A New Curacy Program to Attract Younger Priests

In the next 3-5 years when one quarter of our seminary prepared priests will retire. The Diocese of West Missouri is actively seeking funding for a new Curacy Program to attract and retain younger clergy.

Sally Shied Ten-minute read.   Resources

September 15, 2018, Kim Taube and Warren Swenson are the most recently ordained priests in West Missouri. Image: Gary Allman

T The average age for a parish priest in The Diocese of West Missouri is around 62 years old. America’s pastors are growing older. In 1992 the average pastor was 44 years old and one in three was less than 40 years old. Twenty-five years later the average age is 54 and only 1 in 7 is less than 40 (The Barna group). Many factors go into this number, but the quandary will affect the health of congregations all over.

The Diocese of West Missouri will be seeing a significant turnover in the next 3-5 years when one quarter of our seminary prepared priests will retire. Transitions in the diocese will be more common. With thoughtful planning, the diocese can maximize the potential of our new priests (Curates) to be effective and remain active in the church. This can be a time of growth and renewal! To quote Bishop Marty, “We need to plan now for this transition, and we diligently need to seek new energies and new perspectives of generations now entering the fullness of their adult years”.

The Diocese has submitted a grant application to the Lilly Endowment for $860,594.77 to cover major expenses of a project to attract and retain younger clergy (see Footnote2). The goals for the Curacy Program of The Diocese of West Missouri are:

  • To attract new priests;
  • To retain the promising and gifted seminarians who originate from this Diocese and others;
  • To bring energy and vitality to the diocese; and
  • To provide the stable leadership necessary to spur growth in congregations that otherwise would not have access to full-time clergy.

The Diocese of West Missouri is seeking additional funding of $25,000 over a three-year period to support the Peer-to-Peer learning portion of this project; which includes three weekends per year at a small retreat center in the rural Ozarks. This is an aspect of the project that can stand on its own should the Lilly Endowment funding not come through. This program is for all newly hired and newly ordained priests and deacons as well as the new curates.

Where Did this Plan Come From?

The Curacy Project came to the Commission on Ministry, Subcommittee for Clergy Continuing Education, Orientation, and Mentoring from a small group led by the Rev. Meghan Castellan. After receiving the 100% backing of the sub-committee they drafted a resolution to the convention of The Diocese of West Missouri who referred it back to the sub-committee to begin research and study and determine the feasibility of implementing a diocesan-wide curacy program. In March the committee was ready to press forward preparing our application to the Lilly Endowment. The leadership for this initiative has come from the Commission on Ministry and its special sub-committee. Chairman of the committee is The Rev. Deacon Beck Schubert; other members are Walker Adams, Ruth Beamer, The Rev. Ken Chumbley, The Rev. Dr. William Fasel, Robert Maynard, Sally Scheid, Mickey Simnett (see Footnote1), The Rev. Galen Snodgrass, and The Rev. Ron Verhaghe. Also assisting the committee are The Rev. Canon Dr. Steve Rottgers and Gary Allman, Communications Director, of the Bishop’s staff.

The Curacy Program will give Curates experience in both urban and rural settings. The trend is that only urban areas can support full-time priests. The Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel said clergy coming from residential seminaries and intending to work full-time will only experience the life of the church in metropolitan areas. Realistically, future bishops and leaders will come from this group with little to no understanding of small towns and small churches. The Diocese of West Missouri wants to give Curates a broader experience. Several churches in the diocese are described as “on the bubble” — in that they previously could afford their own priest and had larger congregations. As congregations shrank, from a myriad of outside forces, these churches can no longer afford their own priest. They now share a priest which obviously does not give the congregants as much access to a member of the clergy.

It is hoped that with more access to a priest, through the Curate or the priests and deacons ordained through the Bishop Kemper School of Ministry, they will have a chance to do more planning and once again become strong. Right now, two churches in the diocese have seen this phenomenon with a dedicated part-time priest. Even when only with a church for a short time, the Curate can lead new ministries, new growth, enhanced energy, and renewed optimism. This reinvigoration will enable some churches to grow to the point where they can, once again, be able to afford a priest. The mixed experience of larger and smaller churches, urban and rural will help the Curate to transition a future church.

As any ordained person or those involved on the Commission on Ministry, Standing Committee and other formation groups can attest, hearing a call to the priesthood through the ordination process takes a candidate many years and multiple interviews at the local, regional, and diocesan level. The requirements include a bachelor’s degree and three years of seminary resulting in a Master of Divinity. During this period the candidate most likely will have to relocate at least once. It is a long row to hoe. Ordination is like other graduations in that it is the commencement of a long and hopefully, fruitful career.

By the time a young priest comes to a congregation, a great deal of time and money, not to mention prayer and faith have been invested. Yet, in general, four times as many clergy leave the calling within the first five years than those who served forty years ago. Whether the priest comes from one of the three-year seminaries or a program like the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry.

Seminarians are well prepared in theology when they graduate. But the learning has just begun! Local clergy have commented, “The hardest thing I had to do was doing work I had never done before”; “Getting the lay of the business end of running a parish”; “Adjusting to the demands for my time and personal attention, not just from a few friends, but from every parishioner, all with their yokes, some light, some not.”; “That budgets and Vestry politics matter”. Canon Steve said “ordination is a steep learning curve. The new priest must learn how drive the bus where the rubber meets the road.” He said that common professional challenges are learning what you do not know and that are you not ready to save the world. The most important knowledge is how to build and maintain relationships.

At this time The Diocese of West Missouri has no formal Curacy program. Several current priests were surveyed about what would have made their transition to priesthood easier. In addition to the comments they made about difficulties with their transition experience, they all indicated a more formal mentorship program, and a peer group with whom they could share experiences would have helped. Comments included how important it was to have a regular prayer life, “This is a lonely profession. Know yourself. Know your needs.”; “maintain your relationship with your spiritual director. If a mentor is not assigned to you, find one. If the mentor is not a good fit, find a better one.”

Throughout the program Curates will learn the importance of time management, boundaries and balance. Curricular will be drawn from Leadership Bootcamp, Evangelism 101, and Project Resource, providing Curates with the tools to inspire radical generosity and engage faith communities in the journey of changing the culture of stewardship in The Episcopal Church.
In the peer support sessions, they will learn how to form their own support groups — and more importantly the need to, and how to select a mentor, either lay or ordained from their ministry context, though not a supervisor; how to create community; the importance of self-care and the need to establish and honor a sabbath. Curates will be able to develop peer relationships with a variety of priests serving in a variety of settings. These leaders will have a support system, so they do not feel all by themselves, even in a small town, and they will know how to take care of themselves.

Desired Outcomes for the Diocese and Curates

To evaluate the program, the following outcomes are being aspired to:

Outcomes for the diocese

Short-Term (1 year)
90% of Curate supervisors will report growing congregations with the Curate assigned to them.

Long-term (3 year)
At the end of the Curacy Project (3 years) The Diocese of West Missouri will have developed a sustainable method of filling vacancies and retaining 65% of well-trained Curates in the diocese.

Outcomes for Curates

Short term (1 year)
After each year of Curacy, 100 percent of Curates will report developing collegial relationships with each other; learning and experiences in the program will positively affect their confidence in pastoral work.

Long-term (3 year)
75 percent of Curates will report they have grown in ministry and feel they can be an effective parish priest in a variety of setting

Sustainability and Continuation

In addition to the Lilly Endowment support, the COM subcommittee is working with the diocese to create an Endowment Campaign to raise money to help fund the future of the Curacy Program.

In Conclusion

The Curacy Program is a natural fit for the mission of the diocese as it responds to new issues of these times of reduced financial and human resources. We are calling out new leaders and will be preparing them to be sent out. Training that the Curates receive will be in line with our baptismal vows. Doing these things marks our fidelity to the vows all Episcopalians make to follow Jesus.

Your thoughts and prayers for this new initiative are sincerely appreciated.

Sally Shied is a member of the Commission on Ministry, Subcommittee for Clergy Continuing Education, Orientation, and Mentoring, a Lay Eucharistic Minister, Diocesan Convention Alternate Delegate and member at Christ Episcopal Church Springfield.

Footnotes

1 Regretfully, since this article was written in July 2018, Committee Member Micki Simnett lost her battle against cancer entering into the larger life on August 31. Besides serving on the Commission on Ministry, Mickey was also serving an elected term on the Diocesan Council. Mickey was a recipient of the Bishop’s Shield.

Let light perpetual shine upon her.

2 In late September the committee was informed that the Lilly Endowment had received nearly 600 applications and awarded grants to 78 charitable organizations. The Curacy Program was not one of the projects selected for funding. The committee is now looking for alternative funding for this very important program.

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Courses for Licensed Evangelism and Christian Formation Roles

The Bishop Kemper School for Ministry has put together courses to prepare potential licensees in Evangelism and Christian Formation.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel Five-minute read.   Resources

Since the lead up to the Presiding Bishop’s visit in May 2017, we in The Diocese of West Missouri have been putting a lot of emphasis on evangelism and Christian formation. I would like to tell you of two leadership opportunities in evangelism and initial formation. The Commission on Ministry has defined two licenses for leadership in these areas. One is “Evangelist” and the other is “Catechist”. The Bishop Kemper School for Ministry (BKSM) has devised two curricula to prepare potential licensees.

A licensed Evangelist is a lay person who coordinates and facilitates the evangelism activities of a congregation or other ministry (like campus ministry, for example). The license does not necessarily imply direct evangelism, like going door to door. Rather, we envision groups of persons working as a team with leadership from the Evangelist and clergy.

The same sort of structure would also be true for a Catechist. A Catechist is a lay person who coordinates and facilitates the preparation of (mostly new) members for baptism, confirmation, reception in The Episcopal Church, or the reaffirmation of baptismal vows. The Catechist would work with clergy and sponsors to help prepare persons for these rites.

Both of these licenses fit together as part of the ancient, and modern, Catechumenate. The Catechumenate has four stages:

  1. Evangelism — where we seek out and invite new persons to the Christian faith and the Episcopal Church, or as the Presiding Bishop puts it, the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.
  2. Catechumenate –where we he help persons to learn how to live and worship within our faith communities.
  3. Enlightenment –where we prepare persons for the rites of Baptism or Confirmation, etc., frequently during Lent.
  4. Mystagogy — after the rite of baptism or confirmation where we help the person to live into their vows and to take their next steps in formation and discipleship, frequently during the Easter season.

I invite you to look up these licenses and requirements of the diocesan website, and I also invite you to check out the curriculum at BKSM — links to both are provided below. See if it might be something for you.

I would invite anyone who is curious to consider auditing one of the courses in the curricula. For the Catechist license, I recommend taking “Adult Catechesis and Formation”. The classroom time for this course will be October 13-14, with reading starting September 10. For the Evangelist license, I recommend taking “Contemporary Mission”. The classroom for that will be November 10-11, with reading starting October 15.

The cost for auditing is $100 per course, and you can register on the BKSM website.

For more information, please contact me, the Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel, at nerm@diowestmo.org.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel is chair of the Commission of Ministry, serves on the board at Bishop Kempler School of Ministry, and heads NERM, the North East Regional Ministry.

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Clover House, providing space for healing and hope

Clover House is an oasis, providing healing and rest to young women sorely in need of a safe place to stay. Created by Saint Francis Community Services, the program provides restorative, residential care for female adolescent survivors of sex trafficking.

Shane Schneider Five-minute read.   Resources

CupcakeImage: Flickr user sayo ts

Searching for something to cook, she discovered the last two boxes of cake mix in the cupboard. For the next three hours, she laid claim to the Clover House kitchen, baking dozens of chocolate cupcakes with care and attention. The frosting, she made from scratch, and when she finished, 36 perfect cupcakes graced the counter top.

“Well, what now?” asked The Rev. Susanne Methven.

“Let’s find homeless people and give them a cupcake,” said the 17-year-old cook.

***

Opened in 2016, Clover House is an oasis of sorts, providing healing and rest to young women sorely in need of a safe place to stay. Created by Saint Francis Community Services, the program provides restorative, residential care for female adolescent survivors of sex trafficking. The home-like setting offers both security and community to youth dealing with complex and unique trauma. At Clover House, survivors have the emotional space to develop healthy relationships and to rediscover their sense of purpose.

The Rev Susanne Methven blesses Clover House.
Image:Image: St. Francis Foundation

***

“Stop!” shouted the passenger, and Mother Methven hit the brakes. The youth hopped from the van and approached a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk. “You want a cupcake?” she said as she placed one in his hand.

