Monday, July 16, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: Just Love

You know, we’re still talking about it!

A certain African American cleric preaches at a certain family wedding in the UK, albeit one watched by billions, and proceeds to turn the world quite literally upside down.

Indeed, just last week, the Archbishop of York started his Presidential address to the General Synod of the Church of England by asking what was so remarkable about the Presiding Bishop’s wedding sermon on love? As the Archbishop told us, “the topic of his address was hardly controversial” and then went on to say that “from the reaction, it seems that the general public’s expectations of life, excitement and witness from the Church of England are still very low.” The following day, The Times newspaper reported that the Archbishop had “called on (British) Anglicans to abandon their English reserve and spread the gospel with some of the energy shown by Bishop Curry.”

I can’t help reflecting that your Presiding Bishop has made a far more lasting impact than another US visitor to Britain this week – but we shouldn’t stray into politics!

So coming back to the Archbishop of York’s question, what was it about Bishop Michael’s sermon that made it so utterly remarkable and unforgettable?

If you haven’t seen it, I really urge you to watch it on YouTube. You see, it wasn’t so much what he said, but the way that he said it. Preaching from an iPad in full view of the Royal family, he broke free from traditional British protocol. He waved his hands, spoke from his heart, smiled and – bravely – chose to make eye contact with people. Indeed, he seemed to create the very fire that he advocated needed harnessing – a fire created by capturing the “energy of love”. God’s unconditional sacrificial love. It seemed to me as if a touch paper had been lit, and the whole world was set on fire.

And just look what happened…

Within minutes people were tweeting and posting about God’s love; media outlets around the world wrote editorials and features on the power of love; newscasters and talk show hosts couldn’t stop talking about the need for love. They had heard what they saw to be Good News - it was contagious, infectious and life-giving.

And the reaction of the Church?

Well, to be honest, our reaction in the UK was pretty mixed – in some quarters, even negative. A well-known Christian Radio station ran a poll to see if people thought it was too long. Traditionalists said it was inappropriate given the occasion. A number of senior evangelicals said he had “failed to preach the Gospel” as there was not enough mention of sin and repentance, others that he had failed to define what he meant by love. One went as far as saying “it wasn’t Christianity at all – it was Christianity-lite.” I was appalled and ashamed by these criticisms.

So, I can’t help but ask again, what was really going on? Why such polarised responses? Was it really just because Bishop Michael is an advocate of same-sex marriage, making him an apostate in the eyes of some and theologically unsound to others? Well, there might have been a little bit of that, but I believe there was something far deeper going on – which was beautifully demonstrated in our Old Testament reading in Michal’s response to King David’s show of pure abandonment before the Ark of the Lord. Indeed I believe the Archbishop of Canterbury hit the nail on the head when he described Bishop Curry’s sermon as “raw God”. You see, “raw God” can make people feel quite uncomfortable. If there’s one thing that Bishop Michael was that day, it was that he was authentic. He didn’t pretend to be anything other than what he truly was and is. It was a perfect example of what was explained in our psalm – those who can stand in God’s presence are those who have “not pledged themselves to falsehood nor sworn by what is fraud”. He was just Michael. He spoke with joy about a God of Love, who he himself seemed to embody. It was real, it was raw, and it was passionate.

Passion.

Many can have quite a problem with displays of passion, especially in public. We Brits for instance would much rather keep a stiff upper lip, where we ensure that everyone plays by the rules – particularly at Royal events, where the establishment is out in force and protocol is the order of the day. It takes great courage to stand up in public and be passionate, to stand up against social conventions, to be true to ourselves despite the expectations of all those around us – and to just be our natural God-given selves. Passion versus protocol.

For me, that’s what lies at the heart of the Pride movement. A movement that has enabled millions to stand up and be themselves despite the expectations of those around them. It has helped break through the norms and protocols that have imprisoned so many, empowering people to choose a courageous path of being open about who they are rather than hiding away their true selves for fear of being despised. Whilst for many in “the West” Pride has become a march that seeks to joyfully celebrate inclusivity, often with the same exuberance that King David displayed, we should remember that there are still many countries where it is incredibly dangerous to march. Where participants are accompanied by armed police, where the level of hate and abuse is such that people fear for their very lives, and where to stand up against the norms that seek to force people to conform is to risk losing everything.

This was the case just a few weeks ago in Istanbul, where for the third year running the city governor banned people from holding a Pride march. Traditionally, Istanbul has been a relatively safe haven for the LGBTI community, with tens of thousands of people previously marching. Sadly, though, things have been getting progressively worse and yet despite this people still bravely gathered for a rally, at which the organisers made the following statement: “Like every year, we are here, on these streets. Our laughter, our exclamations, our slogans still echo in these streets…we miss the marches attended by thousands where we celebrate our visibility. We make fun of those who try to place boundaries on us by the pride of our existence and the strength of our pride.”

Why do people choose to do this? Why do they choose to stand against the odds?

We are assured in today’s psalm that “they shall receive a blessing from the Lord”, and I pray that that will be so, but I fear that few have yet to see it. They do what they do because they can do no else – because something within them compels them to stand up and not be silenced. Because their role is to be prophetic, to speak out with actions as well as words against tyranny and oppression. Here in the West, we owe so much to those who went ahead of us, people like Harvey Milk and Gene Robinson, along with my heroines Audre Lorde and Martina Navratilova. They did so and many continue to do so – often unknown and unacknowledged - no matter what the cost.

The truth, however, is that it can be highly costly to be a prophet, to be at the vanguard of speaking truth to a nation – or a Church - by standing up for what we believe is godly and right. Just look at what happened to John the Baptist – killed for speaking truth to a woman who held a grudge against him for daring to say what no one else would say.

I must admit that I have known a fair bit of the cost myself, particularly recently when challenging the Church over its attitude to homosexuality. Luckily, I still have my head!

As you may know, I am heavily involved in the debate on sexuality within the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion. Indeed, my Foundation, the Ozanne Foundation, exists to tackle prejudice and discrimination within religious organisations around the world based on sexuality and gender. As such, I am only too aware of how critically important it is to stand up and speak out for my fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer siblings in countries where they have so little voice. This was brought into sharp focus in a report – In the Name of Love - published last year, which contained some shocking statistics with regards to the LGBTI community in Britain – a country that is thought to be leading the way in LGBTI acceptance: 42% of young LGBT people have sought medical help for anxiety or depression
52% of young LGBT people report self-harm either now or in the past
44% of young LGBT people have considered suicide
I understand the figures are unfortunately very similar here in the USA.

The report concluded that “the Church” and local churches are one of the biggest sources of direct discrimination against LGB people and the biggest contributor of negative views to debates about same-sex relationships in society and the media. Sadly, in many parts of the world, the Church has so much to repent of, particularly the harm it has inflicted and continues to inflict on so many vulnerable people.

That’s why I am so incredibly grateful to the Episcopal Church of the USA for taking its own prophetic stance on this critical issue – again at quite a cost - and its willingness to stand up to so many churches both at home and abroad who have refused to be in communion with it. Indeed, I was thrilled that I was able to give my heart felt thanks just a few days ago at the Episcopal General Convention in Austin to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry himself for taking the stand that he has on behalf of the global LGBTI community. He was so lovely. On seeing my tears, which embarrassingly seemed to appear from nowhere, he literally climbed across the table that separated us to give me a huge hug and a kiss. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said: “Encourage people to tell their stories, Jayne, for it’s that encounter that has the power to change people.”

