Answers I’ve Given Before And “The Way of Love”

Bishop Marty revisits his answers to three questions Alexandra Connors asked him in 2014.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field 11 minute read.   Resources

Back in 2014, five years ago, I was interviewed for the Spirit magazine (it was still hard-printed and mailed in those days) by Alexandra Connors, a member of and youth leader at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral. She offered me a series of questions, and my answers along with her queries appeared in the October 2014 issue. In the autumn of 2014, we were celebrating the 125th anniversary of the creation of The Diocese of West Missouri, and Bishop Michael Curry was a year away from being elected Presiding Bishop and Primate. Since we were on the eve of our quasquicentennial, the essence of her questions, as well as my answers, was to look ahead rather than behind. Her enquiries invited me to deliberate about the challenge of the future, and not merely to reminisce fondly on our collective past.

Spirit October 2014

Perhaps you missed Alexandra’s article then, but I want to roll it back out today and add some additional thoughts. I believe her well-phrased, well-thought-out questions remain quite pertinent five years later as we look at the coming of our 130th anniversary, our centum triginta annum.

Here are her questions and my responses:

1.) What makes The Diocese of West Missouri unique?

Clearly, one of the things that makes this diocese unique is the unique people who would ask such a unique question. Now, while that may sound cutesy, it’s also true.

In many ways, the people who are The Diocese of West Missouri are not unique; instead they are very much like Episcopalians everywhere having the same hopes and dreams, the same challenges, the same joys. We are by many categories very homogeneous: the vast majority of us are white folks of European-backgrounds, most of us speak English (the American version) with a Mid-West accent tinted with a bit of Southern drawl, and most of us are middle class folks doing our best to be stewards of all the facets of life with which God has blessed us.

On the other hand, the mix of people that make up West Missouri is unique; it’s a distinctive combination of people. Among us, I’ve encountered the rich and poor; conservatives and progressives; rank-and-file workers and daring entrepreneurs; traditionalist Episcopalians and cutting-edge Episcopalians; Missourians by birth and Missourians by choice (and, of course, some Kansans who cross the line to attend church). We live in rural, small town and urban settings. We are farmers and physicians, laborers and lawyers. And we enjoy everything from symphonies to bluegrass, from Broadway to amusement parks. In some ways this may be the least homogeneous place I’ve ever served.

Above all, the Episcopalians of West Missouri bring their distinctive Mid-Western practicalities into their spiritual and religious lives. No one in the “Show Me” state has ever said to me the exact words, “Show me!”, but I have been challenged, nevertheless, to show that my actions match my words, to prove that my walk and my talk are consistent, to earn trust rather than demand it. That is quintessentially West MO!

2.) What are the goals of the diocese moving forward over the next ten years? What are we doing to accomplish these goals? And, what are the potential struggles you see the diocese facing in the next few years?

These are tough and interconnected questions because, in our society, the word goals often conjures up an expectation of achieving numbers: so many attendees on average, so many new churches started, so much increase in giving, etc. It’s hard to put numbers on Church life, and it’s even harder to define “success” for the Church by using numbers. After all, we follow a Lord who did not take attendance, who apparently never knew how much money was available in the common purse to underwrite his ministry, and who judged achievement in terms of faithfulness, not in things quantifiable.

I’d love to be able to name goals for the diocese that include “X” number of church plants, “X” number of clergy ordained, “X” number of baptisms, confirmations, etc. I’d love to be able to say that a “X”% increase in the average Sunday Attendance of our worshipping communities is all we need to do. The trouble is, I just don’t believe that.

It becomes clearer each day that the Episcopal Church – indeed all forms of Christianity in this country as well as in the larger context of Western Culture – is at a crossroads. Much has been written by a lot of bright people about the status of the Church and its message in our day, how it’s being transmitted to and received by the public, how modern communications, social media, and technologies for sharing thoughts are changing the way communities are being formed in our day, etc. The unanimous voice is that the Church must adapt or become an irrelevant archaism of the past . . . which would be a shame because, I believe, the Gospel is as relevant in the United States of the 21st century A.D. as it was in the Roman Empire of the 1st century A.D.

This crossroads time in which we find ourselves – this era of transformation, if you will – is going to be rough for people who want or need the Episcopal Church to remain what it has always been. And that makes sense. If the Church serves you as an anchor of sameness (even sanity) in a rapidly changing, high-speed world, the threat of losing that anchor is not happy news. The Church, however, may simply not be able to remain what it has been for we who are happy with what we’ve received and would gladly leave it alone.

Unfortunately, societal change is happening more quickly than the Church is able to adapt. Voices that do not represent or share Christianity as I know and understand it seem to have seized the ear of the media and, in the public sector, to have preempted or smothered the voice of mainline Christianity. The message of Christianity that too many hear today – and too few have taken the time to check what they hear against scripture and the moral teachings of the Church, or to see if other Christians might think differently – is often perceived as a voice of moral control or outright hate. Fewer and fewer young people are taking the time to learn what a connection to God can be for them, to think about their lives in relation to a Creator God, or accurately to discern the mainline Church’s voice speaking of Christian love and tolerance and community.

So, what are the diocese’s goals? I think it should be our goal to be willing to die.

Now, please hear me carefully. I did not say our goal should be to die; I said we should be willing to die. We should be ready to die to what we have been in order that God can lead us into the future God is building, in order to be the Church for the next millennium. Our goal should be to fall in love with what God is building next instead of what our forebears built in the past or expressions of the faith that no longer adequately share the Gospel in our society.