Near the hospital, she yelled out the window to a couple walking, “You guys want a cupcake?” before leaping from the van with two in her hand.

At the hospital emergency room, she offered one to a woman on the phone, who smiled and spoke to someone on the other end, “I just got a cupcake.”

***

“For the past two years, I’ve lived in this house with these young women,” said Methven, Clover House director. “I’ve witnessed how the ordinary rhythms of living in the context of our Clover House values shapes us. We are a community of women who learn together and choose to love each other as the best way of becoming fully human. Along the way, we are deeply touched by each other.”

Without intervention, survivors of sex trafficking often face lives of brokenness, addiction, legal problems, and mental health challenges. One of only a handful of similar programs in the nation, Clover House helps survivors move from hurt, to healing, to wholeness. The program approaches the youth keeping the whole person in mind – spirit, mind, and body. It includes Living Compass, an Episcopal-developed wellness program; volunteer opportunities within the community; individual, group, equine, and gardening therapy; and use of a gym. The youth also attend school while at Clover House and develop important life skills.

“Serving here is one of the few occasions in my life when I have felt strongly that this is my calling,” said Methven. “Clover House is important because it’s through community – with each other and with God – that we find the hope and grace to learn together and be shaped by love. The biggest gift is watching these girls grow and change. These are youth who have experienced the depths of human evil, yet who have the resilience, strength, and courage to heal with our support. Their stories inspire me.”

***

The youth gave away every cupcake that day, and she did it joyfully –- indeed, with an abundance of joy. Mother Methven marveled that this young woman, who had both seen and survived so much suffering and ugliness in her short life, should get such happiness from giving away cupcakes.

The next day, she asked her why.

“When I was homeless,” she replied, “people would give me food. But I never got anything fun like a cupcake.”

Shane Schneider is the Senior Copywriter for The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services. He is the major contributor for Saint Francis’ quarterly magazine Hi-Lites.


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

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Five Tips for ‘Gifts for Life’

Five personalized ways to support Gifts for Life and spread the word about the good work done by Episcopal Relief & Development. Why not create a ‘ripple effect’ of blessings?

Richard Hoff Five-minute read.   Resources

Cover photo for the 2018 Gifts for Life catalog Image: Episcopal Relief & Development

Anne Browne loves all the work that Episcopal Relief & Development does, and wants everyone to know that “Episcopal Relief & Development is the best organization they can support!” But her real passion is reserved for one program: Gifts for Life. She deeply appreciates how directly Gifts for Life empowers local partners, offering individuals and communities the ability to help themselves in ways that respect their home, history and culture.

A born educator, Anne spent many years with the American Field Service as a coordinator and counselor, worked with intellectually disabled students, taught kindergarten, and put in 21 years as a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo – along with raising seven children, enjoying 11 grandchildren (and several godchildren) and running home-based mail order businesses selling cards, stationary and children’s books and toys from around the world.

With this background to draw from, it’s no wonder that Anne is ingenious at finding personalized ways to leverage her support for Gifts for Life and spread the word about the good work done by Episcopal Relief & Development. Here are some of her favorite tactics for creating a ‘ripple effect’ of blessings.


Five Tips from a Gifts for Life ‘Professional’

One: Think like Miss Manners

Everyone likes to be thanked – or will at some point earn a congratulations, be in need of condolences, or have some other reason why acknowledgement with a card is socially graceful and appropriate. Following the advice she used to give her card-buying customers, Anne makes sure she always has a stash of 10-20 Gifts for Life cards on hand for just these situations. (Every Gifts for Life donation is acknowledged with a card.) As Anne says, “It’s just like buying something for the food pantry and leaving it in your car – it’s right there when you get to church.”

Children receiving nutrition after a disaster, DR Congo Image: Episcopal Relief & Development

Two: Give to Celebrate Holidays and Birthdays

Instead of buying special Christmas, Valentine’s or birthday cards, double the effect of your goodwill by donating to the Gifts for Life program that is most relevant or appealing to the person you are giving for – while spreading the word about Episcopal Relief & Development’s good work.

Three: Honor Others

Anne became an Episcopalian at age 19. She was drawn by the positive changes in her family due to counseling by an Episcopal priest her aunt and mother met following the early death of Anne’s cousin. For Anne, being an Episcopalian means to ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ and to have a commitment to being ‘active in community’ – two reasons she is so supportive of Episcopal Relief & Development! Four years ago, Anne decided to walk her own walk by honoring people in her church who she felt truly live out their faith. She chose Thanksgiving as an appropriate time, and sent Gifts for Life cards to those special members of her community, acknowledging their contributions.

Four: Especially for Kids

Anne adds small tokens to Gifts for Life cards to make the donation more real and tangible to young people. One favorite is a small stuffed lamb or other animal to accompany an Animal and Agriculture donation. Another is a book or some colored pencils with an Early Learners gift. She also suggests including a colorful photo (think a flock of bright yellow baby chicks!). Applicable for any age, photos grab attention and interest and help anyone understand what this gift in their honor really represents.

Child with her pig, Nicaragua Image: Episcopal Relief & Development

Five: Especially for New Grandparents

Anne loves sending cards supporting Early Childhood Development programs to new grandparents, who will be celebrating their new connection to why this program and the education it helps support is so important, anywhere and everywhere in the world.

“It is truly a blessing to share and to give.”

Anne didn’t know Episcopal Relief & Development well throughout most of her life. Now that she does, she wants to share the good news, with people in her church and with others. Gifts for Life has offered her a perfect way to show her concern and caring for this world while cultivating new links in her ‘chain of blessings’ and introducing people to an organization that she knows does good and necessary work.

Anne Browne (center) with her family Image: Episcopal Relief & Development
Episcopal Relief & Development is grateful for Anne’s dedication to Episcopal Relief & Development, and for her commitment to finding ways of making Gifts for Life a gift for all occasions!

Richard Hoff is a Major Gifts Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.

The Sexual Immorality of Pornography

Pornography seems to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy and respectability. It’s not unusual to hear someone (albeit jokingly) refer to their ‘porn stash’ or questionable online browsing history. The reality is that pornography can create ripples of pain and human suffering that spread out into the world.

Mike McDonnell 15 minute read.   Resources

 

Editor’s Note. I’d like to warn readers that Mike’s article makes hard reading. Once again he doesn’t pull any punches, and confronts, head on, a topic most people would rather not discuss. Pornography and human — specifically male — sexuality. As I’ve mentioned in the past in relation to sex trafficking, 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.

 

In today’s society pornography seems to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy and respectability. It’s not unusual to hear someone (albeit jokingly) refer to their ‘porn stash’ or questionable online browsing history. Such comments give credence in an ‘industry’ (and it is an industry) that has a very dark underbelly. So while, in some circles, pornography may be accepted and embraced as a part of today’s world, for others, the impact of the criminal elements who exploit (primarily) men’s weaknesses creates ripples of pain and human suffering that spread out into the world. For some pornography can become an addiction, and then there is the plight of the ‘participants’ many of whom are coerced by blackmail, abduction, and threats of violence to them or their families. It all starts with ‘an innocent bit of fun’…

The darkness of pornography can engulf your mind and soul bringing the weight of desperation that presents no glimmer of hope, or light just foreboding, and an unimaginable gloom. It is a nightmare coated with the aura of seductiveness that radiates a false promise of sexual fulfillment and love, that can result in disappointment, shame, broken relationships, destroyed lives, and personal ruin.

Pornography may be the most challenging evil for men to defeat. It attacks at the heart of a man’s natural desire to find love and intimacy. Unfortunately, some men misunderstand love and become confused in their effort to find closeness through sexual gratification. It is easy to understand the allure of sex and its power over the minds of men; but when we seek momentary satisfaction through a third party, we have crossed the line of morality in so many different ways.

This statement from The Catechism of the Catholic Church is excellent in defining the dangers found in porn:

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

I have heard men speak of porn as “nothing more” than pure entertainment and, that moreover, it enhances their sexual relationships with their spouses or girlfriends. What is the effect on a man watching someone else have sex? What benefit do they receive? What justification do they use to rationalize their self-gratification? Who benefits, and at what cost to the individual watching or reading porn? After all, it may seem that the woman or young girl performing sex acts areis having a great time even if it is staged.  We can be taken in by a false realism believing that the girls are not being forced to satisfy unusual sex requests, and are not suffering physical abuse and torture; instead what we are viewing is merely two people finding pleasure in each other’s arms. Therefore, if we continue to follow that cloudy logic, it would look as if that all the women are enjoying themselves, moaning and groaning in delight, and besides, don’t they all experience an orgasm? So if they are enjoying every minute of the encounter why shouldn’t I? They are having great sex and making good money. What is wrong if I satisfy myself by becoming part of their reality even if it is manufactured?

Statistics for porn are easily accessible if you are seeking more data… you will discover that the analytical part of porn is depressing and frightening.

Porn Hub is the most significant pornography site in the world. Each year for the past five years they have published an annual “Year in Review,” to “discover and reflect,” on how people have been viewing porn. What is amazing is their business acumen in their target marketing by age, sex, sexual preferences, location, time of day usage, country, state, etc. They have terrific insight into who is using their product and when. If you happen to be a porn-site visitor who mistakenly believes your information is private, you may want to rethink your position. Let us review Porn Hub’s Analytics (1) 2017 worldwide numbers and Daily Infographics 2013 stats (2) for the US:

Porn Hub Analytics (1) (www.pornhub.com/insights):

  • 28.5 billion annual visits to Porn Hub
  • 81 million daily visits
  • 25 billion searches performed
    • 50,000 searches per minute
    • 800 searches per second
  • 4 million videos uploaded
    • 810,000 amateur videos

Daily Infographics, US (2) (www.dailyinfographic.com/author/timwillingham):

  • 8.7 billion annual visits
  • 24 million daily visits to porn sites
  • 40 million Americans are regular visitors
    • 28,258 are viewing porn every second
  • Porn yearly revenues $2.84 billion
    • $3,076 is spent on porn every second 
  • 116,000 requests for “Child Pornography” every day

Statistics for porn are easily accessible if you are seeking more data. However, as I was warned before receiving the Porn Hub Analytics, you will discover that the analytical part of porn is depressing and frightening.  The numbers reveal an alarming and almost overwhelming prevalence of pornography throughout the world.

What does that say about us men? What in the world is going on in our minds that we need this external stimulation to find satisfaction and, most importantly, what does God say about pornography? 

I am not a scientist nor a theologian, but I am a pragmatist. You may look at those professions and wonder what does being pragmatic have to do with science or theology, let alone porn?  Nothing actually, but from my perspective, it allows me to ask myself several essential questions without dependence on science or religion. Is sex beneficial to me? Does sex satisfy? What are the costs and rewards of sex? Is there a moral quandary when using pornography? And why do I need artificial stimulation to satisfy my sexual cravings?

As a young man, it seemed as if I had sex “on the brain“ 24/7, and indeed I probably would not have been opposed to reading or viewing porn. It is and was very seductive, stimulating and alluring. Consequently, being rational about sex and controlling urges was challenging. However, age conveys a measure of wisdom, and clarity of thought; although, getting older does not free me from the lure of pornography. Though the desire is significantly dampened, it still lays hidden in my mind.

Let me take a moment to review and answer the questions I asked:

Is sex beneficial? I don’t know about you, but I love sex. There is nothing more satisfying than finding yourself entwined with a woman. It is both fulfilling and relieving and offers a degree of closeness that cannot be attained in any other manner. It is a gift given to two people that cannot be measured in precise physical terms but is to be understood as spiritual when given and received in love.

Is sex satisfying? Yes, no and maybe. Yes, when it is being given and received by two individuals as an offering, willingly and openly accepted. No, when it is forced or coerced, for self-gratification without care or concern for the other person’s well being. Maybe, when a person, because of their physical and or mental condition is allowing another person to use his or her body to satisfy themselves or being gratified themselves. 

What are the rewards and costs of sex? The rewards resulting from a healthy sexual relationship are cumulative. It brings a feeling of well being, intimacy and attachment that are realized in very few circumstances. It is part of the shared human experience that the very personal contact of sexual intimacy can only bring by strengthening the bond between a couple. The flip side is the toll that porn will inflict on a relationship through the pretense that pornography interjects excitement and variety in sexual relations. However, pornography’s goal is to blur the lines between love and self-gratification. It achieves this by featuring women and even children who “seem” to be willing to perform and enjoy all varieties of sexual perversions that the viewer may desire. Porn embeds an illusion in the minds of men that will become more addictive over time. This deception has the effect of ultimately subduing the love women may feel for their spouse, which can eventually wreak havoc with family relationships and careers. The fundamental question that must be considered by all men viewing pornography is: do my actions have a negative or positive impact on my family and others in and beyond my sphere of influence?