I couldn’t have agreed more – incarnational truth, raw passionate truth, real truth about who we are, what we are, how we love and how we know that we are loved.

“Tell your stories – for it’s that encounter that has the power to change people.”

Be brave, be honest, be real.

You see (and this is the crux of it all) when people see raw faith embodied in raw love - they encounter raw God and it’s irresistible – as the world saw with Bishop Michael.

In my recently published memoir, Just Love, I tell my own story about my 40-year journey of reconciling my faith with my sexuality. I, like many others, have spent years struggling to accept who God has created me to be, believing that I was an abomination in need of healing rather than a wonderfully unique human being made in the image of God, with a God-given desire to love and be loved. Central to my journey was my acceptance of a God of Love over a God of Law, a God that wanted to “save my life rather than kill it” – although it took me being hospitalised twice to understand this.

I start the book with a story that explains the turning point of this – and indeed the reason why I felt compelled to call the book “Just Love”. It centres on an incident that happened at one of the darkest points of my life, just after my first breakdown. It’s an important part of my story, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to share it with you now: I’ve just woken, and I’m lamenting the fact that I’m still alive, having begged God to take me the previous night because I couldn’t take the pain and stress any more:

“I feel like an animal!”

I felt a surge of anger course through me and shouted out aloud into the empty room. “What makes me any different to an animal, heh God?”

Tears of sheer frustration rolled down onto my pillow as I encountered deafening silence.

And then, a voice – so recognisable and so familiar, so quiet and yet so reassuring, which said:
“Your ability to love, Jayne.” I thought about this briefly then, emboldened by my anger and the painful memory this had touched, I snapped back: “No, I’m not having that. Harry (my kitten) loved me! Animals can love you know!”

“Ah Jayne, but you can respond in love to any situation I put you in, because I AM love, and I AM in you, and you are in Me!” Was it an audible voice? I still don’t know. It was as loud and clear as someone standing right next to me. But whether real or imagined, this articulated truth turned my life upside down.

“I AM love.”

I finally understood. It was so simple but so profound.

I could respond in love to any situation that I was in, because God IS love. It really is just that simple.

We are called to JUST LOVE – no matter who, no matter where, no matter how, no matter why.

JUST LOVE! That’s all.

The rest is up to God.

Jayne Ozanne
San Diego Pride Sunday 

Friday, July 13, 2018

General Convention Day 8

Dean Penny writes

Day 8 of #GC79: a long morning of legislative business debating and voting on the budget, and resolutions on responsible investment regarding Israel, caring for the children of Palestine, expanding the language of the Eucharistic prayers, and a whoe variety of stuff. I spent the lunch hour getting to know the Dean of Reno, Nevada, although my lunch didn´t actually arrive until 5 minutes before an appointment with a bishop, so I ate in the visitors´ area of the House of Bishops, having swapped roles with our alternate again for 24 hours. I listened as the bishops debated the same resolutions we had debated in the morning, making many of the same comments.

I spent the afternoon going between the two houses to observe, but sadly missed the moment when the head of our deputation, the inimitable Pauline Getz was awarded the House of Deputies medal for her long service as parliamentarian, deputy, executive council member, and committee chair. In the House of Bishops I was lucky enough to catch the Passing of the Torch (literally) from the diocese of Texas, who hosted this GC, to Maryland, who will host the 2021 convention. The soundtrack, naturally, was Chariots of Fire as the bishops ran in slow motion.

Worship this evening featured the Rt Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, first woman of color to be elected a diocesan bishop, as preacher. Then a few of us walked down to the river to see the nightly spectacle of millions of bats flying out from their roost under a bridge: fantastic! We ended the evening in our hospitality suite for a last get-together as a deputation. Tomorrow holds a full schedule of legislative business all the way from 8 am to 6:30 pm when we catch our shuttle to the airport. I imagine the House of Deputies will start to empty out after lunch.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Yoga in the Nave

Dear St. Paul’s family,

This week parishioner Anita Martinez will begin her series of yoga classes in the nave. I have heard some questions about the spiritual nature of yoga, and Anita has offered some reflections which I have incorporated into this letter. St. Paul tells us that our bodies are spiritual temples (1 Corinthians 6:19), and the many stories of Jesus healing physical ailments are proof that Jesus himself valued physical health. So, in a sense, any exercise is a spiritual endeavor. But there is an intentionality to yoga which makes it especially suitable for a place of meditation and prayer.

Yoga is about developing a healthy body, mind, and spirit, through postures, breathing, and meditation. It can lead you to a spiritual or godly place within yourself. Yoga is a spiritual discipline more than a physical discipline. Yoga urges you to go beyond and into your own personal experience to find spiritual growth.

Yogis (practitioners of yoga) seek to refine their emotional reactions and release attachments, so as not to reinforce those tendencies. This in itself can be spiritual. Yogis seek to experience and become aware of the spirit (God, in Christian terms). 

Yoga postures can be physically challenging, and regularly practicing yoga develops strength and stamina. Yoga is also a mental practice where you work through emotional stress and psychological challenges – including meditation.  You learn to use your breath, stay focused, and stay in the posture.  You can train the nervous system and the mind to be steady and calm in the face of any challenge, stress, or adversity.  If you can do this on the mat, it helps you to be able to do the same with life’s challenges.  You learn to tap into the power and strength within. 

Yoga doesn’t promote a particular set of beliefs. It’s not a faith-based paradigm.  It’s a system interested in behavior, a spiritual investigation.  If you are curious about the very fundamental aspects of being human, yoga guides you to personal insight about yourself and about the divine presence that holds us in life. 

I hope that you will join Anita in this spiritual exploration over the next few weeks, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, starting on July 17.

Your sister in Christ,
Penny

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

General Convention Day 6

Dean Penny writes,

#GC79 day six: committee hearings are starting to wind down. I surfaced a bit late to sit in on one, so I met instead with a former dean, who now works for a senior housing organization, to exchange ideas and share experience. A little shopping in the exhibit hall, then I sat in as an alternate on the joint session on Creation Care. Lunch with the deputation, then back onto the floor for legislation including questions of equity for lay and clergy on pensions and for transgender and non-binary people.

Meanwhile the bishops were welcoming the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church, with much rejoicing #cubasi #cubaahora. I left worship early to walk through the heat to the Berkeley at Yale dinner. good to catch up with various folks including my former Dean who was my adviser. ended the day celebrating the birthday of deputation leader Polly Getz with chocolate cake. I have two more evenings to see the bats at sunset.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

General Convention Day 5

Dean Penny writes,
Happy Monday! And #GC79 day 5. Committee deliberations were back this morning and I returned to the Safeguarding committee where it was Groundhog Day, as they once again discussed the wording of the resolution about clergy dating.

At the morning legislative session we completed debate on the resolution extending trial use of the new marriage liturgies and adopted it with an amendment that returned control to bishops, thus robbing the resolution of most of its effect. It now goes to the house of bishops. Other votes on a variety of resolutions followed.

