Thinking about ‘who is my neighbor’ as we take part in Diocesan Convention

convention-2016Greetings, Friends!

“Who is my neighbor?”  Here we are, the day before our Diocesan Convention where we will be exploring this question together and this verse pops up in today’s lectionary readings.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew’s Gospel that we understand the words of the Law and the Prophets through the lens of “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’…” (Matthew 22:37 – 39, NRSV).  These words are truly all we need to know how to live as part of the Jesus Movement!  The trouble comes in determining how we are to love.  What does this love look like?  And, who exactly are we to love?  Here’s where we often find our differences of opinion; it’s where we can let the answers become political rather than responses of compassionate openness and welcome.  I’m so glad we will be engaging in more conversations at Convention because I believe we can learn best in dialogue with those we respect and love as brothers and sisters.

Once again, our friends at Episcopal Migration Ministries shared a great article about our Syrian neighbors on their Facebook page that I think is worth sharing here.  In reading it, we get a glimpse of the importance of being an advocate – one who comes alongside – and a friend to those who come empty-handed to a new land.  When Maryam and her family arrived in the US from Syria, they had nothing – not even a common language to share their hopes and fears with their hosts.  Before coming to the US, the family spent three years in a Jordanian refugee camp after fleeing their homeland.  Even in the camp, this family suffered when their young sons were frequently beaten by others leaving their son Ibrahim with scars on his legs and arms. 2031

As soon as they arrived in their new hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, they were greeted by two new friends, Kate McCaffrey, an anthropology professor at Montclair State University, and former Rutgers professor Melina Macall.  “We are facing a global refugee crisis and we felt that very little was happening,” McCaffrey said. “We turned to our synagogue to forge an alternate path.”

For Maryam and her family who are Muslims, this was a surprise:

“In Syria, I lived surrounded by my family and in-laws, who share the same faith,” she said. “I never thought I’d have Jewish friends.”  McCaffrey said there is like-mindedness between the Jewish community and the Muslim community, because both have congregants who have sought refuge from war, and both live out the tenants of their faith.  “Part of religion is to welcome the stranger,” she said. “We felt that would be a good ground for starting something.”

The family’s transition has not been simple.  They started with a $7.000 reimbursement required to cover their air travel to the US.  That’s a pretty big expense when a family has no employment and only receives $975 per person for 90 days from the federal government to help them get started.  McCaffrey and Macall decided they could help and did a crowd-sourcing campaign in hope of receiving the $7,000 in 7 days.  To their amazement, they reached their goal in 72 hours! 2034

Twenty-eight hundred dollars per person doesn’t go far when you’re trying to set up a home, buy clothes for growing children, and feed a family.  Maryam’s husband Fadel, a welder by trade, has been unable to find employment although he continues to try.  Maryam is ready and willing to find a job, too.  “We need a steady job. It’s true we don’t speak the language, but our English will get better as we keep working,” she said through a translator. “But the most important thing is to stand by my kids so they can continue going to school.”

You can read the whole story here as well as watch the CNN video of the interview –

The Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported on the efforts of one diocese to meet not only the physical and emotional needs of their refugee community but also the spiritual needs of their neighbors.  In Dallas, the Rev. Samira Izadi Page, who is an Episcopal priest and director of Gateway of Grace, a ministry for refugees providing housing, education and friendship, is especially prepared to address their spiritual concerns.  ENS writes that Page “is a former Muslim who fled Iran nearly 20 years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back, making her particularly authentic in leading refugees to Christ.”

A group of refugees from many different countries sits in a circle reading and discussing Bible verses in Farsi, Arabic and English as they enjoy lunch together.  Some of the women are wearing their traditional clothing while others wear t-shirts you’d expect to see on a hot summer day in Dallas.  Their children play happily together in an adjoining room.

According to ENS:

The Bible Study is one snapshot of many that illustrates what evangelism looks like in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. With the consecration last year of Bishop George Sumner, a new emphasis has been placed on how best to know Christ and make Him known. The focus includes determining best practices, and creating an Order of Evangelists to be spearheaded by Carrie Boren Headington, who is the diocesan evangelist. “The aim is to have a representative at each parish serving as a catalyst for missional living,” Headington said. “Each church is a local outpost for the Kingdom of God strategically placed to be a witness to its neighbors. Each member of the congregation is an ambassador in their daily lives drawing those around them to follow Jesus.”

monkimage-phpAs we here in Michigan attempt to live into our roles as members of the Jesus Movement sharing the “Good News of God in Christ” by word and example, we are God’s evangelists – even though that “E” word seems to make us a bit nervous.  Each of us is called to discern how God wants us to serve in this role but God does want each of us – and it’s something we have covenanted with God through our Baptism.  I thought about this as I read that full article from the Diocese of Dallas.  We acknowledge that, as a Church, our attempts at proselytization in the past have not always been implemented with love and grace.  There is, indeed, a balance needed in respecting and honoring the culture and beliefs of our neighbors while desiring to share the love of God through Jesus with them.  I think this is why we can’t merely take the one Baptismal Covenant to proclaim the Good News apart from the other, “striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being.”  It’s all a part of knowing how to truly love our neighbors and loving God with everything we have.