Is there a moral quandary when using pornography? Let’s be clear, porn is destructive and supports criminal elements that trafficks women and children (including boys) for the sole purpose of enriching themselves at the cost of lives. Men who watch and purchase pornography are not doing it for any reason, except to satisfy their sexual desire, no matter the detriment to the victims who are raped, violently molested, starved and even killed during deviant sexual behavior.  Researchers have also found an association between the use of pornography and infidelity in marriage. Does that surprise anyone? (What Porn Does to Intimacy, July 16, 2014, Psychology Today)

What do you think? Is there a “moral quandary?” As I‘ve already mentioned, I am a pragmatist. The chances that pornography could bring about anything positive is remote. It is destructive to men and devastating to the children and women who suffer from the consequences of persistent sexual abuse. Is it immoral? Damn straight!

418 [Men] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. Ephesians 4:18-19

If you are using pornography to fill an emptiness in your soul, please find help. If you are married, you need to understand why you require artificial stimulation to satisfy your sexual cravings and work out how to remove your dependence on it. If you are single, please realize that what you are often watching supports the trafficking of humans and that the picture you see is only an illusion and is not real sex or love. It is make-believe, not real and is an evil, immoral pretension of what is a beautiful, life-sustaining gift to humankind. It is not the answer to the spiritual wellness or joy you deserve.

This is a revised version of an article originally published on the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s website.

Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Social Justice (Human Trafficking Ministry) with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.

General Convention is Coming!

How General Convention works, and some idea of what to expect from the 79th Convention of The Episcopal Church

Curtis Hamilton Ten-minute read.   Resources

Deputies and Bishops from 17 countries will soon meet in Austin, Texas for the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. The General Convention is composed of over 800 deputies from the 109 dioceses and (potentially) 300 or more active and retired bishops of the Church. They will deliberate for nine legislative days from July 5-13, with some committees meeting as early as July 3.

How General Convention Works

Below is a brief summary of how General Convention makes its decisions.

  • The General Convention is a bicameral legislative body (that is to say that it is managed by two separate bodies). The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops meet separately.
  • Resolutions for discussion may be submitted from various groups throughout the Church (certain interim bodies, Bishops, Dioceses and Provinces, and Deputies).
  • Each resolution is assigned to a committee of the Convention. In committee hearings, testimony is heard, the resolution is debated and perfected, and a recommendation from the committee is forwarded to one of the houses (house of initial action).
  • In order for the resolution to become an Act of Convention, it must be approved by both houses in the exact same language before the General Convention adjourns.

Items to Come Before the Convention

The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. As such, it takes action on numerous topics.

  • Legislation of concern to the Church — This is a broad category. It encompasses policy issues such as human trafficking, care of creation, and many more. It also includes issues in our church life such as gender equity, sexual misconduct in the church, and more.
  • Amending the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the Constitution, and the Canons of the Church.

These above, along with Acts of Convention, describe both how the Church works and what it believes. Convention also deals with the following:

  • Adopting a triennial budget for The Episcopal Church — A budget for the Church for the next three years will be adopted. There are lots of clichés that could be used here (things about rubber and roads or treasure and heart come to mind), but this document does show what our missional priorities are for the next three years.
  • Electing candidates to offices, boards and other committees — These offices include President and Vice President of the House of Deputies, members of the Executive Committee of the Church, board of directors of the Church Pension Fund, and other groups.

In my opinion, the following are issues of high importance that will come before the General Convention. (These are in no particular order.)

  • Editing/Revising of the BCP — This includes the possibility of including liturgies for marriage for same-sex couples in the current BCP and the possible adoption of a plan for a revision of the entire BCP.
  • A proposal to provide a salary for the President of the House of Deputies.
  • Updates to the Canons regarding sexual misconduct by clergy and lay employees and leaders.

West Missouri Deputation Members

These are the members of the deputation:
Lay Delegates — Mr. Curtis Hamilton (Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City), Dr. Linda Robertson (St. John’s, Springfield), Ms. Amanda Perschall (Trinity, Lebanon), and Ms. Liz Trader (St. John’s, Springfield).

Clergy Delegates — Fr. Marshall Scott (St. Luke’s Health System, Deputation Chair), Mtr. Anne Meredith Kyle (Calvary, Sedalia), Fr. Tim Coppinger (EChO Regional Ministry), and Fr. Jonathan Frazier (St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City).

Alternate Deputies attending — Mr. Channing Horner (St. Paul’s, Maryville), Ms. Christine Morrison (Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City), Fr. Stan Runnels (St. Paul’s, Kansas City), and Mtr. Megan Castellan (canonically resident in West Missouri).

Deputies and Alternates not attending — Ms. Carole Pryor (St. Philip’s, Joplin), Mr. Grafton Cook (St. Mary’s, Fayette), Fr. David Kendrick (St. John’s, Springfield), and Fr. Jose Palma (St. Nicholas’, Noel).

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to speak with any member of the deputation. You can email me (see below) and I will be glad to forward your question or comment (with your permission) to the rest of the deputation.

Ways to Follow General Convention

There are several ways you can follow General Convention here in West Missouri.

  • The General Convention website has a veritable treasure trove of information available. This includes the “Blue Book” reports from interim bodies that give background on some of the resolutions submitted. You can also find links to documents that explain how General Convention works.
  • You can find the resolutions submitted to the General Convention at vbinder.net. This site will also give you status updates of resolutions throughout the convention.
  • There will be choice of Livestreaming channels available including daily summaries and press conferences. Many will be in both English and Spanish. Check the various websites for details.

The members of the deputation look forward to serving you and the Church as a whole in this important work. We ask for your prayers as we prepare for and attend the General Convention in July.

Curtis Hamilton is a two-time deputy to the General Convention (2015, 2018). He has attended two other General Conventions (2003, 2012) as a visitor. He also serves as Secretary of the Diocese.

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General Convention 101



The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has produced a handy pictorial guide to General Convention. Click here or follow the link provided (below) to see an online version of the guide, which you can download and print if you wish.

Human Trafficking as It Relates to Slavery

Most Americans turn a blind eye towards slavery believing it only existed in the past. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Mike McDonnell Ten-minute read.   Resources

We live in a world rife with cynicism, racism, hatred, bigotry, and the most despicable of all these sins is the enslavement of another person to accommodate man’s greed, lust and insatiable desire to control another’s life. In the First Letter to Timothy, we find Paul’s words:

18 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
I Timothy 1:8-11

Mike McDonnell presents details of the breadth of the human trafficking problem. Image credit: Gary Allman
Most Americans turn a blind eye towards slavery believing it only existed in the past, possibly during the Civil War or maybe in biblical times, remembering Moses freeing the Hebrews from Egypt. I have read commentators who believed that slavery was a means used by the ancient world to care for widows, the poor and less fortunate; producing a welfare system through servitude. It was possible that some wealthy individuals took responsibility for those requiring help and these same people may have been emboldened by the fact that Jesus never spoke of physical slavery, but of the slavery that made us prisoners to sin. As you read Paul’s words above, you may wonder how people could believe that slavery was right in any way, shape or form. I am a pragmatic person, and I think Jesus was the ultimate pragmatist. He came to give eternal freedom and not to release those who were in temporary human bondage. However, because our Lord did not make any profound or lasting statements about slavery does not make it right.

Slavery has dominated the history of the United States and the history of The Episcopal Church for far too many years. In most cases, our nation and our church were complicit in the continuance of slavery. In today’s modern world we find women bonded into prostitution, children trafficked for sex and labor, and men forced to work for slave wages across the globe, and yes, even in our own backyard, here in the US.

I want to share a few important dates, with brief descriptions, so that you may understand and appreciate the bravery of those few who have brought us to where we are in our struggle against human trafficking:

  • The 1780s saw the first organized anti-slavery society established in Britain. 1.
  • In 1807, the slave trade was abolished by the British Parliament. 1.
  • In 1839, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was created, giving for the first time impetus to America’s abolitionist movement. 1.
  • In 1856, at the Episcopal General Convention, The Episcopal Church had “nothing to do with party politics, with sectional disputes, with earthly distinctions with the wealth, the splendor and the ambition of the world.” 2.
  • In 1865, the Protestant Episcopal Freedman’s Commission addressed the changes that had taken place in the south after the Civil War.2.
  • In 1877, the first Negro delegates were elected to the General Convention in West Texas and Florida. 2.
  • In 1883, the abolishment of slavery was itself abolished by the British Parliament. 1.
  • In the 1904 and 1907 General Conventions, a Suffragan Plan was established with restrictions. A suffragan could sit with the House of Bishops but could not vote. 2.
  • In 1921, the African Orthodox Church was formed by black Episcopal Priest, George Alexander, resulting from prejudices within The Episcopal Church. 2.
  • In 1948, the segregation of the armed forces and civil services ended. 2.
  • In 1948, Article 4 the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” 3.
  • In 1954, after the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education, the Episcopal Church began to dismantle its institutional segregation policies. 2.
  • In the 1958 General Convention, a resolution was adopted that officially condemned racial prejudice and segregation in the South. 2.
  • In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA 2000) was passed into law. It is considered to be the essential anti-trafficking law ever approved. 4.
  • On October 4, 2008, the Episcopal Church apologized for its role in slavery.
  • In March 2018, the Congress passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This bill holds accountable websites, such as Backpage, when they knowingly facilitate sex traffickers. 5.

In many places in our world, people subscribe to the enslavement of others. In the United States, the home of the “free,” we are exposed daily to the notion that some people are not as valuable as others. This narrative is usually based on race, ethnicity, and sex with the desire to enrich oneself through the subjugation and control of others. The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that there were 40.3 million people in forced labor of which 2 million are in the Americas. In the United States, because of the secretive nature of labor trafficking, it is difficult to provide an accurate number of victims; however, it is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Sex trafficking is an appalling crime. In the United States, it is estimated that 300,000 youths annually are at risk to sex traffickers, with one in six being trafficked. The average age of a girl trafficked is 13 and will be asked to perform various sex acts up to 20 times daily. In a recent conversation with a trafficked victim, she contended that she was expected to produce $2,000 to $3,000 daily from being prostituted. If not, she was severely beaten or starved, or her life threatened. This woman subjugated her body to daily sexual abuse to generate income for her pimp’s financial gain, while she was degraded by the johns who paid for sex, and a society that sees her as nothing more than a prostitute who could leave her enslavement if she so chose.

We men have turned a blind eye towards our accountability in the treatment of women in our society, but even worse, we have enabled abusers, pimps, johns, and pornographers to capture our souls, our nation, and to damage forever the girls and women that have long suffered as sex objects. We do this through our conversations, glances, the purchase of sex and pornography, and by not teaching our male youth that women are to be respected. I suggest to men that they consider what it is like to be chained and tortured and forced to have sex against their will. What it would be like not to have a choice as to who you are with and to feel your body violated, not once, but multiple times daily, every single day of your existence. Imagine your mother, wife, daughter or sister suffering the constant repetition of this horror. The reasons why some girls are targeted by traffickers while others are not, varies. These trafficked girls and women may very well be the same women we purport to love and care for, but we do little to change their sexual environment. Therefore, where they live, their economic situation, race, or ethnicity does not protect them from sexual abuse and predators.

I believe there are very few women who have not suffered from unwanted sexual advances. Many women have been physically and sexually abused. Maybe you know someone, family or friend, who has experienced this kind of violence. It is likely that we are aware of females who have been abused or even suffering harm today. Just possibly, we may have been the abuser. The questions we men must resolve to find the answer to is why do we harm women, why do we seek sexual gratification illicitly, and why do we purchase and watch pornography?

Human trafficking in today’s world is called “Modern Day Slavery.” Slavery from the ancient times to the American Civil War to present day slavery has one thing in common, the exploitation of many for the financial gain of the few.