Achieving that goal will be a sea-change if there ever was one. To this point we have focused on the survival of the institutional Church, on preserving our congregations and parishes from closing their doors, on growing the Church we’ve always known by means we’ve always used, to achieve what we’ve always achieved. A radical new day is coming, so the big question before us is this: can we find it in ourselves to go along with God as he builds a new Church that is able and nimble and flexible enough to evolve into the Gospel-centered community of the next millennium? This will be especially true for the rural and small town congregations of the diocese where demographic studies either reveal diminishing populations or predict currently rural or sub-rural regions converting to suburban or even urban environments.

Saying yes to this goal, this aim, this new reality, guiding star, core value, basic principle (call it what you like) will be one of the biggest attitudinal changes and cultural changes ever, one of the biggest shifts ever in the ethos of a major institution. But that, I am convinced, is the Episcopal Church’s greatest need, most important task, and most profound challenge in the next 10 years (or more). This will be the singular struggle of the next period of the diocese’s life.

3.) How do you see the diocese changing in the next ten years?

Like others who predict such matters, I think the greatest change coming is the changing paradigm of what constitutes the local church. In the next period of years, perhaps far more than just a decade, what the local faith community looks like will evolve. Church futurists tell us that voluntary associations without rigid membership lists will replace the institutional and rostered form of congregation we know now. For many reasons, congregations (or faith communities) will be less and less likely to want or need expensive buildings and the maintenance costs of the same. Leadership, such as clergy leadership, may transform from the professionally trained and academically credentialed who are called from outside the congregation to roles of leadership to locally called and locally formed leadership with or without significant academic credentials. (We are, perhaps, seeing the beginning of that now.) We may begin to lose the use of the terms parish and congregation in favor of terms that, like faith community, that will indicate a more fluid, less rigid community where people come and go without guilt, join and participate when they feel called to do so, and self-select into other communities (which may be virtual) when and as often as they choose. The local church of the future – indeed the kind of local, faith community that is already emerging in many places – probably won’t look like the building-centric, membership-oriented congregation we have known for so long. And that evolutionary process will be a challenge for the foreseeable future.

Here ends the 2014 article.


I thank Alexandra again for her challenging and provocative questions. I still think about them from time to time, but now my thoughts include how The Episcopal Church has been responding to the emerging reality I described over the last five years, especially since our Presiding Bishop was installed in his current leadership role.

So here are my new thoughts –

My article in the last issue of Spirit adds to and informs the answers I have shared above. That article was about “The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life”, and I believe The Way of Love offers us a path to and through the reinvention of the Church. If the Church is to evolve into something more, if it to willingly die to all it has been so that God can create of it the Church needed for the future, the Church will most probably be more about how we practice our faith (i.e. The Way of Love) and less about the trappings of institution.

What connects us now?

Certainly, we are connected by shared belief in God’s redemptive power expressed through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus and in God’s transformative power expressed in the living presence of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives and in the community of faith, i.e. the Church ecumenical. We are also connected by our traditions, which in many ways are the glue that have held our ship together through some very choppy waters. We are also connected by our sense of corporate and individual identity. To say “I am an Episcopalian” is for many of us a statement of self-understanding and profound identity. Maybe even more so than “I am a Christian”. We are connected by a shared way of “doing church”, which includes how we raise leaders, how we govern, how we organize our corporate structure, and all this is, of course, part of the whole idea of traditions. We are connected by a common history. Take Absalom Jones for example. He was the first priest in our Church who came from African descent, but now he is celebrated not just by African-descent people but by Episcopalians of many backgrounds and ethnic origins. Much of our Church’s history is not pretty. Some of it is glorious. We are connected by it because we acknowledge it is not just history – it is our history.

The Church of the future may lose some of these connectors. So, what is the kernel that must be preserved; what is so essential it cannot be lost? I believe the true essential is Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the World. The institutional Church may shrink. Our traditions may lose their power and meaning for new generations. The local congregation with its oh-so-highly revered building(s) and local customs may falter. But a deep, Jesus-centered life will stand up to the most dire, evolutionary traumas or complications. The faith will be preserved and the praise of God on this globe will not be snuffed. The Church will continue as Jesus’ movement in this world.

But only if Christians learn to live a Jesus-centered life. Only if we learn to live a Jesus-centered life. Only if we learn to . . .

  • Turn – Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
  • Learn – Reflect on scripture each day, especially Jesus’ life and teachings.
  • Pray – Dwell intentionally with God each day.
  • Worship – Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near to God.
  • Bless – Share faith and unselfishly give and serve.
  • Go – Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus.
  • Rest – Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Lent and The Way of Love

A reflection on Lent and the journey that is ‘The Way of Love’.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Five-minute read.   Resources
Lenten Altar at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral Image credit: Gary Allman

The season of Lent is upon us and I’ve been told that – this year – the 40 Days of Lent will culminate in the observance of Holy Week, during which we will re-live Jesus’ final, earthbound days. I’ve also heard that – this year – Easter will follow Holy Week and will be observed for 50 days culminating with the remembrance of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to the Church.

Yeah. Okay. I know it happens that way every year. Nevertheless, I hope the sameness of this year’s journey through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter will not deter us from observing this most critical, central, significant time in truly new, powerful, and transformative ways. After all, there is nothing as important as Easter; nothing is more important than the remembrance of Christ’s Resurrection, because only Jesus’ victory over death resounds beyond the bounds of our earthly lives.

How important is Easter? Just check the calendar. The very numbering of our years divides at, and because of, the decisive moment when death was defeated. All our human history is numbered backward or forward from that day!

So. How will you mark Lent? How will you celebrate the triumph of Easter?