We were treated to a wonderful speech by a member of the youth presence - the church will be in good hands when they take over!

At lunchtime I switched roles with our alternate and I had a lunch meeting with some of the organizers of our New Camino workshop in May, to discuss followup plans. Then back to the house of deputies to sit in the alternate area and observe some of the debate on resolutions addressing investment policy and the Israel/Palestine conflict.

After a downtown walk it was time for worship - disappointing music this time but an engaging sermon by Prince Singh, Bishop of Rochester. Then the deans gathered for our traditional dinner: about 25 of us plus the Bishop of Texas and his wife. I was the only female dean present. It was fun to catch up with happenings in Omaha, Phoenix, Bethlehem, Eau Claire, Salina, Sacramento, Portland ME, Houston, and elsewhere. I missed friends including Miguelina Espinal Howell of Hartford CT and Randy Hollerith of Washington DC who had other commitments tonight.

Troy Mendez tells me there is a new resolution calling for TEC to embrace the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba without waiting for a constitutional amendment. I hope I get to vote for it!

Monday, July 9, 2018

General Convention Day 4

Dean Penny writes,
#GC79 Day 4: being Sunday, the day didn’t begin with committee hearings, but with  a prayer service by Bishops Against Gun Violence, attended by about 500 people. We heard from the parents of Carmen Schentrup and from a remarkable 14-yr-old from Waco called Abigail.

Then we piled on to 12 buses and out to the Hutto “residential center” - actually a prison holding about 500 women. When I saw it my first thought was “Orange is the new black.” About 1200 of us gathered in the hot sun to sing, pray, and hear inspiring words. The inmates could hear us and sent messages of appreciation.

 In the afternoon we had a long legislative session, mostly doing elections to various boards but also starting debate on the resolution that calls us to continue trial use of the same-sex marriage liturgies. To be continued in the morning.

 There were several competing events this evening. After supper I took in a portion of Carly Hughes’ sermon at the Integrity Eucharist, staying long enough to hear the announcement that the organization will now be known as The Episcopal Rainbow. I was sorry to miss the Latin Fiesta, but I ran out of steam. Tomorrow is Camp Shirt Day.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Day 3 at General Convention

Dean Penny writes,
#GC79 day 3 started with a hearing of the Safeguarding committee, discussing resolutions including one updating definitions around sexual misconduct. What are the boundsries for clergy dating lay people? The discussion was almost over when a Spanish-speaking committee member spoke up through an interpreter, making me realize how infrequently our Spanish-speaking friends make what is obviously a huge effort to be heard. In this case the comment was extremely important and caused the resolution to be sent back to a subcommittee for a significant revision. There has been quite a bit of discontent over inadequate interpretation and translation services this week.

In our legislative session several people offered amendments to the prayer book revision resolution, a compromise resolution offered by the committee, and the measure was approved. If the House of Bishops concurs, a process of revision will be launched that will take at least 12 years.

This afternoon we had a joint session, a TEC Talk on evangelism, with several speakers including the awesome Daniel Velez Rivera and Lauren Winner. I had a joyful reunion with old friend and now Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe over a cup of tea, and then it was onto the buses for a Revival service at the Palmer Center - a huge crowd, terrific, Spirit-filled praise, Gospel, and bluegrass music led by, among others, Sandra Montes, and an amazing double-act sermon by ++ Michael Curry and his Spanish interpreter. The much-ballyhooed Texas BBQ afterwards was a big disappointment, with not nearly enough food and a lack of organization.

Rumor has it that my former bishops Peter Lee and James R. Mathes are in town - I will be looking for them tomorrow. Meanwhile we are all praying for those affected by the fires back home. Oh, and did I mention that Westboro Baptist is picketing our meetings this weekend? A good opportunity to practice the Way of Love.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Day 2 at General Convention

Dean Penny writes,
Short report from day 2 of #GC79: Safeguarding committe discussed whether the resolution condemning sexual harassment should be aimed at clergy and church employees only or at all church members too. Church members were added. A joint session of the Houses heard powerful testimony from a former skinhead white supremacist, an Austin hip-hop poet, a distinguished scholar and founder of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial HeLing, and the Rev. Nancy Frausto, a deputy from Los Angeles and a Dreamer. Then we had conversations among ourselves about confronting racism.

I attended a luncheon hosted by the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes and started to think about whether I want to attend the CEEP conference. In Boston. In February. Hmmm.

Sat in on the Christian Formation Committee’s discussion of resolutions calling for greater support for transgender and non-binary gendered people. Wonderful testimony from brave young people and a fortuitous encounter with the incoming national president of Integrity.

 Legislative session started the debate on revising the Book of Common Prayer - to be continued tomorrow. I was surprised to learn that the committee is recommending going ahead with a 12-year project of revision.

Finally, dinner with the deputation at an excellent restaurant on Congress Ave, near the bridge with the million bats. I must get down there at sunset one evening! A brutally hot day, but not as dangerously dry as it is in San Diego today.

Grateful for all the hard work going on here in the service of the Gospel.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Pardon our dust!

The leaky Cathedral Transept, South Porch, and North Porch are being repaired this summer.  We've begun work on the Transept roof this week.  The roofing team will be removing the tiles, repairing any damaged sections of wood and reworking the draining pipes and flashing to keep water away from key areas.  They will then move on to the South Porch to replace the roofing there, and finish with fixing select areas of the North Porch.  This should resolve the issues we have when it rains and keep the infrastructure sound for years to come.  The repairs should be done in two to three weeks.

Report from general convention

Dean Penny writes,

Day 1 of #GC79: 822 deputies from 107 dioceses in the House. All the deputies named Michael were dispatched to the House of Bishops to convey our greetings, along with baseball caps embroidered with “Michael”. In return, two bishops adorned with tiaras returned the greetings. We had a wonderful opening Eucharist service with another knock-em-dead sermon from ++ Michael. I sat in on the Prayer Book committee hearing on the revised Book of Occasional Services. Lunch courtesy of the Church Pension Group with a presentation on changing demographics. A significant factor in our declining numbers is that Episcopalians don’t have enough babies. Transportation to church is a significant challenge for our parishioners of color. In some (all?) diocese an immigrant may not enter the ordination process without a green card.

After lunch, more committee hearings: on the proposed restoration of the Diocese of Cuba to full membership in the Episcopal Church, with impassioned testimony from Bishop Griselda and el muy reverendo José Angel Gutiérrez, Dean of the cathedral in Havana. They are anticipating that, although they have done everything the Episcopal Church has asked them to do, we will delay accepting them once again. Then on to the hearing on non-discrimination in hiring and deployment, before returning to the floor for another legislative session. We spent time on resolutions to allow joint deliberative sessions of the Houses of zdeputies and Bishops, and on compensating the Preaident of the House of Deputies for her hard work (both passed). Dinner at a local BBQ joint with Holly and Darren Herring, and a conversation about choir tours (which Darren organizes).