In the four-plus years that I have been involved in the “Stop Human Trafficking” movement, I find myself writing and rewriting the same words and asking myself, “How can I break through the generations of men with the learned behavior of discounting and abusing women?” I find myself becoming angry every time I look at the statistics about the number of women and children trafficked globally and in the US. I find that statistics do not stir the hearts of men, no matter how shocking they are, if we are not motivated to alter the way that we view and treat women. I understand that perfectly. I am as guilty as the next man in the way I regarded women. Years ago, my favorite response came from the question “When you see a woman what do you notice first?” I replied, “It depends on which way they are walking.” It sounded cute and funny then and to me was an innocent statement of fact. Unfortunately, it was a statement that went straight to the heart of sexual objectification of women. As I became involved in the anti-sex trafficking movement, I spent some time reflecting on my “go to” comment, and what I saw about myself was disconcerting. I realized how revealing my actions and views were in promoting the abuse of women to those around me, especially my children and friends. It was impossible for me to proclaim any degree of holiness when I believed that the degradation of women was acceptable.

Learned behavior is problematic to change, but not impossible. It takes desire, perseverance, support, and occasionally professional help to alter unhealthy behavior. Recently there was an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch religion page titled: “Look to Jesus to learn how to treat women.” Anita Anton quoted a comment from Barbara Leonhard, Oldenburg Franciscan,

“Jesus refused to treat women as inferior. Given the decidedly negative cultural view of women in Jesus’ time, the Gospel writers each testify to Jesus’ treating women with respect, frequently responding in ways that reject cultural norms. He recognizes their dignity, their desires, and their gifts.”

I appreciated her comments because if we treat women with “respect,” showing them the dignity they deserve and allowing them to use their God-given gifts fully, the sexual objectification of women will begin to cease. Finally, after all these thousands of years, women will be equal in the eyes of man. We can at least adhere to the path that the holiest man of all time, Jesus of Nazareth, has shown us to follow. So, let us begin.

This is a revised version of an article originally published in the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s magazine: St. Andrew’s Cross.

Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Human Trafficking Ministries with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.

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Saint Francis Community Services Reach Out to Youth in Kansas City

Working in partnership with the school district and with the nursing programs at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Metropolitan Community College, Saint Francis Community Services focus on prevention by identifying potential health problems before they grow more serious. That includes mental health issues.

Shane Schneider Five-minute read.   Resources

In April, at Schlagle High School, Debra McKenzie gathered a small group of students around her to discuss the health risks of cigarette and marijuana smoke on their lungs. One 18-year-old student moved in close to McKenzie and whispered that he had already quit smoking marijuana because he’s on probation. When she asked why he started using it in the first place, he said he had been depressed ever since his cousin was shot and killed. He just wanted the pain to go away.

 

“We run into that a lot,” says McKenzie. “Many of these kids start these behaviors to block out some of the stuff that has happened to them.”

Saint Francis mental health therapist Godswill Chuka, left, visits with a student during a recent Youth Health Day at Schlagle High School.
Supplied image
That’s why she likes to use outreach events to connect with kids who need help learning to cope with depression, overcome addiction, or deal with behavioral issues. A community outreach project of Saint Francis Community Services, Youth Health Day provides health and dental screenings to students at all 13 middle and high schools in Kansas City, Kansas. Working in partnership with the school district and with the nursing programs at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Metropolitan Community College, McKenzie and her staff focus on prevention by identifying potential health problems before they grow more serious. That includes mental health issues.

McKenzie, Saint Francis clinical director for community-based services, sensed why the student had confided in her. He needed help.

“I told him that in our ADAPT and mental health programs, we work with students just like him to find new ways to deal with depression and pain,” she said. “I told him I was sure we could help him and asked if he’d like to give us a try. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Yes,’ and gave me his phone number.”

They’re just two of the programs Saint Francis provides in Kansas City, but ADAPT and mental health treatment are essential pieces of the Episcopal nonprofit’s array of child and family services. ADAPT (Adolescent/Adult Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment) provides multi-level outpatient alcohol and drug treatment within a therapeutic setting for persons struggling with substance abuse. Most of Saint Francis’ adolescent clients have been court-ordered to receive treatment, which means they often lack motivation to participate. So, to ensure they show up to get the help they need, Saint Francis even provides transportation to counseling sessions.

“As part of our mental health services, we also offer psychological assessments” said McKenzie. “Through our collaboration with the University of Kansas School of Medicine, we can provide psychiatric and medication evaluations. Our program fills a gap because Wyandotte County has a shortage of psychiatrists who serve indigent and low-income populations. Often the only other place where clients on Medicaid can receive services is through the Community Mental Health Center, which has long waiting lists. We can shorten the wait period for clients who need help.”

Saint Francis currently provides substance and mental health treatment for about 75 persons, most of whom are between the ages of 12 and 19. But clients don’t have to be youngsters to receive help. Nor, must they be low-income or referred by the courts. Anyone with an assessment indicating they need treatment can self-refer and get help.

Yet, most of Saint Francis’ work in Kansas City centers on struggling and at-risk young people. The ministry also offers the HEART (Healthy Empowering Adolescent Relationship Training) program, which helps young people develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship and decision-making skills. And, as in the rest of Kansas, Saint Francis provides foster care in Kansas City, which includes an anger management program for teens dealing with trauma.

Service to children and families is built into the DNA of Saint Francis Community Services, and its story of ministry is something The Very Rev. Chas Marks enjoys sharing with both his diocese and the rest of the Church. He’s a busy man. Priest In Charge of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church and Dean of the Northwest-Metro Deanery, Marks also serves as Saint Francis’ Senior Advisor for Community and Church Relations.

“Saint Francis is providing life-affirming services to an underserved population in the Kansas City Metro,” said Marks. “I get to share the story of the good work Saint Francis is doing in Kansas City and in other parts of the world with our local community and churches. There are so many opportunities for individuals and parishes to partner with Saint Francis to provide healing to children and families in Kansas City and beyond.”

When Marks isn’t pastoring, he’s talking about Saint Francis in pulpits and at coffee klatches throughout The Diocese of West Missouri. He hopes to meet friends and partners willing to join Saint Francis in its ministry of service to those most in need — the overlooked, the marginalized, the powerless. It’s a mission Saint Francis shares with the Church, and it’s a mission of hope.

Dozens of young people and adults regularly pass through the office doors of Saint Francis to receive therapeutic treatment for substance use or other behavioral issues. Some days, the clients include parents attending a support group because McKenzie and her colleagues always try to include the family in a client’s treatment. That’s because Saint Francis believes strong families produce healthy and happy children.

“Our hope,” said McKenzie, “is always to help those who need it most, especially those who lack the resources, the knowledge, the skills, or the support to help themselves. That’s why we’re here.”

To learn more about Saint Francis Community Services, contact Fr. Chas Marks about a visit to your church.

Shane Schneider is the Senior Copywriter for The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services. He is the major contributor for Saint Francis’ quarterly magazine Hi-Lites.


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Youth Ministry

A look back at my first year as diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator plus an introduction to this summer’s interns.

Josh Trader Five-minute read.   Resources

The end of June marks my one-year anniversary as the Youth Ministry Coordinator for the diocese. As I look back and reflect on my first year, several things stand out.

Youth Network Coordinator Josh Trader addresses the Diocesan Convention Image credit: Gary Zumwalt
I have given my first State of Youth Ministry address on the convention floor, worked with our incredible team of adult leaders to put on several amazing youth events, journeyed to Charleston for the FORMA conference, bid farewell to the North Central Metro Network Coordinator for youth, Mother Megan, as she started her journey as rector of St. John’s in Ithaca, New York, and began working with our Interim Network Coordinator, Alexandra Connors. I also want to thank all the adult leadership, the Youth Ministry Commission, the youth of our diocese and their parents for all of their support as we have journeyed through this change. As fantastic as the first year was, I am looking forward to the many years and new adventures to come.  

A few months ago, myself, Kim Snodgrass (The Bishop’s Assistant for Christian Formation) and Bishop Marty began looking at what my official job title meant and how it could be perceived. After a lot of discussion we came to the conclusion that a change was in order. The result is that my title is now The Bishop’s Assistant for Youth Ministry Development. What does that mean? Our hope is that it gives a better indication of my role in developing youth ministry. I am here to help and work with all churches in our diocese as they develop their youth ministry programs. When a church is beginning the conversation of how to start, build on, or thinking about youth ministry I am here to be a resource for them.

I am working with Kim to finish our Ministry Handbook, a dream that started two years ago, at a diocesan youth leaders’ retreat. The dream was to have a resource that helps churches and individuals through the many processes involved in establishing ministries. Some of these processes are; how to begin developing a philosophy of ministry, strategic planning, youth ministry, integrational ministry, risk management, and the various tools and resources available. We hope to have the final copy available by the end of 2018. 
 
In May we began looking for two part-time Regional Youth Ministry Coordinators to coordinate network events and to help build relationships on a regional level. With the new positions every church in our diocese will have a Regional Youth Minister to bring the youth across our diocese together when we are not at a diocesan event. We plan to make the announcement of the new coordinators in July.  

I am also pleased to announce that we have hired Katie Mansfield, Hayley Cobb and Taylor Mansfield for our summer intern program. They will work in the WEMO Youth Community for nine weeks, learning from all the people in youth leadership and beyond. They will learn how to plan and facilitate events, formation planning, assist in strategic marketing and grow in their relationship with Christ.  

Find out more about our new interns below.

Josh Trader is The Bishop’s Assistant for Youth Ministry Development for The Diocese of West Missouri and a member of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Springfield.

Hayley Cobb

Hayley Cobb
Hello! My name is Hayley Cobb and I’m from Ozark, Missouri. I am currently in my first year of college at Drury University and attend Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield, Missouri. At Drury, I am majoring in Strategic Communication. I am the Vice President of Episcopal Campus Ministry in Springfield which I have been regularly attending through my freshman year of college. Growing up I was very involved with the diocesan youth program therefore it holds a special place in my heart. During my time as a youth, I was a member of the Youth Ministry Commission and a youth delegate for the Southern Deanery. I have been eager to have the opportunity to be an intern and give back to the program that gave me so much. During this summer internship program, I am excited to get to spend more time working alongside the other adults and youth. I love getting to see the youth grow in their faith and foster relationships with one another. I am also looking forward to getting to spend time working on my own faith with the other interns, and developing lots of important skills.

Katie Mansfield

Katie Mansfield
Hello, my name is Katie Mansfield. I am currently 19 years old and I am studying at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. I am studying Accounting and thinking of adding a minor in Human Resources. I am originally from Carthage, Missouri where I attended Grace Episcopal Church for the past eight or so years. Even though I may never attend Grace Church on a regular basis ever again, I will always consider it to be my home church. Moving to Kansas City has been such an exciting new adventure and is unlike anything I’ve done before. I have been presented with incredible opportunities. In August of 2017 for example, I was asked to be the youth intern at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and earlier this month I was accepted into a position to be an intern for WEMO Youth. I am so excited to be able to continue working with the youth I’ve grown so close to this past year, and also continue my relationships with the youth and adults whom I’ve known since my early years as a youth. I am most looking forward to getting to really make an impact on people’s lives through my work as an intern this summer. Ever since I’ve been a youth, the summer interns have been people I’ve looked up to and aspired to be like. Because of them, I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for so long and now that it’s here, I can only hope to have the same impact. 

Taylor Mansfield

Taylor Mansfield
Hi everyone! My name is Taylor Mansfield and I am so excited to have been chosen to be an intern this summer! I am 19 years old and am from Carthage, Missouri and attended Grace Episcopal Church. I am currently a sophomore at Missouri State University and plan to major in elementary education with a minor in Spanish. Since being in Springfield, I have been going to St. James Episcopal Church on Sunday mornings and on Tuesday nights I go to Episcopal Campus Ministry at Christ Church. I absolutely love working with kids of all different ages, so I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to help the youth along on their faith journey and to be here as someone who can help with whatever they may need. I am hoping that coming out of this internship I will have deepened my relationship with God and have found a greater meaning of what my faith means to me. I believe that being surrounded by, and having the opportunity to work with, like-minded people will be something that will really help guide me in figuring out who I am as a Christian individual. I can’t wait to see what is in store for this summer!  

How Can You Not Be Changed?

Part Two on Deepening Your Relationship with God by Worshiping with Other Faiths

Carolyn Thompson Ten-minute read.   Resources

Stained glass windows at Calvary Episcopal Church. Image: Gary Allman

I spent Maundy Thursday at a Methodist Church singing the choral Living Last Supper, and Good Friday at an ELCA Lutheran Church, and sitting in the dark of the Easter Vigil service in the beautiful, Calvary Episcopal Church. And I thought, “walking with Jesus through Holy Week, how can you not be changed?” and it struck me that the Easter Vigil, is very like the changes happening to me from going to different places of worship each week. I had been through 40 days (okay, possibly, 59 years) of what amounts to Lent — a season of reflection, of preparation, of sacrifice, and of being in the desert. At the Easter Vigil I start in darkness, but slowly with the first light of Easter and the hearing of our salvation history and the renewal of my baptismal vows (and this was the first time it ever meant anything to me – I was surprised), I realize just how far I’ve come in my spiritual journey these past 20 months. A journey in which I expected to change but never dreamed I would be changed so much!

