Diocesan workshops coming in February; also, a story of resurrection in Texas

waters-of-reconciliationA Happy New Year and a Blessed Epiphany to You All, Dear Friends!

It is my fervent prayer that 2017 is a year in which we see the Jesus Movement alive and actively impacting the lives of our communities and our nation to bring protection and relief from injustice and oppression. This can only happen if we are committed to doing the work!

As you may remember Bishop Gibbs has been leading the diocese through “the Waters of Reconciliation” in our Diocesan Convention and Ministry Fairs over the last two years.  Recognizing the fears and concerns we see post-election in our nation, this focus could not have come at a more appropriate time. The work of learning how we might demonstrate love for all our neighbors will continue in our Household through your choice of a Saturday workshop on either February 4th or February 25th (The location of these events will be announced soon). The diocese is working with Visions, Inc., whose goal “is to be a catalyst for a more equitable world where differences are values and used for the benefit of all”.  From their website (http://visions-inc.org/who-we-are/) Visions, Inc. sees their mission as a call to:

  • To equip individuals, organizations, and communities with the tools needed to thrive in a diverse world.

  • To remove structural and cultural barriers that prevent full and equitable participation.

  • To help create environments where differences are recognized, understood, appreciated, and utilized for the benefit of all.

We will realize this mission by implementing a time-tested, insight-driven training and consulting model that will empower our clients to become catalysts for change and effectively engage all people in the deep, challenging, and rewarding work of authentic inclusion, personally and within their organizations and communities.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to see many of you there while we learn new ways to bring understanding to our own communities.

episcopal-diocese-of-fort-worthThis morning I read a wonderful story of resurrection which is also a statement of reconciliation for a diocese and its neighbors. You might remember that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth chose to leave The Episcopal Church in November 2008 and align themselves with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. While the bishop and his colleagues left, many members remained committed to The Episcopal Church.  Katharine Jefferts-Schori, as Presiding Bishop at the time, insured that an “open arms” policy would be in place should any decide to return. In the meantime, a steering committee was established to reconstitute the diocese for the remaining Episcopalians.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit continued to work and resurrection for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a reality! Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported on the “reorganization of the Diocese of Fort Worth” noting that the result of their hard work is more of a resurrection than even a resuscitation!  While reinventing the church in that place, they find that they have even reinvented themselves (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/01/03/reorganized-diocese-of-forth-worth-is-participating-in-resurrection/)

“We‘re not trying to rebuild an old church,” says Fort Worth Bishop Provisional J. Scott Mayer, who is also the bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas. “We are trying to participate in resurrection to become a new body.”

Some of the changes have included new worship venues for congregations including a theater, a strip mall and a building that originally was the Episcopal Mission of the Ascension in 1889 but in recent days has served as a mattress factory and a wedding chapel before returning to its original purpose. And new ministries are being born in this exciting climate. One example is the new 4 Saints Food Pantry to bring relief in the apparent food desert on the east side of Fort Worth. This new venture received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant to buy the equipment required for a licensed food pantry. The four “Saints” partnering in this ministry are St. Luke’s in the Meadow, Fort Worth; St. Alban’s, Arlington; St. Martin’s, Keller-Southlake; and St. Stephen’s, Hurst.4saints-food-pantry-960x350

As we see church attendance declining in many areas, it is exciting and promising to see a 19.3% increase in church attendance and an 11.9% operating revenue increase since the split. These numbers represent a lot more than dollars and cents; they represent new members of the Jesus Movement!  We often speak of new life being born from death like seeds needing to be buried deep in the ground before life can emerge. The resurrection of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is an example that we can observe as we rejoice in the results of their faithfulness and commitment.  For me, this brings hope that the work we do together for reconciliation and renewal will also bring about new life. I hope you’ll join me!

ENS will be telling the stories of some of the congregations in Fort Worth in upcoming articles.  Here’s a link to the first – St Alban’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, TX – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/01/04/st-albans-episcopal-church-puts-church-on-stage-and-in-the-community/

And here’s the video story of their reinvention:

Let us pray –

God of surprises,
you call us
from the narrowness of our traditions
to new ways of being church,
from the captivities of our culture to
creative witness for justice,
from the smallness of our horizons
to the bigness of your vision.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might call others to freedom
and renewed faith.

Jesus, wounded healer,
you call us
from preoccupation with our own histories and hurts
to daily tasks of peacemaking,
from privilege and protocol
to partnership and pilgrimage,
from isolation and insularity
to inclusive community.

Clear the way in us, your people,
That we might call others to
wholeness and integrity.

Holy, transforming Spirit,
you call us
from fear to faithfulness,
from clutter to clarity,
from a desire to control to deeper trust,
from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might all know the beauty and power
and danger of the gospel.

—Gwyn Cashmore and Joan Puls, From One Race the Human Race: Racial Justice Sunday 2003, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland: Churches Commission for Racial Justice, London.

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


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