Monday, July 2, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: A Different Kind of Power

On Friday, the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis published an almost entirely blank editorial page. At the end of a week when a supreme court justice announced his retirement and national turmoil continued over the detention of immigrant families, the Capital Gazette chose not to express any opinion in its Friday edition. Instead, the page contained a simple tribute to the five newspaper employees shot to death in the newsroom on Thursday afternoon. “Today we are speechless,” the page read, along with the names of the five victims. It brought me to tears.

The lack of words sent a powerful message, in a time when words are in all too plentiful supply. The power of words is being blamed in part for the shooting: people in positions of national power and influence have made statements that some see as inciting violence against the press. But on Friday, the organization targeted by that violence used a different kind of power to make their statement of lament.

Sometimes, lament is all we have to offer. As the second book of Samuel opens, David is lamenting the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, his enemy and his beloved, his king and his rival for the crown. The relationships were complicated, to say the least. But David´s lament is whole-hearted. He honors his enemy, the king who sought to kill him, equally with his dear friend, Saul´s son Jonathan. He pauses to grieve, and then he presses on with the business of kingship, of mopping up resistance, of reuniting a nation divided by civil war. If you read on in Second Samuel you will see the various ways David consolidates power, using military might, trade deals, savvy marriages, and the establishment of Jerusalem as a fortress capital. The whole saga of David and his family is about the struggle for power.

In Mark´s Gospel, the synagogue leader Jairus has reason to lament. His 12-year-old daughter is dying. He is so distraught that he humbles himself before Jesus, virtually worshiping him as he begs Jesus to lay hands on her and save her. Our translation says he asks “that she may be made well and live”, but an equally valid interpretation would be “that she may be saved for eternal life”. So there´s some ambiguity to what he thinks Jesus can do. Jairus uses his privilege to force his way through the crowd to Jesus. He goes to the front of the line and interrupts whatever Jesus is doing to ask for his intervention in a dramatic and public way, obviously expecting Jesus to respect his wealth and position and to give his family priority.

Contrast this man with the woman who is bleeding. She isn´t given a name. She doesn´t demand Jesus´ attention. She has no sense of entitlement. She is not supposed to be in that crowd. She has no privilege. She has been bankrupted by medical bills. She is ritually unclean, as menstruating women have been ritually unclean from time immemorial and are still mistreated in some parts of the world. She dares not cry out for help or draw attention to herself, although she has been suffering for twelve long years, the entire length of the little girl´s life. I am tempted to wonder if she is the girl´s mother, suffering from a childbirth-related injury that has never healed, expelled from the community and comfort of her family because of her husband´s important role in the synagogue.

Let’s just notice that the girl has a powerful advocate in her father, whereas the woman must fend for herself. This nameless woman has no expectations, just a hope. She dares to hope that if she can just get close enough to Jesus, even if he doesn´t know she is there, that she can receive healing - or, here´s that ambiguity again, salvation. She isn´t asking him to lay his hands on her - that would be socially unacceptable even if she were well. She doesn´t want to bother him with her pain or her shame. So she reaches out in the midst of the crowd to touch his cloak. In that moment she is physically healed. There is no ambiguous language here.

And, just as Jairus interrupted scheduled programming to demand healing for his daughter, so now Jesus interrupts Jairus’s agenda to offer healing to someone else’s daughter.

I sometimes joke about what I call the ministry of interruption. It’s the nature of parish ministry that interruptions happen all the time: you never know what’s coming at you next. The other day I was walking briskly to a board meeting at St. Paul’s Senior Services, when I was hailed by one of our more volatile homeless guys. “Buy me a soda: I need the sugar,” he said, as I was passing the Marketplace. Somehow I found myself in the store digging a can of Squirt out of the refrigerator for him, even though it was going to make me late for my meeting. I surprised myself: I’m not usually that open to interruption! And here in the Gospel, Mark is reminding us that following the way of Jesus requires a willingness to be interrupted.

Jesus feels a tug on his cloak, and he instantly feels compassion for this woman. That’s compassion in its true sense of suffering with, feeling with, the other. Jesus knows our pain and our joy intimately, even when we don´t want him to know. Even in the crush of the crowd he recognizes that someone is in need and he stops his progress towards Jairus´s home to respond and to complete the work of healing. Because the work of healing must include the healing of relationships. The one who has no voice must be given a voice. The powerless must be lifted up. And no matter how marginal, no matter how objectified, no matter how dehumanized, someone might be, by society’s norms or political posturing, each and every human being commands the attention and the loving care of Jesus. And so he calls her “daughter”, adopting her back into the human family, restoring her place in the community, and he says, “your faith has made you well.” Or - ambiguity once again - perhaps he says, “Your faith has saved you.”

How ironic that in the very next sentence, Mark tells us that people come from Jairus’ home telling him not to bother the teacher because the girl has died. As the woman’s faith saves her, others demonstrate a lack of faith. Despite this, Jesus proceeds to heal and restore the little girl, offering a healing touch that brings instantaneous resurrection - and yes, this is the word later used for the resurrection of Jesus. The girl is restored to fullness of life and is to rejoin her family at the dinner table, the center of community, signalling that her own uncleanness, that of death, has been wiped away.

It’s a story of power on many levels: the establishment power that Jairus uses to get Jesus’s attention. The power of desperation that drives Jairus to his knees and the afflicted woman into the midst of a potentially hostile crowd. The power to heal in body, mind, and spirit. The power of Jesus to take someone by the hand and lead her from illness to health, from isolation to community, from death to life.

Maybe you feel as powerless as I do, watching the daily assaults on American values and the steady rolling back of progressive national policies, dreading the likely shift of power in the Supreme Court, grieving for the families torn apart at the border. Our power to protest feels less effective each day that passes, with the constant barrage of things that need to be protested. The power of the ballot box is compromised by accusations of hacking and the character assassination of candidates - who or what can we trust?

Well, we can turn to a different kind of power, power that is found in the compassionate love of God, a love that reaches out to the voiceless and the disempowered, a love that takes the time to turn aside and respond to need, a love that restores health and community and joy and fullness of life even to those who are silenced by shame or seemingly dead.

Jesus came to give voice to the voiceless, to lift up those who are oppressed, to demonstrate to the world that every individual has value in God´s eyes. This is what he has done for us, insisting that we each matter, that regardless of the particularities of gender, age, privilege, or ability, we are precious in God´s eyes and worthy of full inclusion, nurture, and wholeness. And, as members of the Jesus movement, we get to demonstrate that others are equally precious by sharing what we have in abundance with those who have less: community, engagement, life in its fullness, and a seat at God’s table.

July 1, 2018
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

EFM: Education for Ministry

John Shelby Spong, the controversial, well traveled, and now retired, Episcopal Bishop from New Jersey, once claimed his early spiritual search was simply a means to seeking security for his anxious and insecure soul. He would discover he was only partially correct, as he later wrote in his autobiography,
"...I discovered not security, but the expansion of life, and the radical challenges that life brings when one is open to the depths of God who is for me the very Ground of All Being." 
 Those life challenges, experienced by all of us, can be better met and more fully lived with the help of EFM. The classes proved to be a wonderful tool, designed and oriented to help one discern and carry out his or her own ministry.


