Persisting and prevailing, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

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,

Support Efforts to Defend St. Timothy’s, Brookings Against City Ordinance

Dear Friends in Christ, 

At our Convention last month, a motion was brought to the floor regarding our diocesan support of St. Timothy’s in Brookings and their ongoing tension with the City Council around the newly passed ordinance restricting feeding ministries to twice a week with and requiring a conditional use permit. The Rev. Bernie Lindley, Vicar of St. Timothy’s, with my support, will continue their feeding ministry 5 days a week. We do not recognize the City’s requirement for a conditional use permit as we do not believe the City has the right to restrict the ministry of a church serving those in need.

The City’s ordinance is an infringement on our constitutional right to practice our religious beliefs. As Christians, we are called by Jesus to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35). The City of Brookings has not made resources available to help the houseless, and St. Timothy’s has responded with compassion using its humble resources to demonstrate Christian love through acts of radical hospitality.

We have respectfully requested that the City reverse their decision. I have been working closely with the Rev. Bernie Lindley and our Chancellor, Emily Karr, to contest this in federal court, if needed. We are confident that we will prevail in defending our freedom of religious expression.

Paul Pierson, a local attorney in Brookings, has independently begun a GoFundMe campaign to assist with the legal costs we will likely incur. Mr. Pierson is not part of the diocesan legal team and will not receive any of the donations. I appreciate Mr. Pierson’s dedication and support of our efforts to serve the hungry and homeless in Brookings. 

You can find Mr. Pierson’s GoFundMe page here. I invite you to consider donating whatever amount you can. Please share this page with others in our diocese and beyond.

We continue to pray for the community and leadership of St. Timothy’s, for the houseless community in Brookings, and for those elected to protect all citizens in our cities, states, and country. 

In Christ, 

Apoyo a los esfuerzos para defender a St. Timothy’s Brookings contra el mandato de la ciudad

Queridos amigos en Cristo,

En nuestra Convención, el mes pasado, se presentó una moción con respecto a nuestro apoyo diocesano para San Timoteo – St. Timothy en Brookings, para ellos esa tensión continua con el Concejo Municipal en torno al mandato recién aprobado que, restringe los ministerios de dar alimentos a solamente dos veces por semana y requiere un permiso condicional para este uso.

El Reverendo Bernie Lindley, vicario de St. Timothy’s, con mi apoyo, continuará su ministerio de dar alimentos 5 días a la semana. No reconocemos el requisito de la Ciudad de un permiso de uso condicional ya que no creemos que la Ciudad tenga el derecho de restringir el ministerio de una iglesia que sirve a los necesitados.

Este mandato de la Ciudad es una violación de nuestro derecho constitucional de practicar nuestras creencias religiosas. Como cristianos, Jesús nos llama a dar comida al hambriento y dar la bienvenida al extranjero (Mateo 25:35). La ciudad de Brookings no ha puesto a disposición recursos para ayudar a las personas sin hogar o sin habitación, y St. Timothy’s ha respondido con compasión utilizando sus humildes recursos para demostrar el amor cristiano a través de actos de hospitalidad radical.

Hemos solicitado respetuosamente que la Ciudad revoque su decisión. He estado trabajando en estrecha colaboración con el Reverendo Bernie Lindley y nuestra canciller, Emily Karr, para solucionar esta disputa en un tribunal federal, si es necesario. Confiamos en que prevaleceremos en la defensa de nuestra libertad de expresión religiosa.

Paul Pierson, un abogado local en Brookings, ha comenzado, de forma independiente, una campaña de GoFundMe (ColectarFondos)  para ayudar con los costos legales en los que probablemente incurriremos. El Sr. Pierson no es parte del equipo legal diocesano y no recibirá ninguna de las donaciones. Agradezco la dedicación y el apoyo del Sr. Pierson a nuestros esfuerzos para servir a los hambrientos y desamparados en Brookings.

Puede encontrar la página del Sr. Pierson GoFundMe page here aquí. Los invito a que consideren donar la cantidad que puedan. Compartan esta página con sus conocidos y otros en nuestra diócesis y fuera de la diócesis.

