The Rector's Blog
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December 8, 2016, 12:00 AM

Standing Rock


Some of you will remember T.J. Freeman, as a veteran and Hanover student who discerned for the priesthood here a few years ago.  A few of us were able to attend his ordination to the diaconate in Indy, and his ordination to the priesthood in Pittsburgh not very long ago.

This week, I learned the T.J. is (was?) on his way to Standing Rock to join the ‘deployment’ that two or more thousand veterans planned to stand in support of the Sioux nation in their struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  He is going in a triple role: veteran, Episcopal priest, and trauma chaplain.  As I write this (on Tuesday), he is holed up in a hotel in a small town between Fargo and Bismarck due to a blizzard, along with two other people who all met at the car rental counter when their flight to Bismarck was re-routed to Fargo.

I thought you’d like to know about this, so you can say a prayer for T.J., that he stays safe and warm, and that in the time he spends at Standing Rock he will be able to provide moral and spiritual support to any who can benefit.

I asked T.J. if he had anything he’d like to tell us and this is what he sent:

On one level I am very disappointed that I have been unable to make it to the camps. I truly felt called as a priest and a veteran to be there with the tribes and the veterans. On the other I give thanks for the work of the chaplains that were able to gather. They traveled from across the nation to support these people and that is inspirational. And I give thanks for the decision by the Obama administration and the Army Corps of Engineers, with the change coming in January this fight is far from over.

The SSJE word for the day was really fitting. "Be - People in trauma need our presence and our prayer rather than our preaching. We will bear a much more comforting witness to someone facing deep loss by simply being with them, and in so doing, representing God Emmanuel – God with us – by our being with them. Not by our words, but by our presence. -Br. Curtis Almquist"

I was never going to "fix" this situation but being with is enough.  And it is holy and precious and what God asks of us. Keep praying; it matters. In the coming months they will need our prayers and support and presence more than ever.

The decision of the Army Corps of Engineers he mentions is that the ACE has refused to grant an easement for the pipeline company to cross the Missouri River in the location they had planned, just a couple miles north of the reservation border, and in defiance of the wishes of the Native people who call that area home, and sacred ground.  The ACE plans further consultations, and has indicated it will be looking at other possible routes. 

Meanwhile Energy Transfer Partners (the pipeline company) has publicly stated that they regard the ACE decision as temporary and politically-motivated – and they fully expect to be able to complete the pipeline right where they are. 

Please do keep this situation in your prayers.  I also ask that you keep an eye and ear out for other places where greed and distrust may bring suffering and sorrow, and seek ways to bring God’s grace into those situations.

Yet when they were diminished and brought low,
   through stress and adversity and
   sorrow,
He lifted up the poor out of misery
   and multiplied their families like flocks
   of sheep.
The upright will see this and rejoice,
   but all wickedness will shut its mouth.

  Ps 107: 39,41-42

TJ’s final message on Wednesday (Dec 7):

“Well friends... I finally made it to Bismarck, unfortunately road conditions are still not great and I will not be making it to Standing Rock. This has been a long and complicated trip, I am trying to remind myself that making the journey is sometimes as important as reaching your destination. I am thankful for new friends made, old friends seen, and the conversations that I have been a part of: with water protectors, members of the sheriff’s department, Vietnam veterans, pipeline workers, real estate agents, and insurance adjusters.

“The world is a lovely place full of hope and beauty and love if we just take the time to experience it. God willing and the flight isn't cancelled I will be home tomorrow afternoon. Thank you for all of your love, support, and prayers throughout this journey.

“The fight for clean water and respect for native peoples is far from over.  Keep praying, keep paying attention, and keep pressuring your representatives.

“May Christ whose second coming in power and great glory we await make us steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, and constant in love.  Amen.”

 




November 24, 2016, 5:29 PM

Thanksgiving



Many of us will be spending Thanksgiving Day with family or friends, sharing a good meal, and, one hopes, remembering all the things one has to be grateful for. 

If we are fortunate, we will have more than is probably good for us (I know I usually do!). 

Others will be serving or delivering meals to those who are less fortunate.

