A message from our Bishop on Palm Sunday

A message from our Bishop on Palm Sunday

Dear Friends in Christ,

This year, I invite you on Palm Sunday to enjoy the celebration and then prepare to walk with Jesus during the week in which he is crucified and killed. I encourage you to do that by slowing down, taking the time, making the space to enjoy the depth of our faith in our liturgy – to live into those moments of solemnity, grief, loss, and feeling profoundly bereft. Then welcome in the new light, the new fire of our Easter Vigil liturgy. 

Now if you are not having an Easter Vigil liturgy in your congregation, I invite you to explore it for next year, it is the primary service for us on Easter; and it really outlines the beauty of the contrast between the depths of despair and the light and the life that we know in the resurrected Christ.

Before we get to the resurrection, I invite you to live into a week that is truly holy, made more so through the liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil. 

I wish you the holiest of Holy Weeks. 

Blessings, 


Un mensaje de nuestra Obispa en el Domingo de Ramos

Queridos Amigos en Cristo,

Este año en el Domingo de Ramos los invito para aprovechar la celebración y prepararse a caminar con Jesús durante la semana en que es crucificado y asesinado. Y los animo a que lo hagan llevándola con calma, tomando su tiempo, haciendo un lugar para disfrutar la profundidad de nuestra fe en nuestra liturgia -para vivir esos momentos de solemnidad, de dolor, de pérdida, de sentirse profundamente abandonados. Para luego darle la bienvenida a la nueva luz, el fuego nuevo de nuestra liturgia en la Vigilia Pascual. 

Ahora bien, si no tendrán una liturgia de la Vigilia Pascual en su congregación, los invito a explorarlo para el próximo año, es el servicio principal para nosotros en la Pascua. Y realmente destaca la belleza del contraste entre las profundidades de la desesperación y la luz y la vida que conocemos en Cristo resucitado.   

Antes de llegar a la resurrección, los invito a vivir una semana que es verdaderamente santa, y prepararnos más a través de las liturgias del Jueves Santo, Viernes Santo y la Vigilia Pascual.   Les deseo la más santa de las Semanas Santas.   

Bendiciones, 

Persisting and prevailing, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

Dear Friends in Christ,

“So, tell me, Bishop. Do you believe you will prevail with this lawsuit?” The interviewer had the distinction of being the first to pose the question so bluntly.  

We had been talking about the lawsuit our diocese filed against the City of Brookings. It’s been all over the news, you can search for it on the internet if you haven’t heard about it. My primary concern from the very start has been protecting the freedom of our congregations to express our faith. In the case of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Brookings, the freedom of religious expression has been in the form of feeding the hungry. St. Timothy’s does a great many other things to serve those in need, but the city seems particularly interested in limiting our right to feed the hungry.  

The very idea that a city council would decide that feeding the hungry was not in the interests of the city or of its citizens struck me as wrong-headed, to say the least. Anyone, whether or not they are religious, could see the fundamental goodness in helping someone who is hungry. Our faith as expressed as Episcopalians calls us to serve those in need. It’s in our Baptismal Vows. It’s in the Scriptures.  

“Prevailing” legally is certainly an outcome we hope for – it is the reason for the lawsuit. We want to keep serving those in need and have been pushed to the point where we have to seek the court’s judgment to defend our right to do this. But beyond the legal remedy we seek, the essential and core purpose of our fight is to maintain our ability to live out our Christian faith. Our ministry, at the most basic level, is to continue to do what we are called to do to bring about the new creation revealed by God in the Resurrection. This new creation is not something we expect to see completed in our lifetime (although that would be a welcome miracle). It is something we live into while knowing its fulfillment will outlive us.

Why do we persist? We persist because there is no other way. Yes, some of us could give up out of fear or greed. But at our core, we know the only way is forward and in hope because we believe that the crucified Jesus was not the end. We believe that the fear, hatred, and greed that crucified Jesus will not prevail … it will not have the final word. We know this because, in his resurrection, Christ Jesus returned to us as proof positive that love and compassion will reign.

So, yes. I believe we will prevail. In the fulfillment of our Baptismal Vows, we will prevail.  In our proclamation of the Good News of God in our midst, we will prevail. In our striving to be Christ’s hands and feet in this broken world we will prevail.  

