Apollo 8 at 50: In the beginning

On Christmas Eve 1968 the astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first people to orbit the Moon.

The Rev. Mark W. Ohlemeier Five-minute read.   Resources
Earth Rising. Image credit: NASA

On Christmas Eve in 1968, three American astronauts became the first human beings to travel to another world. The Apollo 8 crew — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders — had made the quarter-million mile journey from the Earth to the Moon, a hazardous voyage through the deadly vacuum of space. Even though this mission would be overshadowed seven months later by the first manned Moon landing, the flight of Apollo 8 was a remarkable technological achievement. And it was made even more memorable by the way in which the crew decided to mark this historic event.

The astronauts wanted to do something special during their live television broadcast from lunar orbit, and had been contemplating it for weeks prior to the mission. They considered several different ideas, such as rewriting the words to “Jingle Bells” or “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” with a space-moon theme, but that idea didn’t seem to fit the occasion. They attempted to draft a message of world peace, but everything they came up with seemed too hollow. Just a few days before launch, however, they knew that their dilemma was solved thanks to a suggestion made by a friend of the crew.

As the Apollo 8 spacecraft circled the Moon on that Christmas Eve, millions of people on Earth tuned in to witness the broadcast. The astronauts pointed out the contrast between the lifeless surface below them and the tiny, blue orb outside their window that was home to all known life in the universe. Then, each man took a turn reading the first few verses from the book of Genesis:

1 In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, …

These mortal men, as they moved through the dark void of space, had an unprecedented view of creation and chose to mark the occasion by praising the work of the Creator.

The year 1968 was a troubled time in American history: the conflict in Vietnam was still raging; riots at the Democratic National Convention and elsewhere had caused millions in damage; and the country reeled from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. But the mission of Apollo 8 and its message from the Moon offered hope to a divided country and an uncertain world. Fifty years later, while we face our own conditions of national and global anxiety, we can reflect upon the mission of Apollo 8 as a time when the world came together as one, if only for a brief moment, as the crew wished everyone “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”  

The Rev. Mark W. Ohlemeier serves as Assistant Rector at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri.

Equipped and Sent

An eight-month tenure at Holden Village, a Lutheran Community in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State has a lasting effect.

Mary Chiles Five-minute read.   Resources
Holden Village Dining Hall Millerj870 [Public domain]

For eight months in 2012, my husband, Mike, and I were on the staff of an alpine dreamland. Holden Village, a Christian retreat center housing 500 persons, was situated in the Wenatchee National Forest in the middle of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Snow-capped peaks surrounded historic dwellings of the former mining village built in 1938. Rustic footbridges traversed the mountain stream that practically sang as it flowed through the Village. It was like living in a Christmas card.

We lived together in Christian Community. We worshiped together daily. There were artists and musicians. Theologians and children as well as retirees and recent college graduates engaged in conversation. High school church groups from around the country came to groom wilderness trails by day and play pool by night.

Our work conflicts were framed in the idea that as Christians, God enabled us to forgive one another as we walked through encounters with one another in an isolated setting. We ate together. Lifelong friendships forged around rousing table talk and challenging ideas. We laughed and cried together.

It was hard to leave. Often people thought that the communal dining, hiking, and worship were so unique, so lovely, that they should stay forever.

But it was not to be. This was a place to soak in practical world changing theology for the very purpose of leaving in order to be the Church in the world.

The express intention of the place was that we were equipped to be sent.

The Eucharist is like that. We come to kneel in a beautiful setting. Hundreds, often those we have known and loved, have knelt to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at that very spot. It is a liturgical wonderland. There are babies and elders. The choir and congregation sing as we receive. The physical surroundings are exquisite. We are connected in community through our common meal and Lord.

It’s such a holy place. I don’t want to go. And yet—the express intention of that place is to equip me to be sent.

Before we go we ask God,

… Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen. Post-Communion Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, p. 365.

Equipped and ready to be sent.  

Mary Chiles serves on the vestry at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield Missouri.