The article on The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas webpage says it well:

The best way to do this is to proclaim the Gospel and earnestly share our own faith stories with others, said Headington who recently received a national appointment as Missioner Evangelist for the Episcopal Church. “As St. Teresa of Avilla said,’ ‘we are the hands and feet of Jesus,’ and we are His mouthpiece.”

Love and listen. “You have to listen to people. In evangelism for decades it was thought that you should take a Bible and thump people on the head with it. That’s the opposite of what Christ did. You love them and listen,” Martin said. “You help people discern from the Holy Spirit.”

Here’s the full article –

So, as we come together to discuss “Who is My Neighbor?” we can look eagerly to how the answer will impact our lives and the lives of those in our families, our communities and our world.  Let’s “love and listen” to each other as we share our stories at Convention and when we return back home.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Let us pray –


We are called to love God,
to love God with every part of our being,
every part of our lives.

That same God also calls us to love our neighbor:
friends, relations, acquaintances, strangers.
Not just love a bit, but love in abundance.

So Lord,
help us to love and help us to change the world.

Lord, bring justice to the oppressed:
oppressed by enemies, by governments, by economics,
particularly the refugees within our communities and those desiring to come.
Show us how to help bring your justice to this world.

Lord, give food to the hungry:
the hungry nations, the hungry in our own towns,
particularly those who have no home to call their own.
Help us to appreciate what we have got, and help those who have less.

Lord, set the prisoners free:
those imprisoned by unjust powers, those imprisoned by guilt or shame.
Give us the wisdom to appreciate each situation
and to bring your liberty to the bound.

Lord, open the eyes of the blind:
blind to light, blind to the truth, blind to your wonder.
Lead us as we seek to bring new light where there is only darkness.

Lord, lift up those who are bowed down:
the ill, the sad, the bereaved, the troubled, the lonely.
Give us the skills to help share burdens and raise spirits
and give us the desire to always be there.

We are called by you to serve each other
and we are not entirely ready.
We are called to serve you
and we come uncertainly
but we come because you call.
And we lay our lives down and say,
take all that we are and use it for your service.


(adapted from Rod Belt, “DramatisDei”)

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

The 182nd Diocesan Convention: Plenty of reasons to look forward to it

convention-2016Greetings Friends!

Our Diocesan Convention is right around the corner so this is your pre-convention potpourri blog post.  But first, I’d like to address the needs of our brothers and sisters in Haiti who are trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.  Sometimes these disasters can seem so far removed from us but, with the advent of the information age, we have immediate access to news and images that bring this much closer to home.  I watched a video the other day that chronicled only five minutes of the storm and storm surge which destroyed much of a city while I watched.  I can’t imagine what it must be like for the people of this tiny nation to face the aftermath of this tragedy.  We can help!  Episcopal Public Policy Network has a link for making contributions to the relief effort –

And here’s a link for bulletin inserts for your congregation for this Sunday –

Now, on to Convention!  Some of you might be asking, “Why should I read about Diocesan Convention if I am not a delegate for my congregation?”  The answer is simple – Convention is for all of us!  When I first became part of the Diocese after moving to Michigan in 2002, all I heard about Convention convinced me that I didn’t really want to attend.  Some “friends” made the business meeting sound so boring.  Well, I am so glad that I got over that attitude quickly!  For me, now, Convention combines some of the best aspects of a retreat experience (Spirit-filled worship and learning) with the happy atmosphere of a family reunion!  This is OUR Household and we are all participants in God’s work for the Michigan division of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement!!   So…if you have a couple of hours or a couple of days, join us so we can get to know you better, too.  Maybe knowing what to expect will convince you to come.

This year, our work of Convention will be centered on our discussions of “Who is My Neighbor?” and these conversations are relevant for all of us.  In fact, when it comes down to it, even our resolutions are a way of addressing that question since they come from our desire to live into our Baptismal Covenant.  The originators of each resolution feel passionate about the actions that they bring to us because these actions impact the lives of our neighbors in our communities and our world.  If you haven’t attended before, witnessing the brief legislative session will provide you with a basic understanding of how some decisions are made not only for our lives within the Diocese but also for those “neighbors” at a distance.12179005_10208373422120994_1914463305_n-copy

So, what will you find if you come?  At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, the Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity (DRIVE) will lead a workshop called: “Congregation – Centered Community Organizing: Strengthening our Community Ministries.”  During this time, we will reflect on ways to affect equity in the job market, education, public transit and mental health care in our church communities.  All we have to do is look around our communities to see the need for new opportunities that can demonstrate our love for one another.

At 4:00, the opening business meeting begins where you can meet a whole group of new friends: the new clergy in the diocese, the dean for your deanery, the candidates for office and the Bishop’s staff.

