The Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ
Dear People of God called to be the Diocese of Maine,
I am reaching out to you today directly in this unprecedented moment to share new protocols communicated with your clergy and wardens suspending all access to /and any use of church buildings, offices, and parish halls throughout the diocese. I understand and appreciate the fact this decision has great impact on us all. As your leaders of faith however, it falls upon our shoulders to respond to and support the Governor’s lead and new mandate announced Tuesday, in taking every proactive step possible to help protect the people of Maine against the exposure and spread of COVID 19.
As I’ve shared with your clergy and wardens, though we are in very unsettling times, I truly believe this day presents an opportunity for us to reach out, serving and ministering to and with each other – together being one in “the living church” in new and different ways. You will be hearing directly from your clergy and my office often as this situation unfolds, offering ways for you to stay safe and connected through worship and prayer in whatever form that might take. I also encourage and invite you to visit the diocesan website and Facebook often as resources and information for online worship, readings and other materials for your use – such as the Book of Common Prayer linked here – are updated daily.
Despite the uncertainty of the day, please take time and make space in your life for daily meditation and prayer. As we walk alongside each other in this uncharted journey together, I share this message from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Jesus Christ is the same—yesterday, today, and forever. When we focus on this truth, and the joy that comes from having Him as the Lord of our lives, we can do all things because He gives us strength. God’s nature is to bring God’s people from death into life. All the time!
March 20-22, 2020: REACH, Maine Episcopal Youth middle school event – cancelled
March 27-29, 2020: Call to Serve, Maine Episcopal Youth high school event – cancelled
March 31, 2020: Chrism Eucharist and Clergy Renewal of Vows – cancelled (possible reschedule pending)
May 1-3, 2020: Spring Work Weekend at Camp Bishopswood – cancelled
May 1, 2020: Evangelism Training with Stephanie Spellers – pending
For People Critically Ill of Facing Great Uncertainty
God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.
-Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 765
For the Sick
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve those who are sick, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs. May they be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (modified BCP 260)
For Doctors and Nurses
Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 460)
15 March: Bishop Brown speaks about our response to the COVID-19 crisis, but more importantly, about the need for kindness, compassion, and mercy. youtu.be/9EwrnNY9mxk
Lent 2020: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Repentance Leading to Action
An Invitation from Presiding Bishop Curry to Turn and Pray on Behalf our Nation
Almighty God … We humbly pray that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
EPISCOPAL CHURCH STATEMENT ON IRAN
January 7, 2020:
Amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States following the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, The Episcopal Church continues to be guided by the teaching of Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” We affirm that, “It is crucial in this time of instability and threat of violence that our government and our neighbors seek diplomatic and humanitarian solutions rather than violence.” We pray for wisdom, restraint, and divine guidance for our leaders and decision makers, that they can move us away from violence and conflict and towards mutual understanding.
Bishops of all six Episcopal dioceses in Texas issue a joint statement decrying the inhumane conditions at our country’s borders
We are bishops of the six Episcopal dioceses in Texas. All but 700 miles of the almost 2,000 miles of the US-Mexico border are in Texas. All of Texas feels the impact of anything that happens on our southern border.We feel it through our families, many of whom have ancient deep roots in lands south of the United States. We feel it in our economy, as Mexico is Texas’ biggest trading partner. We feel it in our culture, since Texas was part of Mexico before we were part of the United States. Most of all, we feel it in our souls, for these are our neighbors, and we love them.We write to decry the conditions in detention centers at our border because we are Christians, and Jesus is unequivocal. We are to pray without ceasing for everyone involved-refugees, elected officials, and law enforcement-while also advocating for the humane treatment of the human beings crowding our border as they flee the terror and violence of their home countries.We call on our state and national leaders to reject fear-based policy-making that targets people who are simply seeking safety, and a chance to live and work in peace. The situation at the border is, by all accounts, a crisis. Refugees come in desperation; border personnel are under stress.We call on our leaders to trust in the goodness, generosity and strength of our nation. God has blessed us with great abundance. With it comes the ability and responsibility to bless others.We do this because Christians are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And how we are to treat our neighbors, especially the children, could not be any clearer than it is in Matthew 18:2-6:“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”We are to care for the children, cherish them, protect them and keep them safe.But what if they are strangers, foreigners? The message of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, Leviticus 19:33-34, also is very clear: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”And again, in Matthew 25: 31-40. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And, in Matthew 25:40: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”This is not a call for open borders. This is not saying that immigration isn’t complicated. This is a call for a humane and fair system for moving asylum seekers and refugees through the system as required by law. Seeking asylum is not illegal. Indeed, the people at our border are following the law when they present themselves to border authorities.Asylum is “a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a ‘refugee,’ which is ‘a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”Congress incorporated this definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980. The Refugee Act established two paths to obtain refugee status—either in the United States as an asylum seeker or from abroad as a resettled refugee.As Christians, we seek to follow the biblical and moral imperatives of our Lord. In addition, the United States has legal obligations through international law as well as our own immigration law to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees.And while the border authorities can detain asylum seekers, courts have ordered them to do so in “safe and sanitary conditions.” Credible news reports documenting unsafe conditions, especially for children, have made it clear this is not happening in consistent and sustained ways, as resources and personnel are overwhelmed by the situation.This nation has the resources to handle these refugees humanely. We call on our leaders to find the will to do so swiftly.The Episcopal Diocese of DallasThe Rt. Rev. George SumnerEpiscopal Diocese of Fort WorthThe Rt. Rev. J. Scott MayerThe Rt. Rev. Sam B. HulseyThe Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High Jr.Episcopal Diocese of Northwest TexasThe Rt. Rev. J. Scott MayerThe Episcopal Diocese of the Rio GrandeThe Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn
In the Diocese of Dallas, Communication Director Kimberly Durnan, firstname.lastname@example.org
The first letter from our new diocesan bishop!
Dear People of Maine,
This past weekend was more glorious than we ever could have anticipated, or imagined. Our cup truly runneth over. In the rear view mirror I see the smiles and feel the warm embraces of glad reunions, laughter and tears, all amidst the sweet, sweet Spirit of God, and the deepest sense of blessing.
My gratitude and thanks overflow for the dozens of people involved in planning the ordination and consecration weekend. Your friends and colleagues at Loring House; the dean, musicians and servers, staff, and ministry leaders at the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke; the transition, discernment, and standing committees; civic leaders and safety personnel – all gave of themselves fully and lovingly. Their leadership and time reflects a beautiful commitment to servant ministry.
In making my first episcopal visitation this past Sunday, the people of St. Mark’s in Waterville welcomed me and my family with open arms. I drove home envisaging similar days with every one of our faith communities, not so much because of the welcome I might receive, but because of my eager desire to meet and partner with all of you in ministry.
Yet it’s not as much about the past weekend as it is about our coming together as a faith community, building on our past strengths and good works in charting our path forward. We are the people of God called to be the Episcopal Church in Maine. What I see and feel in you are faithful followers of our Lord ready to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the prayers, and in celebrating and sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus. I have already witnessed your excitement to return the world to peace, and your willingness to invite me to join you in saying “yes” to the mission God is giving us.
In short, it is about ALL of us, and will indeed become the foundation for our future together: on Christ the solid rock!
Yet I must also ask for your patience and gentleness, as I will no doubt make mistakes, especially in these first few months. When that happens however, I trust you will give me the gentle nudge needed to help redirect my course.
In her sermon on Saturday the Reverend Barbara Lundblad commented, “Church attendance may be dipping, but God can survive the internet age, after all God knew a thing or two about resurrection. Wherever you are you will be clothed with power from on high…with the Spirit who empowers us to be Christ’s church”–to which I can only add,what we need is here!
For all that has been, and for all that shall be, I greet you in thanksgiving and in constant trust that God is doing more for us than we can ask or imagine.
(Please visit https://www.episcopalmaine.org/ for video and full coverage of the weekend, including Saturday’s liturgy, as well as Bishop Curry’s visit to the Temple at Ocean Park. For a downloadable copy of the letter click here.)
“Hatred does not have the last word. Violence does not have the last word. Bigotry does not have the last word. Sin, evil do not have the last word. The last word is God, and God is love.”
[March 26, 2018] Filmed on Palm Sunday during his visit to the Holy Land, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry delivered his Easter 2018 Message while standing outside of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
“Hatred does not have the last word,” the Presiding Bishop said. “Violence does not have the last word. Bigotry does not have the last word. Sin, evil do not have the last word. The last word is God, and God is love.”