May I suggest to individuals, small groups, and parishes, that you focus on “The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life”? And it’s not only me inviting you; our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, has issued this invitation to join him on this journey. Want to know more? Read on!

First, the Way of Love is evangelism. Evangelism, simply put, is hearing, absorbing, and becoming immersed in and transformed by the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Way of Love is designed to help us reach out to those who do not know or follow Jesus and to give us practical steps to help others learn to engage Jesus. Moreover, the Way of Love provides us methods (a rule for life and practices of faith) to be evangelized ourselves, for even we who have been committed to Jesus for many years need always to be evangelized anew and immersed more deeply in the love of God.

Second, the Way of Love is exactly what is says. It’s about practices that are individual and communal, daily and periodic; it’s about habits that bring Jesus to the core of personal and community life. These practices are intended for individuals but can be taught and supported in many settings such as small group and parish activities. If you seek love, freedom, or abundant life, then you seek what Jesus wants to give. He gives these things when we seek him. The Way of Love is a seekers’ path.

Third, The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life is part of our Presiding Bishop’s call to be the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement. To be Jesus’ movement, we love like Jesus loved, and that love has the power to amend lives, transform communities, and change the world. Certainly, that is the core of Jesus’ message.

The Way of Love uses seven principles or practices to turn lives toward Jesus. These practices constitute a rule of life that also reminds us moment-by-moment to live as representatives of Jesus’ loving, liberating, and life-giving way. The seven practices are:

  • Turn – Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
  • Learn – Reflect on scripture each day, especially Jesus’ life and teachings.
  • Pray – Dwell intentionally with God each day.
  • Worship – Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near to God.
  • Bless – Share faith and unselfishly give and serve.
  • Go – Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus.
  • Rest – Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration.

Keeping these practices before us daily, even hourly, helps us build the habit of letting Jesus into the center of our lives, our relationships, and our activities.

Many of you have heard me speak (or read what I’ve written) about my core belief about the dual but related purposes for which the Church exists —

  1. to help lives be formed or transformed into the moral likeness of Christ and
  2. to help communities of all kinds become the Beloved Community.

Lent and Easter seem to me to be the perfect times to begin employing the practices of the Way of Love and to begin building the habits that will help us become a reflection of Christ’s life and our faith communities to become the Beloved Community Christ Jesus wants the whole world to be.

In matters not when you start. Lent? Easter? Another time? Any time is the right time. How about now?

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Bishop Marty’s Address to Diocesan Convention

An abridged version of Bishop Marty’s presentation to the Diocesan Convention, delivered on November 3, 2018.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Ten-minute read.   Resources
Bishop Marty Addressing the 2018 Diocesan Convention. Image credit: Gary Allman

Did you know that we haven’t always referred to the United States the way we do now? Historian Shelby Foote says: “Before the War between the States, people commonly referred to “the United States are”, in the plural. After the Civil War, people began to refer to “the United States is”, in the singular. The older, plural language was still in use when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1865: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Before the war, states were tied loosely and most believed they could stand alone, choosing to be in union or not. After the war, a new identity emerged; the nation came to believe that our union is “indivisible”. Before the war, people believed their highest loyalty was to their state. After the war, our identity as Americans became foremost in our political self-understanding.

Before the war, the idea that this nation shall provide “liberty and justice for all” was only genuinely true for white males. After the war, majority opinion and new codes of law identified that certain rights are sacred, such as the right to be free from enslavement, the right to vote, and the right to citizenship if you are born here and a path to citizenship if you come here. Certainly these “inalienable rights” were embraced earlier, at the founding of the country, but it took the upheavals of the Civil War to inaugurate change. The War between the States triggered an evolution in that deep-rooted and seemingly immoveable system of privilege, renewing the march to build a nation that lives out its values. From our distant point of view, far removed from the Civil War era, we might not be aware how profound those changes were. Nevertheless, they were very real and shaped who we are and want to become.

Now here’s the parallel.

The theme for this year’s convention asks us to make a similar change. The theme is: “Called in. Sent out. One Ministry in West Missouri”. This theme suggests the question: what it means to be a diocese and to be one ministry?

A diocese is a group of congregations bound in community by a covenant of mutual support. If we are bound together, we must think of ourselves as one — one Church, one effort, one ministry pursuing God’s mission in the land we call West Missouri.

Now, here’s why I started with the history lesson. If we don’t think of ourselves as in this together, as depending on one another, easing one another’s burdens, helping one another make disciples, then we are in our pre-Civil War period. We are 48 “states” without a larger identity or commitment, and we will remain competitors rather than one another’s servants.

My challenge to you is this: be One Ministry in West Missouri. Be one ministry that serves God and God’s children in the 48 mission outposts of the diocese. Avoid the temptation to assume that your needs as more crucial than the needs of your brother parishes and sister congregations.

The lesson of the Civil War is that union works better than disunion. Togetherness works better than selfish individuality. And sharing works better than hoarding. The good news for us is this: we’re doing just that.

In traveling the diocese and visiting with many of you, I sense changes in our common life. We are becoming less siloed and more connected. We are getting to know one another and to enjoy one another’s company, across the virtual barriers we erect around our parochial communities. Communities are reaching out. Big parishes are learning about the challenges and joys of little parishes, and vice versa. Deanery Councils are becoming vehicles whereby best practices and good ideas are shared and supported, where outreach is taken up by partnerships of interested individuals, or by groups of parishes in league, or by whole deaneries. And our Deanery Councils are becoming places where discussions take place about how to work in the field of ripe and plentiful harvest.