We Are Members of One Another

Part three on Deepening Your Relationship with God by Worshiping with Other Faiths. What can we learn from how other faiths worship?

Carolyn B Thompson 15 minute read.   Resources
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 Image: Gary Allman

After one Sunday morning service a pastor said to me, “We’re doing something wrong. We’re not growing. What you’ve seen at other churches and faith traditions could help us.” I said I’d love to talk about ‘The Thing’s I’ve learned, whenever the pastor had time. Over the next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about that request. I’d seen so many things, and before I knew it, the concise answer was there — thank you God, as usual, for providing me an answer before I even asked You.

For me, successful faith communities have the following three key attributes:

  • Dynamic preaching, with the homily/message/sermon including clear to-do’s;
  • Inspiring and interactive music;
  • ‘The Thing’– that ‘something’ — a congregation needs, that is promoted within and outside the community.

My first two articles were very much about what I gained and learned from my experiences worshiping with other faiths. This article is first, a filtering of what I’ve experienced around the question – what makes a faith community successful? And second, it puts words to what I have seen, the actual, specific things faith communities do, that made me feel they were successful. It comes from the many places of worship I’ve visited as an outsider over the past two years.

Needless to say, these are my personal conclusions, and I hope that there is something useful here for everyone to take away. Whether you are: just sitting in the pews, vestry members, worship leaders, clergy, or musicians. I offer these observations in the hope that they can help you strengthen your community by talking about them, making comparisons, and by implementing anything that might be appropriate to your situation.

Dynamic preaching, with the homily/message/sermon including clear to-do’s

The people who preach exhibit massive body and vocal energy. And energy does not equal volume, but it does include changes in volume and pace – like when needing to exhibit calmness or compassion, and pauses for emphasis as well as hand and body movements even facial expressions that illustrate the point:

  • they are incredible storytellers – the stories are told in such detail you can see what they’re talking about unfolding, they use humor and jokes when they fit the message;
  • the wording in every sermon calls us to apply it to our church and us corporately, not just to us as individuals as most of the sermons I’ve previously heard do;
  • they verbally and physically involve the congregation with questions, and wait for answers;
  • they expect people to take away things to do. The churches enable this by giving people a place to write what they’ll do. For example, small cards or a blank page in the bulletin.

I’ve seen many successful styles that caused the congregation’s eyes to be glued on the preacher, including one that was an hour-long sermon – I was shocked when I saw the time, it had just flown by.

Inspiring and Interactive Music

This is not about the genre of music or how skilled the musicians are, though those do inspire us. We each have very different tastes and if it’s not to your liking you likely won’t feel inspired, and then won’t want to interact with the music. 

This is about music in which the words tell a meaningful story about our relationship with God:

  • Music and music leaders who create ways to get everyone singing. Lots and lots of music so it becomes clear to people that it’s a method for worship;
  • A song leader or choir to encourage people to join in, use a pitch that most people can sing;
  • Every so often have the congregation choose hymns;
  • Get many people/and not just instrumentalists and choir members involved in the music;
  • Include people outside the congregation – some churches call it “special music”;
  • make the making of music a priority.

I knew that a place of worship I was attending had inspirational and interactive music when I looked around and saw a clearly expectant look on the faces of the congregation. 

Some Examples

  • Repetition: some churches used a piece of music — other than service music — over and over, seasonally and as interludes in the service. Over time people even began singing during the instrumental interludes.
  • Catering to different tastes: a church with 3 services chose a different styles of music and a different way to produce music for each service. Another with one service designated different Sunday’s for different styles of music: contemporary, spiritual, camp songs, traditional.
  • Spontaneous singing or music: either from the worship leader, priest, or instrumentalist – I’ve seen this during the sermon, when a prayer is requested. Even on birthdays, and it was very moving because it fit exactly with what was being said at that moment.
  • No instruments: without an organist or instruments you can use recordings designed specifically for this situation, or provided you have the necessary licenses and permissions you can make your own from other sources such as YouTube and play it on a phone or a computer. Some faith traditions don’t allow instruments, but oh do they sing — I was at one where we sang eight hymns and the congregation did it in parts!

