Calvary, Sedalia; Christ Church, Warrensburg; and St. Peter’s, Harrisonville.


 

Those Being Confirmed

  • Calvary, Sedalia: Bridget Young, Elizabeth Wickham, Jennifer Harker, Sharon Dawley.
  • Christ Church, Warrensburg: Bailey Tucker, Aaron Bax.
  • St. Peter’s, Harrisonville: Ryan Brotton.

Those Being Received

  • St. Peter’s, Harrisonville: Katie Britton.

Please note that you can click/tap on any of the above pictures to see a bigger picture. You can also download print quality images from the diocesan Flickr page.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

Resources

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What Happens At Convention Doesn’t Have To Stay At Convention

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

Bishop Marty (probably ill-advisedly) called on the rather rumpled looking Communications Director to speak. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

As you’d expect, this post-convention issue of Spirit has several articles about the diocesan convention and the ongoing work and planning to improve, build, and fund the ‘Episcopal Branch of The Jesus Movement in West Missouri’ aka The Diocese of West Missouri.

Some of the Diocesan Staff Working Behind the Scenes at Convention L-R Gary Allman, Communications Director. Emily Davenport, Bishop’s Executive Assistant. Angela Crawford, Events-Communications Assistant. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

For many people, the workings of convention and the diocese (and even the necessity of the diocesan structure) remains something of a mystery.  While things keep going and ‘Church happens’ every Sunday it’s easy to metaphorically snooze in the back pews and ignore the details and workings of ‘The Church’ beyond one’s own church’s horizon. Until, that is, something happens, a change in direction or an unexpected decision impacts your favorite ministry. Such things may appear to come as a bolt from the blue, but that’s far from the truth. There are discussions, meetings, proposals, counter-proposals and voting. The majority of the initiatives originate at a deanery or council level, from the representatives that you elect at your church’s annual meeting. Have you ever asked your deanery representative, or diocesan convention delegate what they do, what’s discussed? In an ideal world, they will report back to you via your church’s newsletter or magazine. Unfortunately, your often hard-pressed volunteers don’t have time to do so.

I believe it is worth investing your time to find out more about how we in The Episcopal Church manage ourselves, and how and why things change.  This is especially relevant next year as in July the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church takes place in Austin Texas.  It’s far too easy to complain about this or that decision after the event, but what about making sure you prime your various representatives on your thoughts, so that they can better represent you before decisions and votes are taken? Needless to say, one way to find out what’s going on within the 48 churches that makes up the diocese is to read the summaries of the diocesan convention and the findings to-date of the Council Work Groups, and whether you agree or disagree, contact your church’s representatives and make your voice heard.

Each diocesan convention and the following year has a theme. For the past five years, the theme has centered around our five baptismal covenants. This year, Bishop Marty introduced the theme: “Called in. Sent out. Building a Community of Purpose.” This concept builds on the work leading up to the Presiding Bishop’s visit last May and looks to build and consolidate the work of the diocese as a parish in its own right. You can read more about Bishop Marty’s vision here.

Convention is not all facts, figures, and discussion. Mike McDonnell (St. George, Camdenton) brings a very personal look at the proceedings, which includes the wonderfully honest phrase “absolutely mind-numbingly excruciating”. You’ll have to read his article to find out what he was referring to and discover the deep emotions that were stirred.

One of the great things about being Communications Director is the privilege of being present and able to help document key transitions in the lives of the people of West Missouri. In the run-up to the diocesan convention, I attended two area confirmation services. The first was at St. John’s, Springfield, and the second was at St. Mary’s, Kansas City. Then in early December, I was present when Fr. Jos Tharakan was installed as Rector at St. James’ Springfield, and two days later at All Saints’, Nevada when Fr. Jim Lyle was installed as Rector. Unfortunately, I missed the two (yes, two) installations of Mtr. Anne Kyle, one as Pastor to Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, Sedalia,  and the second as rector to Calvary Episcopal Church, Sedalia. I also missed the installation of my EfM class-mate and alumna  Mtr. Laura Hughes as rector of St. George in Camdenton.

As the end of the calendar year draws nigh it’s traditional to have a little bit of introspection and reflection on the past year. Here is a small selection of some of my favorite memories from the 1,000+ pictures I took during my travels around the diocese this year. Enjoy.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Resources

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Work Group Reports — Finance Team

Gary Allman One-minute read.   Resources

Diocesan Treasurer, Caleb Cordonnier reports on the work of the Finance Team at the Diocesan Gathering Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The key work of the Finance Team has been the review of the diocesan budget — more generally referred to as The Plan for Ministry.

However, in addition to reviewing what is being spent the team is also looking at how funds are raised. In particular, the team has been reviewing the Project Resource 2 initiative from the Episcopal Church Foundation and the College of Bishops. At the Diocesan Gathering, Fr. John Spicer (St. Andrew’s Kansas City) and Mark Gallus (Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City) discussed new approaches to raising diocesan funds.