EFM, grounded in scripture but equally reliant on and open to critical thinking, historical scholarship, and modern theological studies, allows a student to re-experience and re-visit what the Hebrew and New Testament canons have not only 'said' to the Church and her followers, but more importantly, how those words have also been heard, received, shaped, and understood - in all their variety, for better and for worse. 

 Those same words, for both the experienced student and the interested newcomer (as both are present and equally welcome in EFM), can become ideas and thoughts that are so much better analyzed and understood with the help and collective insights of this committed group and its well-trained mentors. EFM provides the necessary space for a community that longs to understand the Christian story and its impact on human lives over an extended timeframe and in distant places - to include the perspective of the Other: the Muslim, the Buddhist, or Hindu, some converted in "both directions," along with the non-believer, who all remain, in and with their differences, our neighbors.

EFM allows us to see Christianity, as one of the course authors describes, as more than "an argument, an explanation, or a solution." But indeed, our faith can lead us to all of these facets, and to so much more. One is also led to see that Christians alone have no monopoly on God. And in learning to think theologically, students are encouraged to examine their beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, making us more effective ministers in and to the world, in societies and communities increasingly described as post-Christian - yet still yearning for justice and a need to turn away from the harshness, coarseness, and incivility that many of us experience in daily and working life every day.

In practical and personal terms, EFM also helped me through a greatly changing course of life events, some involving unbounded happiness and gratitude for friends, work, and family; and others that brought a dark despair, with the unexpected illness and subsequent death of my wife of 32 years, and the mother of our two adult children. My EFM classmates supported me through aspects of life that sometimes seemed so drama-filled and emotion laden, and so lacking in any sense of control on my part, a control that I had previously come to rely upon, and assumed would always be there. But as a friend once told me: "that's not drama, that's life." EFM can help us with a new way of seeing life, in both its daily and dramatic forms. After all, doesn't the Book of Common Prayer tell us that God is equally present in both?

The increasing and enjoyable familiarity that an EFM class provides to its students never felt forced, and was always nurturing and comforting to me. EFM provided a welcome respite to a sometimes hectic and troubled world. This proved especially true in the cyclical and repeated context of having all four years' of the students and their specific yearly focus together in the same setting each week, hearing in one evening's session what you had thought you read and understood the year, or two, or three, before, but now with a new outlook and an enhanced appreciation that only another's voice might provide. This method ensures that there are both welcome changes of perspective, along with an equally important constancy of purpose in the weekly sessions.

 EFM is a wonderful tool, designed and oriented to help you discern and carry out your own ministry. Revisiting Bishop Spong, I would like to think that the course helps both the anxious AND the secure, as we all hopefully find an expansion of life that accompanies true fellowship, a diversity of thought, and an emphasis on the dignity of every human being.

Jeff Pack, Year 4




Sunday, June 24, 2018

At the March to Keep Families Together

Cathedral folk attended the March to Keep Families Together on June 23.  Here are some photos from the march.

You can see more photographs of our Cathedral Contingent
at https://www.flickr.com/photos/stpaulscathedral/albums/72157698337421745

Our church photographer Susan Forsburg also has an album here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/slfphotographer/albums/72157697836121704













The Sunday Sermon: on the border

When I was in seminary about 10 years ago, one of the things we were required to do to prepare us for life in ordained ministry was to go on a mission trip to the Mexico side of the Texas border. The goal of that trip wasn’t to proselytize, or build anything, or to evangelize.

We were simply sent there, a class of prospective priests, to watch, learn, and grow in faith. We had spent time studying the God of Israel, who listened to the groans of the people in Egypt crying out from under the unfair economic practices of pharaoh. We had studied the God of Judah, listening as his people wept in captivity, kept from their holy land. We had studied the God of the outcast, the foreigner, who had delivered the people of Israel from slavery, from the law of production and into the law of neighborhood. We had studied the ways of Jesus Christ, who had brought an unexpected way of salvation into a world occupied by Rome, littered with the bodies of anyone who had dared to stand in the way-- but offering new life in the face of the fear of death. We had learned of the God of Paul, who broke down divisions between Jew and Gentile to let a new movement of love break in.

So we took our knowledge, and we went to Mexico to see if this God we had studied in the classroom could be found in the world around us.

We loaded in vans, our seminary class with different political backgrounds and different feelings and beliefs about immigration, church and state, and headed to the town of Piedras Negras on the border of the Texas city of Eagle Pass, hosted by an Anglican priest whose ministry was with most of the people we would meet.

We went to more places than I have time to speak about this morning. But there are three that I want to mention.

One was a sort of halfway house for immigrants trapped between their countries of origin and the United States. We met a man who had been hitching a ride on a train from his home in Honduras to try and reach the border in hopes of a new life when a train passing the other direction came too close, searing his arm off. We heard of many such stories; some like his, others who actually made it to the border and attempted a crossing but nearly perished along the way, returning to this place to recover. Last year, 412 people died in attempted border crossings, from dehydration, starvation, exposure, and the like.* I thought of the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness. I wondered about the desperation that would drive someone to such a flight into the wilderness.

A second place I want to mention is the maquiladoras. Maquiladoras are factories built in zones along the border by US companies to take advantages of trade laws so that they can pay low wages for Mexican labor and operate in a reduced regulatory environment. Some maquiladoras treat their workers fairly and the lives of the workers improve. But others are not, are their workers are exposed to chemicals, dust, and other conditions unacceptable in the United States. I wondered about our trade policy, being more than willing to take advantage of the conditions in Mexico, but our immigration policy which is less willing to afford our living conditions to those we met who make that trade possible; those who suffered from lack of a living wage, suffered lost limbs from malfunctioning equipment, and other work related ailments. That stark contradiction in US policy reminded me of Pharaoh. And my heart broke.

The last place I want to tell you about from this trip is more pertinent to today’s news. We visited a border orphanage. We went to see a house full of children who had been ejected from the United States. Some of them had been deported after staying with distant relative who a US resident and were now waiting for a parent in Mexico to arrive to pick them up, perhaps having been sent to the US in hopes of a better life. Others were less fortunate, and no parent had been found. There were cases where a parent had been deported earlier, and the child was not identified at the time of deportation, perhaps coming home from school to an empty house not knowing their parents had been taken in custody. Some of the children were not Mexican nationals, but residents of places further south like Honduras or El Salvador-- and ejected from the US, literally dropped at the edge of US territory because of their brown skin to let Mexico figure out what to do with them. That was 10 years ago.

The biggest learning I had from that trip is that the border is not a fixed line in the ground. Maybe that’s not news to us in San Diego. One of my Spanish teachers lives in Tijuana and works here in San Diego. But the border is a liminal place with lives and families that span it regardless of what kind of physical barriers are erected. On my trip, we met families who lived in Eagle Pass and worked in Piedras Negras, and vice versa. We met families who were separated by the border and heard their stories. One of the lessons of my trip was that la frontera, the border, is a liminal thing, including people groups and ways of life, not just a line on a map. To treat it rigidly and harshly for political purposes ignores the reality of the people, and life in and around it.

The Sea of Galilee in today’s gospel was such a border. It marked a geopolitical separation between countries. It served as political fodder for Roman conquests to ensure their continued domination. It was a border, una frontera.