The Thing’– That ‘something’ — a congregation needs, that is promoted within and outside the community

It’s easy to tell what ‘The Thing’ is within a few minutes – it’s on their walls, it’s in their formal mission statement, it’s talked about in each sermon, it’s evident in the types of groups and activities they have, and you’ll hear it in informal conversations ; during coffee hour, in side comments at vestry meetings, while passing the Peace – not that you’re supposed to be socializing while passing the Peace, but …

I realize this sounds like I’m only talking about how a church promotes its mission to its community, but most of the churches where I saw this clearly demonstrated had not done a formal assessment to determine what ‘The Thing’ was.  In the vast majority of the examples I give below ‘The Thing’ was realized organically.

That takes listening/discernment of God’s calling as well as the people’s.

Some Examples

  • Something for Everyone: one church with large number of people worked to provide something for every part of the congregation. They worked to bring in every age, race, and socio-economic class. On Sunday morning there were many activities going on from 8 a.m. – noon. There were an even larger number of activities on weekdays. Their main method of promotion was not planned as such, but they had their building used each day of the week by internal and external groups. Hundreds or more people passed through the doors each week — a church may not be huge but it will likely benefit it to be inviting and accepting.
  • Church Buildings: built for all the local community to use in the fulfillment of the church’s mission. Building that are used virtually every day of the week by by the whole community. Part of a sermon one Sunday was a story with this vision and everyone works toward it. This is a church where one sermon made each part of the mission statement come to life and “our life and work together” is mentioned throughout all the other sermons – even when asking for volunteers the words are “so if you want to be a part of________”, as opposed to “I need three people to do ___________”). They are outward thinking and say they “want to make a country, and a world we want to live in.”
  • Involved Membership: Even if only one member is doing something they talk about it as a church activity. They list things in their newsletter and it’s mentioned during the announcements in the service (some project it on a screen before and after service). It’s in the external community paper and on the church’s up-to-date website. Things like – weekly internal/external community dinners; Easter egg hunt and brunch; haircuts for children of parents who can’t afford it just before the first day of school; community craft shows, seasonal/issue-based help to community members.
  • A Vibrant Church Community: you feel instantly that they care for each other and for you. Things like – very specific prayer requests from the congregation, occasionally, so many that they last as long as the sermon; each section of the Prayers of People read by a different person from their seat; prayer requests read by the congregation from a list in unison; people using the announcement time to ask who needs help after an issue (flood, big storm, etc).

In Conclusion

People have spoken to me about what I’m doing – some think I’m brave, some think it’s a wonderful experience, and others think it’s dangerous for me to participate in “other religions”.   These three, very different reactions are exactly what I’m getting out of this!  My objective in participating in different faith communities is to strengthen my relationship with God, with others, and with myself. 

Jesus said it wasn’t going to be easy to be one of his followers, and that people, (some will say the Devil) will try to sway me away from understanding too much.  But I’m also told that the more I understand the more God will reveal to me.  My personal understanding of God has become so much clearer with the teachings of other faith traditions co-mingled in my being.  I am thankful every day for those who speak the truth.

Reading Resources

One visit or experience of a different faith’s worship is not enough to understand all of a faith’s nuances. Imagine the impression you would get if you were to only visit an Episcopal Church on Maundy Thursday! Here are some of the books I read after visiting faith traditions that were radically different to my Episcopalian upbringing. I’ve also included some others I happened upon that had a large impact on my journey.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and Heart of the Middle East

Written as a fiction, it’s a good explanation of the reason for the Muslim vs Jewish issues.

The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew

Three women search for understanding.

The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent

This put words to why I love being an Episcopalian.

The Life of Mary Baker Eddie

A biography that helped me get the basics of Christian Science.

Learning to Breathe: My Year long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life

Just enough description of Buddhism to get me started.