When the touch of God’s call is discerned, parishes are calling their best and brightest into Christian service, sharing with those persons what they see God doing in those lives. Leaders to lead the parishes and the diocese are coming forward and being readied for their service locally and also (as always) at more traditional places of higher learning.

Under the excellent leadership of the Diocesan Council, and the consent of this convention, we are moving into a new era of equitable and holy stewardship of God’s resources … meaning of course the resources God has placed into the hands of parishes and, through parishes, into the hands of diocesan leaders whose aim is the collective good of all. We are emphasizing both efficient use of monetary and human resources along with faithful use of these resources. Which is important because efficient and faithful needn’t be in competition.

I sense that we are melding into the body of Christ … as St. Paul envisioned when he penned his famous metaphor in the 12th chapter of First Corinthians:

1212Just as the body is one and has many members … so it is with Christ …

14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” … 24 … God has so arranged the body … 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

We often associate this metaphor with parishes; think how it applies to a diocese. None of us can say we have no need of another. And we aren’t. I see us growing to appreciative of one another’s gifts, of the work one parish does, or another deanery accomplishes. And this is what it means to be One Ministry in West Missouri. Interestingly, after Paul writes about being many members of one body, the very next thing he writes to the Corinthians is his famous chapter on love, the 13th chapter:

1231…Let me show you a still more excellent way.

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never ends. … 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Be one body, with all your many gifts and abilities, because that is the way of love!

And oh! what fruits we will bear when we walk the way of love and unity and covenant and mutual support! We will lift each other up to be vital places, thriving communities, caring for one another, reaching a wounded world, and modeling what the Creator wants to accomplish for us, for all of creation, and for those not yet born.

Our Presiding Bishop reminds us that Jesus came to change the world, and to change us. He came into the nightmare this world can so often be so that it might become again the dream that God intended before the world was ever made or the universe was cast into the void.

Jesus came to start a movement, and we are that movement in West Missouri when we act as one and are One Ministry. When we work together we are a dynamic force advancing the Jesus’ Movement. When we are a diocese with one heart, one soul, and one mind, then, we are at our best.

Now may God be praised. May Jesus’ movement catch the fire of the Holy Spirit and grow. And may the Diocese of West Missouri – in each of its 48 mission outposts – bring the light of the Gospel into the lives of their neighbors and communities.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Recording of Bishop Marty’s Address

Here’s a recording of Bishop Marty’s address in full (26 Minutes).

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Epic Tales and the Diocesan Convention

What is an epic story? What makes an epic story epic? And how does that link to the Diocesan Convention?

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Eight-minute read.   Resources

Bishop Marty opening the discussion at the 2018 Summer Church Summit
Image: Gary Allman

The diocese recently held its annual Summer Church Summit. In case you don’t know or were not able to attend, the Summit happens each August, is open to all those who worship in West Missouri churches, and presents constructive ideas for increasing the effectiveness of the witness and outreach of our parishes.

This year’s Summit focused on the needs we have individually, and as eucharistic communities collectively to prepare for our outreach ministries, such as evangelism, advocacy, charity, etc. The premise of the Summit was captured in its theme: “You Can’t Be a Beacon if Your Light Don’t Shine.” What that means is simple and at the same time complex. Unless we are formed in faith and consistently strive to personify the light of Christ, we will fall short as evangelists — as those who share the Faith — as ambassadors for Christ.

At the conclusion of the Summit, the Canon to the Ordinary, The Rev. Dr. Steve Rottgers, and I were musing about the day. It had been a good day. There was a lot of good sharing. Amid our pleasant conversation, we started to think about the attraction of epic stories. There are many epic stories, and each of us probably has a favorite.

What is an epic story? And what makes an epic story epic, rather than just a regular, old story?

An epic story is commonly recognized to be a large body of work (from literature, theater, cinema, etc.) that can be broken down into several smaller stories. The word epic is also applied to be a work that tells a heroic story or relates something courageous, intrepid, or grand. Examples of epic stories from literature would include: Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Hobbit & the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Ramayana, The Iliad, and more. The Star Wars series is a big production, epic movie with multiple sequels and a sweeping story line.

Crossing over between literary and cinematic worlds would be the aforementioned The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well as Game of Thrones, and the Harry Potter series of books and movies.

Christian Formation is the internal, intentional process of becoming heroes. Of daily becoming more and more like our hero, Jesus.

People love these stories, and that holds true across all cultures and languages. Heroes remind folk of something big and bold and worthy of their toil and devotion. The courage and triumphs of heroes renew our values, inspire our efforts, and affirm what we understand to be true. Heroes elevate us emotionally; they heal our psychological ills; they build connections between people; they encourage us to transform ourselves for the better; and they call us to become heroes and to help others.

The reason Canon Steve and I got into this conversation is that we realize the Bible is an epic story, and the Bible presents a hero named Jesus who truly fulfills the role of hero. Let me paraphrase what I said a paragraph earlier.

Jesus reminds folk of something big and bold and worthy of their toil and devotion. The courage and triumphs of Jesus renew our values, inspire our efforts, and affirm what we understand to be true. Jesus elevates us emotionally; Jesus heals our psychological ills; Jesus builds connections between people; Jesus encourages us to transform ourselves for the better; and Jesus calls us to become heroes and to help others.

That last line — about becoming heroes — is where the message of the Summer Church Summit intersects with all my babble about heroes and epic stories. You may never have thought of it this way before, but Christian Formation (meaning what we do to build faith) is the internal, intentional process of becoming heroes. Of daily becoming more and more like our hero, Jesus. Of growing into the moral likeness of Jesus. Of letting God seep deeper and deeper into our lives so that the way we interact with the world becomes the way God interacts with the world.

