ECMN Convention 2014 Wrap-Up

JLM_9880 copy“Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”

These words by Robert Robinson, sung at our 157th Convention, encapsulate the overwhelming sense of blessing experienced at our gathering:

* First time meeting in Bemidji, in an arena on top of ice, under a jumbo-tron screen surrounded and supported by the warm hospitality of the Northwest Mission Area folks.

*Generous individuals offered their gifts to serve on our Elected Bodies and we affirmed the transformative ministry of The Rev. Denzil A. Carty.

*We learned that our financial health continues to be strong including a significant increase of participants in our Pooled Investment Fund which has doubled in the last five years to nearly $33 million.

*Missional Innovative Partnership Grants were launched, providing exciting possibility for our faith communities to build capacity as they engage God’s mission in their neighborhoods.

*We heard inspiring preaching by The Rev. Dr. Mark Olson who encouraged us to “keep showing up”. And the wonderful moment when Doug Sparks was presented with a Whipple Cross.

*Transitions in ECMN were highlighted with special note to the number of clergy who have been ordained for 30 years.

*Rob Zeaske from Second Harvest Heartland gave a phenomenal presentation confirming that he, too, believes we can End Hunger in Minnesota.

*There were great opportunities for learning, networking, and resource sharing.

*Music, prayer, and praise were consistently offered – with lots of appreciation to Eilert Helm and Coke Smith.

Our “Fount of every blessing” in ECMN overflowed at Convention and I am truly grateful to all for being a part of that blessing!

P.S. I also let Convention know that my name was put forth for consideration for nomination of the next Presiding Bishop and that I am declining this gracious offer as I feel called to continue to serve in Minnesota.

Looking Ahead to ECMN’s “Homecoming”

Breck's Homecoming King and Queen

Breck’s Homecoming King and Queen

It was absolutely deafening! Screaming, cheering, yelling filling every bit of air space. There is nothing like being in a gymnasium filled with young people at a Homecoming celebration! The energy was absolutely electrifying and the sense of camaraderie was unquestionably palpable.

I always find these types of gatherings not only enjoyable, but life affirming. A group of people with a common passion can not only motivate a team, but can change the world. In fact, that is how real change takes place.

This weekend, the Episcopal Church in Minnesota will be gathering in beautiful Bemidji for our ECMN Convention. In many respects it is our Homecoming. It is often described as a “family reunion” or the Episcopal version of the great Minnesota get together.

While I don’t anticipate ear piercing cheering or great collective chanting, undoubtedly there will be a wonderful sense of camaraderie and an unquestionable passion for being Minnesotan Episcopalians.

 It will, as always, be a blessing to share the time and experience with you!

I will with God’s help

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?I will with God's help

I have been reflecting a lot recently on these two questions from the Baptismal Covenant. I believe they are foundational to how we as both Episcopalians and as followers of Jesus understand how we are to “live and move and have our being”.

As you know, our response to these questions is, “I will with God’s help.” It is certainly clear to me personally that the only chance I have of coming anywhere close to living into these Baptismal promises is by God’s grace. Yet, that is what I have committed to strive to do.

With this in mind, on more than a few occasions I have pondered what the world would be like if in fact every human being made these, or some simple commitments, to strive for this to be the way we treat each other. Truth be told, almost every religious tradition has a very similar understanding or expectation of those who believe in it. And even a significant number of those who have chosen not to adhere to any particular faith tradition still hold these to be values they ascribe to.

So what if all of humanity decided to love neighbor as self and respect the dignity of every human being? Can you imagine what the world would be like?  Talk radio to much of reality TV, bullying to being cut off in traffic, beheading to spouse or child abuse…and likely 90% of what we endure every time we are confronted with the headlines of the day would be eliminated.  Can you just imagine?

In the end the choice comes back to me, and to God’s grace. I can truly take seriously the Baptismal promises I made and each day strive to live accordingly. And I can encourage others to do likewise and to work to bring justice and peace to others. It will only happen if I do so and with God’s help.