In this gospel lesson Jesus has just finished a day of teaching his disciples beside the lake. With very little preparation, he tells his disciples they are going to cross the lake; cross the border from Capernaum in Galilee on this boat into the country of the Gerasenes.

But a mighty storm rears up on this border lake crossing. There are experienced, seasoned fishermen in the boat- they know how to handle a ship- but they go and wake up the carpenter because this storm is so mighty.

They are early in their time with Jesus. They don’t really understand yet, they only know that this new teacher of theirs is asleep while the world seems to be falling apart, when the seas are high and they, the experienced ones in the ways of the world, can’t seem to figure out what to do next to save them. It’s hard, apparently even for the disciples to rely on faith rather than the ways of the world in the midst of the storm. How much more so, I suppose, for us.

So they wake Jesus up, and he gives the wind a piece of his mind, and he tells the sea to be still, to be at peace.

The followers of Jesus in the boat, still so early in their journey with this strange man from Galilee who can calm the winds and the sea, are frightened by the sudden peace of God instead of comforted as the storm leaves. For Mark, fear is the opposite of faith. Mark is telling us that the disciples have not yet come to their faith in Jesus.

They had to experience the peace Jesus brought to bear over the storms again and again before they could have courage in the face of their fear; courage to take action in the face of fear.

My class, when we went on our trip to the border, was full of anxiety. It was the beginning of the increased drug gang violence. Would we be kidnapped? It was the first time to Mexico for some. For me it was the first time to be up close and personal with desolate poverty, walking among the places where people live who have no running water, with barely a roof over their heads, and nearly nothing to eat. It was uncomfortable at best, and fearful at worst.

But the experience of that fear somehow changed us over those days. The storm of the border, with all of the conditions there, opened us-- I imagine each in different ways. One colleague of mine went on the trip full of anger at the requirement of having to go and with a resolute mind that the borders should be locked tight. In turn, I was angry at him for being what i considered hard-hearted. The trip filled him with empathy at the plight of the people he met along the way, and his heart softened. My heart in turn opened to him as I heard the stories of why he had been fearful, angry even, at immigrants. The peace of God changed both of us, from fear to faith.

For me, the experience of meeting a little old grandmother, an abuelita living in the colonias with no running water, in the frigid cold as we distributed blankets, telling me she had only taken a glass of tea and a tortilla in the past two days, changed me also. Whose grandmother was she? Wouldn’t I want to flee such conditions too, and take my grandmother with me? How might we as the United States seek to improve conditions in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and other places so that people would not want to risk their lives on such a dangerous journey crossing the border? The peace of God doesn’t always leave us content, but, I believe, opens us to the other, calls us to action. It changes us as we cross the sea. That is just what happens when you walk with Jesus.

I don’t know where you find fear, anxiety, or discord in your life. But my prayer for you, for us, for the world, is that we are given an experience of the peace of God that allows us to grow from fear to faith; from despair to hope; from death to life. And that in turn, may give us the courage to face the very real fears of this world, turning our faith into action, and making the love of God something very real: the kingdom of God come on earth as it is in heaven.

The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk 
Proper 7B, June 24, 2018 
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego 
Mark 4:35-41

*https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/06/us-mexico-border-migrant-deaths-rose-2017

Sources Consulted: 
Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 4. Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3677

http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5181

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Note from the Episcopal Public Policy Network of California: Families Belong Together

Last week many members of our congregation expressed their grief and anger at the reports of immigrant families being separated at the border and incarcerated. Our feelings were exacerbated by attempts on the part of senior government officials to justify the policy as being “Biblical”. As we continue to pray for all immigrants and particularly for children separated from their loved ones, the new network of Episcopal dioceses in California has published this statement.

When large numbers of people cross borders to flee persecution, war, and disaster, they are considered refugees in the world’s eyes, and many nations build refugee camps or absorb migrating people, helping families to resettle and educating the children. In the United States, our tendency has been to treat migrants as criminals violating our international boundaries, especially at our border with Mexico.

In the past two weeks, the Department of Justice has taken the deeply troubling step of separating migrant children from their parents at border crossings and putting those children in detention facilities. This policy is intended to horrify and deter migrants. Approximately 2,000 children have been taken from their parents in the past two weeks and put in detention centers, including in San Diego.

As Christians in the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, we are appalled by this practice of separating children from their parents. This cruel and inhumane treatment can cause long-lasting physical and emotional injury to children, according to the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.

In addition, it is morally indefensible. In Hebrew and Christian Holy Scriptures, we are enjoined again and again to love the resident aliens and strangers and treat them as our own, to extend hospitality, and to share our resources with them, for we recognize that all that we have is a gift from God. We also are charged with paying special attention to the most vulnerable in our community.

Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society, and they need their families’ love as well as our care and attention. We Episcopalians join with many other people of good will across the United States in asking the government to return migrant children to their parents immediately and to allow migrants to process asylum claims or to united migrant children with family members in the United States.

Finally, we call upon Congress and our Administration to overhaul our immigration system to relieve the suffering of all those who have been harmed by our policies.

-------


The Episcopal Public Policy Network of California

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: Sowing Hope, Seeking Justice

In the summer of 1995, as part of my ordination process, I was required to spend ten weeks working full time as a hospital chaplain. The program included several overnight shifts as the on-call chaplain at Yale New Haven Hospital. At the time my sons were nearly 5 and nearly 8. My husband had a demanding job, and we had to figure out childcare that would include some very early mornings. Eventually we decided to send them to England, to stay with their beloved grandparents for most of the summer.

On the appointed day we drove down to JFK Airport in New York City and took them to the gate (security wasn´t nearly as tight in those days). When it was time to board, a burly male flight attendant appeared and led the two little boys through the door to the ramp. As we watched them disappear I could feel my heart cracking, but I tried to wave cheerfully as they went off quite happily on their adventure. The next morning we called to make sure they had arrived safely, and my younger son commented on the funny face I had made. Letting my children go, even knowing they were going to people I loved and trusted, was the hardest thing I had ever done, and I still get emotional remembering. There is no worse feeling than seeing your child taken into the hands of strangers.

This sermon was going to be about suicide, about how we can´t see beyond the surface of people´s lives and only God knows what is in the heart, about friends I have lost to suicide and about what we might do to shine a light or sow a mustard seed of hope for those who are deep in darkness. But this week´s media coverage of migrant children separated from their parents and imprisoned has overtaken me, and the spectacle of people, entrusted with the care of the vulnerable, claiming Biblical authority for heartless and abusive actions compels me to speak out in condemnation and in defence of our God and our Scripture. I am outraged, and if you aren´t outraged too, we need to talk.

The Bible doesn´t tell us to take a nursing baby from its mother. The Bible doesn´t tell us to trick a parent into giving up his child on the pretext of being taken into the next room for photos. The Bible doesn´t tell us to ship young children across the country to be locked up in what amount to cages, while their distraught parents are detained elsewhere with no knowledge of where their children are or whether they will ever see them again.

Here´s what the Bible does tell us: ¨When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself.¨ (Leviticus 19) And in the Gospel Jesus says, ¨Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.¨ (Matthew 25). And yet we hear our national leaders saying it´s Biblical to take young children from their parents and lock them up, as a deterrent to those who might think to bring their families to the States for a better life. Abuse as deterrent. While there are examples of such behavior in the Bible, they are not held up as role models.