In Christ,

Prayer is the key to our own kenotic obedience, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

Dear Friends in Christ,

Spoiler Alert: One of the final scenes in the Netflix movie Don’t Look Up will be described below.

I’ve been reflecting on the dinner table scene in the movie Don’t Look Up. Although there is an ultimate final scene, the penultimate scene with friends sharing a final meal is, in my opinion, a powerful and poignant ending. As the group prepared their meal and sat down around the table, one friend says, “Shouldn’t we say something? Like “Amen?” They were clearly a group who identified as “spiritual but not religious.” One of them, a young man who had long ago left the evangelical church of his childhood says, “Don’t worry, I got this.”

His prayer is heartfelt and succinct as he combines confession, humility, and gratitude for God’s grace and mercy. The prayer is not a list of conditions or things they want; nor is it panic and fear dressed up as control. It is the kind of prayer one would pray when there is nothing left to do – nothing left to be but God’s own. It is a prayer that sanctifies a kenotic moment for the gathering of friends. They had done all they could to bring about a different resolution, but their expertise was not heeded. As they sat around the table eating, the friends talked gently and calmly. This was their last supper. The fact seemed to drain away all ego, desire for control, and despair. They were emptied of human will and open to the divine activity of God. They were at peace.

The theme of kenosis ran through my reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as our nation observed his birthday. I found myself thinking about the self-emptying required to become the kind of man who captured the hopes and dreams of those who suffer injustice. Amidst the death threats and covert efforts to sabotage his ministry, Dr. King was at peace preaching justice. His life exemplifies the very real ways in which following Jesus and his teachings will eventually lead us to kenotic obedience – being emptied of our human desires in order to be filled with God’s grace and desires.

These two examples remind us that prayer is the key to surrendering our illusion of control. Whether we come to the fullness of God’s grace at our last supper on this earth, or we are continually seeking kenosis in fulfillment of God’s call, we are closest to God’s peace through prayers that wash away our devices and desires.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

Blessings,

Reflections on the past few weeks, a Message from our Bishop

Dear friends in Christ,

These past two weeks have been, for me, bishop-centric, and let me assure you I am not referring to myself or my work. The announcement of Bishop Desmond Tutu’s death the day after Christmas created a space of reflection and sadness for me. Unlike many of the reflections and tributes that have been posted since his death, I do not have a picture on my mantel of myself next to him. I do not have a story to tell you about a conversation he and I had … and which changed my life. I was not any kind of dignitary who invited him to preach and then hosted him afterward at a reception with important people. I can tell you that I did have the opportunity to hear him preach. I was a seminary student in Berkeley in the late ‘80s and Bishop Tutu was the guest preacher at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. My fellow seminarians and I drove across the Bay Bridge to catch a glimpse of Bishop Tutu and to hear him preach.

I had no idea what to expect; I knew only what I had read. He was a global figure. He was an Anglican Bishop – we were so proud. He was magnetic. He was inspirational. He cared about racial justice. This is what fueled my journey over the bridge to the cathedral. 

I remember his stature the first time I saw him in the processional. I expected a man who towered over everyone at about 8 feet tall. He was not tall at all. And when he first spoke, I expected a big booming “cathedral voice,” but he did not “boom” at all. He spoke like a regular person and laughed, gleefully, with joyful abandon.  

The quality I remember most, and which stays with me even to this day, was his pure and unabashed joy. Bishop Tutu knew love; he knew its abundance and he trusted it to fuel his work for racial justice. It was astonishing to witness as a young seminarian because so much of what I had been learning was intellectual. “How did he discover this part of his sacred call?” I wondered.

On Tuesday of this week, I had a meeting with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and two of his staffers. The objective of the meeting was to determine whether or not the Presiding Bishop’s planned visitation to our diocese later this month was a “go.” As I walked us through our local perspectives on the virus and the variant and the importance of his visit, I heard myself say, “Bishop Curry, the primary reason we want you to come here is so we can be with you and hear you speak. I don’t think it would serve our purposes if you came here only to be “met” virtually. You could accomplish that with a camera from where you are now.” As we concluded that it was best to reschedule his visitation, I admit to feeling sad. I had certainly looked forward to celebrating the one-year anniversary of my consecration with him. But even more, I was looking forward to being in the presence of his irrepressible love for God. 