In case you didn’t read Part One of the story my journey began 20 months ago with a calling to go to a different place of worship each week within a one-and-a-half hour drive of home, so that I could learn to feel and see God no matter where I was.

One of the interesting things about dropping myself into a new place of worship each week is that I get to see a glimpse of the life of each church/organization I visit. I was there:

  • The Sunday after the 2nd organist in a row quit;
  • after the rector broke his arm the night before and after the scramble to prepare Morning Prayer a retired priest volunteered from the congregation to do the Eucharist;
  • after a heavy snow and after the Lake flooded and other events that bring a community together;
  • after the pastor went home for his ailing mother and didn’t return in time for the service, so the Elders led a prayer service;
  • for the first Easter Vigil that a church’s congregation had experienced;
  • when they welcomed back to church a man everyone thought would die the week before;
  • for an Easter sunrise service (my first ever) when it was 5 degrees and windy as the sun came up.

What are the odds I’d see so many of these unplanned, and truly formational events in the lives of these churches? Of course the answer is that God’s actions aren’t odds, for me they’re just part of the continuing strengthening of my relationship with Him, with other people, and with myself.

Picking My Weekly Place of Worship

I’ve had some really unique experiences after choosing my place of worship for the week.

Here are a couple of examples of what happens when I go where I let God lead me:

  1. I went to my church because I was scheduled to acolyte but something was wrong with the schedule so they didn’t need me. I got on the internet to see what church that I hadn’t been to in the area that had a service in the next half hour. The experience provided one of my most memorable “aha” moments regarding the progress I’d made in my journey.
  2. I was reading a book that led me to think I wanted to try meditating. In the middle of the book I ended up at a Unity church (lots of meditating) and had a great experience. I had planned to go to Unity Church the month before, but my plans had to change. Had I gone when I’d planned, before reading the book, the service would have made me feel uncomfortable. Visiting after reading the book, I was able to get a lot from the service.

Here’s what often happened when I was picking a place of worship to go to:

I would call and leave a message asking for the service time, and I didn’t get a call back. Nothing, nada.

These were all places I had chosen to go to (trying to get to a few faith traditions on my list). I tried calling them multiple times over a few months and never received a call back. I found this to be so odd, who wouldn’t want someone to join them in worship? It actually made me want to go all the more. The national website of another faith tradition that didn’t call me back said they “welcome everyone”. Interesting.

Realizations

  • Everything affects everything – since I started this journey I frequently notice how what’s happening to me right now is connected to multiple other things that have happened.
  • While praying for people in a nationally publicized tragedy, I realized how powerful it was that all over the world people were going to different kinds of worship and they we were all praying for those impacted by the tragedy.
  • Some places have specific memories and lessons that I learned about myself as I worshiped.
  • There was the great teaching pastor who literally made Bible stories “come to life” for me.
  • At a church in Florida, all of sudden, I really understood what “Christ died for my sins” means. Something I’ve been struggling to understand for decades
  • I’ve been introduced to many versions of the formal prayer of confession, the prayer of thanksgiving, the prayer before communion, and before the offertory. I love the Book of Common Prayer, but I have seen some even more meaningful versions – and that’s saying a lot coming from me!
  • The different traditions have an amazing number of names for the same thing, be it different parts of a worship service, parts of a church building, or it’s furniture and even the pronunciation of the word “amen”

Places of Worship Attended Since My First Article

Church/Denomination Number of Visits
Church of Christ 1
Church of the Nazarene 1
Assembly of God 1
MS Lutheran 2
Unity 2
Greek Orthodox 1
Roman Catholic 1
Disciples of Christ 5 (same church, love their outdoor service)
ELCA Lutheran 1
Methodist 5 (4 are the same church, I was asked back to sing)
Non-denominational 3
Presbyterian 1
Baptist 1
My church 8 (to acolyte)
Other Episcopal churches 2

I started out on a one-year journey of visiting other traditions. At the end of that year I couldn’t give it up. At the time I didn’t know if this was me or God directing me. Now at the end of my 20th month I can definitely see God’s hand in my journey. If we ever meet, you can ask me about a huge life event in the 19th month that made it oh so clear.

Sadly my list of “be sure I get to these places of worship” hasn’t been completed in the last 10 months. Why? Other opportunities have been taken as I let God lead me, my church has a rector again, so I’m acolyting once a month, and another church has me leading singing once a month.

So here’s what’s left:

  • 7th Day Adventist (it doesn’t count that we parked our motorhome in the Plantation Key, Florida 7th Day Adventist church’s lot this Winter –- and what a lovely pastor we talked to)
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (I have tried calling the one nearest me multiple times with no call back – I will branch out)
  • Jehovah’s Witness (same as above)
  • Buddhist Temple
  • Muslim Mosque
  • Mennonite
  • Christian Science. I am reading “My Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy” and I have a copy of “Science and Health” to read, but I still want the “worship” experience.

I Expected to Change, But Not This Much

In my journey I was hoping to learn to see/feel God in every worship experience. Instead I am getting so much more.

  • I am getting the ultimate of “aha” moments from the outcome of a Christ-like relationship with others and with myself.
  • I am not judging things that before I started this journey, I would have hated (my mother always told me that “hate” was too strong a word, no one really actually hates, but these come pretty close for me). Just three cases in point (arguably the two things in worship I have been most verbal about disliking and had felt actual hurt the ability to connect with God).
  • Just after the beginning of the service at an Assembly of God – people who asked for prayer came to the front and a large number of people huddled around them and prayed loudly, all at the same time, all with different words so it was a cacophony of sound while the rest of us sang a long hymn – my reaction was one of feeling I’d been part of all those prayers and I was stunned at myself as previously I’d have felt it was a distraction at best and showy at worst.
  • Another Sunday, and Mother’s Day Sunday at that, the Church of Christ service was completely centered on the scripture of wives submitting to their husbands and no women talked, held positions of leadership in the church, and appeared to be perfectly in agreement with this through the 45 minute message on how important this was to Christian world – my reaction was again stunned that I wasn’t livid. I was simply interested in how all the pieces fit together to make the best Christian homes, communities and world.
  • And finally, a large portion of the almost 3 hours of chanting in the Greek Orthodox church was so fast I couldn’t even read fast enough to see what words the Reader was saying much less be able to read it myself and certainly not learn anything – my reaction was at first frustrated (but not the “what is wrong with people who read this fast?” of yesteryear) and then slowly I was able to start keeping up (3 hours will do that to you!) and in fact I later thought that this method was helpful to me as a feeling of immersion in the scriptures (not exaggerating, I timed it – he read 10 whole Psalms in about 5 minutes).

If I can come this far in 20 months, I can’t imagine what the next 20 months will hold.

But then again, maybe I am not meant to imagine. Me the planner, me the objectives girl. Maybe that is my true lesson so far — I am now allowing worship to happen to me. And because of this I will no longer subscribe to the popular saying “God never gives you more than you can handle”. Instead I am now saying “God always gives you more than you ever imagined”.

Carolyn B Thompson is a cradle Episcopalian with an unquenchable thirst for more relationship with her beloved Father.

Interview With Dean Peter DeVeau

An interview with Dean Peter DeVeau, who recently concluded his ministry at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City.

Melissa Scheffler Five-minute read.   Resources

The Very Rev. Peter DeVeau.
Supplied image
What’s your favorite memory of your time at the Cathedral?

I have to say that I absolutely love December at the Cathedral. All the people that course through our spaces in the month of December.

Also, I think some of my best memories are of Thanksgiving Eve, when we come together without all the pressure of High Holy Days. We have a service that has a real connection to the rest of the world, in that we take the harvest altar apart because it’s going to be used for food. That seems to embody what I see as the essence of the Cathedral.

Another thing was when we had the service for Nelson Mandela here, after he died. And how the South African community has made a home at the Cathedral. They have their Freedom Day celebration here every year. That, to me, has been an important part of who we are as a Cathedral.

What will you miss the most about being at the Cathedral?

The people. I’ll miss the people and the connections, the connections to Greater Kansas City through the Cathedral. The feeling that I’m in the heart of the city. And I’ll miss staff colleagues. I guess you could boil it all down to relationships.

If you could have people remember one thing about you, what would it be?

That I had a good impact on the Cathedral. And if I’m going to be remembered for something at the Cathedral, I’d like it to be for getting The Way going, the catechumenate. That’s a really transforming time for the people who participate in it. What’s very interesting about the people who have been part of The Way, most of them stick around and are here consistently and they’re strong supporters, both in terms of their time and their resources.

Peter DeVeau.
Supplied image
What do you plan to do in the future?

Hmm, well, those doors are opening, but I’m not sure at this point. I do know that I will do some writing. I already have started outlining a book.

What words of wisdom would you offer to the next Dean?

I think that you need to understand two things here at the Cathedral. The Cathedral is the cathedral for The Diocese of West Missouri and it’s a house of prayer for all people, but it’s also a vibrant parish church and it’s important to keep that in balance.

And I would want to say to the next Dean that it’s not like a parish church in the sense that there are a lot more demands on your time here. So it’s important to gather a staff that is capable of taking care of the day to day tasks that are necessary to keep the church running smoothly.

I would also want to say to the next Dean another important thing, too, is to build many different ways in which people can be connected in small groups. So that they have one-on-one relationships with people in the congregation, so that there’s better connections between everyone.

Dean Peter DeVeau formally retires in July 2018. This interview was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Angelus.

Melissa Scheffler is Communications Coordinator at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.

How Many Episcopalians Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

How energy efficiency saved $1,200 at St. Anne’s last year.

Eric Rhodes Eight-minute read.   Resources

Replacing Lighting at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church Lee’s Summit

Image: Eric Rhodes


And the answer is: three. One to call an electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much they liked the old one. Okay, so maybe not at St. Anne’s where a lightbulb change brought about a savings of $1,200 a year.

Like many churches, St. Anne’s resources are limited, so we must make the right choices – especially when it comes to how we invest our money and use the physical plant. Each church has its own unique needs and requirements. A dollar spent on the church plant is one that cannot be spent on ministry or supporting clergy. While you can’t ignore the buildings, you don’t want to spend more than necessary. Here I want to share our story of how we’ve worked to lower our electrical spending from $5,400 in 2014 to $3,235 in 2017- while rates went up over 10% during this period.

Some of the savings came from simply being better stewards of our usage – turning off those lights (just like your parents told you to do). However, a lot of our savings came from making the right investments in the way we take care of our building.

At St. Anne’s we were faced with roughly 50% of our sanctuary bulbs burning out every three years. We decided there needed to be a change, it was uneconomical to pay to replace half our bulbs every three years, not to mention the time and energy wasted. LEDs are all the rage, so this is where we started. We could replace the bulbs less often and they would be more energy efficient. We soon discovered that each fixture currently being used was 500 watts! Our sanctuary was using the equivalent of 175 lights.

Very Expensive Light Fixtures
Image: Eric Rhodes

Having made the decision to make changes, the next question was how. We began exploring opportunities to replace our 21 sanctuary light bulbs and we knew it would be expensive! And boy was it, we ended up ordering 22 lights at a cost of $225 apiece, or roughly $5,200! These are commercial fixtures, you can’t just walk into your favorite hardware store and pick them up. The lights were retrofits that fit our existing dimmers. However, if you have simple bulbs in your space LEDs can be found off the shelf that are much cheaper and easier to replace.

Changing the Light Fixtures

Image: Eric Rhodes

Like all churches, we worry about funding, luckily the installation was going to be provided free of charge by a parishioner who is an electrician, but we still had to cover the $5,200 costs. Normally, the price to replace all the lights would be $420 plus about $300 for a lift rental. So, there was a roughly $4,480 gap in funding.

Luckily, this is where your utility provider steps in. KCPL has a 20-30% rebate per fixture. We were able to secure a rebate of $1,150 for the interior lights, cutting the actual cost down to $3,330. To cover this shortfall we were able to solicit additional funds from the parish.

We worked with the electrician and supply company who set us up. The lights came in and were installed during a very long 10-hour day but we knew we would be seeing savings for a long time.

