This week’s blog will be a bit of a hybrid because there are TWO stories from our Household that I want to share. While very different in nature, they both speak of important ministry within our diocese and are models for us of what we can do when we are willing to work for God’s kingdom here on earth.
At our Pre-Convention Deanery meeting on Sunday I learned that the Diocesan Altar Guild has had to cancel their fall gathering for the third year in a row due to lack of participation. I’m pretty sure that each of our congregations has dedicated individuals who give their time to the ministry of the altar for all of us. I know we do – and I take it for granted that the altar will be ready for Sunday services every week but, sadly, I will admit that I have not given altar guild much thought.
I remember a great workshop I attended a few years ago with Diana Butler Bass on the “Emerging Church” where she told a story of the importance of ministry. When she had just begun attending a new congregation, she happened into church pretty early before one service. The lady setting up the altar was still working at her task. Diana introduced herself as a new attendee and the woman quickly said, “Oh, I hope you’d like to work on the altar guild! I’m getting pretty old and tired of doing all the work myself.” Diana commented that she didn’t feel this was the most productive way to get a new member involved. She certainly didn’t feel attracted to a job that would be tiring and lonely! What a different response, Diana offered, might the woman have received had she said, “I prepare the altar for worship every week. This is my ministry for my church family and I treasure the time here with the Lord as I prepare His table.”
My question for us is: Do we see the work of preparing our table and caring for our linens as ministry or just one more job to add to our busy schedules? Maybe, just maybe, if we adjusted our focus, the Diocesan Altar Guild might not be feeling abandoned by the Household and would experience the support of all the congregations they serve. Let’s see what we can do to help! For more information and to offer support and encouragement, please contact Joyce Holden, Diocesan Altar Guild President at email@example.com
The second story is also about ministry, specifically the work of the members of Covenant 5. As a reminder, Covenant 5 is the group of people who have taken on the task of keeping us informed and engaged with the many justice and peace issues in our communities and in the world as a response to the fifth covenant of our Baptismal Covenant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? One of the issues their work has been addressing is the tragedy of bullying which seems to have become a rampant problem in our society. October is Bully Prevention Month with October 8th declared as World Day of Bullying Prevention sponsored by http://www.stompoutbullying.org, the leading bullying and cyberbullying resource for kids & teens.
Jim Toy, Co-Chair of the Alliance to Abolish Bullying for our diocese, addressed the Ann Arbor City Council to request that they declare the month of October National Bullying Prevention Month. Mayor John Hieftje issued the following proclamation in response:
WHEREAS bullying is physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional harm or intimidation intentionally directed at a person or group of people; and
WHEREAS bullying occurs in homes, neighborhoods, playgrounds, athletic facilities, schools, businesses, social institutions, and through technology, such as the Internet and cell phones; and
WHEREAS bullying is the most common form of violence, affecting millions of American children, adolescents and adults annually; and
WHEREAS, targets of bullying are more likely to acquire physical, emotional, and learning problems and students who are repeatedly bullied often fear such activities as riding the bus, going to school, and attending community activities; and
WHEREAS children who bully are at greater risk of engaging in more serious violent behaviors; and
WHEREAS children who witness bullying often feel less secure, more fearful, and intimidated.
NOW THEREFORE I, John Hieftje, Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan, proclaim October as National Bullying Prevention Month. I encourage the City of Ann Arbor schools, students, parents, recreation programs, religious institutions, and community organizations to engage in a variety of awareness and prevention activities designed to make our communities safer for all children, adolescents and adults.
I hereby set my hand and seal this 6th day of October, 2014
John Hieftje, Mayor
Jim also submitted similar requests to the cities of Ypsilanti and Saline. This is a fine example of the fine work that Covenant 5 is all about and I want to commend Jim for his perseverance and dedication to this cause. Thank you, Jim!
You may recall that a resolution was passed at General Convention focusing on our response to bullying and its prevention:
D022: Churchwide Response to Bullying
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention calls for a churchwide response to the epidemic of bullying, particularly of those perceived as being “different” by virtue of economic, ethnic, racial or physical characteristics, religious status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; bullying is defined as the recurring use of single or combined written, verbal or electronic expressions or physical acts or gestures, directed at any person that: result in physical or emotional harm to the person or damage to his/her property; places the person in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself or of damage to her/his property; creates an intimidating or hostile environment for the person; impacts the rights of the victim. Bullying shall include cyber-bullying through electronic/social media, telephonic technology or other means; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention encourage new partnerships among our congregations, dioceses, campus ministries, National Association of Episcopal Schools, public schools, counseling centers, and governmental organizations in order to support and offer preventative programs addressing bullying, harassment, and other related violence, especially with higher risk populations; and be it further
Resolved, That these partnerships be encouraged to create or join with existing required programs designed to recognize and prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation in our church settings which:
– utilize positive, inclusive, empowering and developmentally appropriate materials
– raise participant’s awareness about the issue
– focus on prevention
– seek to change bystander behavior into ally behavior
– create partnerships between youth and adults
– provide intervention and treatment for those who exhibit bullying behavior.
Jim and his friends have taken their passion for this issue and acted on it! Let’s join them in the work to rid our communities of this insidious problem so that all may experience the dignity they deserve. For more information check out this website – http://www.stompoutbullying.org/
Ministry doesn’t just happen during our worship and it isn’t only done by those ordained. We are all Ministers through our Baptism. Our ministry may come through serving behind the scenes caring for our altar or speaking out for causes at city council meetings or sending cards to shut-ins or washing dishes after a soup supper or writing a blog. Each role is precious in God’s sight and necessary for the good of the Body of Christ.
I’ve always hoped that we might engage in conversation through this blog or our Facebook page so let me invite you to share your stories of ministry as examples of the many possibilities there are for service. In the meantime, let us pray for one another as we strive to live into our Baptismal Covenant:
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole
body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified:
Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before
you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation
and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council