The Pre-banquet Reception begins at 5:30, which is a great time to wander through the exhibit area, enjoy some hors d’oeuvres, buy a special gift from one of our vendors, gather information about some of the Diocese’s ministries and chat with friends.  You can also sign a very important letter for your Members of Congress asking for new strategies to bring peace in the Holy Land (keep reading and you’ll find more about this below).  This is also a good time for you to “Meet the Candidates” and find out how they plan to serve the diocese if elected.

Dinner is served at 6:15 and will be followed by our Convention Eucharist.  For me, coming from a small congregation, worshiping with my diocesan brothers and sisters is always very special.  If you haven’t been to a diocesan Eucharist, do try to attend; you will feel the Spirit’s presence for sure!  Friday wraps up with the “Friends of Emrich” reception for fun and fellowship with friends – light refreshments, cash bar and raffles, too!

Saturday begins with Morning Prayer at the beginning of our business session.  As we continue the discussion of “Who is My Neighbor?”, we’ll hear from Dr. Ivy Forsythe Brown who led our wonderful workshop last year; we’ll be challenged by a presentation by Visions Inc, one of the foremost diversity and inclusion training consultant organizations; we’ll learn from some of our diocesan social service agencies; and we’ll be treated to a presentation by YAYA’s participants in Mission Possible: Detroit 2016.  And, of course, we will address the resolutions that have been presented to the Household.

Now, for that letter I mentioned earlier.  We all know how much unrest and tension continues in the Middle East.  One of our diocesan friends has asked that Convention send a letter to Congress requesting that they consider anew the actions of the United States in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Bishop Gibbs took this idea one step further and suggested that we send in lots of letters to our elected representatives.  Letters from 100+ people will have a far greater impact than one letter from a body of people!  I realize that we may not all hold the same opinion on this issue so this is a pressure-free request.  For those of you who do share in these concerns, look for the table in the exhibit hall that has the letters.  Once you sign yours, the Diocese will mail them to Washington for you.  How easy is this?!  Here’s the body of the letter so you can be prepared to sign yours at Convention:

Dear Member of Congress:

I am writing to suggest that the United States needs to take a firmer stand on issues related to peace between Palestinians and Israel. Our country’s lack of firmness in opposing Israeli expansionism has stalled the Oslo Peace Process and compromises the prospect for peace in this part of the world, Israel’s own security interests, and our claim to be an “honest broker” for Middle East peace. We need to reclaim that ground.

As a matter of international law, Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem are illegal, forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, from the standpoint of international law, the initial negotiating position must be that Israel will remove the settlements. If Israel will not do that, that refusal must bring a concession of some sort in the final agreement.

Additionally, the final agreement must ensure Israel’s right to, and security in, all her pre-1967 territory. The agreement must also address the “right of return” of Palestinians displaced during Israel’s foundation. Perhaps some form of “principled compensation” may be an appropriate substitute for these refugees’ return to their former homes in Israel. The United States – and, indeed, the rest of the world – could be helpful in bearing this financial burden.

Only the peaceful settling of all issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will ensure Israel’s future security. Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s intransigence does not help this troubled region reach its security goals. The United States needs to reclaim its position as an honest broker to move the peace process forward.

Respectfully yours,

This letter-writing campaign fits in nicely with the intention of the “resolves” from Resolution C018: Pursue Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land:

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Occupied Territories; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention affirm the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention affirm the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, non-violence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention urge Episcopalians to demonstrate our solidarity by making pilgrimage to Israel and the Occupied Territories and learning from our fellow Christians in the region; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention request the Program, Budget and Finance Committee consider allocating $15,000 during the next triennium for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to produce a video and study guide based on the experiences and learnings of pilgrims to the region and Christians living in the region, to be distributed to the Episcopal Church.

Have I convinced you?  I do hope so; I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!!  And I look forward to seeing you there.

Let us pray –

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in Lansing for the renewal and mission of your Church.

Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee


A few facts about National Bullying Prevention Month

bullying-4Greetings, Friends –

October is a busy month.  It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and a whole host of others including National Pizza Month.  The “awareness” I’d like to bring to mind today is National Bullying Prevention Month although each of the others, with the exception of National Pizza Month (I like to celebrate pizza every month!), is certainly worthy of some discussion and remembrance.  As a way of addressing this important subject, I’d like to share with you some information gathered by Covenant 5, our Household’s social justice and advocacy group:

Defining Bullying Behavior

What is bullying? A common image of bullying might be of a physically intimidating boy beating up a smaller classmate or of one child shoving another inside a hallway locker but bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip or on a smart phone or the Internet, causing emotional damage.

Although definitions vary from source to source, most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:

  • The behavior hurts, humiliates, or harms another person physically or emotionally.
  • Those targeted by the behavior have difficulty stopping the action directed at them, and are likely to struggle to defend themselves.
  • There is also a real or perceived “imbalance of power,” which is described as when the student or other person with the bullying behavior has more “power,” either physically, socially, or emotionally, such as a higher social status.
  • The behavior is repetitive; however, bullying can occur in a single incident if that incident is either very severe or arises from a pattern of behavior.