… I can’t stress enough, if you have lights that are high usage or require high wattage, you need to replace them… If you have lights that burn out often, put in a LED. The fixtures may be expensive but make the investment.

We spent the first year with bills coming in 20 – 30% lower than previous comparable months. Even when KCPL made a rate increase mid-way through the first year we still had lower bills. As a side note, business utility rates are different, so you really need to understand your bill to see where you can save. Over the next full year we went on to cut our usage by 7,880 KwH, $1,159 in savings, with the bonus of a decrease of 9,600 pounds of CO2. For us, this is smart work. First, LEDs don’t burn out at the same rate, 18 months and they are still all working- so no replacing bulbs every few years, meaning maintenance costs go down. Second, we are investing in future savings, which allows us to reallocate that money to more important priorities. Thirdly, and best of all, we are lowering our impact on the environment. We are winning all around.

Following our success with that project, we decided to replace our outside lights, again with an eligible rebate. At this point, we only replaced our security or decorative lighting and have plans to tackle parking lot lighting later. With this project, we chose to prioritize the savings and environmental impact over lowering our light pollution. This is a tradeoff, but the safety and security concerns outweighed decreasing our light pollution.

Vestries, I can’t stress enough, if you have lights that are high usage or require high wattage, you need to replace them. If you have lights that require professionals to change, next time, put a LED in. If you have lights that burn out often, put in a LED. The fixtures may be expensive but make the investment. If you don’t have the funds, ask for them. Often power companies will rebate commercial light fixtures. They will save you money. Your year on year savings can be used on ministries in your church.

And the best news? In 2017. Our overall spending was down 10.2%.

Take time to start replacing those bulbs, look to your utilities to see what rebates might be available. Replace thermostats with smart thermostats. Our thermostat reverts back to energy-saving levels every three hours, just in case someone turns it on and forgets it.

And the best news? In 2017 our overall spending was down 10.2%.

Eric Rhodes is a member of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lee’s Summit and can be found turning down the thermostat or lights on any given Sunday.

Notes

  • KCPL has increased our rates 7 times in the last 11 years. Around an 80% increase over the period. Our investments will help absorb future increases.
  • We obtained our Smart thermostats free from KCPL.
  • Check with your local utilities. Some offer to come to your site to perform an energy audit. This is a great way to see where your usage is and identify potential projects to help save — both large and small.

We are the Brotherhood of St. Andrew

The Brotherhood of St. Andrew is a 133-year-old ministry to men in Episcopal and Anglican churches. Currently, the Brotherhood has over 4,000 members in more than 500 chapters.

Jim Goodson Five-minute read.   Resources


The purpose of the Brotherhood is to bring men and youth to Jesus Christ. The men in this ministry have a rule of life that includes the disciplines of prayer, study, and service. Sharing these disciplines creates a sense of purpose in men’s lives, bonds them together and provides opportunities for men to share their faith journey questions and to learn from each other how to follow Christ and bring others into his kingdom.

Men, by nature, keep their problems to themselves. The Brotherhood offers an avenue where men can allow themselves to share concerns about their spiritual and personal lives.

… as Christians, we are called by God to feed the poor, visit those who are sick or in prison, comfort the afflicted, and as Brothers in Christ our daily prayers and regular studies challenge us to encourage and support others in their walk with Christ.

Clergy often turn to the men in the Brotherhood to provide leadership roles in the Church. The Rev. Jim Nelson, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Friendswood, Texas says, “For me as the rector of a church, the Brotherhood is a group of men who take their faith seriously, who I can count on to put Scripture into service both within the parish and in the community.”

Brotherhood chapters and organized men’s ministries perform hundreds of local, community and worldwide outreach ministries. These ministries include everything from painting the church buildings to driving people to church, building Faith Chests for the newly baptized to raising funds to support ministries in Honduras, Peru, and Uganda.

Brotherhood chapters are quick to respond to crises in their local communities. Brotherhood chapters and men’s ministry groups hold fund-raising events to support homeless veterans, abused women, build Habitat for Humanity Homes and provide food, clothing and shelter to people in need.

One Oregon chapter built a ship to deliver a medical mission team throughout the Micronesian islands.

All Brotherhood chapters perform some form of ministry in their parishes, towns and cities.

All Brotherhood chapters perform some form of ministry in their parishes, towns and cities. Brotherhood chapters are quick to respond to crises in their local communities. When a tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, hundreds of Brothers from Texas and Oklahoma responded almost immediately, helping families recover and rebuild their homes. The same thing happened in 2012 when the hurricane Sandy struck New York and New Jersey. A team of Brothers was on the scene before the National Guard.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is a member of the Brotherhood
Image: Gary Allman

When an explosion rocked the hamlet of West Texas in 2013, hundreds of Brothers contributed thousands of dollars even as Brothers from nearby Waco were on the scene helping clean up the mess. Most recently, the flooding in Houston, Mississippi, and the mud-slides in California brought Brothers from our churches out to help.

On a national level, the Brotherhood leadership provides speakers to regional meetings throughout the nation, to educate and inform men and women in our churches and communities about the racial reconciliation, recovery from addictions, and provide prison ministries both inside and outside state and federal prisons.

Brothers are involved in many ministries both in their local parishes and worldwide.
Image: Brotherhood of St. Andrew

“We help churches develop Veteran Friendly Congregations,” President Jeffrey Butcher says. “It’s a proven program that offers support to veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts.” We work with congregations to assist them in developing and supporting Scout troops, we offer discipleship and mentor training programs and we work with congregations to help combat sex trafficking.

So why do we do these things? Because as Christians, we are called by God to feed the poor, visit those who are sick or in prison, comfort the afflicted, and as Brothers in Christ our daily prayers and regular studies challenge us to encourage and support others in their walk with Christ.

If your church does not have a Brotherhood of St. Andrew chapter and you would like to get information about starting one, contact President Jeff Butcher or Executive Director Tom Welch (contact details below).

May the power of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you always. 

Jim Goodson is editor of the St. Andrew’s Cross, the monthly publication of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.


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What Are You Doing This Year?

Join us for this year’s Book Study Challenge.

The Rev. Dr. Canon Steven R. Rottgers One-minute read.   Resources

During my 32+ years as a parish priest, I’ve watched many a New Year’s Resolution falter and fail within days and weeks of its initial formation. I’ve since adopted a KISS attitude by keeping intended hopes, plans and goals for a New Year to a healthy list of 1-3 items.

I’ve seen the same format playout with Congregations and their hopes, plans and goals for a New Year and Vestry leadership become overwhelmed with well-intended lists of 12-15 points. Ignoring the basic Pareto (80/20) Rule, many frustrations and dashed expectations replace the initial hopes, dreams, plans, and goals.

For this year, 2018, I’m encouraging all clergy, vestries, book clubs, laity, and leadership of all sorts to consider a simple yet transformative path. It’s in the form of a Book Study Challenge. There is no hard “Start” date and no hard “Finish Line” for this plan, yet it does depend upon a thread of commitment on an individual or congregational level to just “Do It!”

Here’s The Plan

  • Gather a group of your choosing such as a Sunday Forum, Book Club, Friendship Circle etc. that will commit to a regular time frame to read and gather to discuss the appointed reading material. (Weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.)
  • Commit to agreed assigned segments/chapters to be read for each period.
  • The Scriptural Reading List is to be from the New Testament Book of Acts (The Good Book Club has a Lent/Easter program reading the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts that would be an option for use)
  • The Co-Reading Text for the Epiphany-Lent Segment of the year is: Beating the Boundaries — the Church God is Calling Us to Be by The Rev. John Spicer, Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City.
  • The co-reading text for the Easter-Pentecost Segment of the year is Cultivating An Evangelistic Church by The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers and Ms. Carrie Boren Headington.

The discussion/study outline is simple for all to participate and be heard

  • What point, thought or idea interests me from the assigned reading of Acts and/or the Co-Reading material?
  • Why does that point resonate with you and perhaps is touching a Passion or Interest?
  • Is there a possible crossover from being just reading material too seriously needing to be studied/explored further and perhaps initiating a plan to make it a reality in your life or the life of your congregation?

An Invitation

Finally, we invite you to come with your group and share your insights, applications or ideas at the Summer Church Summit, Calvary Episcopal Church in Sedalia on Saturday, August 25th, 2018.

Canon Steve is Canon to the Ordinary with The Diocese of West Missouri.


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Eight Stories Of Recovery In The Aftermath Of Hurricane Harvey

On August 25, 2017, the most powerful storm to hit the state of Texas in more than 50 years pummeled the Greater Houston area. Hurricane Harvey. Tens of thousands of residents were devastated with major damage to property and homes.

Mike Smith One-minute read.   Resources

St. Paul’s Community Dinner.
Image: Denise Trevino-Gomez

During major disasters like Harvey, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with church partners to address immediate and long-term needs in impacted communities. Prior to this event, the organization’s US Disaster team provided disaster preparedness training and resources for volunteer leaders in most dioceses around the Episcopal Church including the dioceses of Texas and West Texas. Immediately after the hurricane, key stakeholders across impacted areas were invited to participate in informational webinars to help even more local partners respond. Church leaders were mobilized to distribute resources for temporary housing and household goods, using church knowledge to prioritize those with the greatest need.

Native Texan and Major Gift Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development, Mike Smith, recently traveled to his home state to witness and document the devastating impact of the storm. During his trip, he gained a deeper awareness of how neighbors work together during recovery efforts. Mike also witnessed the strength and power of ecumenical cooperation as congregations and church partners leveraged local relationships to meet the immediate and complex needs of diverse communities throughout Texas.

“If it weren’t for all the churches, we’d be right back where we were right after the storm.”

— Loa Heckendorn, Dickinson, Texas

Read the following short stories that Mike captured during this visit.

Love Made Manifest: A House in Pearland and a Street in Conroe

Image: Mike Smith

We lost all of it. The children lost all their belongings, their toys. But now the kids are happy because it is starting to come together and I’m happy. Very Thankful.

Episcopal Churches and Episcopal Relief & Development partners are doing amazing work all over the vast greater Houston area. Literally, hundreds of church communities are working every day to serve those in need.

St. Andrews Church in Pearland, Texas, 23 miles south of Houston, developed such an appetite for service that three years ago its members formed an outreach mission church called MOSAIC. They hold events with names like “Messy Church,” “Yoga Worship” and “Dinner Worship.” And they rebuild houses for those who barely made it through Harvey. Debbie Allensworth is MOSAIC’s director. She assembles volunteers, organizes their schedules, helps procure building materials and tries to keep everything on schedule.

I visited one of MOSAIC’s rebuilding efforts in Pearland, just a few miles from St. Andrews. It is the home of Norma Gallegos, a single mother of four who supports her family on her job at a local fast food restaurant. Her house lost its roof, floors, several feet of walls, and her family lost many possessions. Norma and her children, ages 8 to 17, have continued to live in the house through rebuilding. It’s chaotic and difficult, but the work is getting done.

“I worked very hard to provide the necessities of life,” Norma said. “We lost all of it. The children lost all the belongings, their toys. They were very sad. But now the kids are happy because it is starting to come together and I’m happy. Very thankful.”

Image: Mike Smith

I can’t think about the world’s problems. I just try to stay focused on this little piece that I can do something about.

40 miles north of Houston in Conroe, Texas, The Abundant Harvest Food Truck serves meals to residents of the Needham Road community. On this half-mile long street, River Oaks Drive, with about 100 homes, everyone lost a lot and some everything.

Molly Carr is the human food service machine that makes this ministry without walls work. I met her at the kitchen of Trinity Episcopal Church in The Woodlands, Texas where Molly, Dulce Salas and their volunteers prep and cook meals.

They had received 160 pounds of donated Texas barbeque—brisket, sausage, ham, and chicken that morning. It would make 400 meals. Molly, Dulce and volunteer Michele Berkowitz made short work of prepping the food, Michele said she saw the food truck on the street one day, looked it up and liked what she read. This is the fourth time she has volunteered to help. The women sliced, pulled, chopped and vacuum-sealed the food and stashed it in the freezer.

Molly drove me to the Needham Road community where she serves regular meals with the help of neighborhood women. Nestled between the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Grants Lake, the street got hammered with floodwater from both sides.

Most of the residents in this community work long days and try to repair their homes between shifts. Some of them are lucky enough to have a trailer, but some are living in tents in the yard. It’s a close-knit community and people look after one another.

After preparing the meals for the food truck, Molly, Dulce and the volunteers meet at one of the residents’ houses and eat together and often have church together.