This hero-building process is the only thing that provides us something to share with the individuals we meet and the world communally. If we do not have light, we cannot shine. If we are not filled with living water, we cannot give another a drink. If we are spiritually empty, we cannot guide another to spiritual life.

That is why the theme of last year’s annual, Diocesan Convention was “Called In. Sent Out. Building a Community of Purpose”. The theme recognized that we are called in to be readied to go out. We are called in for discipleship and sent out as apostles of the Good News. That’s what the Church is for. To call us in, to ready us, and to send us out. The institutional Church is not the point or the aim. Spreading the Gospel of Christ Jesus in a world that badly needs God’s love and nurture is the point and our aim.

I fell that this truth is so important that our upcoming, Diocesan Convention (November 3-4 in Springfield) will continue in the same vein with the theme: “Called In. Sent Out. One Ministry in West Missouri”.

Called In – Sent Out. One Ministry in West Missouri

What practices do you have in place that help you day-by-day to open yourself to God that he may seep deeper and deeper into your being? How do you unlock yourself more and more to the Holy Spirit?

And how does your parish or congregation do that? How does your Eucharistic community open itself to God? What are you doing as a community to help those who are open and seeking to deepen their faith, to be readied to serve God in the world, and more fully to respond to the call of God?

At convention, we will learn, talk, and be challenged on this subject much more. Even if you are not a delegate, you are welcome and encouraged to attend.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

A Message of Love

The Presiding Bishop has handed us a gift in his Royal Wedding address, now it is up to us to make the best use of it.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Five-minute read.   Resources

The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry Preaching at Trinity Cathedral, Portland Oregon.
Image: Gary Allman

Everywhere I go these days, people ask me, “Did you see Bishop Curry preach at the Royal Wedding?” Well, yes, I did. I assume by now that all Episcopalians have heard about, if not actually seen, our Presiding Bishop’s homily at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel.

In my opinion, Bishop Curry was magnificent. By that evening, people had gone wild trying to search the internet to find out about him. His name quickly became the single most searched name on the entire planet. He was even parodied that same evening on Saturday Night Live.

That he could raise so much interest from a 13-minute homily at a service where he wasn’t supposed to be anything but a bit player tells me that there is in this world, and among our planet’s people a huge hunger for an authentic and love-filled Gospel.  His message that God is love resonated powerfully with a world that has too much experience with hate and divisiveness, too much first-hand knowledge of oppression and bigotry, and too much familiarity with violence and horror.

Certainly, there have been detractors who pronounced his words as so much rubbish, or unfaithful to the Bible, but the overwhelming response says to me that we who follow Christ have a ripe harvest before us if only we can find the courage and the passion to enter the fields. This world, as Bishop Curry often reminds us, does not look the way God intended at creation.  But we have something – the love of God and the companionship of Beloved Community – to offer. If only we will! If only we will.

And that leads me to my hopes and prayers for this summer’s General Convention.  Several thousand folks will gather in Austin, Texas in early July for the triennial gathering of the highest authority in the life of our beloved Church. Hundreds of resolutions will be examined, and votes will be taken. But a smooth legislative process is not what I hope and pray for. I hope and pray for an experience of Beloved Community.  I hope to gather with several thousand kindred souls who love Jesus, are committed to Jesus’ Church and mission, and are faithful to walking together into the future that God guides us to build. 

Can all the problems of Church and society be solved because The Episcopal Church has a convention? Not even remotely. But we can reinvigorate one another. We can hear one another in respect and teach one another by sharing forthrightly and honestly. We can build cohesiveness, collaboration, and clarity of purpose among the many facets that make up our denomination.

The General Convention of The Episcopal Church can, and I hope will, be an example of Beloved Community to our church, to all churches, and to the world.  In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, he prays for the Church to be one, to live in unity. I frequently note that Jesus did not pray for uniformity; he did not ask us to be the same, like automatons. But he did pray that we would bring our diversity and our complementary differences as an offering toward building a wonderful and united whole: The Church of God.

For that I hope and pray.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Death in Life and Life in Death

Death in life and life in death are fundamental to our faith.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Ten-minute read.   Resources

The other day I attended a gathering of folks who follow the daily disciplines of the Cursillo movement within The Episcopal Church, a gathering known by the Spanish word Ultreya. It was a nice evening. We had dinner together. Since we gathered on the evening that the Winter Olympics held its Opening Ceremonies, we introduced ourselves by explaining what Olympic sport most appeals to us and why (curling for me because of the strategy involved). We sang some of our favorite, uplifting, churchy songs. It was nice. Then we had a speaker speak to us, Fr. Ron Verhaeghe.

That’s where it stopped being just a nice evening. Fr. Ron spoke to us – from his many years of experience as a hospital chaplain – about death. He spoke how death is the part of life we so often want to avoid. We want to avoid talking about it. We want to keep it at arm’s length. We don’t even want to say the word, choosing rather to use euphemisms such as: he passed away; she’s gone on to Larger Life; he’s gone to a better place; etc.

Fr. Ron encouraged us to think about death and to think about death as natural, as part of life, and even as a friend. I appreciated what he had to say. It was, to me, a very useful reminder of the theological truth that (being oh-so-very human) is not often lived out in our often-fear-driven lives. Thanks, Fr. Ron, for the reminder and for the jolt out of my worldly attitudes about death.