The Presiding Bishop is traveling in the Holy Land during Holy Week.
The following is the text of the Presiding Bishop’s Easter 2018 Message:
Hello on Palm Sunday from St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
There is a passage in the 27th Chapter of Matthew’s gospel where religious leaders, political leaders come together once again after Jesus has been crucified and executed, after he had been buried in the tomb. Once again they come together to seal the tomb, to make sure not even a rumor of his resurrection will happen. And this is what some of them say:
Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may go and steal him away and tell the people he has been raised from the dead. And the last deception will be the worse than the first.
It is easy to overlook, and sometimes convenient to forget, that Jesus was executed, Jesus was crucified by an unholy alliance of religion, politics, and economic self-interest.
Politics represented in Pontius Pilate, governor of the Roman Empire, representative of that very empire and all of its power.
King Herod, who heard Jesus at one of the trials, representative of the Herodian and economic self-interest at the time.
The Chief Priest, representative of religious aristocracies who had a vested interest in the status quo.
These three powers came together – economic, religious and political – to crucify the one who taught love the lord your God, love your neighbor, and actually live that way.
The truth is the message of Jesus was unsettling to the world then as it is unsettling to the world now. And yet that very message is the only source of hope in life for the way of the cross, the way of unselfish living, the way of sacrificial living, seeking the good, the welfare of the other before one’s own unenlightened self-interest. That way of the cross is the way of love. That is the nature of love. And that way is the only hope for the entire human family.
The reality is the way of Jesus was a threat to the way that the world is, and hope for the way the world can and will be.
But on that third day after the crucifixion, when by the titanic power of God, by the power of the love of God, Jesus was raised from the dead. God sent a message and declared that death does not have the last word. Hatred does not have the last word. Violence does not have the last word. Bigotry does not have the last word. Sin, evil do not have the last word. The last word is God, and God is love.
On our pilgrimage here, we stopped and spent two days in Jordan. In Amman, Jordan, we were able to spend some sacred and blessed and painful time with Iraqi Christians. These are Christians, many of whom are Anglican, who have fled their country in Iraq because of war and violence and hatred and desecration. They have given up everything, refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. And there in Jordan, with the help of the Anglican Church there and many other relief agencies, they are at least safe, hoping to find safe and permanent homes in other countries.
In the course of our conversations, and listening to them, at one point I found myself quoting a hymn, a song that many folk have heard around Easter, certainly in our country. And I didn’t expect a response. You probably know how it goes – it says,“because he lives,” referring to Jesus and his resurrection, “because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” When I quoted that song, those who have lost their homes, people who have lost everything except life itself, those who have lost loved ones, actually responded to the words of that song. When I said,“Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” When I said Jesus is alive, He’s been raised from the dead, I saw them lift up their heads and respond with the words amen, hallelujah.
My brothers and sisters, evil could not stop him. Death could not stop him. Violence could not stop him. For the love of God, the heart of God, the reality of God is stronger than anything else. And Jesus really rose from the dead on that first resurrection morning.
God love you. God bless you. And, may this Easter season be the first day of the rest of our lives.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry Presiding Bishop and Primate The Episcopal Church
Note: the Spanish version of this information will be available shortly.
Bishops United Urges Assault Weapons Ban, Prayers of Lamentation
The heart of our nation has been broken yet again by another mass shooting at an American school.
We offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We mourn with particular sorrow Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old student at the school and leader in the youth group at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, who died at the hands of the gunman. We pledge to work with the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida to lend whatever material and spiritual comfort we can to all those who have suffered such a devastating loss.
The phrase “thoughts and prayers” has been devalued by politicians whose prayers seem never to move them to act against their self-interests or the interests of the National Rifle Association. Yet, as Christians, we believe deeply in the power of prayer to console, to sustain and to heal, but also to make evident the work that God is calling us to do. We pray that all who have been touched by this violent act receive God’s healing and solace.
In the wake of this massacre, we believe God is calling us to understand that we must not simply identify the social and political impediments to ending these lethal spasms of violence in our country. We must reflect on and acknowledge our own complicity in the unjust systems that facilitate so many deaths, and, in accordance with the keeping of a holy Lent, repent and make reparations.