Seguimos orando por la comunidad y el liderazgo de St. Timothy, por la comunidad de personas sin hogar en Brookings y por los elegidos para proteger a todos los ciudadanos en nuestras ciudades, nuestros estados y país.

En Cristo,

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.


The Community Garden at St. Timothy’s, Brookings

This post is written and offered by Deacon Linda Lee and the community at St. Timothy’s Church in Brookings.

From AFM paper on Rogation Day liturgy…

At St. Timothy’s in Brookings, Oregon, we always have a large contingent of people seeking shelter on our campus whether during COVID days or all the days prior. I have watched the various reactions of both our housed congregation members and our more at-risk community members and feel that a Community Garden space would be very valuable way to bring our diverse community together. Such a space could offer a safe, beautiful, fun and productive place to come together and share a common purpose.           

Although never required to “work for meals” it would be wonderful if there was a purposeful activity that our at-risk community might enjoy participating in. Rather than a typical community garden that rents its raised beds for annual individual use these garden beds will be made available to the five parishes that have provided weekly community meals for years here in Brookings. They will be able to grow fresh produce for their use. Perhaps we can designate a raised bed to grow vegetables for the Food Bank, and a raised bed for cut flowers for the altar guild’s use. It would be wonderful is for our neighbors on Fir Street who do not always look on us kindly would choose to come participate in our Community Garden project.  There are so many opportunities for fellowship and even garden art projects for those who are less inclined to dig in the dirt.

Our first Garden Bench

Our very first raised bed will be approximately 12×4 and be built on the terrace directly below the Greenhouse.  The Altar Guild has provided a newly retired altar cloth which will be buried beneath the brand-new soil. The plan will be for Fr. Bernie to bless our first raised bed as soon as it is ready. The tradition in the Episcopal Church with any special linens or fabric cloths that are no longer in use it is to either burn them or bury them. What a perfect place to lay a beloved retired altar covering than beneath a lovely community garden bed! 

And so my goal is ‘community building’ within the church and within the greater neighborhood rather than merely growing vegetables and flowers.  And so to celebrate and bless our progress, I am creating a liturgy for a Rogation Day Sunday. How joyous to process out mid service to the Garden for a formal blessing of the garden beds for Spring planting season.  At fall harvest we can bring our baskets of produce to the Altar as a thanksgiving offering.

AND SPEAKING OF “HOPE”… Somewhere in this grouping of 29 cement blocks is your Cornerstone!  I can hardly wait till we see all of our decorated Cornerstone in the Community Garden as we begin to build our 8 raised beds this coming Summer.

And now we are in the COVID era and must navigate inertia and angst…the focus of my assignments for your leadership class. But this will end in time and so I am feeling my way to keep positive activity as a visual even if we cannot work all together in the Garden right now.  My hope for the Community Garden for mid 2021 at this point is to have the basic construction accomplished which would include…2-3 raised beds, a bench or two, the big boundary fence and gate which has to be built by a professional and the placement of our signage.

Our Hope and Intentions Are To:

  • Engage and Build Community 
  • Provide Fun Group Activities 
  • Inspire Garden Art Activities
  • Grow Vegetables and Flowers 
  • Provide Fellowship Activities For Everyone

Raised Garden Beds Are For: 

  • St. Timothy’s Congregation & Friends
  • Community Kitchens and Brookings Food Bank
  • Fir Street Neighborhood

2020 Goals – Excavation by Bill Russell- RJ Tractor Service for terracing with rock and gravel and bark chip path

Good News Gardens

The community garden at St. Timothy’s is a part of a larger project within The Episcopal Church to create Good News Gardens. The mission of a Good News Garden is: “to partner with people in transformational agrarian ministry that feeds body, mind, and spirit.”

Good News Gardens focus on three things: Plant, Pray, Proclaim. By joining the Good News Garden community, you join a large community of gardeners and evangelists in The Episcopal Church.

“Bountiful God, you call us to labor with you in tending the earth: Where we lack love, open our hearts to the world; where we waste, give us discipline to conserve; where we neglect, awaken our minds and wills to insight and care. May we with all your creatures honor and serve you in all things, for you live and reign with Christ, Redeemer of all, and with your Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”