During Fr. Ron’s talk, my mind ran to a passage of scripture, Mark 9:24 to be exact. The story in chapter 9 goes like this. Jesus has just descended the Mount of Transfiguration where his appearance was changed to dazzling brightness as he conversed with Moses and Elijah. When he comes down, he happens upon an argument between his disciples (on one hand) and a crowd and some scribes (on the other). One man in the crowd, the father of a boy possessed by an evil spirit from childhood, tells Jesus that he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples to be healed, but they were not able to do the feat. Jesus asks that the boy be brought to him, and when he comes into Jesus’ presence, straightaway the spirit sends the boy into an epilepsy-like fit. With his son writhing on the ground, the father asks Jesus: “If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus’ reply is not what you’d call gentle: “If you are able! — All things can be done for the one who believes.” (The emphasis is mine.) At Jesus’ words, the father immediately cries — and this is the part that came to me during Fr. Ron’s talk — “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I have a hunch that this sentiment is real and true for most of us when we think about the Church’s historic teaching about death. The Church says that dying is the gateway to life. The Church says that life is changed, not ended. The Church says that there are many dwellings in our Father’s house. We want to believe; Lord, help our unbelief.

The Pentecost 2015 issue of the Sewanee Theological Review shares an article by Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, Your Life is Hidden with Christ in God. I want to quote from the opening of her article:

“Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed. On a hillside overlooking the North Sea in the Scottish town of St. Andrew’s there is an ancient stone archway. Once, centuries ago, it was the doorway in a small church built by some of the first missionary monks who came to preach in that region. But the rest of the church has fallen down, its stones taken for building houses and walls, and now only the stone archway remains. It is a peculiar archway, since when you walk through it, it seems as though something should be different on the other side. You should be in a different room, or inside rather than outside, or perhaps outside rather than inside. But no, you are simply on the other side of the archway; it is the same, bright, clear day — or, since it is the coast of the North Sea in Scotland, the same, grey, foggy day — as on the other side. Everything seems to have changed; yet nothing has changed.”

The grave and gate of death present us with a similar paradox. And that brings us to the importance of Lent and the victory celebration that follows: the Great 50 Days of Easter.

Lent is one side of the archway. Easter is the other. Lent seems different than Easter, very glum, very gloomy, even very sad, with a side order of morose. Easter, in contrast, seems light and happy, joyous and celebratory, festive and triumphant. But aren’t they just two sides of the same arch? Aren’t they just two aspects of life and death? And are they really so different?

Lent begins with a reminder of our mortality: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Easter reminds us of our eternity in Christ, an eternity won for us, not by us, a gift from God.

Essentially, we observe Lent for the same reasons we celebrate Advent and even Christmas; we do it to live into God’s story. How we observe Lent is not as important as why. Too often Lent becomes a to-do list of things to give up or add on, of ways to make our life more spiritual by pretending the allure of material things is less, or of taking a brief hiatus from things earthly. We give up candy. We ignore the internet. We read the Bible (a very good thing!). We help at a rescue shelter or a food pantry. And much of this is good, much of this serves the purpose of any Lent observances, which is to remind us of “the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith” (BCP, p. 265).

Another way to express the purpose of observing a holy Lent is this: The Church suggests the disciplines of Lent (self-denial, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, self-examination, repentance, and reading and meditating on God’s Word) to help us grow in virtue. Virtue leads us to that which is truly good, which is God Himself. Growing in virtue, we are freed from the things that keep us from God. Lenten disciplines aid us to love more fully: we are better able to be attentive to those around us rather than being distracted by our own wants.

One of the Christian virtues is humility. At its root, humility is knowing that one is not God. Lent is the time when we realize anew that we are not God, never were, never will be.

Writer Jacques Phillippe says, “The desire for perfection is a good thing, but it can be ambiguous. What do we really want? We would like to be experienced, irreproachable, never make any mistakes, never fall, possess unfailing good judgment and unimpeachable virtue. Which is to say we would like to have no more need of forgiveness or mercy, no more need of God and [God’s] help. If at bottom our dream of perfection is to be able to manage without God, we are no longer on the path of the Gospel.”

In Lent we assume our rightful place. In humility, we recognize that we are creatures, created by the God who made us, the Creator we still need, the Source of life without whom life cannot reach its fullest abundance.

Easter, is the other side of the archway. Easter celebrates the truth toward which Lent has pointed. God is the wellspring of life, gives life in abundance, fills life with meaning, and continues life beyond the grave. If Lent helps us realize who we are, Easter is the celebration of what God has done for us.

But are the two sides of the arch truly the same? I believe they are because God is on both sides of the arch. God is with us in this life and in the next. God gives life and brings life back into his eternal presence for time without end. Lent and Easter help us see that life is continuous and that life in God is on both sides of the archway, on both sides of the gateway of death and the grave.

All glory to God our Savior!

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.


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Called In. Sent Out.

Building a Community of Purpose

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Eight-minute read.   Resources

Bishop Marty Addresses the 128th Annual Diocesan Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri Image credit: Gary Allman

On the first weekend in November, Friday and Saturday, November 3 & 4 to be exact, West Missouri held its annual convention. The theme of that convention was: “Called in. Sent out. Building a Community of Purpose.” I included a reference to this theme in my homily at the ordinations and reception of a priest that took place during the convention’s opening worship. I also referred to it at some length in my address to the convention. And, I find myself still ruminating reflectively on that theme even now, several weeks later. So much so that I am going to use it as my theme for the coming year.

What follows is an excerpt from my address to convention in which I elucidate what I think is the gist of being “called in and sent out” and of building, together, a community of purpose.

The Jesus Movement

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry very famously has worked to recapture language from the ancient Church and to move us from thinking of the Church as an institution, and toward thinking of the Church as a movement, as a group affiliated round a cause, a purpose, or — in Church-speak — a mission.