In the Bible stories we´ve been hearing most recently, children are the heroes. Two weeks ago, we heard about the boy Samuel, called by God to reform the religious institution of his day. Today we heard about David, the little shepherd boy, overlooked because he was just a sweet, rosy-cheeked child, but nonetheless chosen and anointed for kingship. These two boys went on to be two of the greatest champions in our story of faith.

Size and maturity are not indicators of value in God´s eyes. The tiny mustard seed can grow into an abundant shrub. The last shall be first. The Lord does not look on appearance or stature but upon the heart. God calls children to important ministry: think of the boy with the five loaves and two fishes, or Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. They are not assets to be used or withheld for political gain. Our children are our future, and the way we treat them has longterm consequences for our world.

We have seen the consequences of children being separated from their families before. Those seeds will bear a bitter fruit. I know families who adopted children from orphanages in Eastern Europe, institutions where the children had been rarely held or spoken to. These families face enormous challenges, because the children have great difficulty learning to love and trust anyone. In some cases like this, children grow into violent sociopaths, unable to empathize or form attachments.

Decades ago the US government had a policy of rounding up migrant kids from Central America, putting them on airplanes, and dumping them in their countries of origin without making any provision for their care at the other end. The kids banded together and formed gangs, which grew into murderous organizations such as MS13, and which fomented hatred of the nation that had abandoned them so callously. That´s how terrorists are formed.

Recent research has demonstrated that the brain of a baby who isn´t nurtured and cuddled in the first weeks of life doesn´t develop properly, and the trauma of separation can have a lasting effect on mental health and academic potential. Children are meant to be in loving families.

Today is Fathers´ Day, a day for families to gather. Some of us cannot or choose not to be with our fathers today. Fathers´ Day is a poignant day for me because I lost my father when I was 12, and the father of my children died five years ago. Maybe it´s complicated for you too. Maybe you have a difficult relationship with your father. Maybe he is no longer living. Maybe you have lost touch with him.

On this Fathers´ Day I pray for all those who cannot be with their fathers because they have been separated by powers beyond their control: those whose fathers are in prison; military kids whose fathers are serving their country far away; LGBT kids who have run away from home or have been thrown out because of their identity. And of course those migrant children who are being abused for political purposes.

While there are times when the image of God as Father doesn´t work for me, on this day I hope that all those children are gifted with the conviction that they have a heavenly father who loves them unconditionally, even if their human fathers are absent or inadequate.

Where is the good news today? The good news is in the Gospel. The good news is the seed that can grow into nourishing grain. The good news is the tiny mustard seed that contains within it the potential to be a lifegiving and abundant home for all the birds of the air. The good news is our continuing commitment to support Vida Joven, the foster home in Tijuana that provides a safe haven for children who have lost their families.

The good news is the small donation that each of us can make to organizations that work to reunite families separated by war or famine or poverty. The good news is the letter we can write or the phone call we can make to an elected official demanding that, in the words of today´s collect, they administer justice with compassion. The good news is the mission of our own Camp Stevens, providing a safe and enriching summer experience for the youngest refugees in our community. The good news is the mustard seed of hope that we can sow in our neighbors´hearts, even if we have no idea what will grow from it.

So much of our ministry is about sowing seeds. A parishioner recently suggested a ministry of writing encouraging phrases on Post-its and placing them on benches and lampposts around the neighborhood. A single word can land in someone’s heart like the mustard seed landing in good soil. It can change or even save a life. When we do Ashes to Go, when we march in the Pride parade or bless the marathon runners, we don´t know if our actions will make a difference. We sow the seed and leave the rest to God.

But as people who belong to the God of love, who revere the Scripture that tells us to care for the stranger and the vulnerable, to love our neighbor, and to stand up for justice, our ministry must also include speaking truth to power. When we see abuse perpetrated as national policy and our own sacred book mocked, we are to take seriously the words of today´s Collect, asking God for the grace to proclaim the truth with boldness and minister justice with compassion. We are to call our elected representatives and demand change in the name of God. We are to do the hard work of sowing the seeds of change.

And because we are people of faith, people who know who God is, we can be confident that God will take those seeds and grow them into a world where all people will flourish, loved and nurtured in the new creation of God´s triumphant kingdom.

June 17, 2018
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Letter From The Dean: Dean and Chapter, A Partnership in Ministry

Dear St. Paul’s family,

The Chapter is the name given to the cathedral’s board of directors, the equivalent of a parish vestry. It consists of the Dean, 12 people elected by the congregation, two elected by diocesan convention, and one appointed by the Bishop. Our bylaws and diocesan canons say very little about the responsibilities of the Chapter, other than it being elected “to manage its temporalities”. The Dean is explicitly given authority over all matters of ritual and ceremonial and has responsibility for keeping the membership register and the record of worship services.

The traditional model is that the clergy under the direction of the Dean take care of all spiritual and program matters and the Chapter confines itself to paying the bills and keeping the facility in good order. However, as our denomination increasingly embraces the model of Mutual Ministry, where every member of the church shares in ministry rather than it being delegated to the professionals, the role of vestries and Chapters is undergoing an evolution, and our Chapter is growing into a greater role of spiritual leadership in partnership with the Dean. In recent years our Chapter has begun each year by composing a Covenant to guide our behavior, and we also conduct an annual Mutual Ministry review, laying out expectations and goals for the Dean on one hand and the Chapter and congregation on the other. In the Chapter section of our website, you can read a copy of this year’s Covenant. The most recently approved Mutual Ministry Agreement (MMA) will also be posted there very soon.

Chapter members are expected to attend monthly meetings, to be active in worship, giving, and parish life, to pray for the church community, and to take leadership in special projects and events as needed. Those elected by the congregation serve a three-year term.  Any member of the congregation may attend a Chapter meeting as an observer: meetings are generally held on the first Tuesday of the month at 5:30 pm in the Guild Room. As Dean, I rely heavily on Chapter to be my partners in setting direction and strategic thought, and I especially rely on the two Wardens to be my trusted advisors and truth-tellers in sensitive matters such as human resources. It is a blessing to work with such wise, faithful, and kind individuals.

Your sister in Christ,

The Very Rev Penny Bridges

Monday, June 11, 2018

Spiritual Dimensions of Suicide Prevention

This blog was originally posted on 11/8/16.  Please also see this published version of Dr Parry's letter the American Journal of Psychiatry. 

As emphasized in the leading editorial and attendant articles on suicide,(1)  and by the former NIMH Director, Thomas Insel, M.D., in contrast to the medical advancements in reducing infectious diseases, significant progress in reducing suicide rates has been elusive.

Other relevant studies underscore potential strategies for reducing suicide risk: Offspring of depressed parents at increased risk for major depression, who rated spirituality or religion as important to them, had increased resilience and a 90% decreased risk for particularly recurrence of major depression (associated with a thicker cortex and measures of increased white matter connectivity in the brain) over a 30-year period.(2)  Also, among women 30-55 years who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, attendance at religious services once per week or more was associated with an incident suicide risk that was 84% lower compared with women never attending religious services.(3)  In patients at high risk for suicide in the immediate aftermath of hospitalization, suicide risk can be reduced significantly by merely sending a postcard, as emphasized by the former Director of the American Suicide Foundation, Paula Clayton, M.D.

