Presiding Bishop’s Christmas Message

The Presiding Bishop’s Christmas Message 2013

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.     Isaiah 9:6

   Isaiah pronounces these words to a people who remember the yoke of slavery laid on their shoulders.  They’ve been waiting for this child, whose birth transforms that yoke into a mantle of authority.  They are promised that this authority will continue to grow as the peaceable commonwealth is established – with justice and righteousness for all, and for ever.

   This promise is spoken anew to people in every age, to those who have lived under oppression or in dark depression, to the hungry and ill and imprisoned.  The birth we celebrate offers hope, in Word made flesh, who comes among us to heal and walk this way with us.  The mantle of authority on his shoulders begins in the swaddling clothes of a child born in the humblest of circumstances.  Yet that authority is recognized even by foreigners from far away.  That mantle of authority does continue to grow, through a life offered for others, raised into new life, and passed on to new generations of fleshly God-bearers.  Wherever justice and righteousness is done, that authority is growing, borne on the shoulders of the Prince of Peace.

   He comes again, bearing the grace of the One whose image he wears in flesh.  Seek him, sing his new song, declare his glory, and tell out the good news to all the nations:  God reigns, and he is coming bearing righteousness and truth on his shoulders.

   May you discover that humble authority born again on the edges of the world’s notice.  May that royal inheritance and authority of the stable be born in you, enliven your heart, and rest on your shoulders.  Bear it abroad in peace, this year and throughout the ages.

 

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

The Bishop on Nelson Mandela

A letter from the Bishop Regarding the Legacy of 
Nelson Mandela
My Sisters and Brothers,

Several years ago I, and others from this diocese, were present when Archbishop Desmond Tutu received an honorary degree from Fordham University.  At the event, a chorus of singers from South Africa performed several pieces.  As a refrain to one of those songs was the singing/shouting of the name “Mandela!  Mandela! Mandela!” over and over and over again.  I will never forget the love, the gratitude, the hope, and the profound human longing conveyed by the extended repeated recitation of that name.  

In our own day and lives we have seen the extreme subjugation of people and the most vicious racial hatred and violence of South Africa give way to one of the most sublime witnesses to peace and reconciliation, and to the highest aspirations of the human character. The people of that land, rising from oppression, have demonstrated before the world the power of godly reconciliation to overcome hatred and retribution.  And that witness has kept hope alive across the globe in places where violence is the daily bread and the divisions among peoples are most intractable.  Behind South Africa’s transformation, and at the center of those miracles and wonders were and are many remarkable men and women.  But few inspired the loyalty of the world, or so kindled the hopes of every heart, as did Nelson Mandela, by the weight of his suffering and the sterling virtues of his faith and character.  

Patience in suffering.  Courage under oppression.  Hope in the darkness.  Forgiveness of wrongs.  Love of enemies.  By these graces Nelson Mandela testified to the reasonableness of a godly hope.  Now the great man of peace, the keeper of the faith, has passed, and every heart is troubled.  Now it falls to the world and the church, and to all who would honor this man, to guard our own hearts, to recommit ourselves to peace, and to the reconciliation of adversaries, which was the brilliance of his life and martyrdom, and by which is the healing of the world.  

The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche 

How to Make a Good Decision

This week I began decorating the house for Christmas and realized what a good exercise it was in “discernment.” As I moved through the house, I found myself practicing “good discernment” each time I tried a red bow on a wreath, then a gold, and stepped back to observe which looked best. It was a good example of a favorite phrase of mine: “The heart of discernment is trying it on.” So often we agonize over a decision, mentally tormenting ourselves with all the possibilities and paralyzing our ability to move forward. But the key to making a good decision can be just getting out of our head and actually “trying it on.”

Obviously, Christmas decorating does not involve life altering decisions, but the mechanics are the same. Are you wrestling with a big decision right now? Is there a way you could “try it on”? A way to stick your toes in the water? Perhaps you could volunteer for something in the realm of the career change you’re considering? Maybe you could visit two or three therapists/schools/doctors–whatever your dilemma entails–and see which one fits the best in person? You could really commit to a relationship, or go away for a short time, and see which one feels right. Maybe just stop tying yourself up in mental knots and in some small way “try it on” if you can!

Advent Blessings, Mother Candace+

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How to Get Along with Your Family…

Getting together with family over the holidays can be complicated. There’s lots of anticipation, lots of joy, lots of fun and food and… sometimes there’s a little bit of tension.
At those times I try to remember the sage advice of Murray Bowen, the father of “Family Systems Theory.” Bowen says that when the going gets rough in any relationship try to hold these three things in mind if you’d like to see it get better and grow:
  • Don’t blame
  • Don’t defend
  • Stay connected

Hoping you made some good connections this Thanksgiving, and hoping there are more to come as we enter the blessed season of Advent this Sunday, Mother Candace+

 

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Puritans vs. Anglicans

Even after the Reformation, the Puritans felt the Church of England was too “Rome-ish.”  Many of the rituals preserved by the Anglicans, and still common in the Episcopal Church today, appalled the Puritans.