Tuesday night, thanks to the advocacy of the Rev. Sallie Bowman, I stood at the hospital bedside of Bishop Bob Ladehoff. Compared to Bishop Tutu and Bishop Curry, I know Bishop Ladehoff the best. We have lunched together and he has blessed me with the graces of his hope, joy, and love. Even more, he and I have a special connection in my ordaining Bishop. I learned from Bob that Bishop Kimsey and he were dear friends as neighboring bishops. Bob brought Rusty nearer to me through his unabashed delight in all of God’s creation. Standing at Bob’s bedside, I took the privilege of touching him – an innocent move that can seem scandalous in these days – and delighted in the light and life that emanated from him.  

Yes, these past two weeks have been bishop-centric but not so much because of the “bishop” part as the baptism part. All three of these children of God exude deep and abiding obedience to their life in Christ. In ways that others can speak to with more eloquence than I, these men have died in Christ. They are free to fully be what God has called them into. Their lives reflect a freedom to love, to forgive, to reconcile, to laugh at themselves that inspires us to move faithfully into a liberation they seem to already know.  It brings to mind the Gospel of John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

May we die in Christ with confidence that life in abundance will be ours.

Blessings,

Being grateful this year for Thanksgiving

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Dear friends in Christ,

Thanksgiving is the beginning of a season of traditions for many of us. In the United States we tend to gather around food – lots of food. We expect to share our thankfulness in ways that make sense to our family cultures, however we define “family.” The meaning of Thanksgiving has changed dramatically for those of us who were raised on the standard story of pilgrims thanking the Native Peoples for helping them survive. This national holiday is no longer a celebration of colonialism; it is a day that has meaning based on a broadened invitation to reflect on historical injustices alongside those things for which we are grateful.  

In these times, we do find ourselves feeling somewhat frail in the area of gratefulness, however. Most of us are just too tired or stressed to reflect on the topic. It feels like we are still scrambling to adjust, adapt, and cope. As we approach Thanksgiving, I have been reflecting on the tension between the desire to be thankful and the temptation to give over to hopelessness, even despair. From global concerns over the “environmental cliff” to local concerns for racial justice in our communities, the weight of acting in the face of enormous odds can feel paralyzing.

Yet, our Christian story continues to push and prod us forward. God is relentlessly creating and stirring the Holy Spirit to dwell amongst us – kicking up light and love to remind us that hope will not be deterred. Even more, God does not need us to express false optimism or to sugar-coat that which is painful. We are called to be faithful – to return to prayers that shape us through praise, petition, confession, and gratitude. Too often we confuse hopefulness with being cheerful as in, “it’ll all turn out ok – you’ll see.” But as followers of Jesus, we know that lasting hopefulness is gritty and clear-eyed. And this kind of hope is founded on gratitude.

There are, undoubtedly, reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving – for healing, for a goal achieved, for a reconciled relationship, for laughter, and for love. It’s also true that this season is accompanied by disturbing reminders of the brokenness of our world. This week alone, we wonder whether justice will truly be delivered in cases of racial violence. This mixture of joy and despair does not require sorting before we express gratitude. We are called to be grateful for all of it, and, in order to do this well, we need to dive in: in the face of injustice, for what are we thankful?  

Be grateful for the courage to speak out.  
Be grateful for hearts and minds that seek out solutions.  
Be grateful for a faith that continually fuels us to respect the dignity of every human being.  
Be grateful for a God who is tireless in calling us to respond to the weak, the vulnerable, and those in need.  

Above all, let’s be grateful for the wisdom to know that we are not God – only God is God; we are simply called to reflect God faithfully and with compassion. This we know with great clarity because of the one who came amongst us to live as one of us, Jesus.

For his bold and selfless love, let us be ever grateful this Thanksgiving.

In Christ,

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for Thanksgiving, BCP p. 246)


Queridos Amigos en Cristo,

El Día de Acción de Gracias es el inicio de una temporada de tradiciones para muchos de nosotros. En los Estados Unidos tenemos la costumbre de reunirnos alrededor de la comida, mucha comida. Esperamos compartir nuestro agradecimiento de maneras que tengan sentido para nuestras culturas familiares, sin importar cómo definamos “familia”. El significado de Acción de Gracias ha cambiado drásticamente para aquellos de nosotros que fuimos criados en la historia común de los peregrinos agradeciendo a los Pueblos Nativos por ayudarlos a sobrevivir. Esta fiesta nacional ya no es una celebración del colonialismo; es un día que tiene sentido a partir de una invitación más amplia para reflexionar sobre las injusticias históricas junto a aquellas cosas por las que estamos agradecidos.