I must be honest. One of the joys of my life was casting my vote for Michael Bruce Curry and helping elect him to the office of Presiding Bishop. His heart beats in rhythm with my heart. His desire for the Church to awaken to itself and its purpose matches my own. He says it and preaches it better than I ever could. The man is a force!

His 10,000-foot view of what the Church is certainly inspiring, at least to me, but we are The Diocese of West Missouri. Therefore, we must localize what Bishop Curry is talking about — must bring his vision down from 10,000 feet to … well … no more than 1,000 feet. We must come to grips with what it means to be the Episcopal Branch of the loving, liberating, life-giving Jesus Movement on our turf, in our backyard, on our street or town or county.

At the Special Convention this past June, I shared some thoughts about the purpose of a diocese — a generic diocese, no matter where it’s located. And I tried to encapsulate what I see a diocese has to do — its marching orders — its mission. A diocese is a complex organism. It has lots of parts and has lots to do.

Try this analogy: a diocese is a machine with thousands of moving parts engineered and built to manufacture hundreds of different products simultaneously. It is not intended to produce a single outcome, unless you paint that outcome broadly, as in,

2819 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you… Matthew 28:19-20a

That’s broad.

The Book of Common Prayer states the Church’s purpose or mission this way: “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

That’s also broad, because what does that look like at a localized level? It may mean one thing in West Missouri; it may mean another thing altogether in Cuba, or in Jerusalem, or in Beijing, or in any of a million places.

Localized, I believe the aspirations of the Jesus movement must be tied to or matched up with program, or process, or practicality.

So, let me ask you to focus on the theme for this convention. It is: “Called In. Sent Out. Building a Community of Purpose.”

I’ll say it again. “Called In. Sent Out. Building a Community of Purpose.”

The theme was chosen to reflect the rhythm of Christian life and to encapsulate the Prayer Book’s teaching on the Church: Let me quote an excerpt from pages 854-855 of the Prayer Book.

The Church

Q. What is the Church?
A. The Church is the community of the New Covenant.

Q. Why is the Church described as apostolic?
A. The Church is apostolic, because it continues in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles and is sent to carry out Christ’s mission to all people.

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.

“Called In. Sent Out.” is a summation meant to emphasize that we come to the Church as disciples, as learners, to learn the way of Jesus. We are sent out from the Church as apostles, meaning those who are sent, and being sent our task is to pray, worship, proclaim, and promote justice, peace, and love.

We swing in this rhythm over and over, week by week. It is the disciplined life of the Christian. The method by which we are ever being made more ready for our ministry and then being sent out to minister.

Disciple ⇒ Apostle. Disciple ⇒ Apostle. Disciple ⇒ Apostle.

Over and over until they are truly part of us. Until we are not just doing but have become loving, liberating, life-giving ministry for the world.

You see parishes are not the point of this churchy endeavor, not in and of themselves. Neither are dioceses. Congregations or dioceses that exist to ensure their continued existence are the very antithesis of the Jesus Movement. If Jesus had been chiefly interested in his own continuity, what would have become of God’s purpose? The Church and churches are called to be about giving themselves away, about helping disciples learn to walk so closely with Jesus that their lives come to reflect his life. Then the Church — the Jesus Movement Church, not the institutional, corporate church of buildings and wealth — is sent out to do Christ’s healing, reconciling work in a wide, hurting world.

So, I’d like to venture a closing thought.

In my point of view, we, as a diocesan community, have become fearful of material things, which has led us to be too inattentive to spiritual things. How often do you read the Bible? How about engaging in a serious study of the scriptures? How often do you pray? What do you do to deepen your prayer connections to God? How often do you leave worship with a plan to act in kindness and mercy? To promote justice, peace, and love? Why are the concerns of the material world so enthralling when Jesus says that the way to abundant life — for congregations no less than individuals — is to give life away, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” It’s there in three of the Gospels!

What this means is this: as soon as we stop trying to survive, we will learn how to live! “Called In. Sent Out. Building a Community of Purpose.” This is my challenge to you and your parishes and to all The Diocese of West Missouri for the days before us.

“Called In. Sent Out.” Let’s be that Community of Purpose.

As I mentioned, “Called in. Sent out. Building a Community of Purpose” is going to be my theme throughout the next year. I hope you’ll make it your theme, too, in the life of your parish and in your personal life. God needs disciples — life-long learners who foster faith-building communities, and God needs each disciple to be an apostle — one who reaches out from those communities to engage a world that so very, very badly needs the transformation that comes most readily through the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.


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Convention 2017

Diocesan Gathering & Convention 2017 — our third in 366 days!

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Five-minute read.   Resources

Delegates vote at the Special Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri, June 3, 2017 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Delegates vote at the Special Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri, June 3, 2017 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Image credit: Gary Allman

The Annual Convention of the Diocese of West Missouri is right around the corner. It takes place the first Friday and Saturday of November (the 3rd & 4th) at the Adam’s Pointe Conference Center in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs. What makes this convention unusual is that it is the third time the diocese’s Convention will have met in the last 366 days.

We will do many things at this convention that enable us to carry on our diocesan ministry in an orderly way. We will elect diocesan officers and those who make up our Diocesan Council and Standing Committee. We will also elect members of the Commission on Ministry, Board of Examining Chaplains, Disciplinary Board, and directors for the Board of Bishop Kemper School for Ministry. We will debate and vote on over half a dozen resolutions covering various topics. And we will spend some time in fellowship, and in worship, and in celebration. Two members of our diocese will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons and one will be received into the Priesthood of our Church from the Roman Catholic Church. And that’s not all.