Others will be hungry, cold, or discouraged.

Some will likely be standing out in freezing weather protesting a new oil pipeline slated to cross the Missouri River in North Dakota.  Some will be trying to end those demonstrations and maintain order. 

Some will be making plans for a new administration that takes office in January, while others will be wondering how to make their own views heard.

An annual harvest festival held in a country when only 391 counties in the United States are regarded as “farming dependent” (according to the USDA) seems rather quaint.  Yet Norman Rockwell’s classic painting is the popular image: everyone smiling, laughing, and talking together.

May we all enjoy such fellowship and delight this week.

And while we’re being grateful for the bounty of food and fellowship we share on Thanksgiving Day, let us not forget to offer thanks for all the blessings in our lives: for those who have loved us, for those who will; for those who have worked hard for the rights of all - those who opposed slavery, those who battled for workers’ fair treatment and pay, those who have gone to war against tyranny and terror, those who have striven for justice for all, and those who continue to strive that all may breathe free, without hindrance or fear.  Let us be grateful for those who have taught us, even those who have taught us when we go wrong; let us be grateful for those whom we have harmed who have forgiven us.

Let us remember as well that we are all beloved of God, as are our neighbors, and all people, whoever and wherever they are.  Let us be grateful that the God who created all that is, is always ready to reach out in love and forgiveness and mercy, to teach us how to love and forgive and be merciful, and to show us why that is so important.

Let us remember that we are part of the Body of Christ – and will shortly be joined by a new member, Mary Jane, Fleurette Laughlin.  Pray for her, and the members and friends of Christ Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, and the Episcopal Church at large.

Let us recall the words of our Savior Jesus Christ, in his last conversation with his disciples: “Abide in me as I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. … My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

 




November 10, 2016, 3:28 PM

After the Election, Part Two


Well, we’ve now experienced two elections – for a new bishop and for a new president.

Things sure are exciting around here.

I’m still trying to sort out my own feelings and reactions to the local, state and national elections.  There were some real surprises – especially in the presidential race.  All the pundits thought Mrs Clinton would win, and I do mean all.  And yet, it didn’t turn out that way; instead we are looking at Mr Trump as our next leader.  I’m not going to try explaining that – obviously there were undercurrents most people missed!

But I do want to focus, for a moment, on a few thoughts:

One, some will rejoice and others will mourn the outcome.  What each of us feels is valid.  So I ask you to please honor the joy or the sorrow of your friends.  Don’t gloat and don’t throw things.

Two, some are relieved and some are frightened.  Again, what each of us feels is valid.  So I ask you to please honor both relief and worry.  Don’t crow and don’t accuse.

Three, Presiding Bishop Curry reminds us “the time will come to bind up our wounds, to overcome our differences, to reconcile with each other, to reach out to those who differ with us, and to be Americans.  One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

He also quoted from Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, to remind us to:

Share everything. 
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t hit people.
Play fair.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. 

It’s good advice. 
I would also like to honor the fear of our GLBTQ friends and neighbors, that the elevation of Gov. Pence to the vice presidency might threaten a return to the days of closets and condemnation.  We still haven’t forgotten the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  We remember his desire to move funds from HIV prevention to “conversion therapy.”  We know that he has opposed anti-discrimination measures designed to protect GLBTQ persons from losing their jobs or their homes. 

Again, these feelings and this fear is real.  I have already seen reports of suicides by GLB and Trans individuals following the election.

But Mr Trump has a different history regarding GLBTQ, than Mr Pence.  He has been much more accepting, publicly, than many Republicans, and opposed measures that would discriminate.

I would hope that these views will be clearly stated and upheld by Mr Trump.   We badly need that support. 

I’m distressed at reports of recent racist attacks on African Americans and Muslims, as conducted by some of his supporters.  I hope he will say something about that as well, because it is unacceptable

It is difficult for me to be calm and dispassionate, as I am sure it is for many of you as well this week.

Let us remember, though, what we have been told, time and again, and to do our best to live in accordance with:

Do not fear.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

God is the rock of our salvation; and God will save.

Breathe.  (OK, that one’s not in the Bible, but it’s still good advice!) 

Let’s remember who and whose we are, and “love one another as Christ has loved us” as best as we can.  Stand up for the lost and the least, help out where we can.




November 9, 2016, 9:00 AM

After the Election


Those who know me probably also know that I'm a Democrat. I have tried hard to keep politics out of the pulpit, but I do preach a tolerant message: that God has a preference for the poor, the marginalized, and the outcast. In light of my understanding of the Gospel - the good news of God in Christ, I offer this response for those who are sad, disappointed, or frightened today, and ask any who read it to be charitable...

Searching for the right words, the right prayers, the right response. Not sure anything is quite right, now. I'm disappointed. I'm shocked. I'm afraid - for friends, for the poor, for Americans who are Black, Muslim, Hispanic, LGBTQ, Native, female - that "civil" has become outdated and rare. That "rule of law" may become "what the corporation wants." That my retirement savings will be wiped out in the pending market crash (again). That when morning comes and the light dawns, when the waters rise and the storm clouds gather, when the pipelines break and the land shakes and the earth dies, no one will care anymore...

"Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord." 
Then I remember, these may well be *our* worst days, but we've faced "worst days" before.

Stand up. Stand up. Stand up. Be the refuge others will need. Preach the Gospel of love beyond measure, of hope beyond fear, of power beyond strength.

Do not fear to love. Do not fear to be beloved. Do not fear the power of any power on earth to harm, for God is stronger still. And the realm of heaven is within us.




October 27, 2016, 12:00 AM

Busy Season Is Upon Us!


We’re coming up on one of the church’s busiest seasons – I know that we are still decrying the fact that Christmas items are in the stores already (after all, it’s still weeks and weeks till Christmas!), but we are now in a heavy planning period. 

First up, of course, is finalizing the arrangements for this Sunday’s Mulberry Street brunch (11AM - 1PM).  I know I put this in red ink on the front page – but I will say it again:  There will only be one service on Sunday, October 30, at 9:00. 

We will actually start the service as we do at 8:00 (with no prelude and no opening hymn) and finish as if it were our 10:00 liturgy.  The choir will be with us to lead us in the Psalm, and there will also be a choir anthem.  Our greeters, readers, and servers will come from both services. 

Many thanks to Tabitha Tolbert, who has organized this community brunch, and to all those who have lent aid and food and funds to the effort!

On Monday, October 31, you are invited to join with Resurrection Lutheran, Hanover Presbyterian, Smryna-Monroe Presbyterian, and CEC at 4:30 to mark All Hallows Eve and Bless the Trick-or-Treaters. (4882 W Deputy Pike) – come in costume; bring the grandkids!

On Sunday, November 6, we will celebrate All Saints Sunday.  We would like to commemorate all those we remember with love, so please provide names of your departed loved ones to Karen in the office by Wednesday, November 1!

Looking a little further down the pike, we are working with a few other churches in our community in the run-up to Election Day to offer a “Service of Light and Prayer for the Nation” on Monday evening, November 7 (time TBD), and “Election Day Communion” on Tuesday, November 8 (6:30 PM, after the polls have closed).  

We are one country, and as Christians, we have a calling to love our neighbor as ourselves; both these occasions will provide us with a chance to remember that, and to hold onto that thought.

Finally, and not to be forgotten, we are making great strides for St Cecilia (Friday, November 18, 7:30 PM).  If you would like to help with setting up an art installation, we could use your talents!  We will feature works by Hal Davis and other local artists.  This will be our first venture into the visual arts!  (Yes, we are excited!)

Given all that is going on – whether in the life of Christ Church or in your own lives, you may wonder how to keep your balance – and I’m not always the best example, I freely admit!  But I am finding it helpful to schedule a time to get out of the office and walk, even if it’s only for ten minutes! 

And if I can find one word/image in the Scriptures to hold in my mind, this becomes a meditative and prayerful act.  Some of the words I have used are: ‘beloved,” “forgiven,” and “timeless.”  What’s your word for today?


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