Mark Galus and Fr. John Spicer report on the work of the Finance Team Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

Project Resource provides the tools to inspire radical generosity and engage faith communities in this life-changing work. Project Resource is an initiative:

  • adapted to enable an entirely new culture in all aspects of financial development: spiritual, organizational, and managerial.
  • designed to train leaders how to return to their diocese to lead others within the diocese’s culture, geography, and cultural realities as they develop leaders and raise money.
  • configured to teach effective use of model documents archived online for easy teaching access.

Project Resource provides teaching, focus, and resources such that a team may return to their diocese equipped to teach and lead locally in areas of resource development. Project Resource does this by:

  • gathering the best resources, which not only deal with raising money, but which gets at societal shifts, organizational change, and leadership challenges.
  • providing diocesan teams time to interpret the content, session by session, within the realities and particularities of their own diocesan, cultural, and regional situations.
  • Empowering each team to leave with a working plan, with measurable objectives, tailored specifically for their own diocese.

Project Resource seeks to change churches’ culture and systems around financial development in the worldwide Episcopal Church. It seeks to instill and install effective financial development in diocesan teams of leadership.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Area Confirmations at St. Mary’s, Kansas City

Gary Allman One-minute read.   Resources


On Thursday November 2, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, hosted diocesan Area Confirmations Image credit: Gary Allman

Confirmations, receptions and reaffirmations were held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church,Kansas City on Thursday, November 2, 2017. Taking part were members of St. Mary’s, Kansas City; Church of the Resurrection, Blue Springs; Church of the Good Shepherd, Kansas City; and Trinity, Independence.

St. Mary’s, Kansas City

On Thursday November 2, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, hosted diocesan Area Confirmations Image credit: Gary Allman

Confirmed: Thomas Ham, Erica Hurst, Betty Iorg, Spencer Jasper, Isaac Petty, Matthew Plummer, Levi Tosh.
Received: William Govered.

Church of the Resurrection, Blue Springs

On Thursday November 2, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, hosted diocesan Area Confirmations Image credit: Gary Allman

Confirmed: Jayden Morris.
Received: Sherrie Brooks, Lyn Jandt.
 

Church of The Good Shepherd, Kansas City

On Thursday November 2, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, hosted diocesan Area Confirmations Image credit: Gary Allman

Received: Janet Moore, Marcia Applegate.
 

Trinity, Independence

On Thursday November 2, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, hosted diocesan Area Confirmations Image credit: Gary Allman

Received: Dayton Saunders, Hedda Sutherland.
Reaffirmed: Joyce Gillespie, Maudie Saunders.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Resources

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Installation of Fr. Jim Lile at All saints’, Nevada

Gary Allman One-minute read.   Resources

The Installation of the Rev. Dr. James Lile, Jr. as Rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Nevada, Missouri Image credit: Gary Allman

The Installation of the Rev. Dr. James Lile, Jr. as Rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Nevada, Missouri took place on Sunday December 3, 2017.

 
 

Gary Allman is Director of Communications with The Diocese of West Missouri.

New Spirit

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

Welcome to the first ‘online only’ version of Spirit. Its been a long time in the making. It’s was (and is) a huge project to undertake, and it will evolve as we learn how to get the best from this new format. First and foremost, you can print it if you don’t like reading off of a screen. But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.

Diocesan Communications Director, Gary Allman photographing the ‘Awakening the Spirit’ event. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

I’ll admit to a combination of deep disappointment tinged with anger when the delegates of the Special Convention of the diocese voted to approve a budget that defunded the printing and postage budgets for Spirit. We couldn’t even send the 5,000 families who received the magazine a postcard to explain that there wouldn’t be another print issue.

At the same time I was handed the challenge to produce an online version of Spirit that could be printed. We already produced an online magazine-style version, but unfortunately, while that version could be printed, it wasn’t phone friendly, and 48% of our online readers use their phones to access the diocese online. As that wasn’t going to work, I set about a complete re-design.

Personally, I am very pleased with the result which we’ve been able to put together in — what is in design and development terms — a very short time, and with limited resources.

We’ve tried to keep the general layout and design familiar, and the print version uses bigger print to aid readability. For now, to print a copy just click on the print version in the menu and use your web browser’s print facility. We’ll be looking at adding an easier to use ‘print button’ in the future. You can print the entire magazine, or just individual articles, depending on what you happen to be looking at on your screen. There’s some help here.

An online magazine has great advantages over a print version. We are not limited to a certain number of pages and no longer need to edit text to fit on a page. That means we can publish longer articles, we can include more pictures — over 120 in this issue — and even videos, there are three, see if you can find them! Not needing to meet the stricter demands of magazine print quality, we can now include cell phone photographs. We can provide links to related information that you may find of interest and it is possible for you to search for the things you are interested in. We have also provided a way for you to find articles organized by topic too — spirit.diowestmo.org/topics/

All of this I hope will help bring you all closer together in the community that is The Diocese of West Missouri.

