Lenten Memories & Looking Forward to Bishop’s Days

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

Saint Nicholas Church, Great Hormead Image: Gary Allman

I have only very simple memories of Lent from my childhood. For this young schoolboy, Lent was an arbitrary time of year when one was expected to give up some wonderful treat for what seemed like an interminable period of time.

Saint Nicholas Church, Great Hormead Image: Gary Allman

I’d like to blame my R.E. (Religious Education) teacher (the parish vicar) at my Church of England school for my early lack of Lenten knowledge. But it’s far more likely I was being a squirrely child and not paying attention. So it was that for many years I thought Ash Wednesday had something to do with all the near-by ash trees, not to mention an excuse to forego lessons and join the school in a march up the hill and across the fields to the village church.

There was no imposition of ashes that would have made an impression on a young schoolboy and that might also have prompted at least a passing interest in the proceedings. I suspect that such a practice was far too Roman Catholic for our village church. Unfortunately, my interest in things Lenten peaked (rather than being piqued) the previous day — Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday if you prefer — when we enjoyed our once-a-year treat of pancakes. I’m talking real English pancakes here; thin crepes, drizzled with lemon juice, dusted with sugar, rolled up, and eaten while still warm. After that, there was only one thing to look forward to. Easter Eggs.

Fast forward fifty (plus) years and I’d like to think that I have a little more mature view of the proceedings surrounding Lent. I’ve seen a shift away from my childhood emphasis on sacrifice and (perceived) austerity towards reflection, education, and a modicum of penitence. We have a whole host of Lenten programs that we can follow to prepare us for Holy Week and the Resurrection. Each year I pick one of the programs and try and follow it through. I set aside a short period of time each day to reflect on my chosen Lenten activity. Over the years I’ve spent my time studying the Saintly form, and following the (often passionate) discussion of the merits of the various saints in Lent Madness. It’s great way to learn a lot more about why we revere these people, and often quite humbling too. I’ve read the Daily Lenten meditations from Episcopal Relief & Development, and I found last year’s ‘Growing a Rule of Life’ from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist very helpful. So much so, that I’ve decided to go with their ‘Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John’ program this year. How about you, which programs have you found helpful?

I’ve included links to many of the Lenten programs below. Even if you don’t read this until much later, they all have their merits and are worth investing some time in at any time of year, so why not pick one and give it a go?

Oh, and I’m still looking forward to Easter Eggs.

Bishop’s Days

Canon Steve gets the proceedings going at Christ Church Springfield – March 2016
Image: Gary Allman

March is time for Bishop’s Days, or to give it it’s full title, ‘Bishop’s Day with Wardens, Vestries, Administrators, & Clergy’ That’s quite a mouthful. This year we have added a lot of new content, as well as retaining the essentials for those new in their roles. Essentially it’s an annual opportunity for all those involved in Church Leadership and Management to get together and learn in detail how various aspects of the diocese works and integrates with the individual churches. It is an essential primer for new vestry members, and it’s a great place to hone skills, learn what’s new, plus a chance to meet and compare notes with others performing similar roles in other churches.

We hold two Bishop’s Days one in the north and one in the south of the diocese. This year they are being held on March 3 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, and on March 17 at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield. I strongly encourage anyone in a leadership role, or with an interest in a church leadership role to attend. I’ve included a link to the complete list of the offerings below.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri


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Lenten Programs

Diocesan links

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.

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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.

Evangelism Doesn’t Have To be Hard

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

I was at the church for a Commission on Ministry meeting to discuss how to organize all the Commission’s documents and information on the diocesan website.

On my way in I spotted Bob, who was there for an event in the parish hall. Our interaction was limited to waving to each other as we headed in our separate directions. After my meeting I took some moments to pass the time of day with a few volunteers clearing up after the event. I was headed towards the door when I noticed Bob coming towards me. I stopped. He walked up to me, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I miss you. I miss you. I miss you and your family. If there is anything I can do, let me know.” Very simple, and also very moving.

Bob was not only being kind and genuine; he was also providing an excellent example of what evangelism can look like in The Episcopal Church. He shows how we can reach out very simply and with few words and yet still have an impact on the lives of others around us.

