The Golden Beet Award

Holly Guncheon, one of the original promoters of creating a Giving Garden at Epiphany, proudly shows off the Golden Beet Award.

Holly Guncheon, one of the original promoters of creating a Giving Garden at Epiphany, proudly shows off the Golden Beet Award.

They were just beaming with pride, and deservedly so. This last Sunday I was blessed to present Church of the Epiphany in Plymouth with the Golden Beet award.

The award is part of Minnesota Food Share’s Harvest Campaign. Over the summer, Minnesota Food Share invited congregations and individuals to donate fresh homegrown produce to a food shelf near them and report how many pounds of fresh produce they donated between August 15 and September 30. Over the summer, Epiphany’s Community Giving Garden produced almost 800 pounds of vegetables, 440 of which were harvested between August 15 and September 30.

This is just another great example of our commitment across ECMN to end hunger in Minnesota. Consistently as I make my way to different faith communities, I am made aware of a myriad of creative ways folks are partnering with others in their neighborhoods to end hunger. Likewise, I have had a number of conversations with leaders from other faith traditions and community organizations expressing their desire to join us in making sure not even one Minnesotan goes hungry.

This Thanksgiving, many of us will be blessed to be not only surrounded by family and friends, but by a bounty of food. I would like to encourage each of us to make a tangible effort to make sure that others in Minnesota are enjoying the same. The opportunities to do so are endless.

And when our dear ones have returned home, and we are enjoying leftovers and feeling full, blessed, and thankful, I invite us to take a moment and imagine how we could make a long term, sustainable commitment in our own way to end hunger in Minnesota. We can do this. Every person who dedicates their lives every day to ending hunger in Minnesota believes this is indeed a solvable situation.

May God bless you with a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Let’s keep up the great work, already well underway, to make sure all experience the same blessing.

Welcoming New Faces Into Our Community

15620690627_eb7a793008_kThe recently published Episcopal Congregations Overview: Findings from the 2014 Survey of Episcopal Congregations, found that 50 percent of congregations characterized themselves as “a warm and caring community” and 48 percent characterized themselves as “friendly and welcoming to others.”

This combined 98 percent is not surprising to me. Frankly, I can’t remember if I have ever heard a faith community say to me that they didn’t think they were warm and friendly. And as the Bishop, even in places that were very challenging, I still found them to be welcoming.

However… my favorite example of not being welcomed, in fact I felt shunned, was when I went to a faith community in a beach resort town wearing a polo shirt and nice shorts on a 90-plus degree day. The folks gathered in their suits, ties, and dresses clearly did not approve of my attire.

And then… there was the faith community I encountered while traveling, where the ushers were in jovial conversation, and when I said, “Pardon me. May I have a bulletin?” they both gave me a look that screamed, “How dare you interrupt us!” This was the same place that at coffee hour, even when attempting conversation with folks including the Priest, we were brushed off.

And maybe my favorite… was the overly gregarious greeter who began by introducing himself, informing us that he had been in this congregation for 42 years, and then spent the next 10 minutes telling us about how great the church was in the 1960s.

However, in the end I believe we are a warm, welcoming lot. I also believe we have to continue to be intentional about welcoming new faces into our community, because if you have not been on the other end recently, it can often feel like joining a group of strangers for Thanksgiving Dinner. To that end, what might be the most helpful is to encourage those who serve as ushers and greeters to, at least twice a year, go visit another church.

You may be also interested in one other factoid from the study, that is: most congregations report dreadfully low numbers about intentionally inviting folks. That is clearly something that all of us can put more effort into… because we do have warm, friendly, vibrant, faith communities who are using their gifts to engage God’s mission in the world. It would be a blessing to have others joining us to do likewise.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Myself with friends and theologians theologians Barbara Brown Taylor and John Philip Newell

Myself with friends and theologians Barbara Brown Taylor and John Philip Newell

Native Minnesotan Bob Dylan wrote these familiar words:

“For the times they are a-changin.”

This was during a significant amount of unrest in our country, and it was clear that a new reality was emerging. As is the case with the birthing of new things, this time was very challenging for a lot of folks.

Theologian Phyllis Tickle talks about how every 500 years the Church holds a rummage sale to figure out what it will hold fast to and what it will let go of. She, as well as many others, have identified that we are clearly in the midst of one of those times.

Now, if your family is even remotely similar to mine, when it comes time to determine what we put up for sale and what we keep in our garage, it is often a challenging conversation. It would be so much easier if the lovely Mrs. Prior and I could clean each other’s side of the closet.

This last week, I was blessed to spend a couple days helping lead a retreat with good friends and good theologians Barbara Brown Taylor and John Philip Newell. Both, in their own respective way, are imagining and exploring what the Sprit might be up to in our midst. Their musings were thought provoking, intriguing, and deeply soulful.

What I know to be true is that the Holy Spirit has always poked, prodded and pushed at God’s people. Whether it be the “every 500-years” yard sale or my 50-plus years in the Church, it is always dynamic. With that said, there has also been a constant: what we often refer to as tradition is foundational to who we are.

Bob Dylan was (and still is) right, particularly with respect to the Church. The times are a changing. With an understandably interesting mix of anxiety and anticipation, it will be interesting to see what God is up to next.

Click here to view Barbara Brown Taylor’s appearance on Oprah, as they talk about embracing darkness and facing the unknown.