In the next 7 minutes, a child in this country will be bullied.

It may be the son or daughter of one of your friends. Even worse, it may be your own child. Meanwhile, only 4% of adults will step in to stop it and only 11% of the child’s peers may do the same. The remaining 85% will do absolutely nothing, often for fear of reprisal.

Bullying takes many forms, ranging from the seemingly innocent name-calling to the more harmful cyberbullying and also to severe physical violence.

Bullying happens everywhere, anytime, and is often directed at our most vulnerable children, especially those who are obese, gay, disabled or have a different skin color.

Moreover, the physical, emotional and psychological harm bullying imposes on its victims is known to contribute to negative socioeconomic outcomes. The Association for Psychological Science recently found that children who are bullies, victims or both are more likely to experience poverty, academic failure, perpetrate a crime, and often abuse drugs and alcohol.

There were over 1.1 million visits to in March 2016 by people seeking help with bullying and related topics, according to Google Analytics.

bullying-2Bullying and Crime

From the August 2013 presentation at the American Psychological Association Convention by Michael Turner, Ph.D.

  • Victims of bullying had higher rates of criminal conviction. More than 20 percent of those who were bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were convicted of crimes, compared with 11 percent of non-victims.
  • Sixteen percent of individuals who experienced childhood bullying up to age 12, were convicted of crimes, with 13 percent of victims who were bullied during adolescence (from age 12 to 18) experiencing similar legal outcomes later in life.

“Being victimized at any point in time was associated with higher odds of delinquency, substance abuse, arrests and convictions in late adolescence and adulthood,” Turner told LiveScience. “But chronic victims — those who were bullied in childhood and adolescence — had the highest odds of adverse legal outcomes.”

What We Know and Don’t Know about Bullying and Suicide

  • We know that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related. This means youth who report any involvement with bullying behavior are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behavior than youth who do not report any involvement with bullying behavior.
  • We know enough about the relationship between bullying and suicide-related behavior to make evidence-based recommendations to improve prevention effort.
  • We don’t know if bullying directly causes suicide-related behavior.

Source:  CDC,

According to Hertz, Donato and Wright there is a strong correlation between bullying and suicide related behaviors. The relationship is often influenced by factors like depression and delinquency. Those who were bullied in their childhood or early teens were more likely to contemplate suicide and even attempt it.

Source: Journal of Adolescent Health 53 (2013) 51-53


The Problem in Michigan

Here’s a sobering statistic: 16% of Michigan teens seriously consider suicide. One in 11 attempts it at least once. – Detroit Free Press 9/2015 –

The Journey Begins – Your link to the Bullying section of the Disability Awareness website. At this site you will find a multitude of resources, general and congregational, a historical background of legislation and other action taken against bullying.

You can find a lot more information at the Stomp Out Bullying website – and at the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center’s (PACER) site –

As baptized members of the Jesus Movement, we are all called to speak out against injustice and that means speaking out against bullying.  Do you know the policies in your school district?  Do the children in your family, neighborhood, and church know where they can go for help if they experience bullying?  Will you lead the discussion during your pot luck or coffee hour so that others may be informed?  We are all responsible for caring for God’s children!

Let us pray –

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up.  Help us to protect them from injustice and bullying that they may grow into the people you have created them to be. Give us a voice to speak out when they are in danger and guide us through your Spirit to offer protection and safety, that they will know themselves to be your beloved children.  We ask these things in the Name of your Son Jesus because we know you love it when we pray.  Amen.

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Playing the role of ‘protectors’ in the ongoing Standing Rock pipeline struggle

baptismGreetings, Friends –

As Episcopalians, we take our Baptisms very seriously.  We celebrate Baptisms within the context of community because we know how important it is for the community to support the newly baptized.  We reaffirm the Covenant at least four other times a year.  As part of a Total Ministry Support Team in my congregation, I look for ways to remind everyone that the grace we receive from God at our Baptism empowers each of us for the ministries to which God calls us.  Sometimes we are called to serve in our families, sometimes in our places of employment, sometimes in our communities and sometimes in God’s family but, regardless of where it is, it is all ministry if we are serving God and our neighbors as we do it.  And it all starts with the waters of Baptism.