Sin embargo, en estos tiempos nos sentimos, en cierto modo, frágiles en el área del agradecimiento. La mayoría de nosotros estamos demasiado cansados ​​o estresados ​​para reflexionar sobre este tema. Parece que todavía estamos luchando por ajustarnos, adaptarnos y hacerle frente. A medida que nos acercamos al Día de Acción de Gracias, he estado reflexionando sobre la tensión entre el deseo de estar agradecido y la tentación de entregarse a la desesperanza, incluso a la desesperación. Empezando por las preocupaciones globales sobre el “precipicio ambiental” y continuando con  las preocupaciones locales por la justicia racial en nuestras comunidades y el enorme peso para actuar frente a enormes dificultades, todo esto puede resultar paralizante.

Sin embargo, nuestra historia cristiana continúa empujándonos y empujándonos hacia adelante. Dios está creando y moviendo incansablemente para que more entre nosotros el Espíritu Santo, dándonos luz y amor para recordarnos que la esperanza no será desalentada. Más aún, Dios no necesita que expresemos un falso optimismo o que endulcemos lo que es doloroso. Estamos llamados a ser fieles, a volver a las oraciones que nos forman a través de la alabanza, la petición, la confesión y la gratitud. Con demasiada frecuencia confundimos la esperanza con la alegría, cuando decimos: “todo saldrá bien, ya verás”. Pero como seguidores de Jesús, sabemos que la esperanza duradera es valiente y clara. Y este tipo de esperanza se basa en la gratitud.

Sin duda, hay razones para estar agradecidos en este Día de Acción de Gracias: por la curación, por una meta alcanzada, por una relación reconciliada, por la risa y por el amor. También es cierto que esta temporada va acompañada de inquietantes recordatorios de nuestro mundo tan agrietado. Esta semana, precisamente,  nos preguntamos si realmente se hará justicia en los casos de violencia racial. Esta mezcla de alegría y desesperación no requiere una clasificación antes de expresar gratitud. Estamos llamados a estar agradecidos por todo ello y, para hacerlo bien, necesitamos meternos de lleno: ante la injusticia, ¿de qué podremos estar agradecidos?

Estemos agradecidos por el valor de hablar.
Estemos agradecidos por los corazones y las mentes que buscan soluciones.
Estemos agradecidos por una fe que continuamente nos impulsa a respetar la dignidad de todo ser humano.
Estemos agradecidos por a un Dios que no se cansa para llamarnos a contestar a los débiles, vulnerables y necesitados.

Sobre todo, estemos agradecidos por la sabiduría de saber que no somos Dios, solo Dios es Dios; simplemente estamos llamados a reflejar a Dios fielmente y con compasión. Esto lo sabemos con gran claridad por el que vino entre nosotros para vivir como uno de nosotros, Jesús.

Por su amor valiente y desinteresado, estemos siempre agradecidos en este Día de Acción de Gracias.

En Cristo,

Establishing Community During Change, a Message from our Bishop leading into Convention

Dear friends in Christ,

I am looking forward to the annual meeting of our diocesan convention this Saturday even though we will not actually be in person. The “head table” folk will be together and broadcasting from the Oregon Episcopal School, while we depend on the convention to take place with everyone joining on Zoom. This adjustment can be added to the growing mound of events that have been adapted for the pandemic. At this point, it is probably safe to say that we are adapting without even flinching. Whereas once it was with much consternation that we made changes from an in-person event to a virtual event, now we ask even before we give an RSVP, “Are we meeting in person or virtually?”

My how times have changed. And they are changing us. It occurs to me that the question, “How is the pandemic changing us?” is a central one for the church. We have been working hard to find ways to hang onto the “us” of our faith communities. And the questions we’ve been asking have been seeking ways that we might galvanize a sense of community solidarity. How can we receive Communion and feel we are still community? How can we enjoy our music together and still feel we are community? The central questions really have been about sustaining our identity as members of the Body of Christ.

