by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
In this space last week, I wrote to you about the shifting sands of change that the church is experiencing. Some of you expressed appreciation for a confirmation of suspicions you have as you watch the church you love, wondering where it is headed. I am pleased that no one found offense in my writing, yet, and none denied what is before us.
As I was praying about this, a phrase from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry kept coming back to me: “Becoming beloved community.” He is quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who is quoting Josiah Royce, philosopher historian and founder of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The basis of Royce’s work is a moral (Christian) philosophy which, as it unfolds, engages more and more people in the work of love as Jesus taught it: love for neighbor, for the poor, for the marginalized. His philosophy aims to broaden our focus on near-gains and raise our vision to what is best for us all. Dr. King brought a social perspective to this discussion and suggested that beloved community is a place in which everyone is cared for, where poverty is eliminated, the hungry are fed, and where there is no hate. In his vision, King acknowledged that this would require a paradigm shift on many fields: law, education, medicine, religion, and politics.
Under Bishop Curry’s leadership, becoming beloved community in the Episcopal Church requires that we take an honest look at our history, how we got where we are, and how we can move forward in justice. One of the systems we must examine, according to Bishop Curry, is how racial inequity has had a hand in our church’s history and how it may still be affecting us. For us to move forward in the freedom of God’s children, he contends, we must explore both our personal and communal histories. In doing so, our Baptismal Covenant invites us to be faithful to the call to strive for justice and peace.
This ‘racial reckoning’ is not an accusation against any one of us. Rather, it is a calling to consciousness of how something about which we may be unaware may still have undue influence. “The Episcopal Church’s work toward racial reconciliation, healing and justice is guided by the long-term commitment to Becoming Beloved Community.”
Bishop Curry recognizes that to appreciate the call of the Spirit, we first must seek healing for what we have done and what we have failed to do. In other words, to become the beloved community, we must tell the truth about who we are and who we were.
While redefining what it means to be church, this is but one way we can move forward. It may not be the only way, but I believe it is an important one. Through the website quoted above (link in blue text), Bishop Curry and the Episcopal Church offer us the arena and curriculum to have this dialogue in a safe, loving way. It requires a level of institutional and interpersonal trust that is rare and will need nurturing.
It will take courage for a community to embark on this trip and there are some risks. I acknowledge and affirm that it would be easier to ignore these thorny issues or to navigate around them. I wonder, though, what perils await us if we do. Perhaps rightly, people may say they hold no stock in racism. It is just too hard to ignore that we, as members of the Episcopal Church, have hands stained by centuries of racial bigotry and prejudice.
Last week, I wrote that the core of our faith is strong and viable. I also suggested that the church is at a crossroads born of crisis and opportunity. Lest we miss this call of the Spirit – who calls us to renewal and repentance and reconciliation – the confluence of pandemic and our nation’s increasing political polarization is insisting that we come together to listen, to share, and come to know the healing presence of the Resurrected Christ, and the limitless possibilities of love.
This week, I ask how willing we are to surrender to this journey. With the tools at our disposal (adult forum, preaching, scripture studies, men’s and women’s ministry) are we ready to build on the foundations of faith with a vision to becoming the beloved community? Please reach out to me either way. Thank you for your courage.
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We’ll see you at St. John’s this weekend:
• Saturday worship at 5 p.m. in the Chapel
• Sunday worship at 8 a.m. (in-person only)
• Sunday worship at 10 a.m.
(in-person and ZOOM)
• Godly Play and Nursery at 10 a.m.
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Beginning Saturday, April 30, the Saturday evening service will include a potluck supper. Those in attendance are invited to bring a favorite dish and join us (at the conclusion of the service) on the Learning Commons Courtyard to share a meal together. Come one, come all for food and conversation as the beloved community of St. John’s.
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Supporting humanitarian response to the crisis in Ukraine
[Episcopal Relief & Development – February 28, 2022] Episcopal Relief & Development is mobilizing with Anglican agencies and other partners in order to provide humanitarian assistance to people fleeing the violence in Ukraine.
Working through the Action by Churches Together Alliance (ACT Alliance), Episcopal Relief & Development will provide cash, blankets, hygiene supplies and other needed assistance.
“Ecumenical and orthodox faith networks are on the ground in the border areas of Poland and Hungary,” said Abagail Nelson, executive vice president, Episcopal Relief & Development. “We will continue to coordinate with these networks, in order to meet the needs of people who have been displaced.”
Please pray for all those affected.
If you would like to support this humanitarian effort, you may 1) write a check to St. John’s, memo note “Ukraine”, and send via mail or drop your check in the offering plate; or 2) donate through the church PayPal link on our website home page, and notate “Ukraine”. St. John’s will forward donations to ERD. Thank you.