Water.  Boy, here in Michigan, this has become a big issue.  Just within the last few days, the Senate refused to pass a spending bill which could cause a government shutdown on October 1st if no provision was made in the bill to bring relief to the people of Flint as they continue to struggle with the aftermath of their water crisis.  As of this writing, $170 million for Flint has been allocated and is expected to pass its final vote this evening (Wednesday, September 28th).  As they negotiated the terms of the bill, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, asserted: “In 2016, “No one — no one — should be afraid to drink the water that comes out of their tap” (Washington Post – )

standing-rock-1If you have been following the news, you know that Flint isn’t the only place where residents are concerned about their water supply.  The Standing Rock Sioux Nation and their allies have been protesting the construction of a pipeline to carry crude oil that is slated to pass right under their water supply and through their sacred burial grounds.  They have reason to be concerned.  The Dakota Access Pipeline, once built, will be run by Sunoco Logistics according to Reuters News Service.  Sunoco has had more than 203 leaks from its pipelines in the last six years, more than any of its competitors.  The Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported: “The tribe says the pipeline would cross treaty lands, disturb sacred sites and threaten drinking water for 8,000 members who live on the tribe’s nearly 2.3 million-acre reservation. The pipeline would cross under the Missouri River, the tribe’s water source, just outside the Standing Rocking Reservation.”

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry made a visit to North Dakota on September 24 and 25 to stand in solidarity with the opponents of the pipeline (they prefer to refer to themselves as “protectors”) declaring that The Episcopal Church is united with them: “Water means life for all of the children of God, human beings who are gifts of the Creator.  Your struggle is not just your struggle, it is our struggle; it is the struggle of the human community” (ENS).

The day before he addressed the protectors of the land at the Oceti Sakowin Camp along the Cannonball River, Bishop Curry delivered the sermon at St James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.  “If you look at the Bible very carefully, you will discover that God’s usual way of changing the world – even if it’s just inching it along a little bit – is to create a movement of people who will follow his way,” preached Bishop Curry.  Today we recognize this movement as the Jesus Movement which our Church is working to live and proclaim to the world.  Bishop Curry described it as “a movement of people called to practice love, justice, compassion and to try to ‘look something like Jesus.’”

What we are observing in Standing Rock does, indeed, look like the movement of God to bring reconciliation and the healing of divisions.  ENS reported that this “movement” in the Dakotas has “brought together Standing Rock Indians with members and leaders of at least 250 of the recognized tribes in the United States in an unprecedented show of unity. Many non-Native people have come to join the protests, as well, including Episcopalians from other parts of the country.”  You can read the full text of the article by ENS here –

standing-rock-2In his sermon, Bishop Curry reminded his listeners that Jesus’ last instructions were to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 – 20a).  The waters of baptism and the grace given through this sacrament enable us to “Go,” to teach, to be reconciled, to be part of a movement, to be the Jesus Movement.  Jesus ends his commission with the promise “And lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 18:20b).  He is with us.  And we are not alone.  He is with us in Flint.  He is with us in Standing Rock.  He is with us in the midst of this election cycle.  We are not alone.  Praise God for that!!  This is the promise that I need to cling to every day.

Bishop Curry declared that the Episcopal Church is standing with Standing Rock.  You can join to make this a reality by going to the Episcopal Public Policy Network page and sharing your contact information so that a letter of support will be sent to the appropriate legislators in Congress.  It’s easy and will take only a couple of minutes to stand with Standing Rock in this message of unity.

Water.  The human body is about 60% water; our planet is about 71% water; even trees are roughly 50% water.  Water is, indeed, life for all God’s creatures.  And the waters of baptism bring life to all who want to follow Jesus.  Together, let’s work to make sure that everyone has access to all streams of living water.

Let us pray:

In the dry wildernesses of our lives,

in the days of heat and thirst,

you offer us living water,

Thank you, gracious and generous God.


When we begin to doubt your presence,

and grumble that your love is unreliable,

you offer us living water,

Thank you, gracious and generous God.


When life’s regrets and the bad choices we have made

leave us feeling excluded and unworthy,

you offer us living water,

Thank you, gracious and generous God.


When circumstances, or the inhumanity of others,

have left us alone and wounded,

you offer us living water,

Thank you, gracious and generous God.


We thank you and praise you, O God,

that how ever we may thirst,

what ever we may need to satisfy our souls,

you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ;

So we drink deep of the living water

and, as we draw from your wells,

we seek to pass the cup to others

who, like us, are thirsty for your grace.   Amen

(from John van de Laar,)

~ The Rev Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee


Getting the word out: The truth behind the intense vetting process


Greetings, friends!

What a week in the news.  I might add an explanation point to that statement but it might sound as though I’m excited about everything that’s happened – which certainly isn’t the case.  I’d really rather add a sad face emoji as punctuation.  I have been grieving over the senseless and cruel loss of innocent lives this week – and the understandable yet tragic response by increasingly angry groups.  What do these events say about the health of our society?

Another sad point for me is what I hear – or don’t hear – in the political rhetoric of this election season.  One of the candidates seems to suggest that the refugees fleeing their homeland just hop on planes and land on our doorstops without any vetting at all.  Having followed many stories from Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I know that the vetting for any refugee wanting asylum in the US is incredibly rigorous and can take 2-4 years.  I think you all know that and I have certainly shared the intricacy of the process before.  But, my big question is: why is there no one in the media telling that story?  A good friend suggested that it’s because people aren’t really interested; they only want the sound bites and the sensational.  Explanations are just not news-worthy.  I hope she’s wrong but I am not optimistic.

emm-webcast-copyThis has been a big week in refugee advocacy.  Last week on September 14, EMM sponsored a webcast, “One United People: A Dialogue on Refugee Resettlement and Faithful Welcome.”  This event was planned as a preparation for two major events: on Monday, September 19, the United Nations General Assembly held its first-ever heads-of-state and government meeting “to address the large movements of refugees and migrants aimed at unifying countries behind a more human and coordinated approach” (Episcopal News Service), and on Tuesday, September 20th, President Obama hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees.  Participating with our President were co-hosts from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden.  This Summit appealed to governments for increased commitments to resettle refugees.