The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet

A biography that helped me understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Unity: A Quest for Truth

A straightforward description of the ideas behind Unity Church.

God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World

A generic introduction to key religions.

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

Resources

Back to Contents

Three Months (30 Days) In India

Ministry can take on many forms. In 2015 Julia Taylor embarked on what she thought was to be a three month stay in India, working at the NRI General Hospital, Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh, India with Project Hope.

Julia Taylor 15 minute read.   Resources
Saying Goodbyes. Supplied image

My journey for three months with Project Hope began with two boring days driving to Arizona. After I arrived in Phoenix (the temperature was 105°F) I read the instructions for my trip to India (I thought I had read them several times, but apparently I had only printed them). I discovered that I needed a visa! And antimalarial medicine! I completed my online application for an e-visa and contacted my primary care provider in Ozark who sent a prescription for doxycycline (antimalarial) to Hawaii (my next stop).

With my e-visa approved, but only for 30 days — I could renew it in India (or so I thought) — I left for Honolulu.

I spent five days in Hawaii, and while I was there, I attended church at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral. I went to the 8 a.m. service which is mainly in Hawaiian. It was a special service remembering Prince Albert’s (son of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha) baptism. Because in 1862 the four year old prince had become an honorary member of a fire fighting company, the Honolulu Fire Department was there in uniform and with a fire truck. Hawaii’s governor and first lady were also at the service as well as black gowned descendants of Hawaiian royalty. The school my three daughters attended while we lived in Hawaii, St. Andrew’s Priory, is on the same property as the cathedral so I took a few pictures for them.

All too soon my time in Hawaii was over, and I was up early for my flight. I had a quick walk around Waikiki to say aloha to Oahu and then went to the airport. I was flying China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai and was the only Caucasian passenger. The seat next to me was empty so I enjoyed good food, my Kindle, and some sleep during my ten-hour flight. I had to get a one day visa just to spend eight hours in the airport. I walked a lot during my layover.

My flight to Delhi was almost all men. After we landed I slept in one of few comfortable chairs in the airport. My Kindle continued to supply me with great reading material and I found some tea and pastries when the food court opened at 4:30 a.m. Although there was an earlier flight directly from Delhi to Vijayawada (my final destination), Expedia had booked me through Hyderabad. That added ten hours to my trip. Hyderabad airport had terrible food but there was diet Coke available. There were many heavily veiled women including one with thick black gloves to coordinate with her total body black covering. I watched with interest as she gave her husband money and apparently told him to go buy some food for the children (which he did). Another stereotype slightly damaged! Airport security was now segregated by sexes with full body pat down for everyone. Other than being a very long trip (over 40 hours from Honolulu) it was not a bad experience. There were at least two meals on each leg of the trip and vegetarian options on all.

My destination was definitely not a tourist attraction. On my last two flights I was asked if I were on the right plane. From Shanghai on, I was the only non-Indian passenger.

Vijayawada airport is tiny. I was supposed to be met on arrival. However, my pick up was 90 minutes late. I was beginning to be concerned – it was getting dark and the airport closed after my Air India plane returned to Hyderabad – when my ride with two nurses and a driver arrived. The hour-long ride to the hospital showed that the most important car accessory in India is the horn. The traffic was crazy. Buses, people, motorcycles, three wheeled motorized carts, bicycles and cars. All was chaos but everyone survived. I was housed in the hospital’s “staff quarters.” My room was basic but clean. I had a private bath and shower. The shower was a bucket and small pitcher but I had hot water.

The next day I learned three important things:

  1. The tea was great – just like chai latte.
  2. I was wrong about the visa. It could not be extended. I would have to leave the country and reapply for a new visa. That was not an option since any country near India also requires a visa so I would have to leave India for home in 30 days.
  3. Although the doctors and nurses were taught in English and the hospital officially used English, actually everything was done in Telugu. Even the people who spoke English reasonably well had difficulty understanding me because my American accented English was very different to the Telugu accented English they heard in school.