Psychiatrists originated from priests or shamans (surgeons from barbers), as Jerome Frank described in Persuasion and Healing (previous required reading for psychiatric residents). Harold Koenig, M.D and others have written on the importance of obtaining a spiritual history as part of the overall psychiatric evaluation.(4 ) The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, calling for closer links between psychiatrists and clergy in the interests of both, and more importantly, in the interest of many patients, cites Andrew Sims’ remarks:
“For too long psychiatry has avoided the spiritual realm, perhaps out of ignorance, for fear of trampling on patients’ sensibilities. This is understandable, but psychiatrists have neglected it at their patients’ peril. We need to evaluate the religious and spiritual experience of our patients in aetiology, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.”(5)  
In the Intensive Care Unit, my independent interviews with two adolescent males who had made life-threatening suicide attempts revealed that, although they did not have the risk factors of previous personal or family history of depression or suicide attempts, had no identifiable life stressors of illness, accidents, deaths or relationship break-ups, and had supportive family and friends, they each shared that they had no sense of the “meaning or purpose of life.”

Thus it behooves psychiatrists to develop a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to diagnosis and treatment as suggested initially by the internist, George Engel, M.D.

Barbara L. Parry, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
University of California, San Diego

Acknowledgements: The Reverend Canon Richard Lief for his inspiration,
and L. Fernando Martinez, B.A. for his assistance with the references.




References
1. Lytle MC, Silenzio VM, Caine ED. Are There Still Too Few Suicides to Generate Public Outrage? JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73:1003-1004.
2. Miller L, Bansal R, Wickramaratne P, Hao X, Tenke CE, Weissman MM, Peterson BS. Neuroanatomical correlates of religiosity and spirituality: a study in adults at high and low familial risk for depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71:128-135.
3. VanderWeele TJ, Li S, Tsai AC, Kawachi I. Association Between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates Among US Women. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73:845-851.
4. Koenig HG. Association of Religious Involvement and Suicide. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73:775-776.
5. Carey G. Towards wholeness: transcending the barriers between religion and psychiatry. Br J Psychiatry. 1997;170:396-397.

In the Nave

Mark Twain, having sat through a performance of a Wagner opera, quipped, “Wagner’s music is not as bad as it sounds.”

Sitting in the nave today with its abbreviated seating options, I felt much the same way. The photos made the space look as if we’d been robbed, leaving us bereft of our pews in the west end of the church. But once I sat down for today’s service, things didn’t seem so awful after all.

As Jim Witte pointed out to me, the now emptied space allow a better sense of the church’s very fine architecture, exposing more of its columns, and giving a more immediate view of the south windows. So, I was wrong about the absence of the pews ruining the esthetic of the nave. This admission may come as a shock to those who think I am an intractable curmudgeon.

My only concern now is what we will do with this space over the summer. All sorts of odd notions have already sprung up including a space for knitters (during Mass?) and a playground and a dance floor. Some have volunteered their cheery ideas that the space would have been better made by taking out the front pews instead. The word ‘cockamamie’ comes to mind as these and other brainstorms loom on the horizon of plausibility.

We hear of an art show appearing in the recovered space, but what other plans are in the offing that wouldn’t be spreading the marmalade of opportunity too thinly over the bread of sense and taste? New uses and projects will require care and judgment avoiding haste and careless choices. Faith rests in the deciders, and in this situation ‘the greatest of these’ is faith.

The summer gives us time to assess whether or not to replace the pews although we are assured that they will return (absolutely needed for seating for some major events at SPC). But by then we will see how things go with the uncovered floor. Contrary to popular belief, I am optimistic.

​--Robert Heylmun​


See this letter from Dean Penny about the summer experiment removing some pews




The Sunday Sermon: What do we really want?

God created us free. Free even to decide what we really want in our lives and what we strive after. It is important to know what our innermost wishes are, for they will determine the way we think and act most of our lives.

In the passage from I Samuel we just read, the elders wanted a king. We should not be too judgmental about their wish. The truth is they had been repeatedly defeated in battles against the neighboring nations, especially the Philistines, and they realized a king would make them stronger and better organized. But they failed to see the other side of the coin. Samuel, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly states to them what the king they are asking for will do to the people. They will no longer be free, but subject to the king’s abusive taxes and tithes, but they are so willing to be “like the other successful nations” that they disregard Samuel’s warning altogether and celebrate the crowning of Saul. In their insistent craving for worldly success, they not only risk losing their freedom but God’s kinship as well.

In the gospel passage we read, Jesus’ healing activity, exorcisms and inspirational teachings have attracted a multitude of followers. But he has also earned for himself and his followers the mock and hatred of many who are only interested in keeping the status quo, for fear of the Roman authorities or for fear of the established religion. Have you noticed? Fear and the craving for worldly success always go hand in hand. The Pharisees were also afraid of breaking what they envisioned as “God’s Law”, and in their sight Jesus and his followers were “law breakers”: he healed people on the Sabbath, the disciples did not wash their hands properly, reaped wheat on the Sabbath, etc. So, they go as far as stating that Jesus casts out demons by the power of the chief demon. But here Jesus uses worldly logic against them. A divided house cannot stand. And he warns them against their blasphemous words for the Holy Spirit.

Then the question of his family’s concern for his safety comes up. It is natural, according to worldly logic, that if your beloved son or brother is in danger of being prosecuted and sentenced to death, you should try to do something about it. They try to stop this “craziness”, to make him come to his senses, and realize that he may even suffer death if he goes on like that. But although Jesus was really good at using worldly logic, as he proved in many of his parables, he was always above all concerned with the logic of God’s Kingdom and what his kinship to God entailed.

His words remind me of the time when, my mother, who has already passed away, after a surgical operation when she was in her eighties, for a period had some lapses of logical thinking, and sometimes when she needed help in the middle of the night she would cry out “Dad”, instead of calling my name. I told her I was her son, not her father. Her father had passed away years ago. I was trying to insist on worldly logic. But then she said something I will never forget: “Father, son, what difference does it make?” “Aren’t we all the same?” She was so right! Why do we insist on logical slots like the roles we play in our family life? What really matters to God is that we love one another, that we care for one another, not only within the household, but within the big human family that we all are.

So, Jesus, when confronted with his family’s concerns, reacts according to this great truth which contravenes worldly logic: the human family is about mutual love, caring presence, compassion and justice; in other words, doing God’s will. In so doing he was not rejecting his blood family, but expanding the grasp of the family concept in God’s view.

Our worldly logic is always concerned with what seems to be the loss of our welfare. We have a great fear of losing our place in society, of deteriorating, of growing old and losing our mental clarity. However, Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians portrays true life and glory as that which is invisible to the eye, and he assures us that God has prepared a glorious house for us, not made with human hands. How “logical” does that sound?

May Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, so inspire our minds and hearts that we, instead of craving for the slaving kingdom of worldly success, strive relentlessly for God’s liberating Kingdom and kinship in our lives. Amen.

The Rev. Carlos Eduardo Expósito.