What we do need to change is our propensity for being reserved and hiding our light under a bushel.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find an account of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s recent Revival in Pittsburgh. The events being held in West Missouri on Saturday and Sunday, May 6 & 7 will be somewhat different to those in Pittsburgh, and we are calling our events ‘Awakenings’. There are similarities, and these events are tied back to Bob’s example, as we found out at February’s Evangelism Workshops. At the workshops we were shown that Episcopalians can be evangelists, and really we don’t need to change much to do so. We just need to carry on the work we do in the community, and the quiet works of help and love we give to friends, family and those we encounter along the way. What we do need to change is our propensity for being reserved and hiding our light under a bushel.

When you are serving in the community tell them which church you go to. Want something really simple to do? Follow the example of St. Stephen’s, Monnet. They took a diocesan advertising grant and invested it in St. Stephen’s tee shirts, so that wherever they go and whatever they are doing, they are taking their church with them and introducing it to people. Have printed calling cards for all your members is another simple thing to do. When you are working in the community, be proud to be Episcopalian. Tell them about the church you attend. Don’t be shy! Welcome questions about your church; answer them. Tell them about our wonderful music, our moving liturgy, fellowship and the way in which we welcome everyone. If people are interested, invite them to join you at a service. Keep it simple, and it will be painless.

Evangelism at work – The group from St. Stephen’s Monnet show off their tee shirts at the Evangelism Workshop at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Springfield. Image credit: Gary Allman

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

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Bible Quotes


<blockquote class="spi-bible"><span>15</span>...<sup>5</sup> He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars---if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” <sup>6</sup>Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

<sup>7</sup> He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” <cite>Genesis 15:5-7</cite></blockquote>

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155 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” Genesis 15:5-7

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<span class="spi-author">The Rev. Kevin White serves as deacon at St. Mary's & St. Augustine's, Kansas City, Missouri</span>

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The Rev. Kevin White serves as deacon at St. Mary’s & St. Augustine’s, Kansas City, Missouri

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<p><span class="dashicons dashicons-admin-links"> <a href="http://www.diowestmo.org">www.diowestmo.org</a></p>

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www.diowestmo.org

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<p><a class="spi-int-link" href="https://spirit.diowestmo.org/contributors/"><span class="dashicons dashicons-admin-links"></span> Contributors to <em>Spirit</em></a></p>

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<blockquote class="spi-pull">What we do need to change is our propensity for being reserved and hiding our light under a bushel.</blockquote>
Elsewhere in this issue you'll find <a class="spi-int-link" href="https://spirit.diowestmo.org/2017/03/dont-be-afraid-to-be-people-of-love-presiding-bishop-tells-pittsburgh-revival/"><span class="dashicons dashicons-admin-links"></span> an account of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's recent Revival in Pittsburgh</a>. The events being held in West Missouri on Saturday and Sunday, May 6 &amp; 7 will be somewhat different to those in Pittsburgh, and we are calling our events 'Awakenings'. There are similarities, and these events are tied back to Bob's example, as we found out at February's Evangelism Workshops. At the workshops we were shown that Episcopalians can be evangelists, and really we don't need to change much to do so. We just need to carry on the work we do in the community, and the quiet works of help and love we give to friends, family and those we encounter along the way. What we do need to change is our propensity for being reserved and hiding our light under a bushel.

Result

What we do need to change is our propensity for being reserved and hiding our light under a bushel.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find an account of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s recent Revival in Pittsburgh. The events being held in West Missouri on Saturday and Sunday, May 6 & 7 will be somewhat different to those in Pittsburgh, and we are calling our events ‘Awakenings’. There are similarities, and these events are tied back to Bob’s example, as we found out at February’s Evangelism Workshops. At the workshops we were shown that Episcopalians can be evangelists, and really we don’t need to change much to do so. We just need to carry on the work we do in the community, and the quiet works of help and love we give to friends, family and those we encounter along the way. What we do need to change is our propensity for being reserved and hiding our light under a bushel.

Tombstone

The cross at the end of an article. Yes, that really is what they are called.


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