They vehemently objected to bishops, the Book of Common Prayer, calling clergy “priests,” adorned vestments, images, candles, and all private and national holidays.

King James I of England, who reigned from 1603-1625 (following Elizabeth I), declared that the Puritans must conform to the Church of England’s worship and submit to English bishops and the Book of Common Prayer, or he would “harry them out of the land, or else worse”–”worse” as in dead–so in 1607 the Puritans fled to Holland.

On September 6, 1620 about 100 Puritans sailed from Plymouth, England on the Mayflower. They arrived off Cape Cod two months later, and established their own “Plymouth.” Unfortunately they arrived too late to plant crops, and half the colony died of starvation and disease. The following spring the Iroquois Indians taught them how to hunt and fish, and how to grow corn, a food the Puritans had never seen.  To express their gratitude the Puritans invited them to a celebratory feast which included wild turkey, cooked cranberries, and corn and squash dishes taught to them by the Iroquois.

Many of the original colonists continued to celebrate the harvest with a similar feast of thanksgiving. After the United States became an independent country, Congress recommended a yearly day of thanksgiving for the entire nation.

Thanksgiving & Almost Advent Blessings!

Mother Candace+

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Why Giving Feels So Good

Giving to others is important spiritual work. Whether making a dish for your Thanksgiving gathering, or giving a donation to your church or charity, we give because we have to give if we want to be happy, connected, and really alive.

The odds you would ever exist in this particular body, on this particular planet, has been estimated to be 1 in 30 trillion.  Each and every one of us won the DNA Universe Lottery when “God formed us in our mother’s womb.” Our lives are pure gift.

Within each of us is an awareness of just how blessed we really are.  A deep spiritual need arises from that awareness:  the need to be grateful, and the need to express our gratitude.  As our Savior said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” for we are blessed, and know ourselves to be blessed, in the joy of giving to others.

 Faithfully, Mother Candace+

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By your endurance you will gain your souls

I am very proud to say that both of my parents served our country in World War II.  My mother was an Army nurse. My father was in the Army-Air Corps.  He was one of ten men sent to England before we entered the war in order to learn radar and bring the new technology back to the U.S.  He was actually a member of England’s Royal Air Force during that time.

 
I will never forget standing by my father’s coffin at his wake, and looking up to see a man I did not know in the full dress uniform of the Royal Air Force.  He explained to me that he was one of the ten men who had gone to England with my father to learn radar. He had seen my father’s obituary in the Washington Post and had come to honor him. I never saw him again, and I did not remember his name, but his noble gesture remains a grateful memory in my heart.  
God bless all who served that we might be free, Mother Candace+
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Top 10 Reasons Children are Welcome in Church

Top Ten Reasons Children are Welcome in Church*

10. We believe repeated exposure to the sights, sounds and symbols of the Eucharist helps form all Christians. Praying shapes believing.

 9. Children have their own unique relationship with God; being in church helps them learn how to pray, listen, sing and worship while they strengthen that special relationship.

 8. It would be really expensive to repaint all those road signs to read “The Episcopal Church Welcomes Only Adults.”

 7. Practice makes perfect!  Helping children enjoy and participate in worship helps them become tomorrow’s active worshiping adults.

 6. Sunday services make great family togetherness time. You can use the quiet space for extra hand-holding or snuggle time lost during a busy week.

 5. Children actually LIKE sitting in those usually-empty front row pews so they can see and hear what’s happening!

4. If children aren’t in church, who are the restless, coughing, whispering, cellphone-ringing adults going to blame for the noise?

3. There are no pop quizzes at the communion rail!  We all experience the Eucharist as mystery…and thanks be to God, you don’t have to be able to explain it in order to benefit from it!

2. Children teach us what absolute joy looks like – and what better place to experience that than in church?

1. And the #1 reason we welcome children in church:  When they don’t come God misses them–and so do we!

 

Blessings throughout these beautiful autumn days,
Mother Candace+
* paraphrase of Tracey Herzer’s article
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Our Souls Know More Than We Do….

As I continue to practice de-cluttering my house as a spiritual exercise, I come upon random papers stashed away for years.  Perhaps you also have had the experience of coming upon a note to yourself, a letter, a poem, written years ago?  It can be a spiritual experience just to reread it.  It can be an opportunity to communicate with your past self, a chance to see the seeds of things that have been growing in you for years, seeds that have struggled to emerge into conscious awareness.  Our souls know more than we do.
Blessings throughout these beautiful autumn days,
Mother Candace+
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“Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness….”

An amazing, inspiring poem in honor of St. Francis whom we celebrated last Sunday:
St. Francis and The Sow

The bud

stands for all things,

even those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as St. Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch blessings of earth on the sow,

and the sow began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking

and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell 

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Galway Kinnell