Molly said she couldn’t think too long about how much work there is still to do, how many people are in need across the Houston area. “I can’t think about the world’s problems. I just try to stay focused on this little piece that I can do something about” she said.

An Organizer Who Connects People with Services

Image: Mike Smith

If it weren’t for all the churches, we’d be right back where we were right after the storm.

116 days after one of the worst storms ever to hit Houston and South Texas, reminders of Hurricane Harvey are everywhere: from spray-painted scrawls that designate “condemned” buildings to piles of wallboard, carpet and two-by-fours mucked out of homes that can still be salvaged.

There is also a lot that isn’t so obvious, such as the work being done by churches and their indefatigable volunteers from the very communities that were hit or neighboring areas.

Loa Heckendorn is food pantry supervisor for M.I. Lewis Social Services in Dickinson, Texas.

“If it weren’t for all the churches,” she said, “we’d be right back where we were right after the storm.”

On the day I arrived, Ms. Heckendorn was handing diapers, boxes of cereal, and other supplies to Chelsea Weaver, whose baby Ava was born five days before Harvey hit. The family needed food, but the M.I. Lewis offices and warehouse couldn’t supply it on their own. Inundated during the storm, their food supply had been ruined.

Enter Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, which donated space to start a new pantry as well as space in the church buildings for the agency’s office functions.

“Holy Trinity has accommodated anything we need,” said Loa. “A lot of the food has come from the church. I’m not even worried about restocking our pantry. The churches will do that.”

Kecia Mallette is director of operations for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dickinson, Texas. She juggles two cell phones and scores of relationships she has made with people all over Dickinson, where roughly 80% of residents suffered damage from Harvey. She bounces over the roads in her black Nissan Frontier, checking on the progress of a rebuilding project or meeting with clergy from other churches in the community, or just stopping by to check on people.

Originally, Mallette’s job was part-time. She came in to help with the parish business processes and to hire and train a new office manager. But Harvey changed all that. Mallette became a founding member of the Galveston County Long Term Recovery Group, sanctioned by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). She’s supervised the building of a new website for a group called Galveston County Recovers.

“It’s an interfaith group that includes non-profits, faith-based organizations, community groups, all of them local,” she said. “The disaster was so broad-based, it required all these groups working together.”

Kecia said that approximately 45,000 people applied for FEMA benefits in Galveston County, south of Houston, and probably 4,500 of them will need individual case management to guide them through the maze of agencies they must navigate to get back on their feet. If Kecia thinks this is an overwhelming job, it doesn’t show. She seems to take one thing at a time, and then move on to the next. And she has helped put Holy Trinity at the forefront of disaster response in the community.

A Melting Pot of Cultures Gather For A Food Fair

Image: Mike Smith

They come here for food, but they leave with so much more.

The line forms before sunrise on the day of the “Food Fair” at ECHOS, Episcopal Community Health Outreach Services. Snippets of Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin, as well as English, are heard as people huddle under blankets in the parking lot of The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. Executive Director Cathy Moore buzzes around the office, making sure that the doors can be opened soon to the 150 or so who wait patiently in the morning cold. A table with donated clothing, diapers, bedding and toys is available to all.

Each client fills out paperwork and interviews with an ECHOS case manager to determine the family’s needs. The staff at ECHOS helps clients sign up for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare and Medicaid. Health care teams from University of Texas Dental Branch, University of Houston Optometric School and Texas Children’s Hospital provide services on a regular basis.

Image: Mike Smith

“They come here for food, but they leave with so much more,” Moore said.

“We want to help them get health services before they walk into an ER when things are so bad, their foot has to come off,” she said. “People wait so long because they think they can’t afford care.”

Through November ECHOS had served almost 11,373 individuals and more than 5,000 households this year. After Harvey, 49% are new clients.

ECHOS was established by The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in 2001, a response to the rapid influx of immigrants and changing demographics in the Southwest Houston community. Many of ECHOS clients live nearby in apartments, many of which were severely damaged by the flooding.

Image: Mike Smith

After I lost everything in Harvey, the nice people here helped me so I choose to help them. I’ve lost but I’ve also been blessed. I’ll be here anytime they need me.

ECHOS provided rental assistance to many who lost their apartments and needed help getting into new housing. They have also provided beds, dressers and tables.

The twice-a-month food fair provides each family 45-60 pounds of fresh produce, fruits, bread and dairy products. The Houston Food Bank is ECHOS’ long-time partner.

Louis Ramirez hoisted boxes of corn from the food bank trailer. He lives in the Southwest Houston neighborhood and was hit hard by the storm. Ramirez finally got back into an apartment on Nov. 1, with rent assistance from ECHOS.

Now he is the one helping others as a regular volunteer at ECHOS.

“After I lost everything in Harvey, the nice people here helped me so I choose to help them. I’ve lost but I’ve also been blessed,” he said. “I’ll be here anytime they need me.“

A Home Restored

Image: Mike Smith

I pinch myself all the time about this house. I would never have believed this could happen.

Kathy and John Bradley stayed in their Dickinson home during the storm. John has emphysema and a heart condition. Kathy had knee replacement surgery recently, so they both had trouble getting around. When it became obvious that they needed to get out of their house, it was too late.

The mandatory evacuation order came late at night when most people, including the Bradleys, were asleep. The couple couldn’t see how to leave safely or where they would go. They played cards at their kitchen table as the waters rose.

“When the water started coming in,” Kathy said, “we swept it out. I’ve lived in Florida so I’ve dealt with hurricanes before. “

The “22-foot ditch” next door—the bayou—was supposed to handle the excess water. It didn’t. And like so many of their neighbors, the Bradleys’ walls were damaged. When the water finally receded, the house was a mess. It needed extensive repairs.

An insurance adjustor walking down the street of abandoned houses saw a debris pile in the front of the Bradleys’ house. It was the only indication that someone might be living there, so he knocked on the door. The adjustor called a local Presbyterian church that put the Bradleys in touch with The Fuller Center for Housing. Fuller is a non-profit ecumenical organization that partners with community groups to build and rehabilitate homes for people in need.

Fuller sent in a team to rebuild; when I visited, they were putting the finishing touches on the house, which now has a new roof, back wall, siding, bathroom, drywall, kitchen island and cabinets. Kathy chose the colors. Everything except the brick was rebuilt.

Fuller decides whose house can be rebuilt based on several priorities, including: people without insurance, income at 50% of area median, elderly, handicapped, single parents with children at home, and owned by the residents. Homeowners are only required to pay what they receive from their insurance company or FEMA. The estimated cost of the repairs done to the Bradleys’ home was $75-80,000, according to Brian Gioe, Fuller’s building director.

The Bradleys have lived in their house at 4805 27th Street East for 30 years. He’s a former Navy veteran who served on the USS Saratoga. She spends a lot of her time taking care of him.

“I pinch myself all the time about this house. I would never have believed this could happen. If this is our last Christmas together, it will be in a beautiful house.”

Forged in a Flood, Two Churches Form a Unique Partnership

Image: Mike Smith

We will light a candle. We will not let despair rule the day.

When Hurricane Harvey and its endless rains pummeled South Texas, Holy Trinity Church in Dickinson, Texas somehow remained above water, miraculous given that the church building sits next to the banks of the Dickinson Bayou.

Faith Lutheran Church, 1.6 miles around the corner and down the street, wasn’t so lucky. Faith lost pews, hymnals, carpet, flooring and walls. Parishioners don’t expect even to get back into the building until late January. The main worship space will take longer and will cost more than they have.

The Rev. Stacy Stringer, rector of Holy Trinity Church, reached out to her counterpart, Pastor Deb Grant, inviting her and the Faith congregation to share Holy Trinity’s space and worship together. They’ve been doing so ever since, with a kind of tag team approach, alternating preaching and celebrating.

I was there on Advent 1. The priests’ stoles and the Advent wreath candles were blue, not purple, a simple act to recognize the Lutheran tradition.

In the Litany for Advent Hope, Pastor Grant prayed: “People of God, what will you do with hope?

The congregational response: “We will light a candle. We will not let despair rule the day.”

Image: Mike Smith

Advent tells us to keep watch, prepare, to see what is needed and then to do something to help. Maybe this is exactly what I’m being called to do.

In her sermon, the Rev. Stringer spoke of the darkness that had threatened so much of the Dickinson community since Harvey, and how easy it can be to fall into despair. But she reminded worshipers that their community had not fallen, that they were bringing light to the world through their care for each other.

“Advent tells us to keep watch, prepare, to see what is needed and then do something to help, “she said.

The Rev. Stringer never thought much about disaster relief and response, but now says, “Maybe this is exactly what I’m being called to do.”

The church parking lot, which was used as a launching point in September for a flotilla of rescue boats, was full on the Sunday I visited. After services, the Rev. Stringer and Pastor Grant greeted worshipers after the 10:30 service.

People lingered, talking with the ministers and each other, finally leaving to return to their lives, some of which will be in flux for a long time.

Heading back down route 517, I passed Faith Lutheran church and saw the marquee that said, simply: “We Thank God for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.”

Relearning the Meaning of Ministry at Mount Olive Baptist Church

Image: Mike Smith

We can’t stop doing this. This is what ministry is all about.

It started with a drive through the neighborhood. Pastor Amos Charles Sowell, the minister at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Dickinson, saw peoples’ houses flooded out, all their possessions ruined.

“I didn’t suffer any damage,” he said. “I saw all these other people who lost their homes, cars, everything.”

He decided, he said, that he didn’t need to play as much golf. He asked for volunteers to prepare meals in the church kitchen for neighbors who didn’t know where their next meal would come from. They started small, rice and beans mostly.

“People came here devastated, with tears in their eyes,” he said.

A food pantry contacted the church and asked if it could deliver two truckloads of food. Pastor Sowell said they would take it. Since then the church kitchen has received more than 45 truckloads, and cars line up around the corner and down the street to pick up food.

Pastor Sowell said they give a lot of food to people who come back two or three times a day. But he knows it’s because they are feeding other families, relatives and neighbors. There is a substantial undocumented population in the area, and they are likely some of the recipients.

Mount Olive has 150 active members and twenty of them volunteer regularly to sort, organize and pack. When we visited, two women packed boxes and two men moved them into trunks of waiting cars. Pastor Sowell says he packs boxes in his sleep.

He asked his congregation if they would like to stop this work at the end of October or November. The congregation decided to continue indefinitely. An older woman in the church who regularly volunteers told him, “We can’t stop doing this. This is what ministry is all about.”

Mike Smith is a Major Gift Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development.


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This article was originally published by Episcopal Relief & Development.

The Origins Of The Saint Francis Foundation

The Kansas priest who brought God’s redemptive grace to troubled boys.

Shane Schneider Five-minute read.   Resources

Fr. Bob — The Rev. Robert Mize Jr. (Center) — photographed in 1945 with boys from the St. Francis Boys’ Home
Image: St. Francis Foundation

Western Kansas in the 1940s was a vast expanse of sky and rolling earth sparsely dotted with towns and farmsteads. Episcopalians and their churches were few and far apart, cast across 10,000 square miles of wind-blown prairie served by The Rev. Robert Mize Jr., a young and energetic priest. Fr. Bob served isolated churches and families with a pastoral heart and a spirit of simplicity modeled after Francis of Assisi.

Like Francis, Fr. Bob cared little for money and embraced a poverty that was both practical and unaffected. This was just as well, since the Missionary Diocese of Western Kansas was poor, and his boss, The Rt. Rev. Robert Mize Sr., could barely afford to pay his son’s living expenses. That was okay with Fr. Bob, who preferred to wear donated, second-hand clothing and who gave nearly every coat he owned to homeless men he met on the street. Like Francis, he served Christ by serving the poor and marginalized. He believed resolutely in the power of forgiveness to heal even the most broken, and though he never married, his spiritual children can be counted in the thousands.

Fr. Bob — The Rev. Robert Mize Jr. — 1938
Image: St. Francis Foundation

Nearly 75 years ago, Fr. Bob opened Saint Francis Boys’ Home in the dilapidated former “Old People’s Home” in Ellsworth – against the advice and counsel of, well, nearly everyone. During his travels across the Kansas prairie, Fr. Bob had met many boys in trouble with the law for reasons ranging from truancy and vandalism to car theft and armed robbery. Most ended up in the Topeka Industrial School or other institutions of the juvenile justice system – disregarded, forgotten, written off. That any boy might be given up for lost was an affront to the redemptive power of God, and it troubled him deeply.

