The Magic of Back-to-School

Visiting with students at Shattuck-St. Mary's

Visiting with students at Shattuck-St. Mary’s

If you are friends with ECMN on Facebook (and I hope that you are, because it is the best way to catch the latest and greatest), you will have seen that over the last couple of weeks I have been blessed to spend a great deal of time at our two schools, Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Breck.

I love being with the students and faculty at any time of the year, but nothing beats the magic of back-to-school. Like many, I have incredibly fond memories of those first few days of school – reconnecting with friends and anticipating a full year of activities.

Yet beyond the nostalgia, the real reason I like to begin the school year with the students is to voice my support for the importance of being a learner. In my opinion, far more significant than what classes are taken or the grades that are earned, is acquiring the love of learning.

And with the advent of the Internet, any educator will share with you that information is more readily accessible than ever. Yet fostering a desire for that knowledge, and just as importantly learning how to think both critically and creatively, are essential life tools.

The reality is, it does not stop at the school doors or at a certain age. Being a lifelong learner is central to our life journey; the same is true of our faith journey. The Church’s word is formation, and as people of faith we are called be lifelong learners… lifelong people in formation. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:12-13, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”

As our faith communities begin the program year, I invite you to take full advantage of whatever formation opportunities are offered. And don’t stop there. If you are not already, consider becoming a daily reader of the Bible, as well as other books that spark and nurture your desire to learn.

Let’s start the school year off right and commit to being lifelong learners, and equip ourselves for the ministry we are called to.

Click here to view the video of new students and faculty at Shattuck-St. Mary’s taking part in the human arch tradition and launching balloons to kick off the new year!

Engaging God’s Mission Through Engaging All God’s Creation

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Over the last two weeks, more than 500,000 acres have burned in Washington State alone.

As we came around the last winding corner of the mountain pass, it was as if we were entering a whole other world. The mountains had been green, lush, and full of beauty and vibrancy. What was now staring us in the face was a devastating combination of dry and dusty, and a wall in the distance rapidly moving in our direction. The contrast could not have been more stark!

As we are all aware, the Western United States is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime drought. The ramifications cannot be overstated. I was absolutely shocked when I first arrived at our little family ranch out West. The usual summer green pastures were a late fall dry brown, and many of the trees and bushes were already losing their foliage… all the makings for the perfect fire storm.

Over the last two weeks, more than 500,000 acres have burned in Washington State alone. Entire towns have been evacuated as the wind-whipped wall of fire took no mercy on forests, homes, and businesses. Like most disasters of this magnitude, you can’t really grasp the devastation until you see it firsthand.

In a few short weeks, the Episcopal Church in Minnesota will be gathering for our annual ECMN Convention. Our theme for both the Convention/Program Year and our Mission Opportunity is Engaging God’s Mission Through Engaging All God’s Creation.

In Eucharistic Prayer C (BCP 369) we pray these words:

“At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”

The Fifth Mark of Mission (from the Five Marks of Mission developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990) is:

“To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

Whether it be severe drought, extreme snow and cold, or flooding rains… there is no question that this “fragile earth” is experiencing unprecedented climate challenges. Unquestionably, some of this is, as one professor once said to me, “The ongoing birth-pangs of creation.” But it is also apparent to many that the human family has also played a part through our lack of good stewardship of God’s creation.

The invitation and the hope for this coming year across ECMN is that we will take a deep-dive toward even the smallest steps that each faith community, and each of us as individuals, can take to “safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth,” … for this fragile earth is our island home.

The Gift of Loyalty

“So, who would you like to be your best man?” asked my lovely fiancée. I responded, “In third grade I told my best friend, Zeb, that when I get married I would like him to be my best man.” (Yes, even a planner at that young age). Clearly she was surprised as she asked, “So when was the last time you saw him?” “Well it’s been a couple of years, but I always call him on his birthday,” I replied. “So do you have any idea where he is?” “That,” I said, “will be the challenge.” And it was. Thanks to my mom connecting with his mom, I was able to learn that he was logging deep in the woods of north Idaho. All of that, frankly, was the easy part. The real challenge was actually trying to get in touch with him. Persistence paid off and the day before our wedding he showed up dirty, unshaven, with a wild mane atop his head.

I felt a great sense of accomplishment in locating him. Yet, what was even more rewarding was how genuinely touched he was that I would not only make the effort to locate him, but more importantly that I stuck to my third grade pledge. For me, however, it was a no-brainer. Zeb had always been a loyal friend. He faced significant family challenges at an early age, but through thick and thin we stuck together.

I place an extremely high value on loyalty. Truth be told, for me it is the highest relational quality. To be able to endure through life challenges, or to be under great peer pressure from others, or even to hold polar opposite opinions… still remaining faithful to the relationship is truly a gift.

Every time I read the story of Peter denying Jesus, I think about loyalty (Mt 26:31-35, 69-75). I cast no judgement on Peter. The fact of the matter is that Peter and the other followers of Jesus, especially the women, were incredibly loyal. However Jesus’ loyalty both to his Father and to his followers was unsurpassed. Even when Peter denied Jesus, Jesus kept loving Peter. This, frankly, is good news for me. To know that Jesus’ love and loyalty supersede my shortcomings in our relationship is both reassuring and inspiring for me.

I am absolutely blessed to have an abundant cadre of family, friends, and colleagues with whom I share a mutually loyal relationship. It is life giving to have companions for the journey who are going to stay with you through thick and thin… including Zeb.