Good afternoon, Friends –
Well, I’m excited! At the end of a very busy academic year, I have found myself a bit weary and feeling somewhat dry. Just when I was thinking that I could use a small kick in the “derriere,” God came through with three gentle nudges to get me moving again!
Yesterday, I received an email from the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) announcing For Such a Time as This: a Call to Prayer, Fast and Advocacy beginning with a three day fast on Sunday, May 21st and then continuing on the 21st day of each month. Don’t get the wrong idea – I am not generally eager to give up good food but the idea of joining with my brothers and sisters to pray for those struggling with hunger and poverty is compelling. I imagine that I’m not alone when I say that I have been longing for something positive to do during these days of political unrest and confusion. Sure, I’ve been praying but my hope is that this action will enable me to focus on one, very practical, local issue. As Bishop Curry states in his statement (see video link below), we will pray for our government leaders that they “will find a way to do what is just and kind and compassionate in the best of the American spirit.”
The 21st of the month was chosen for a fast day because, by that time of the month, 90% of those receiving food assistance (SNAP) have run out of their resources and are finding the last week of each month a struggle to put food on the table for their families. This call for action will continue through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. I realize that likely you will be reading this blog after the 21st of this month but that’s okay. Good work can begin anytime; we haven’t missed the opportunity to join others in this mission. Just begin on June 21st.
Bishop Curry’s message reminds us of the beautiful story of Queen Esther who has the opportunity to save her people when she comes for an audience before King Ahasuerus. Esther’s cousin Mordecai has suggested to her that perhaps God has brought her to royal favor “for such a time as this,” that she might intercede for her people before the king. Bishop Curry posits: “Maybe we are Esther.” Maybe this is our time to speak for those who have no voice and to work on their behalf for food, income and resource justice.
Here’s a link to more information that will answer the questions: Whose fast is this? Who will be the public face of this fast? Who else is taking part?
And here’s the link to Bishop Curry’s message and invitation to join him “For such a time as this.”
The second “nudge” arrived the other day with a moving video from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby inviting us to join in 11 days of prayer between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost (May 25th – June 4th). Recalling the uncertainty the disciples felt after Jesus’ Ascension while they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, the first chapter of Acts tells us that “they prayed constantly” not knowing when this expected event would occur. “Thy Kingdom Come” is a campaign begun by the Archbishop along with other religious leaders which “seeks to refocus Christians around the world on the early disciples’ example” (Episcopal News Service).
A new theme is presented each of the 11 days which has been developed from the catechism and prayers in our Book of Common Prayer. Each day’s prayer leader will start us off with a video based on the theme of the day. The first day’s prayer will be led by our own Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry.
We are asked to focus our prayers on five specific people for the 11 days and share our prayers on social media – “Pray It – Picture It – Post It.” We pray that others will know the love of God through Jesus.
Here’s another short video that presents the background of this worldwide movement of prayer.
Episcopal News Service (ENS) has more details and links to resources in their article from May 18, 2017.
And you can follow along on the Facebook page by clicking here.
Finally, I watched a webinar on Tuesday from The Episcopal Church – Becoming the Beloved Community: The Episcopal Church’s Long-term Commitment to Racial Healing, Reconciliation and Justice with Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry; President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings; and Secretary of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Michael Barlowe.
At the 2015 General Convention, we passed Resolution C019 Establish Response to Systemic Injustice which calls the Church to a “fresh commitment to racial justice, reconciliation and healing” (from the document Becoming the Beloved Community). The work that our diocese has been doing with VISIONS, Inc. dovetails so well with the work of TEC, although this really isn’t a coincidence since this important work of reconciliation comes directly from our Baptismal Covenant into which we are all called to live.
The work of reconciliation and healing is not a “one and done’’ program but a journey we may travel together that will give us the opportunity to explore the covenants in deeper ways as we go. Key components include:
Telling the Truth
- Who are we?
- What things have we done and left undone regarding racial justice and healing?
Proclaiming the Dream
- How can we publicly acknowledge things done and left undone?
- What does Beloved Community look like in this place?
- What behaviors and commitments will foster reconciliation, justice, and healing?
Repairing the Breach
- What institutions and systems are broken?
- How will we participate in repair, restoration, and healing of people, institutions, and systems?
Practicing the Way of Love
- How will we grow as reconcilers, healers, and justice-bearers?
- How will we actively grow relationship across dividing walls and seek Christ in the other?
You can find the video of the webinar by clicking here.
And here’s a link to the document describing the background and vision for our journey together.
So…I am excited to see how intentional prayer and action will bring hope and healing to our Church and to the people in our communities and country. Join me, won’t you, in this journey together!
Let us pray –
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer, p. 815)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council