The overarching, critical focus of this convention, … will be on the serious issue of finances

Perhaps, though, the most critical thing we will do is talk, converse, have a dialog with one another. The overarching, critical focus of this convention, like the 2016 Annual Convention and the Special Convention held in June of this year, will be on the serious issue of finances, and more specifically on how we find the right balance of financial commitments to each constituent parts of the diocese, so that all aspects of our diocesan work might receive a fair share that enables each to have an effective ministry for the good of the whole.

This is hard and holy work, the work of stewardship over the many resources God has placed at our disposal to enable the work of the Jesus Movement. Doing this work together, as one diocesan community — not as 48 disparate, unrelated, independent communities — is crucial. I believe that we must engage this work as a unity of parishes and diocesan ministries, or we will not be the Church for which Jesus hoped and prayed:

1711 Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. John 17:11

Jesus prayed for us to be one, to act as one, to remember that the Church (and, I will add, a diocese) is the fundamental, inseparable community of the Church, not separable parts.

In Leadership Boot Camp I teach an introductory class on systems. I introduce systems thinking by referring to cakes and bicycles. Cakes, I tell the classes, are complex. Bicycles are complicated. The difference? A bicycle can be disassembled to its constituent parts, and each part, when disassembled, remains exactly what it is and what it was before the bike was built. A pedal was a pedal before assembly. It’s still a pedal after assembly. The same is true for handlebars, saddles, spokes, wheels, etc. A cake, once assembled, cannot be disassembled into its constituent parts. They have acted upon one another and changed one another permanently.

Let me take you back to St. Paul’s lesson about the Church being the body of Christ, and each member a part of the body. Some are hands, some feet, some ears or eyes, etc. Borrowing from that analogy and making it my own, I would say that the Church is the cake of Christ. Once brought together, the several parts or ingredients can never be again what they were and will invariably have changed one another.The individual members, the parishes, the councils, boards, committees, and all that makes up a diocese — which is the smallest building block of the greater Church — are parts of the cake. We have been brought together by Christ to do Christ’s work together.

Now, we must find the way to be good stewards together. We need to find the right way to allocate the resources of time, talent, and treasure that we have received from God, and to use them in such a way that the missional work of every aspect of our common, diocesan life is supported in a balanced and fair way.

May God give us the wisdom to be faithful stewards of his bounty.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri

Diocesan Council has been considering how the diocese should move forward, and we are preparing for Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Five-minute read.   Resources

My article for this issue is a medley of information about things just finished and things upcoming. At the end, I’ll add a brief word about why –– theologically speaking –– all this matters.

Diocesan Council on Retreat — In January, from the evening of Friday the 20th through the afternoon of Saturday, the 21st, the Diocesan Council went on retreat. Now, I don’t know if this was the first time this group has ever gone on retreat, but it’s the first time in my episcopacy.

Why is this important? Well, first, there are weighty tasks laid before the council and significant decisions to be made. We are at a crossroads in time as a diocese. The cultural, financial, and structural paradigms in which we have lived and moved and had our being as a diocese appear no longer to be serving us well. Therefore, we are now in a time of reconsidering everything about how we “do church”.

The Diocesan Council has embraced the need to face this reality. All members are unanimous in their resolve to seize the day; to consider what must be considered; to analyze, to prioritize, and not shirk from tough decisions; and thereby to do the vital adaptive work that is before the council, the work in which every member of the diocese must share.

In the very near future, maybe even before you receive this issue of Spirit, you will be receiving a communique from the Diocesan Council that shares more about the retreat and our way forward as a diocese. Watch for it (or go back to it)!

Evangelism Workshops are a huge success — Two workshops (or evangelism training events) were held in the diocese in February. I hope you already know of them and even attended one. Thanks to the people, clergy, and staff of our Cathedral and of St. James’, Springfield for hosting, respectively, the northern Kansas City area event on Saturday, February 18 and the southern event on Sunday, February 19.

In my opinion – apparently shared by most if not all who attended – each workshop was a tremendous success. My sense is that attendees want more of this kind of preparation and kind of empowerment for carrying out the mission God has given us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We will look to see what can be done to enable more events like this in the future.

We, as a diocese, have invited our Presiding Bishop to visit, speak, and challenge us and our communities to “awaken” to God’s call to reconciliation with all people as well as with our Creator. That’s why we are calling the main events:

“Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri”.

The Presiding Bishop is coming — Of course the Evangelism Workshops were not stand-alone events. They tie into and are preparatory for the visit of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Bruce Curry, who will be in West Missouri May 5-7. By now you should be familiar with the events being planned: one in Kansas City and one in Springfield. If you aren’t, watch the diocese’s website for full details. We, as a diocese, have invited our Presiding Bishop to visit, speak, and challenge us and our communities to “awaken” to God’s call to reconciliation with all people as well as with our Creator. That’s why we are calling the main events “Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri”. Our day, our society, this world, calls for The Episcopal Church to be the Church God needs it to be. It is time for us to awaken, to quicken, to be stimulated to the tasks of boldly being salt, and uncovered light, and a visible, shining city on a hill. I look forward to being stirred up by Bishop Curry, one of the most powerful speakers of our time.

Once awakened, I hope and pray that we will be bold in our ministries. Why? You see, I believe that we, The Episcopal Church, are a different kind of Church, and we have an authentic word from God and a time-tested faith to share with our time. We do not avoid the big questions of our day; instead, we invite everyone to examine the question and find answers together, in an atmosphere of acceptance and love, and covered with grace.

So, make plans to rally ’round the Presiding Bishop, to show our spirit as part of the Jesus Movement, and to have a fun and meaningful day together on May 6 or May 7.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.