The alternate Old Testament reading for this Sunday is from Ruth. As I reflected on the verses, I noted the devotion between Naomi and Ruth – the commitment of Naomi to make sure that her widow daughter-in-law would be secure. But even more, I reflected on the women of the neighborhood who exclaimed over the birth of Ruth’s son.  Their gratitude and joy coalesced into naming him. I am struck by the power of community – the women who loved and supported Ruth, and who sought to lift up her newborn son as theirs too. It is easy to imagine the rich life little Obed would enjoy with this loving and joyous beginning.

This image of the generative and generous community brings to mind our diocesan convention as a loving and joyous community. Our identity as the Body of Christ made known in the convention of the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon is an occasion to embrace with hope and love. Despite the virtual venue, we will gather and enjoy being community – although scattered – still, we are One in Christ. Let’s reflect the joy of Ruth’s girlfriends and name ourselves “Beloved as One in Christ.”

Blessings,

Embodying Christ’s love for this world – a call to prayer for St. Timothy’s, Brookings

Dear friends in Christ,

How is your life unfolding in this no-longer-strange pandemic world? I’m noticing that we are still exercising caution regarding the highly transmissible Delta variant while also exploring ways to re-engage and gather safely. As has been the advice from the very beginning, gathering outdoors while being at safe distances is a good way to see one another in person. It has been a joy to be able to drive around the diocese to visit congregations in worship as well as in ministry.

Two weekends ago, I spent four days visiting Coos Bay, Brookings, and Roseburg.  The drive was beautiful no matter what the weather was doing. Even more, the spirit of our congregations was a beautiful reflection of Christ’s hands and feet in the world. I spent Saturday at St. Timothy’s, Brookings, and want to share with you some reflections from my time with the Rev. Bernie Lindley, Deacon Linda Lee, and their incredibly talented and energetic team of lay ministers.

The Oregon Coast near Brookings

As many of you know, the Brookings City Planning Commission has voted to recommend that the City Council pass an ordinance requiring churches to obtain a “benevolent meal” permit in order to continue serving meals to the hungry and homeless. The diocese has been focused on supporting St. Timothy’s in their ministry, and I needed to see for myself the ministries that have become so vital to the city’s hungry.

Beyond being highly organized, well-staffed, and attentive to detail, the folks at St. Timothy are serving with a heartfelt commitment to those in need. From the nurses giving vaccines, to the folks cooking in the kitchen (it was calzone during my visit!), to volunteers swabbing for covid tests each and every person is clearly serving because they want to participate in the way in which Christ’s body is being made known to the community.  They care about helping others because, for many of the volunteers, they were once on the receiving end of these same services.  Their gratitude is an endless source of fuel to become part of the love extended in feeding, vaccinating, and testing.

The contrast between the love and generosity of St. Timothy’s ministries and the intentions of the City to control or even close down their gospel work drew me into a reflection on Mark 13: 9-11.

 As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” 

It seems that the good work of embodying Christ’s love for the world is threatening to those who do not recognize the compassion that is alive at St. Timothy’s.  Perhaps it is not even the compassion that goes unrecognized, perhaps it is the children of God serving other children of God that is unrecognized.  

Proclaiming the good news in body, heart, and mind is dangerous business. Jesus knew this. And this is why he instructs the disciples to proclaim the good news first. Before self-defense before arguing or justifying, proclaim the good news first. The good news is revealed through loving sacrifice that is grounded in compassion for the other.  Systems organized around “othering” those who are not like us are the same systems that persecute the Body of Christ – especially when that glorious liberating and loving body shines a light on the humanity of everyone – the hungry and the fed alike.

On October 25th, the Brookings City Council will meet to vote on this ordinance. I call our diocese into prayer on that day. Those of you who can be with the congregation of St. Timothy’s on that day, or during the meeting, I hope you will be there to lift hearts and spirits. Let’s all remind St. Timothy’s, the city of Brookings, and each other of the wondrous work that is revealed when we awaken to the truth that what we “do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessings,

Tending the garden of our diocese

Dear friends in Christ,

My father was a masterful gardener. Although he was not a “master” gardener by those official terms, he loved gardening and everything about it. Our family summer vacations had to be planned around his garden because we couldn’t be gone if something was fruiting or producing. Of course, in the earlier months, the garden needed watering. And weeding. And fertilizing … and tending.

