From the Bishop of the Diocese of Maine
Praying in Days Like These
At our diocesan staff meeting on Tuesday, Canon Ambler noted that we seem to have entered an “era of disasters.” We don’t know what’s happened overnight, but we’re afraid to open the paper to find out – because we know it will be bad. Harvey, Irma, Maria, Mexico City, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas – disasters pile up so quickly that we can scarcely keep up, let alone respond. We’re simply not prepared for disasters on this scale. In such a time, it’s easy to become discouraged, even despairing. How do we respond to all these disasters?
Our first impulse is to pray, and I want to affirm that impulse. Sometimes all we can do is lament our loss: pour out our hurt and grief, asking God for mercy. That’s a good place to begin.
Yet prayer is more than asking. Prayer is also listening: listening for God’s response and for God’s invitation. As we pray, God we may hear God inviting us to join in the work of reconciliation, to give of ourselves and our abundance. We may feel overwhelmed and frightened, but we are not helpless.
God is with us, right here, right now. Let us turn to God in prayer.
Giving is a form of prayer, and I commend to you Episcopal Relief and Development. On their webpage (www.episcopalrelief.org) you will find a heading, “What YOU CAN DO.” Click on that and a dropdown menu will open with several options. One is GIVE. There you will find options for giving. Another is VOLUNTEER. There you will find READY TO SERVE, a place where you can volunteer to help rebuild once disaster areas have recovered enough to receive volunteers. Episcopal Relief and Development works closely with the local dioceses. It has a four star rating from Charity Navigator, the highest rating. It is the way our churches in the disaster zone are asking us to help.
A Word to the Church
from the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops
The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska (Diocese of Alaska) approved and presented the following Word to the Church.
A Word to the Church from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops
Gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, September 21-26, 2017
The bishops of The Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness. We came because:
• “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). God is the Lord of all the earth and of all people; we are one family, the family of God.
• “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom we met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.
• People have “become hard of hearing, and shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). We are blind and deaf to the groaning of the earth and its peoples; we are learning the art of prayerful listening.
What does listening to the earth and its people mean? For us bishops, it meant:
• Getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.
• Recognizing that struggles for justice are connected. Racism, the economy, violence of every kind, and the environment are interrelated. We have seen this reality not only in the Arctic, but also at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, in the recent hurricanes, in Flint, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.
• Understanding that listening is deeply connected to healing. In many healing stories in the gospels, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he listened first and then acted.
What did we hear?
• “The weather is really different today,” one leader told us. “Now spring comes earlier, and fall lasts longer. This is threatening our lives because the permafrost is melting and destabilizing the rivers. We depend on the rivers.”
• The land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou birth their calves is called the “sacred place where life begins,” so sacred the Gwich’in People do not set foot there. “Drilling here,” people said, “is like digging beneath the National Cathedral.”
• After shopping together, a native Episcopalian told one of us how hard it is to even secure food. “We can’t get good food here. We have to drive to Fairbanks. It is a two-hour trip each way.”
What we bishops saw and heard in Alaska is dramatic, but it is not unique. Stories like these can be heard in each of the nations where The Episcopal Church is present. They can be heard in our own communities. We invite you to join us, your bishops, and those people already engaged in this work, in taking time to listen to people in your dioceses and neighborhoods. Look for the connections among race, violence of every kind, economic disparity, and the environment. Then, after reflecting in prayer and engaging with scripture, partner with people in common commitment to the healing of God’s world.
God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.
A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth
Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.
Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s action and the Paris Climate Accord.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation, share the joys and importance of Revivals in the Episcopal Church.
|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.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine
November 9, 2016: A post-election message from Bishop Lane
A Pastoral Letter to Episcopalians in Maine, The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. 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.
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 are 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