Hospital

Julia at work. Supplied image

They wanted to assign volunteers to the area in which they were currently working. However, they had no concept of Case Management – arranging for patient care after hospital discharge — In India that is a family responsibility. In fact, unless it is an emergency, patients are not admitted to the hospital without a family member (or neighbor or someone) to care for them. That care giver goes to the pharmacy to buy the medications and supplies the patient needs, provides meals and in general cares for the patient. Some of the hospital wards are 60 beds with only one or two nurses. Family assistance is required. Often entire families stay at the hospital for the totality of the patient’s stay. There are always people sleeping in the hallways. At night the hallways are crowded with families sleeping.

Nurses rotate through three shifts: 8 am – 2:30 p.m., 2 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. – 8:30 a.m. Transportation (or lack of transportation) is the reason for the arrangement of the shifts.

There is no way for nurses to get to or from the hospital at 11 p.m. If it safe to do so, nurses are allowed to sleep during the overnight shift.

The hospital and associated medical and nursing schools were started by Indian doctors originally from that area of India, who had practiced in the United States. The hospital offered a wide range of services including open heart surgeries and renal transplants. Since I had experience in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU – the recovery room) I was assigned there. One of the highlights was attending a nurses’ conference on Stress Management. At the end of the two day program, a yoga master was introduced. After a brief lecture, he led 250 nurses to a large room where we lay on the floor and “relaxed.”

Church

Julia Taylor ‘Preaches’ at Shalem Evangelical Church.
Shalem Evangelical Church. Image: Julia Taylor

One of PACU nurses was the wife of a pastor of a Christian church. Vimala asked if I would attend the church and (I thought) she asked if I would pray for them. Of course, I agreed. Later I learned that I had agreed to preach at the Shalem Evangelical Church. I also learned that I should wear white to church. Santhi, the PACU charge nurse, took me shopping for white church clothes and a sari.

Julia Taylor at Shalem Evangelical Church. Supplied image

That Sunday at the church and I was nervous at the beginning. The congregation was Telugu speaking so everything I said was translated by the pastor. Any Bible verse mentioned was immediately located in their Bibles. The women covered their heads. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the small church. The service was over three hours long and filled with lots of music and enthusiastic singing. Communion in the form of dense bread and a sweet liquid was given to all. Everyone was so gracious and encouraging. It was a wonderful experience.

Hindu Worship

Hospital Shrine. Image: Julia Taylor

In the room across the hall from me was a doctor from Calcutta who was at the hospital to administer tests to the medical students. He was visiting a temple and asked if I would like to go too. The visit was interesting and very confusing. We had to be barefoot. I received a tap on the head with a silver vase, sweet water and a handful of spicy cooked rice. I later learned that food – often rice and small yellow chick peas – is often associated with Hindu worship. The hospital had a temple across from the main lobby and a small shrine in one of the hallways. I often noticed hospital personnel stopping for a few minutes in front of the shrine. It is common for families to have shrines in their homes. At first I thought I had caught a man just coming out of a shower – he had just a towel wrapped around his waist. Later I learned that Hindu men often pray wearing only a prayer towel.

Praying at the hospital shrine. Image: Julia Taylor

There is a trinity of gods in the Hindu belief: Shiva the destroyer, Vishnu the preserver and Brahma the creator (The total number of gods in the Hindu pantheon is difficult to pin down, varying from three to 33 million).

Ganesh in the hospital foyer. Image: Julia Taylor

I knew September 17 was a holiday for some reason, but I could not understand the reason for the holiday. I learned from Wikipedia that it was Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival of the elephant headed god. A temporary shrine to Ganesh was constructed in the hospital lobby. At first the elephant face was covered in newspaper. The priest / monk/ Hindu altar guild member(!?) uncovered the face, dressed the statue in cloth and flowers, poured a sack of rice at feet of Ganesh, then added more flowers and some fruit. All this took about one hour. People came and watched and prayed at the shrine. Within a day the fruit was gone and flowers had wilted. The statue was supposed to remain in place for 10 days However, after three days the statue was moved with great ceremony. There were fireworks, bands, loud speakers, and much dancing as the statue was moved via tractor to the canal where it was “drowned.” Every small community had its own celebration. It was an amazing cultural experience. I danced, was pelted with pink powder (my hair was still pink on my return to the US), had my hands painted with henna and had a wonderful time.

Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. Supplied image

During the four weeks at the hospital I discovered:

  • Banana juice is wonderful!
  • There is life without toilet paper.
  • Plain yogurt with salt is not my idea of great dessert.
  • Putting on a sari is very complex.
  • Hawaii is not crowded. India is crowded!
  • One issue I had never considered – how to keep monkeys from stealing the food you are preparing for dinner.
  • How to drink from a plastic water bottle without my lips touching the bottle (because the bottles are reused multiple times!)
  • Both the rules of cricket and the Hindu beliefs are too complicated for an ordinary human to comprehend.
  • Many Hindus also pray to Jesus.
  • Doxycycline for malaria prevention is hard to take. Every morning I was reminded of morning sickness.
  • My laptop allowed me to listen to the St Louis Cardinals games. The 10.5 hour time difference did make catching all the action almost impossible.
  • “Had your breakfast?” seems to be a greeting similar to “how are you?” Or perhaps everyone was worried that I was starving.
  • In India after a woman gives birth, she gets 84 days paid maternity leave.
  • Everyone eats with their hands. Apparently I was incompetent at this task. Someone usually gave me a spoon after a few minutes.
  • Transportation is normally by three wheeled motorized cart. There was a bench for three passengers. One trip I took carried 11 passengers. It was crowded! Another method of traveling was by motorcycle. I rode as the fourth rider on one. Not necessarily safe but fun.
  • As India is a former member of the British Commonwealth, residents refer to nurses as “sisters”, elevators as “lifts” and lab coats as “aprons”. I was “madame” and the nurses stood up when I came into the room.
  • The only person I saw during my days in Mangalagiri who was lighter skinned than me was an albino Indian man. I got used to stares everywhere I went.
  • I nearly caused a riot in a girls’ orphanage when I brought out bottles of bubbles for the girls.
  • This is a middle-class home (wife is a nurse, husband an accountant): a two room apartment – one bedroom with a double bed for the couple, nine year old daughter and six year old son, squat toilet, no hot water, no oven, no refrigerator, dishes and clothes were washed outside, a motorcycle, and lots of beautiful saris.
“Everyone eats with their hands. Apparently I was incompetent at this task. Someone usually gave me a spoon after a few minutes.” Supplied image

Soon it was 22 September, my last full day in the hospital. Time had gone by so fast. I really was not ready to leave but I had to.

During my brief stay my work accomplishments were:

  • I observed both the PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) and the step-down Post-Op ward. For each unit I wrote up my findings and submitted them to the hospital administration.
  • I participated in an EKG class taught by the hospital nursing educator. Later I developed student worksheets for identifying various cardiac rhythms.
  • I created information papers on the ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) medications.

These papers will be used as the hospital develops an ACLS certification class for the ICU and PACU nurses.

“… the PACU nurses dressed me in my sari. I had absolutely no idea how to do it myself.” Supplied image

In the afternoon the PACU nurses dressed me in my sari. I had absolutely no idea how to do it myself. The nurses were really amazed at that I had no experience with a sari.

Dressed like, but not looking like a native resident of India, I made the rounds to say goodbye to the hospital executives. PACU had a party for me complete with a gift of a replica of a Hindu temple and a cake. Apologies were made because my name was spelled wrong on the cake but no one noticed that the cake read “Happy birthday July”. It was the first real dessert I had tasted in over four weeks, and it was very good.

Next I went to a gathering of the head nurses of the hospital who had prepared a farewell gathering for me. There were speeches and refreshments. I was presented with a beautiful cloth (apparently the giving of a cloth is an Indian tradition). One of the comments I heard several times during the good-byes is that it is amazing how long (how old) Americans keep working. Apparently by the time someone in India is my age, he or she spends their days in bed having children and grandchildren wait on them.