I learned a great deal about gardening from my father. I also had bad allergies and hay fever, so gardening was never something I could fully embrace as a practice. It is, however, something I learned from watching and listening to him as he prepared starter plants with seeds and little pods of dirt placed carefully under grow lights in our basement.  

Plants have seasons – even in tropical environs, plants have seasons. There are plants that need alkaline soil, and there are plants that need more acidic soil. There are plants that crawl, creep, or spread – they seem to defy containers or barriers, so exuberant are they to grow. Over time, plants need to be repotted or moved to better soil or into better sunlight. I even learned that some plants need their roots trimmed so that they will continue to be healthy and vibrant.

I am reminded of my father’s gardens and his methods as I look out over the landscape of our diocese and our diocesan office. Change is difficult – this we all know from the pandemic that we continue to endure. Some of the changes in our diocesan office might make us anxious; change does that to us. Today, we also know so much more about our capacity to adapt and walk together in changing times. The analogy of a garden gives a frame for the ways our diocese is growing and adapting.  It reminds us that, as a diocese, we are growing where we are planted, and we are also invited to thrive in new soil, new locations, and new opportunities to live into the fullness of our gifts.

Last week, Deacon Maureen Hagen shared with her Facebook friends that her position as Dean of the Academy for Formation will be dissolved at the end of this year. This decision was not made lightly; Maureen has made the formation of deacons and priests in this diocese a process that will continue to grow and expand. She is a tireless connector of people and events, and she represents our diocese at the larger church (The Episcopal Church – TEC) level with faithfulness and enthusiasm. I am grateful to her for all her good work; and I look forward to discerning, with her, what is next for her gifts of ministry locally and beyond. Please join me in thanking her and celebrating her fine work for this diocese.

Another transition is that of the Chancellor. Mike Dotten, known to many of you as our loquacious and able chancellor, would like more time to travel with his family and has notified me of his resignation effective November 5, 2021. He has kindly timed this date with our Diocesan Convention/Annual Meeting in order that his successor will pick up the work beginning with convention.  

Our new chancellor will be Emily Karr. Ms. Karr is a partner at Stoel Rives LLP and heads the firm’s Benefits, Tax, and Private Client group, and advises clients about estate planning and the administration of estates and trusts. In our conversations, she describes herself as an attorney “who prefers to solve problems” rather than rush to court. I am delighted that Emily is eager and willing to serve the diocese in this way and I look forward to introducing her in November.  

This is a wonderful opportunity to give thanks to those who have given much for our great benefit and to celebrate the abundance that their gifts represent. The Holy Spirit has bestowed on us such wonderful riches: generosity, talent, faithfulness, and kindness. These are the fruits of the garden we call the Diocese of Oregon. I am humbled and grateful to serve alongside such dedicated souls.

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Diana

Making community and connection through cooperation, A Message from Bishop Diana

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week Oregon Episcopal School (OES) welcomed its students onto campus for the beginning of the school year. It was energizing and fun to be with them and to give the final blessing, but the high point was the ritual bellringing by the 5th graders. Each student walked up into the bell tower and pulled on the rope to ring the bell. One student, one peal of the bell; one for each year that OES has been open – that’s 152 years in 2021. 

I love being on a school campus – it reminds me of my many years on college campuses serving as dean of religious life. The air is thick with promise, dreams, and aspirations on campuses like OES.  The faculty and administration reflect that same ideal: what more can we learn? Be? Do? And: how can we do it together – helping each other along the way?

After the 5th graders arrived for the ceremony, they stood with their arms outstretched to make sure they were at a safe distance from each other. Then they plopped down on the cold hard sidewalk to wait for the opening words. Watching them, I commented to Mo, the Head of School, standing next to me, “I remember well those days when sitting, cross-legged on cold hard concrete was just another way to rest!” We chuckled with admiration.

Driving back to the office, I reflected on the image of the 5th graders with their arms outstretched.  They cooperated in observing the COVID protocols with laughter and chatter – not because the protocols brought them joy but because they were finally together and were going to sit in classes with their friends. The joy of being back in community was palpable that morning. For the grown-ups, their joy that day came from witnessing the results of their hard work to create a safe way to be in community. For the students, it was about cooperating, happily, because being together means you get to have fun learning with friends, while also making your school pal laugh at your antics.