Fr. Bob believed a Christ-centered approach held the key to a boy’s rehabilitation. He called it “Therapy in Christ,” and it involved daily prayer, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Fr. Bob fervently believed unconditional love and forgiveness (even before it was sought) would enable boys to regain their self-worth and begin to order their lives accordingly.

It didn’t happen overnight. Fr. Bob initially faced skepticism and stiff community opposition in Ellsworth. He spent countless hours apologizing to local merchants, returning stolen merchandise, and tracking down boys on joyrides in stolen cars. Yet, he never wavered in his conviction that unconditional love and forgiveness could change lives. And it did. Gradually, most of the boys quit running, reformed, and left the home to lead happy, productive lives. Eventually, Saint Francis opened another Boys’ Home near Salina, and by the time Fr. Bob left in 1960 to become Bishop of Damaraland in Southwest Africa, the ministry he founded had built a solid reputation of success throughout the state, the nation, and the Church.

Today, Saint Francis Community Services serves more than 10,000 children and families through active ministry in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Mississippi, and in the Central American countries of El Salvador and Honduras. As a ministry, Saint Francis serves and advocates for children and families struggling with poverty, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health issues, domestic violence, refugee status, and human trafficking.

Bob Mize died in 2000 following other successful ministries in Africa and the United States. Today, he lies buried back on the windswept prairie, in a humble church cemetery near rural Hays. Many over the years have called him a saint; perhaps he was. Only God knows for sure. But to the thousands of children and youth served by Saint Francis over the last seven decades, Fr. Bob’s vision gave life-saving healing, hope, and redemption.

Shane Schneider is the Senior Copywriter for The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services. He is the major contributor for Saint Francis’ quarterly magazine Hi-Lites.


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Loving as Christ Loved the Church: An Apologia for Gay Marriage

Fr. David argues that the Good News of Christ Jesus — Good News for all people, gay and straight — makes no distinction between them when it comes to monogamous lifelong committed relationships.

The Very Rev. David Kendrick Eight-minute read.   Resources

Lanora and Gates kneel at the Altar rail at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Springfield.
Image: Facebook

On Saturday, January 20th, I celebrated and blessed my first same-sex marriage, which was also the first at St. John’s. If you had told me I would have done this 10 years ago when I was first ordained I would have had a hard time believing you. If you had told me 20 years ago that as a layperson I would even have attended a same-sex wedding, I would not have believed you. And yet I have done just that.

The vast majority of my parishioners are either supportive or at least accepting of this. But a few have questioned whether, to paraphrase Richard Niebuhr, I’m putting Culture above Christ by linking the Church to a social movement for gay rights rather than standing for the truth. This article is an adaptation of a longer pastoral letter in which I tried to explain why that is not the case. But justifying this to my local parish alone is not enough. I promised at my ordination to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel (from the Old English God-Spell—Good News) of Jesus Christ. And so, I here proclaim that the Good News of Christ Jesus—Good News for all people, gay and straight—makes no distinction between them when it comes to monogamous lifelong committed relationships.

Twenty years ago, it seemed to me that Holy Scripture commanded two righteous ways of sexual expression. One was a lifelong marriage between a man and woman. The other was more a sublimation of that sexuality, namely lifelong celibacy in anticipation of that day when there will be no need for exclusive relationships because, standing in God’s glory, we shall all love each other equally. That was how I read Jesus’ teaching on marriage and celibacy in Matthew 19:1-12.

I deceived myself and others by my supposed compassion for those whom I took at their word that their attraction to the same gender was as much an instinct as mine to the opposite gender. By no means was their attraction a sin, I insisted, just their acting on it.

But the more I studied Jesus’ teaching, in Education for Ministry before Seminary, in Seminary, and after Seminary, the deeper and deeper understanding I was given of Jesus’ teaching on human sexuality. And the more and more convicted I became over the chains I was willing to place on my gay brothers and sisters. Jesus was being asked about marriage at a time when it was only between men and women, but his words should not be fixed to the cultural presumptions of that audience, time and place.

Having just heard Jesus say that they can’t divorce their wives at will, his male disciples then ask if they should be like Jesus,

1910His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” Matthew 19:10

In other words, must we be celibate like you Jesus? To this Jesus answers,

1911“Not everybody can accept this teaching, but only those who have received the ability to accept it.” Matthew 19:11a

Quite obviously, no human being can possibly give such a gift to another human being or impose it. Only God can give the ability to accept lifelong celibacy, and only “those who can accept it should accept it,” (Matthew 19:12) Jesus concludes.

While he may have been speaking to straight males, I concluded that Jesus’ teaching should be applied equally to those whose desire for union with the same gender is as much an instinct as the instinctive desire of heterosexual persons. I was also convicted of my cruelty in presuming to impose an obligation of lifelong celibacy on a certain group of people when I would never have considered imposing that burden on myself or those like me. If anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, discerns the gift and call of celibacy from God, who am I to judge? But who am I also to judge those who have not discerned from God the ability within themselves to abandon the worldly hope of an exclusive loving relationship?

Lanora and Gates are Married, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Springfield.
Image: Facebook

And so, I came to believe that Jesus would no more impose lifelong celibacy on homosexual persons than he did on heterosexual males. And I came to this belief not by ignoring the words of the Gospel, but by reading more deeply, the Word made flesh (John 1:14) speaking through the human authors of Holy Scripture.

But marriage? One might pastorally accept and even bless a monogamous gay relationship. But marriage as the outward and visible sign of God’s grace and Christ’s personal presence? Gay marriage a sacrament? What would I say to a gay couple asking not just for a blessing (which I and most priests are rather profligate about giving) but for the public celebration of their commitment as sacramental, a sign and vehicle of God’s grace and Christ’s presence?

More than once since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in July of 2015, homosexual couples have asked to be married at my parish church. Each time I explained the longstanding rule in my parish that at least one of them must be an active member of the parish. Thus, as with any other couple, a gay couple would need to visit us, get to know us, kneel before the Bishop and be either confirmed or received before I could consider their request. Gates Wagner and Lanora Samaniego fitted that description perfectly.

In May of 2016, the St. John’s Evangelism Committee proposed that we participate as a sponsor of the Greater Ozarks Gay Pride Festival, and the Vestry voted to do. So, on Saturday, June 18th, just one week after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, we went to our gay brothers and sisters rather than wait for them to risk coming to us on any given Sunday not knowing how they would be received. And it was there that I met Lanora and Gates.

Soon after we met at Pridefest, Gates and Lanora made their first visit. Coming from the Roman Catholic tradition, they took to our Anglo-Catholic parish like fish to water. They were received into The Episcopal Church by Bishop Field that November. They are both active in the Outreach Ministry Group, and the Evangelism Committee. And their Friday yoga class has helped parishioners and others in pain. In short, Lanora and Gates fully committed themselves to this parish before asking me to officiate at their marriage.

I agreed to do the same premarital counseling with them as I do with other couples. Once they had completed that counseling and I was convinced of their mature commitment to each other, I found myself with Saint Philip the Deacon on that wilderness road with the Ethiopian Eunuch who asked in so many words — What is to keep me from the Sacrament of Baptism? (Acts 8:26-40). Simply because he had been picked as a newborn to serve the Ethiopian Queen, and his testicles crushed with a stone, this Eunuch could be drawn to the One and only God of Israel, and even go to Jerusalem as a religious pilgrim. But as a disfigured eunuch (and not of his own choice) he could never be a Jew by the Law of Moses. As that eunuch asked Philip, so I heard Gates and Lanora asking me — What is to keep us from the Sacrament of Marriage?

What exactly makes marriage a sacrament of God’s infinite grace? “[Marriage] signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church,” the Priest says in the opening declaration of the Marriage ceremony. Underpinning this teaching are the words of Saint Paul to the Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:25, 32.

In the patriarchal society of Paul’s time, it makes sense that these words were directed to husbands, whom prevailing culture said should assert authority over their wives (an idea Paul paid lip service to while emphasizing much more the husband’s obligation to sacrifice himself for his wife if necessary). Understanding more fully the equality of male and female, the Church today calls both people in a marriage to love each other as Christ loved the Church and died for that Church. That is what makes a marriage Christian, not the gender or orientation of the two persons involved.

Seeing that Christ-like love in Lanora and Gates for each other, and their commitment to that part of Christ’s Body the Church called Episcopal, I was able to look at Paul’s words to the Ephesians about the “mystery” (in Latin, sacramentum) of marriage more deeply than the culture in which they were written, the same way I had looked at Jesus’ words in Matthew. And I could see no reason why something that no person chooses determined whether their love for each other was sacramental. And so today, they are Lanora and Gates Samaniego.

None of this has been about surrendering to the Culture. It has been about hearing the Word of God who is with God and is God speaking eternal truth through the human words of Holy Scripture across the millennia. It has also been about God the Holy Spirit opening our minds to a new interpretation of those human words.

1612“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:12-13

I believe that same-sex marriage is one of those things that has come. And I cannot say no to those whose monogamous love is no different based simply on their gender. To God’s grace and truth through Jesus Christ I offer my mind, and my heart, and those in my care whose love for God is at least equal to mine.

The Very Rev. David Kendrick is Southern Dean and Rector at St. John’s, Springfield.


An Advent Meditation

Patience and moderation are other key virtues cultivated during Advent.

The Very Rev. Dr. Don H. Compier Five-minute read.  
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I confess that every year I find it hard to explain exactly what Advent is all about. And I think that somehow this is the point of this season! In this time of waiting, preparation, and yes, even a bit of repenting (remember that purple, the color of Lent, is one of the two acceptable liturgical colors for Advent), we are supposed to realize that our pre-conceived sureties probably won’t hold up.

Advent calls us to open our minds and hearts and see what God has in store. Humility, willingness to learn and change, is a virtue especially appropriate to this time of year.

Let’s begin with the obvious: proper observance of Advent defies the expectations of our broader culture. We say “Happy New Year!” not on January 1 (that is the Feast of the Holy Name), but on the first Sunday of Advent. And everyone around us is counseling “let’s be jolly” and rushing to bring out the Christmas decorations, saturate the airwaves with Christmas music and tv specials, and engage in the usual consumerist frenzy.

Our culture is so eager to get to the good parts that we are pushing the start of the Christmas season further and further back. We can no longer wait for Santa to show up in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Stores now stock shelves with Christmas products even before All Saints’ Eve (commonly called Halloween). In contrast, we Christians must wait, ponder, be penitent.

Patience and moderation are other key virtues cultivated during Advent.

If you look at the lectionary texts for the Sundays of Advent, you’ll see that prophets really come to the fore now. Who and what are prophets? They are spokespersons for God Almighty. This means that before saying a word they must devote a lot of time to prayer and contemplation. Prophets must first take the time to be mystics. As prophetic training comes to fruition in God’s good time, its primary fruit is a new vision. By God’s grace prophets see the world very differently. The Spirit helps them cut through smokescreens and cover-ups and excuses and denial and false hopes as well as despair to see things as they really are.

We often get the impression that prophets are bringers of bad news, of condemnation and coming judgment and disaster. That is certainly true. Prophets show us that we really have gotten ourselves and the whole planet into quite a bad mess. But it is not the whole truth. With the new lenses God provides prophets can also see very unexpected help coming. They proclaim well-founded hope even in the worst circumstances (and remember that most of the Biblical writers lived in terrible times, as do most people around the world today).

Prophets know that the God of unfathomable, inexhaustible Love will always have the last word.

In Advent, let’s listen to the prophets. Let’s consider sharing their vocation, as our baptismal vows clearly imply we should. Let’s devote more time to listening to God. We self-reliant frontier people, rugged individualists, citizens of one of history’s great empires, must hear this: we need Jesus to come.

If this truth can’t get into our bones, Christmas will mean little more than unwrapping more stuff, much of which we really don’t need, and once more overeating and trying to manage family dynamics. We’ll miss out on the amazing fact that the Creator and Ruler of our vast universe loves us so much, in spite of the mess we have made of everything, that the Holy One became one of us, a vulnerable poor babe born in a stable.

If we don’t get Advent right, it’s like beginning to read a novel with its third chapter and then wondering what on earth is going on. Christ the Incarnate Lord comes into a broken world in which people cannot see clearly and have lost their way. Advent sets the stage. Let’s allow God to tell the whole story from the beginning, all the way to the end already anticipated on the first Sunday of Advent: Jesus is coming again to bring all God’s good purposes to fulfillment.

The Very Rev. Dr. Don H. Compier is the Dean of Bishop Kemper School for Ministry

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This article was original published on December 4, and sent out as the BKSM Monday Memo.