Julia on her last day at NRI General Hospital, Mangalagiri. Supplied image

I left clothes including my white church outfit which was now permanently pink and Project Hope t-shirts with the staff. I gave the last of my bubbles to a boy waiting somewhat patiently outside the OBGYN ward and presented an 11-year-old girl hospitalized for electrical burns with a small bottle of hand lotion.

Julia gives an 11-year-old girl hospitalized for electrical burns a small bottle of hand lotion. Supplied image

Early on 23 September I was packed and ready to go. Santhi (the PACU charge nurse) and her husband accompanied me to Vijayawada airport from which I left for a two-hour flight to Delhi.

At Delhi airport I was met by a tour guide and driver, and was delivered to my five-star hotel. I had gone from Spartan living to the lap of luxury. After a lunch of Thai curry (I needed a change from Indian) I had a brow threading, facial and scheduled a hot stone massage for later. There was a fourth floor outdoor pool that overlooks the city and several trendy looking bars. However, I did have time for some culture. I toured the National Museum. There were lots and lots of statues of Hindu gods. Santhi and her husband had given me a print out of what was essentially “Hindu for Dummies”. I planned to study it and then go over the multiple pictures I took at the museum. Hopefully I would be able to link a picture with a god. I also walked around India Gate, the giant memorial for soldiers killed during World War II. Back at the hotel the doorbell for my hotel room rang! It was a bellman who asked if I wanted the turn down service. I declined. Too much luxury too fast might be harmful.

The 75-minute hot stone massage was awesome. And there was fresh fruit in my room! My supper was two bananas and two apples. I did not try walking or running outside the hotel now that I was in a big city. The traffic was unbelievable, and I was lucky not to get run over because I couldn’t figure out which way to look when crossing a street (they drive on the left). I checked out the television stations. The listing identified programs in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Chinese, Korean and … Australian!

The next day I traveled to Agra – home of the Taj Mahal. The trip took almost four hours and was interrupted only by a 45 minute stop with a man shouting and claiming my driver had hit his car. Somehow it was resolved without involving the police and we continued on our way. We passed a restaurant advertising ‘multi-cuisine pesto bar”. I was sorry we couldn’t stop. We passed a fresh meat market – the goats were waiting at the door to be selected for dinner. I was becoming more vegetarian every day.

The trip took me through rural India for the first time. There were grass huts that I think were for storing crops, not for housing, but I could not be sure. I think I glimpsed an even deeper level of poverty than I had seen previously.

Nevertheless, I proceeded on to my next five-star hotel where one of the many services offered was “astrologer available on request.” Compared to the Western tourists I saw, I was dressed like a very poor country relative or a missionary. I had no other clothes except those I wore in Mangalagiri which is much more restrictive in acceptable fashion than are the cities of Delhi and Agra.

I visited the Taj Mahal. As expected, it was awesome. A few facts:

  • It was built in the seventeenth century by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favorite wife who died at age 39 after her fourteenth pregnancy.
  • He had planned a matching black Taj Mahal for his tomb but that did not happen because the Shah was jailed by his son during the last eight years of his life.
  • The scripts on the front of the building are chapters from the Koran. They are not painted but are made of precious stones.
  • The exterior is cleaned with layers of Pakistani mud which is rinsed with distilled water.
  • The entire building is an amazing work of symmetry and detail – all completed without the aid of a computer.
  • One of the most popular places to have a picture taken is at the “Lady Di” bench, the location where Princess Diana sat and viewed the Taj Mahal when she visited.

One of the newest attractions I visited was the Swaminarayan Akshardham, a ten year old temple which includes boat rides, movie theaters and displays promoting a vegetarian diet. The focus was an 11 foot high gold covered statue of the holy man Swaminarayan. Also on the 100 acre campus (because of the importance of the elephant in Hindu culture and India’s history) are carvings of 148 life sized elephants. Even though I injured several toes walking into recessed lighting (you have to be barefoot in a temple) it was a great experience.