Making community and connection through cooperation — this is where the greatest joy is often experienced. We’ve learned this in new and unwelcome ways this past year and a half. The point really is learning it; our capacity to adapt, pivot, and remain open to one another teaches us new ways to be present to each other. Although we are now beyond tired of the ways this pandemic imposes restrictions on us, we have also learned some about our creativity and cooperation – the human desire for community is God-given. We are created to seek out each other in community and to adjust and make sacrifices in order to build relationships that will change us. Truly, this has always been God’s plan for us – to find one another, to love one another, and to challenge one another to be more of what we have been created to be. 

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is
born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

Amidst our heartbreak and anxiety and frustration, God loves us. This is not passive loving, it is a loving that continues to form us. We are being remade, through this incomprehensible divine love, for one another, and to bring into this world the Beloved Community of God’s desiring.  

As we prepare for another virtual Diocesan Convention/Annual Meeting, I pray that our patience and forbearance are not marked by gritted teeth, but instead by the love that embraces us during our great discomfort. 

I can still see those 5th graders standing next to each other with their arms outstretched. By cooperating as a community, they can reach toward each other with anticipation and joy. The Holy Spirit prevails as community is formed in yet a new way!

Blessings,

Bishop Diana

God is a basic need and Deacons will help us see that.

Dear friends in Christ,

“The Diaconate just might be what saves the church in these times.” These words came from a clergy colleague years ago. We were at a conference and the discussion topic was the changing church. Our focus had been primarily on the priesthood and the kind of leadership priests ought to have for these times. A thoughtful silence followed her words as the group reflected on this shift in perspective.

My own reflection in that moment was, “Oh snap! How did we miss that?” And ever since, I have turned my attention to engaging the ministry of deacons by asking folks how they understand the distinct order of the diaconate.

Last Saturday I spent the morning with the Community of Deacons to get to know them and to begin a conversation about the ways they are called to serve as Christ’s hands and feet in the world. We talked about the central metaphor for the diaconate: a bridge. Deacons are the bridge between the church and the world. Their ministry is anchored in the sure and certain knowledge that their work is to make tangible the healing and hope of Christ’s presence in the midst of suffering. This is no great insight as the deacons in this diocese know this and are living it out with deep faithfulness. But, further thought and engagement is needed around the way in which deacons are uniquely called to interpret and demonstrate the need for God in one’s daily life.

These past few Sundays, our gospel proclamation has been from Mark’s gospel, which features rich descriptions of crowds seeking out Jesus for healing – they are so clear about his ability to heal that they know to merely touch the fringe of his coat will make them whole. I remember hearing a sermon in seminary about this theme in Mark’s gospel. The preacher eloquently framed a teaching about the accounts of Jesus healing and feeding people: we have essential needs (i.e. food, clothes, shelter) that must first be met before we can receive the more substantial food of Jesus’ teaching about God. For years that has been an underlying theme in my reflection on Mark’s gospel.

But as I reflect on my time with the Community of Deacons, I began to wonder if we don’t have it wrong in framing Jesus’ ministry that way. Isn’t Jesus’ teaching as essential as food and clothing? Interpreting Mark’s gospel using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not a true reflection of how we need God in our lives. More true is the proclamation, in thought, word, and deed, of the essential nature of our faith in God. Our need for God in our lives is as basic, essential, and critical as food and clothing.

How would the church and the world change if our deacons served others with a life-giving conversation about the basic need for God in one’s daily life? How could this conversation be framed to side-step proselytizing and coercive evangelizing? What would bubble up from hearing someone describe the ways that God’s love, forgiveness, and grace brings joy and meaning to their life? For surely one can be fed, clothed, and housed and continue to live in misery and to suffer a joyless existence.  

I am a Christian for many reasons but the most important is this: I cannot imagine my life without God at the center. I need God in the same way I need food and water. God is a basic and essential part of my existence, and it is most certainly not the case that I have certain basic needs that come before turning to God. God lives and moves and speaks into every need or yearning I have – there is no place God is not.

The Community of Deacons heard me speak with great commitment and passion about the diaconate and my clarity about the hope they represent not only for this diocese but for the entire church. I am looking forward to walking with our laity and priests as we look with creativity and eagerness at the diaconal mission. God is on the move, and deacons have a key role to play in helping us recognize where this holy presence is taking us in the church and in the world.

In Christ,

+Diana