Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace

Photo Credit: www.facebook.com/campcross

Photo Credit: Camp Cross

As they poured out into the streets, the screams of triumphant joy were so loud it was deafening. For the first time in the history of the school, they had just won a hard fought battle, crowning them national champions. It was unquestionably a time of exuberant celebration.

And then, without any noticeable provocation, the joyful celebration turned into a raucous riot. Windows were broken, cars were turned over on their sides, and fires began to blaze. Immediately, the police began to respond, and chaos turned into catastrophe as both law enforcement and students sustained injuries.

“Where? When?”, you may ask. The incredibly unfortunate response, is that it appears all too often after a team wins a championship and also when some lose. The real question in my mind is… “Why?”. Why has turning a time of celebration into violent rioting become normative? Has violence become so endemic in our culture that otherwise responsible college students become a menacing mob? Have we all become so desensitized to violence that we just shrug our shoulders and assume this is just the way it is?

Later this week I will be heading to Oklahoma with two young adults from ECMN to participate in a gathering called
“Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace:  An Episcopal National Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence”.

Here’s the description of the gathering:

“At Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence, Episcopalians will come together to renew their commitment to the Gospel call to make peace in a world of violence. Through deep conversation, prayer, and skill-building the event will empower our Church to address violence and reclaim our role in society as workers for nonviolence and peace.

As Episcopalians, we are called to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons’ and to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’. It is this foundation that guides our efforts to nourish and deepen our relationships in God’s unending mission. We all have our own unique identity and this gathering will engage all of God’s children from different parts of God’s world, recognizing and respecting the diversity of identity present in our Church and in the world.

Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace is focused around four pillars: advocacy, education, liturgy, and pastoral care. These four areas are key avenues that our Church can use to address the culture of violence within and outside of the Church and will be woven throughout all aspects of the event including plenary time, workshops, small group conversations, and worship.”

I know this gathering will not answer all of my questions but my hope is it will begin to give us all direction about how we can turn the tide of violence that is so prevalent in our society, toward peace.

Sheltering Arms Day

sheltering armsAs we walked into the old run down building, I was initially focused on one young woman in particular, than on where we were or why we were there.  A moment later, my leg was being grabbed by a very small person who looked up to me with eyes screaming, “hold me.” I must confess, for a young high school student, this was a very confusing moment.

This was my first “mission trip” and I was told we would be helping young children who lived with very challenging circumstances, but I was not aware just how dire their lives were.

As the hours moved into days, my attention shifted completely from my peers (and yes, the aforementioned young woman) to the children we were serving. I had always been good with little kids, but having the opportunity to really spend significant time being present with these young ones was nothing short of transformational. In fact, it was one of the foundational experiences of my life that has led to a life long calling to work with young people.

This Sunday, throughout the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, we will be lifting up the phenomenal ministry of the Sheltering Arms Foundation. Established by Deaconess Annette Relf in the late 1800′s as an orphanage, and for the last 30-plus years as a granting agency, Sheltering Arms has always been committed to improving the lives of young people.  As is clearly stated in their mission statement:

“The Sheltering Arms Foundation’s mission is to invest in the lives of Minnesota’s children and help them reach their full potential.”

Over the last 30 years, Sheltering Arms has awarded over 650 grants (including to Episcopal faith communities) for more than $10 million. They have also been on the leading edge of what we refer to as Missional Innovative Partnerships, working with a variety of organizations and agencies to advocate and make legislative changes that benefit children in our state.

We have invited all of our faith communities this year to engage in God’s Mission by engaging all of God’s Children, and I can think of no better partner in doing so than Sheltering Arms.

How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?

Strange_land_by_arimeq

Our theme for this last week at the House of Bishops comes from Psalm 137:4, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Individuals have shared deeply and transparently of their own “strange lands”, and in the midst of it have learned how to sing the Lord’s song.

For some, the “strange land” has been unfamiliar territory and for others, it has been a completely new culture. For others yet, it has been living into a new role and the dynamics of the relationships that come with it.

Our Biblical narrative is filled with stories of life in a “strange land”. From the Exodus to the Ascension, our sacred story describes over and over again those who find themselves in a place of unfamiliarity.

Amidst all these tales of being displaced, are incredible stories of invitation and hospitality. Everyone from inn keepers to strangers on the road, time and time again someone appears like Moses, to walk with folks to a better space.

In a world that often feels strange or isolating, we sometimes feel that we’re out of sync with our calling. Our calling as inheritors of the Sacred story is to follow in the Way of Jesus, to walk with those who feel lost, alone, and on the margins.