And finally there are two things I really love about the online format. First, if you (or I) spot a mistake after I’ve hit ‘publish’, I can go back and make it right. You can’t do that in print. And, second when I am facing that blank screen and having to write my piece, I don’t have to fill a page. I can write as little or as much as my whim dictates.

I hope you enjoy the new format, please let me know about any problems you have, and keep on submitting news and articles.

In reality this is a double issue – so don’t expect subsequent issues to have as much content! Since the March Issue of Spirit, we’ve held:

There was a lot more going on besides, with several installations of priests which I’ve just not got time to include. And, there is a ‘whole lot more’ covered in the articles of this issue.

As a member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, I’d like to talk about one event in particular.

In September I attended the human trafficking workshop for men held at St. John’s in Springfield. Mike McDonnell — St. George Camdenton, and the Rev. Brian McVey — Church of the Advent, Nashville, Tennessee were the keynote speakers. The meeting was organized by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. I am sad to say, given the importance of the subject, the workshop was quite sparsely attended.

It might be that the worthy men of the diocese do not believe that they can influence human trafficking, or that it impacts their lives. The paper that Mike presented would have opened their eyes, disturbed them, and quite possibly precipitated some in-depth soul searching.

Even more harrowing were the stories of the victims of human trafficking and the criminals behind it, told by Fr. Brian, who has spent many years providing ministry to the victims and perpetrators.

So, I challenge the men of the diocese to take 20 minutes and read Mike’s paper. Next year I shall be inviting Fr. Brian to write an article on Human trafficking from his unique perspective.

I’d like to warn readers that Mike’s paper makes hard reading. It doesn’t pull any punches, and confronts, head on, a topic most people would rather not discuss. Human, and specifically male sexuality. The sad truth is that if we choose to be offended and pretend that this problem doesn’t exist, there cannot be an informed discussion. Without discussion there will be no change.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Awakening the Spirit – Kansas City

Gary Allman Two-minute read (Unless you watch the video).    Resources


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

On Saturday May 6, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined the Diocese of West Missouri in the first half of the Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri held at Kansas City Live! This Awakening is the second of five planned evangelism events to be held during 2017.

Before arriving at Kansas City Live, the Presiding Bishop spent time with the youth of the diocese, the Diocese of Kansas, and the Diocese of Iowa at St Paul’s Episcopal Church Kansas City.

Between 800 and 1000 people attended the event, along with passing foot traffic for the nearby Garth Brooks concert.

Photographs by:

Gary Allman
Mary Ann Teschan
Gary Zumwalt

Video


(The event starts at around 7:09)

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Resources

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Awakening the Spirit – Springfield

Gary Allman Two-minute read (Unless you watch the video).    Resources


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaching at Hammons Field, Springfield. Sunday May 7, 2017. Image credit: Gary Allman

Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri – on Sunday May 7, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined the Diocese of West Missouri at Hammons Field Springfield in the second half of the second of five planned evangelism events to be held during 2017.

The previous day the Presiding Bishop led the Awakening at Kansas City Live!

The Awakening at Springfield was attended by 600- 700 people who braved the bright sunshine and rising temperatures to watch the Presiding Bishop preach about The Jesus Movement.

Unfortunately due to Internet connectivity issue at Hammons field we were only able to record the Presiding Bishop’s address on video.

Video

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

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Area Confirmations – Trinity Episcopal Church, Lebanon

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources


Bishop Marty with the confirmed and received at Trinity Episcopal Church, Lebanon, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

On Saturday May 20, nine people were confirmed and two people were received into The Episcopal Church.

Confirmed: Christian Caulk, Stephanie Hasty, Deborah Kenady, Levi Kenady, Willetta Mount, Daniel Mueller, Rachel Mueller, Hunter Polen, Arica Shirley.

Received: Richard Mount, Mary Shelton

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Special Convention

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources


Channing Horner reports on the work of the Communications Tools Team. Image credit: Gary Allman

On Saturday June 3, 2017, The Diocese of West Missouri held a Special Convention to discuss and approve the remainder of the 2017 Plan for Ministry (budget).

The morning session included reports from Bishop Marty and four teams established by Diocesan Council: Goals, Metrics, Communications Tools and Finance.

The afternoon session saw a completion of the team’s reports, followed by small team breakouts to provide feedback on the previous session. This was followed by discussion and voting on the one resolution and its five pre-filed amendments before convention.

All the slides presented at the convention can be seen by following the links in the Resources section below. Please note that the text is ‘as provided’ and that Resolution #1, Amendment 1-B was further amended from the floor during convention. Further details can be found in the draft minutes of the special convention which are also available from the links below.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Summer Church Summit

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources


Image credit: Gary Allman

The Summer Church Summit was held at Calvary Episcopal Church, Sedalia on August 26. Around 60 people from churches around the diocese attended the summit to find new ways of thinking about the problems they face and how to build on the work undertaken in February and May on Episcopal Evangelism.

In the Resources section below there is a link to a copy of the Summer Church Summit handout – Giving Life to How We Communicate. The handout includes several links that may be of help to diocesan communicators & administrators.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.