Grace Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church in Bath, Maine, established in 1849

A Word from the Bishops

 

 
A Pastoral Letter to the People of the Diocese of Maine
February 1, 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

The last several months have witnessed a period of upheaval and political conflict in our nation such as I have not seen since the height of the Vietnam War. Many people are angry and bitterly opposed to one another, and some are finding it hard to listen to one another and to discover common values and aspirations. We are in danger of making one another aliens and strangers in our own land.

In this context, I call you to affirm that God loves us all and that we are all members of a single human family. Moreover, our Savior Jesus Christ died for each one of us. The Episcopal Church in Maine will continue to be open to all persons without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, sexual identity, or political party. We will continue to pray for the welfare of all, including our elected leaders. We will continue to exercise radical hospitality and inclusive participation in all aspects of church life. We will “respect the dignity of every human being.”

At the same time, as followers of Jesus, we will continue to preach the Good News of God in Christ and to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” Our ministries with the poor, the sick, the stranger, and the alien have not and will not change. I will continue to speak out on issues of related to immigration, refugees, poverty, and war and peace. The recent decisions of the new administration regarding immigration have made some of this work more urgent, but it is work we know well and will continue to do. I invite you, no matter your politics, to invest yourself in your local communities and to work with other Episcopalians through our Maine Episcopal Network for Justice. If you haven’t been involved, now is a good time to jump in.

We will also continue to work with other churches and members of other faiths to create secure communities where all are safe and all have the opportunity to grow and prosper. Our good relationships with the Jewish and Muslim communities are sources of strength, and we will remain faithful partners with them.

The particular opportunity we have before us may be the chance to participate in the development of new understandings between people who have different visions for our country’s future. We might well host – first in our congregations and then in our communities – conversations about important community issues, seeking to learn from each other how and why we differ and what hopes we might share. Episcopalians have always been able to come together at the Lord’s table across difference, and now might be a time to practice this particular gift together.

At the core of our current struggles is fear: fear of change, fear of loss, fear of the other. None of us is untouched by the changes of the last 40 years. All of us have experienced the loss of something we cherished. Jesus’ most frequent admonition was, “Fear not.” Fear not. God is with you. Our hope is not simply in what we can create as individuals or as a nation. Our hope is in God, who loves us and cares for us. In all that we do we need to turn to our God, to trust in God’s presence with us, and to share God’s love with others. “Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

I write to you with a deep sense of thanksgiving for your faithfulness and for the work you do on behalf of Christ. I know you will make conscientious, faith-based choices and will live into your convictions, even at the risk of misunderstanding. I invite you to trust that you are not alone. I walk with you. And Jesus walks with you. We must remember that Christ meets us in our weakness. It is on the cross that Jesus overcomes death and sets us free to live new lives. It is in that new life that we now walk together.
Faithfully,

+stl

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane

Bishop of Maine

 

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Download a pdf copy of this letter on the Bishop’s letterhead.

 

 

 

November 9, 2016:  A post-election message from Bishop Lane


A Pastoral Letter to Episcopalians in Maine, The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane

bishop lane

July 29, 2016

Beloved in Christ Jesus,

While I was on vacation in July, it seemed for a while as if all hell had broken loose. There were the killings of unarmed black men by police in two cities, the sniper attack on the police in Dallas protecting a Black Lives Matter rally, and the murder of 80 persons run over by a terrorist truck driver during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France. All this while the nation prepared for the Republican and Democratic Nominating Conventions. The newscasts and the internet were alive with exaggerated statements about the unleashing of a race war among us and the end of life as we’ve known it. I eventually needed to stop paying attention to preserve my vacation.

It’s true, of course, that life as we’ve known it is ending. That’s always the case. Change alone is constant. And the pace of change is much more rapid today.

Our country is becoming increasingly diverse with more and more persons holding to traditions other than those from England and northern Europe. Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers. In a very short time, there will be no majority culture in America.

More and more of us find our standard of living declining. Real income has been declining in America for more than 40 years. It now takes two incomes to earn less in real dollars than what one earned in 1965. The American Dream of homeownership and a comfortable retirement is increasingly difficult to achieve.

And our racism is a real problem. Not bigotry – all people prefer their own clans and cultures – but racism: personal prejudice enforced by power that makes it difficult for people to drive while black, rent an apartment in a burka, or get a job while speaking Spanish. Our old white-Anglo prejudice, our sin of racism, is staring us in the face, and the picture isn’t pretty.

None of these things is new, of course. But a majority of us suddenly seem to have become aware of them. We seem to have reached a tipping point. It’s as if we awoke recently from a long sleep to realize that this is no longer the world of our grandparents.

For many of us, the changes are frightening. We don’t know what to do. It is all too easy in the face of these things to try to build dikes to hold back the tide and to fall prey to fear and panic: to believe that the solution to the ills we face is to close our borders, purify our communities, and buy guns. But none of these efforts have ever prevented change, and they won’t now. Change will come because the forces driving it are larger than we are, and because it is God’s will. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

God surely does not want a world that looks like the present one, filled with divisions, genocides, poverty, and terrorism. Rather, I believe God seeks a new world where people of every race and color are affirmed in their dignity as children of God and have the means for safe, secure and happy lives. As Christians, as members of the Body of God’s Son, we are called to join God in building that new world.

I think we are called now to nothing less than being who we say we are: members of the Body of Christ. We are called to trust that God is in charge, that God is working God’s purposes out can be trusted to be faithful to the world God has made. We are called to love God and neighbor and to act on that love every day.

As Christians our trust is in God, not the next President. No matter who is elected in November, neither will save the world. Both candidates are fallible humans who will have to deal with an stubborn political process and prickly world neighbors. Both will be found to make mistakes, to be less than perfect in relation to the economy and terrorism and climate change. They will be sinners in need of redemption, as we all are. We can not put our trust in them. We must vote as wisely as we know how, but we must not kid ourselves that the election will make everything right.

President Obama recently said that America is not as deeply divided as recent events would make it seem. I agree. Most of us do our jobs, raise our kids, care for our communities, and live peaceably with our neighbors. When we get a chance, we try to have fun. We don’t all like one another, but we get along. And we all want a better world for our children.

The thing Jesus said most often in scripture was: “Do not be afraid.” I believe that’s the Word we need to hear now. Do not be afraid. Trust in God. And do your part, however small, to love the world God has made. Be kind to one another and civil to those with whom you disagree. Share what you have and work to affirm the dignity of those who are different. Pray for the wounded and the dead. Hope for a better world. Only love has the power to overcome the world as it is, and we have that love in Christ Jesus.

My greetings and love to each and every one of you. May God bless you and keep you today and always. I encourage you to be in conversation with one another and with me about these things.

Bishop Steve

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane


Election Message from our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry – see Video

This November we will gather together as a nation to vote not only to elect a new president but to elect governmental leaders on a variety of levels.

We armichaelcurrye blessed.  We are blessed as a nation to be able to do so as citizens of this country.  This is a right, an obligation, and a duty.  And indeed the right and the privilege to be able to vote is something that was won through an American revolution.  Something that was won even more through civil rights and women’s suffrage.  A right and a privilege that was won for all.  So I encourage you to please go and vote.  Vote your conscience.  Vote your perspective.  But vote.

But it’s not just simply a civil obligation and duty.  Voting and participation in our government is a way of participating in our common life.  And that is a Christian obligation.  Indeed, we who follow in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth are summoned to participate actively as reflections of our faith in the civil process.

In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, sometimes a chapter that is debated among scholars and among Christians, St. Paul reminds us that we have a duty and an obligation to participate in the process of government, “For that is how our common life is ordered and structured.”  And at one point he actually says, “For the same reason,” going on, he’s expanding, he says, “For the same reason you also pay taxes for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with everything.”  That’s probably very true.  “Pay to all them that is due them.  Taxes to whom taxes are due.  Revenue to whom revenue is due.  Respect to whom respect is due.  Honor to whom honor is due.”  Now he’s talking about the role of government as helping to order our common life.  But here’s what I want you to really hear.  He continues and says:

“So owe no-one anything except to love one another.  For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  The commandments ‘You shall not commit adultery’, ‘You shall not murder’, ‘You shall not steal’, ‘You shall not covet’, any other commandment, they are all summed up in this word:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

For St. Paul, the way of love, the love of neighbor, is the fulfilling not only of the moral law of God, but the way to fulfill the civil law.

Go and vote.  Vote your conscience.  Your conscience informed by what it means to love your neighbor.  To participate in the process of seeking the common good.  To participate in the process of making this a better world.  However you vote, go and vote.  And do that as a follower of Jesus.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

 

Grace Episcopal Church - Bath, Maine | A member of The Episcopal Diocese of Maine, The Episcopal Church, and the Worldwide Anglican Communion