The Episcopal News Service reported: “Of the 21.3 million refugees in the world today, 1 percent might be resettled. It’s a lottery with dismal odds.”  How do we respond to that number?  To grasp the significance, we must remember that “refugee” has a specific definition and is different than “migrant” or “asylum seeker.”  A refugee is one who is fleeing their homeland because it is no longer safe to live there.  The government cannot protect this individual, family or people group from oppressions, persecution and violence.  We’re not speaking of someone who merely thinks that the American Dream sounds like a nice idea.  One of the panelists, Abdul Saboor, on the EMM webcast said: “No one wants to leave home; the only reason people leave is if their home is on fire!”

You can find the video of the webcast at the following link.  Even though the site reads as though the program hasn’t begun yet, just enter your contact information and you’ll receive the video.  The download includes the program and the bios of each panelist –

The Episcopal News Service (ENS) article about these events reported that “the summit comes not only at a time of record numbers of refugees, but also at a time of increased discrimination and violence against immigrants and migrants. The refugee crisis has fueled nationalist movements across Europe, where fear of terrorism and xenophobia have gripped societies and have led governments to take restrictive measures. The same is true in part of the United States where states have introduced legislation either to ban refugees from their states or to weaken the U.S. government’s resettlement program.”  The bombing in New York last weekend and other events of this week have understandably fueled the fear felt by opponents of refugee resettlement.  But we mustn’t let fear blind us to our calling as followers of Jesus.

On Wednesday, Texas threatened to pull out of the Federal refugee resettlement program from fear of terrorism.  In response to this news, the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, Director of EMM, made the following statement:

“Through the history of the United States, refugees have enriched our communities as creators, business owners, students, and friends. Our nation, and indeed our Church, has been enhanced by contributions from refugees that have sought safety and opportunity in this land. We know this to be true from decades of ministry walking with refugees and migrants.


I am deeply saddened by the violent acts in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota. I am saddened that entire communities of refugees are being blamed for the actions of a few misguided individuals – for as Americans, as Episcopalians, and as Christians, we are called to a higher moral ground than this. And, I am also disappointed that the governor of the state of Texas has announced this day that he soon will be ending his state’s administration of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. Fortunately, refugee service providers will work closely with local communities to ensure that a transition to another administrative service does not put refugee families at risk.

Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement service of The Episcopal Church, along with partners with 30 local communities across the country, serves refugees and migrants with the deep understanding that we are all children of God. This ministry is rooted in Christ’s teaching of love, compassion, and dignity for all people. We are committed to continue this work so that the God-given potential of every human being may thrive.”

“The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34

We are called to a higher moral stand than this.  If the media won’t share the whole story of refugee resettlement, we must.  In case you are new to Nuts and Bolts, here’s the link for the vetting process for resettlement in the United States –

I was not able to watch all of the proceedings in the UN or the President’s Summit but you can find snapshots of these events at the Episcopal Migration Ministries Facebook page –

This morning I saw a video on Facebook from a six year old to President Obama that he shared at the Summit.  After I wiped a few tears away (ok, I get kind of emotional), I decided I wanted to share it with you because Alex’s words are a reminder to all of us of the attitude we should be demonstrating.

The Presiding Bishop sent a delegation to the UN Summit on September 19th as observers and advocates of these goals:

  • Encourage campaigns and strategies to counter xenophobia and discrimination that prioritize building relationships between refugees and migrants and host communities.
  • Support resettlement as a critical component of responsibility-sharing and urge member states to increase size of existing resettlement programs or establish resettlement programs if they do not have one. Affirm target to resettle at least 10 percent of the global refugee population annually.
  • Support the right to asylum and due process for all people.
  • Affirm a whole of society approach that includes civil society and faith-based organizations.
  • Affirm the principle of “Leave No One Behind” and preferential treatment for the most vulnerable.

“All 193 U.N. member states reached consensus on the declaration to develop by 2018 a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; ensure a more equitable sharing of responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees; to commit to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants regardless of their status; and to commit to launching a global campaign to counter xenophobia,” reported ENS.  Lacy Broemel, TEC’s Refugee and Immigration Policy Analyst, added: “The U.N. has invited civil society into this process and as a faith-based organization, we must continue to engage with the global community to ensure the standards included in the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants are actually upheld.”