“My hair was still pink on my return to the US.” Supplied image

I finished my time in India with visits to the Red Fort and Agra Fort, both planned by Shah Jahan who designed the Taj Mahal. I also visited a carpet factory and, of course, bought a knotted wool carpet. Hopefully it will go well with the silk carpet I bought in China. I rode in a bicycle rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi (it was terrifying – so crowded!) and visited the site of Gandhi’s death – he was killed by a fellow Hindu who disagreed with his policy of allowing Muslims to live in India.

I spent my final hours packing and repacking and leaving clothes in my hotel room (hoping that someone could use them and that I would be under the 50 pound weight limit on luggage). At last I was ready for my 15-hour flight from Delhi to Newark, NJ then on to Phoenix and finally a 1,300 mile drive back to Missouri.

I was not certain what my next adventure would be, but I did know that my first priority at home would be to do something about my fluorescent pink-orange hair. Even though it was a reminder of a great time in India, it just wasn’t my style.

This article was originally published as a series of posts on Julia’s personal Facebook account.

Julia Taylor attends Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri

Building Community in West Missouri

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

Gary Allman 15 minute read.   Resources

2018 Gathering Presentations

Brief notes and useful links relating to the three Diocesan Convention Gathering presentations.

Five-minute read.   Resources

What We’re Learning About The Episcopal Church That Can Help Us Grow Spiritually

The Rev. Jay Sidebotham discusses where the church is going. Image: Gary Allman

The church, that wonderful and sacred mystery, is a community brought together by grace, as gift, not because of what church members have done, but because of what God has done in Christ. And the grace is just the starting point. The story doesn’t end there. As Annie Lamott says, the grace of God loves us enough to meet us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. So let me pose a few questions we must ask, prompted by the letter to the Ephesians: What is the way of life that lies before us? What is that way for our congregations, for our leaders, lay and clergy? What is the way for each person’s spiritual journey?

Resources

Inspiring Legacy Giving

John Hoskins provides information on establishing legacy giving. Image: Gary Allman

No additional information on legacy giving was available at the time of publishing. We’ll update this article when details are available.

Human Trafficking and the Sex Industry:  A Moral Challenge For The Church

Brittany Zampella details the horrific number of people involved in human trafficking. Image: Donna Field

Our Diocesan Convention was blessed to have Brittany Zampella as our speaker on Sex Trafficking.   She delivered an impassioned presentation imploring individuals to become aware of the “insidious injustice” of sex trafficking and the damage it does to trafficked victims, their families and our society.  Brittany emphasized the importance of abolishing the entire sex industry if we hope to rid ourselves of the horrific evil of young girls and women trafficked for the sole purpose of greed and male sexual gratification. 

Attendees were leaving the room after her presentation shaking their heads in disbelief that the problem of sex trafficking was so severe. Bravo and thanks to Brittany for a making a complex subject understandable. A  job well done. 

Mike McDonnell

Diocesan Convention in Pictures

The people and events of the 129th convention of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Five-minute read.   Resources
Friday, November 2. It wouldn’t be a diocesan convention if we didn’t take a group picture of all the assembled clergy (and clergy to be). Image: Gary Allman

People

Donna Parker, St. Mary Magdalene, and the Rev. Kary Man, Priest in Charge at Trinity Independence. Image: Gary Allman

The Gathering

The Rev. Jay Sidebotham discusses where the church is going. Image: Gary Allman

Convention Eucharist and Ordinations

Opening Eucharist of the 129th Convention of the Diocese of West Missouri. Image: Gary Allman

Banquet

Convention Banquet. Image: Donna Field

Business Session

Fr. Sid gets elected (we’re not sure what for…) Image: Gary Allman

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.

Resources

Back to Contents

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.

Resources

Back to Contents

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

Resources

Back to Contents

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.

Resources

Back to Contents

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.

Resources

Back to Contents

References

Links

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.


Resources

Back to Contents

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.