Specifically, we ask you, members of our church and those who ally yourselves with us, to:
Contact your elected representatives and ask them to support legislation banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, which is the gun used in most of the recent mass shootings in our country; high-capacity magazines; and bump stocks, the equipment used by the killer in the Las Vegas massacre that allows semiautomatic weapons to fire dozens of rounds in seconds. We understand that mass shootings account for a small percentage of the victims of gun violence; that far more people are killed by handguns than by any kind of rifle; that poverty, misogyny and racism contribute mightily to the violence in our society and that soaring rates of suicide remain a great unaddressed social challenge. And yet, the problem of gun violence is complex, and we must sometimes address it in small pieces if it is not to overwhelm us. So, please, call your members of Congress and insist that your voice be heard above those of the National Rifle Association’s lobbyists.
Participate in a service of a lamentation for the victims of the Parkland shooting and all victims of lethal gun violence. We will be announcing a schedule of such services at churches around the country in the near future. To keep up with these plans, please follow our Facebook page Episcopalians Against Gun Violence.
Enter into a period of discernment with us about how, through prayer, advocacy and action, we can make clear to our elected representatives that they must vote in the interests of all Americans, including law-abiding gun owners, in passing life-saving, common sense gun policies. Visit our website to learn more about our work and how to reach us. And if you plan to attend this summer’s General Convention in Austin, Texas, plan to join us each morning for prayer outside the convention hall and to attend the Bishops United Against Gun Violence public witness on Sunday, July 8 at 9 a.m.
Two years after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that took the life of Ben Wheeler, an active young member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Connecticut, his father, David, asked parents to look at their children and then ask themselves, “Am I doing everything I can to keep them safe? Because the answer to that question, if we all answer honestly, clearly is no.” In memory of Carmen and Ben and all of God’s children lost to senseless gun violence, may God give us grace and fortitude in our witness so that we can, at last, answer yes.
(Bishops Lane and Knudsen are members of this group.)
Take Action on Protections for Dreamers and Children’s Health!
Dear Grace Church Members and Friends:
Last month, Congress failed to pass legislation that would protect Dreamers and also failed to renew the critical Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Start the year off by urging your members of Congress to take up these two issues right away!
Last September, President Trump announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that has provided work permits and protection from deportation to 800,000 young undocumented individuals, will end on March 5. Every day that Congress does not take action to pass legislative protections for these individuals, matters. “Dreamers” are teachers, doctors, priests, and friends, and it is past time that Congress acknowledges what the majority of Americans already agree on: that these individuals are valued members of our communities and deserve a pathway to citizenship.
Since September, Congress has failed to pass an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as well as other critical community health programs. While this deadline was known far in advance, and numerous hearings have been held before the deadline, Congress chose to only provide short-term funding. As a result, some states could start running out of funds January 19th.
Dwindling funds may result in children losing healthcare, more limited access to enrollment opportunities, and other life-threatening cuts. Nine million children use the program, which is designed for those families that earn enough that the parents no longer qualify for Medicare but do not earn enough to pay for the full family to be on insurance in private markets.
CHIP is a critically important part of the Church’s commitment to fulfill our Biblical commandment to care for the sick and needy, and an important resource for families working to achieve the American Dream.
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31: 8-9
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 drop down 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.
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.
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
Grace Episcopal Church
1100 Washington Street
Bath, Maine 04530
Office Hours: 9:00-12:00 weekdays (closed at this time)
207-443-6060 or 207-449-2497 (Pastoral Emergency)
The Reverend Stephanie Batterman
No in-person services at this time
10:15 a.m. Morning Prayer on Zoom
10 a.m. Morning Prayer on Zoom
Map of Grace
Directions to Grace Church
Exit 295 at Brunswick for Route 1, headed for Bath. Exit at the "Historic Bath" exit and turn left at the traffic light under the overpass onto Washington Street. Then follow directions for Washington Street.
Cross the Bath Bridge and take the Vine St. exit. After the stop sign, go straight, and at the light, bear right onto Washington St. Then follow directions for Washington Street.
On Washington Street, in about a mile, pass Grace Church to your left and take an immediate left onto Edwards Street to the church parking lot on the left. The GPS address for the parking lot is 36 Edwards Street.