Here are the commitments made by the member nations:

  • Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status. This includes the rights of women and girls and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions.
  • Ensure that all refugee and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival.
  • Prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Support those countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants.
  • Work towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status.
  • Strongly condemn xenophobia against refugees and migrants and support a global campaign to counter it.
  • Strengthen the positive contributions made by migrants to economic and social development in their host countries.
  • Improve the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to those countries most affected, including through innovative multilateral financial solutions, with the goal of closing all funding gaps.
  • Implement a comprehensive refugee response, based on a new framework that sets out the responsibility of Member States, civil society partners and the UN system, whenever there is a large movement of refugees or a protracted refugee situation.
  • Find new homes for all refugees identified by UNHCR as needing resettlement; and expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate to other countries through, for example, labour mobility or education schemes.
  • Strengthen the global governance of migration by bringing the International Organization for Migration into the UN system.

You can find the full text of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (September 19, 2016) here –

And here’s the link to the full ENS article on the UN Summit –

Friends, as tempting as it might be to want to find a comfy cave and hide from all the pain and suffering we face each day in our lives and in the media, let’s remember Whose we are and rely on the grace and strength of our Lord to speak out for justice and compassion for those who have no voice.  Abdul Saboor, at “One United People” exhorted us: “Do not to take your freedom for granted.”  Let’s tell the real story of refugee resettlement.

Let us pray –

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer “Prayer for Our Country”


~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Understanding (and acting upon) suicide and its prevention

mental-health-1Greetings, Friends!

I am no expert when it comes to this topic.  I will admit this straight off.  But, it is timely and I believe we can learn from each other.  September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and, sadly, I have become more conscious of the need for addressing this tragedy this year than I’d like.  Last Thursday night, a good friend reached out to me because she knew I was a “praying person” after she received the call that her friend’s 21-year old son had killed himself.  What does one say?  Of course, I will pray – and have been – for the family and friends who don’t have answers to their questions, for the loved ones who feel guilt and shame when none ought to be felt, and for this young man who had lost all hope and couldn’t face one more day.  Only two days later, another dear friend sent the message that her daughter had attempted suicide that night.  And I prayed some more.  Last year, a student of mine was very depressed.  I didn’t know exactly how serious it was until I went to lock up her room at one of our breaks and found a note pinned to her wall that read: “Remember, you would be missed.” For years, I knew of no one whose life had been impacted by the tragedy of suicide but now…now, this is three in just one year.  Now, I am aware – and feel unprepared and mostly powerless to do anything.  And I feel such deep sadness that this is the experience of these dear young people whose whole lives seem to be before them but they can’t see or feel that right now.   As the People of God, we must become aware so that we can offer healing and hope but, first, we must know how.

I want to say something about depression first.  I hear well-meaning students and adults tell one another, “Oh, you’ll be fine” or “You just have to get over it” or, worse yet, “You think you have problems; you should see…”  This “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality is all wrong.  Clinical depression is an illness much like diabetes or heart-disease.  When some of the girls in the dorm didn’t know how to react to friends with depression, I shared this video from the World Health Organization with them –

We’ve also sponsored dorm events inviting our school clinical psychologist to speak about depression, anxiety and stress.  A few years ago, some students began a campus club called “Lighthouse” to address issues of mental health.  Their student speakers have told their own stories of eating disorders, substance abuse, depression and suicide attempts.  Bringing the conversation out into the open is one step toward prevention and healing.

mental-health-3At St Mary’s-in-the-Hills Episcopal Church, Lake Orion, the congregation decided to address the pain of suicide head-on by beginning a suicide prevention outreach called Take My Hand.  The Rev. Laurel Dahill, rector of St Mary’s told me:

Take My Hand is what we call our suicide prevention outreach ministry to Lake Orion, Oxford, and surrounding communities. Here in Oakland County, we’ve had a higher-than-statistical-average for suicides for at least a generation if not longer. These suicides cross all demographic lines, and they often happen in clusters. As we develop this outreach, we’re discovering not only the many complex facets to this issue, but some major reasons why it’s so difficult to address. Primary among these seem to be the stigmas associated with this sort of death. Grief over suicide isn’t like grief over other kinds of death. The stigma of shame often dissuades the surviving family members from admitting in obituaries and common conversation that their loved one took their own life. Thus shame prevents the surviving family from expressing their grief fully, hampers attempts to heal the devastating hurt of such a loss, and perpetuates the belief that nothing can be done about this.

St. Mary’s In-The-Hills recognizes that few groups, if any in our area, are taking proactive steps to address suicide. If no one else is courageous enough to take on this demon directly, we will. Through special events and education opportunities that provide candid yet caring engagement with survivors and at-risk individuals, Take My Hand intends to shed light into this darkness. Our mission is to help bring relief the victims of suicides, and lead our whole community to a healthier state of being, where suicide is no longer considered an option.

You can find more information about this ministry on their Facebook page –

I think it’s also crucial to emphasize that mental health concerns are not “one size fits all.”  Again, my analogy with other diseases – we all know that it’s wrong to take somebody else’s medications even if they have the same illness.  Professional mental health providers are the only ones that can appropriately address specific treatment for each individual situation.  That being said, outreach programs like Take My Hand do offer valuable support and education to bring greater awareness to the mental health needs of our communities.

I asked Rev. Dahill how other congregation might consider addressing the need for support and education in their own congregations and communities.  She answered:

My advice to others who want to begin to address this in their own congregations would be to start by discerning if the congregation is able to talk about suicide candidly and reasonably.  A lot of our work was in-house – getting the people here to a place where we can discuss it without getting defensive or shutting down.  Next, decide if there is a) enough passion to pursue it as a ministry, and b) if there is enough energy to engage this as a long-term project.

One thing we discovered not long into this, is that a suicide outreach ministry is playing a very long game.  Any congregation will need to decide if it can make a time and energy commitment like this.  If not, organizations that are already doing this work might be grateful for assistance or short-term partnerships to strengthen their impact.  A parish doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.  It can do a lot just by being supportive, in whatever way they can, to a ministry elsewhere.

Some good online resources for suicide prevention awareness are –

Man and Woman profiles face opposite ways in couple problem jigsaw puzzle

Tragically, we know that the suicide rates among transgender individuals is alarmingly high.  Forty-one percent will attempt to take their life at some point compared with 4.1% of the general population.  One resource available specifically for the trans person at risk is the Trans Lifeline ((877) 565-8860).  The staff are trans individuals who can respond to suicide threats and problems of homelessness when the callers have been rejected by their home and family.  You can learn more on their website –

Suicide prevention awareness is one aspect of fostering good mental health but there are others.  I know that Eric Travis, Missioner for Youth and Young Adults for the diocese, has participated in the Mental Health First Aid course sponsored by the National Council for Behavioral Health.  You can find classes in your area and more information on their helpful website –

I saved the applicable resolution to the end.  At General Convention, we adopted:

C020: Ministry to People with Mental Illness and Their Families

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church calls upon dioceses, congregations, schools and other entities of the Episcopal Church to explore and adopt best practices for the vitality and increased capacity of their mission and ministry in the inclusion, support, and spiritual care for persons with mental illness and their families; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses, congregations, schools and other entities of the Episcopal Church increase understanding about mental illness by providing educational material and training; utilizing existing programs such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, veterans groups, governmental departments of mental health, local organizations, and other programs and organizations; and sharing the information so that it is readily accessible.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness website is – and has many helpful articles and educational pieces that can prepare us for fostering a healthy climate in our congregations and communities.  By advocating for good mental health, we are demonstrating once again how we can “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

If you have a story to share or other good resources to offer, please get in touch with me at

Let us pray –

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
 So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.  Amen.

Psalm 63:1 – 8

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Examples of several food, agriculture programs of great benefit

foodGreetings, Friends!

Back-to-school time is a busy time for all of us, I’m sure, and added to the adjustment of new schedules, we have miserable heat and humidity!!  So, let me begin with a small apology:  In my role as residence director in a women’s dorm at Hillsdale College, I live in as older, un-air-conditioned building and it’s pretty toasty in here today.  My brain is fried and my motivation has melted away but I still want to bring you some thoughts to ponder. Rather than begin a new topic, I’d like to highlight a subject we all love: FOOD!

Back in August, I shared Resolution A091: Affirm Work for Food Ministries and Food Security which asks, among other things, that congregations and diocese deepen their awareness of food insecurity and health issues as well as “increase our involvement in advocacy for the development and maintenance of sustainable; equitable; culturally appropriate; and accessible food systems.”  Recently I’ve noticed that the Episcopal News Service has been running a series about church-based food supply and community agriculture centered in Seattle. I’d like to share some of their inspiring videos which just may prompt new ideas for the congregations in our Household.

From Duwamish Waterway and Mission to Seafarers Seattle –

You can read their story here –

From St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle and beekeeper Brian Sellers-Petersen – Abuzz about Bees.

Find the article here –

From St Andrew’s Episcopal Church and parishioner/volunteer gardener JB Hoover – A Growing Vision in Seattle’s Green Lake Neighborhood.

Find more details here –

From Redmond, Wash., the Rev. Jim Eichner from Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross comes the story of Food Bank Farm and their Seattle recipient Food Lifeline -“I was hungry and you gave me food”

You can read their story here –

food-2 What struck me about all of these is that the founders were able to use their passions and think outside the box to create something that reaches the people in their communities in creative ways to meet their food needs as they share the Gospel of God’s love for everyone.  Where are your passions?  Might God be calling you and your congregation to create a new work or join with an existing ministry in your area?

Let us pray –

Lord, we know you care for each person as your valuable creation. May your people rise up to meet the needs of the hungry men, women and children in our community. Please help me to see those who are hurting around me and guide me to know the ways that I can help them. Thank you for the food you have provided me today and for your provision to others through the blessings of your people. Amen.

~ The Rev Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee