From Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce
July – a way of rest
July is always that month when I can kinda-sorta-breathe. Is it that way for you too?
Starting with Easter I feel as though I’m on a dead run to July. June is always the worst — it’s a whirlwind for me; graduations, ordinations, consecrations, birthdays. Maybe June was and is a whirlwind for you too.
Now it’s July — June gloom is behind us (hopefully) and we look forward to sunny days and a more reasonable pace of work. Maybe you’ve scheduled all or part of your vacation for July. Many clergy do.
We as clergy tend to over-function. We do so at times out of necessity, especially when we are the only clergy person caring for a congregation. We do so out of our own insecurity, as if people might think we are slacking off if we actually take time apart to rest, reflect and pray.
We do so because there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done, someone to be visited, something to fix, more meetings to schedule. God knows I eat over-functioning for breakfast! Yet I know I’m not called to stay in that place. It is not healthy for my body, mind or spirit, and it is not healthy for you either.
I want to invite you to continue to walk with me on the Way of Love. During the month of July — and heck, let’s throw August in there as well — I invite you to move into a bit of REST. It doesn’t mean we completely stop working (unless, of course, you are on vacation!). It does mean taking some time to think about, pray about, work on that aspect of the Way of Love which our Presiding Bishop calls rest.
REST: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27
Blessed are you, O Lord … giving rest to the weary, renewing the strength of those who are spent. – Book of Common Prayer, 113
From the beginning of creation, God has established the sacred pattern of going and returning, labor and rest. Especially today, God invites us to dedicate time for restoration and wholeness – within our bodies, minds, and souls, and within our communities and institutions. By resting we place our trust in God, the primary actor who brings all things to their fullness.
For Reflection and Discernment
- What practices restore your body, mind, and soul?
- How will you observe rest and renewal on a regular basis?
- With whom will you commit to create and maintain a regular practice of rest?
Use this quieter time we live in right now to honor your body, mind and spirit — and drink in God’s love and grace.
Blessings and love to you all,
From Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy
Knowing Your Rest Points
“Know your rest points,” was the sage advice I received from a choreographer I worked with about 20 years ago when I was dancing to make a living. We were learning a particularly challenging piece and she told us to pace ourselves; to look at the piece as a whole and find those moments when we could rest. Even though we were still moving, there were less intense moments that, with intention and focus, could provide us with enough respite to restore us for what was ahead.
This idea of rest points stuck with me through my discernment, seminary, and into my priestly vocation. Vacation is a great time for rest, of course, as are our days off. There are times and seasons of rest as well as moments of rest in each day. The key to finding this rest is to be intentional about it. We can take a look at the pacing of each day, or week, or month, or year, and find those moments when we can take a break and a breath, reconnecting to ourselves and to God.
It’s always seemed a bit of a puzzle to me why clergy, myself included, work hard and so often resist taking the rest we need. Is it the infamous “fear of missing out”? Or is it because somewhere inside of us we still feel like we need to earn our salvation? Is it because we fear Jesus (or our people) will loves us less if we take some time to rest? I have never come up with a good answer for this in myself. Maybe you have and can share it with me!
What I do know is that Jesus will not love us less if we take time to rest. Jesus will not love us less if we spend some time doing whatever provides our hearts and souls with the respite that will restore us for the work we are called to do in the more intense times in our day, week, month, or year. In the end, aren’t we all going for the long game, which is a life of meaningful work and deep connection with God and those whom God loves? The way I know how to do this is by pacing myself, knowing when I can rest, knowing when I need to push through, and remembering that everything we do is for the sake of God’s love.
Bishop Taylor, Bishop Bruce and I, along with Canon Satorius and the Formations and Transitions team, have been thinking of ways that we can offer moments of rest for the clergy community as well. We began with clergy conference, which was a different kind of clergy conference than we have had in previous years. Rather than listening to a speaker, which can feel exhausting in the Easter season after a full year, we opted for a conference that felt more like a retreat. It was our first draft, so to speak, and next year we will fine-tune it.
Additionally, we are experimenting with two other points during the year where rest, restoration, and learning can be offered. The first will be on November 1, when the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, will offer a retreat day for clergy held at St. Paul’s Commons (the Cathedral Center). More details on this event will come soon, but in the meantime please check out Dean Douglas’ biography. I also encourage you to check out some of her writing, including her groundbreaking book Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective.
Second, in the spring, we will offer a retreat day prior to Lent in collaboration with Stillpoint. What that day looks like has yet to be planned but we will have information out as soon as we are able.
Until then, I pray you have a blessed and restorative summer! If we can be of service to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
From Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor
May 2, 2019 – Feast of St. Athanasius
My dear colleagues:
We all have something in common – the risen Christ, of course, and also the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Echo Park. I know most of you love it as much as I do. I remember my first visit, for a meeting during the early stages of my discernment for ordained ministry. I was surprised that it was in the heart of the city, not downtown but in a neighborhood, not built skyward but spread like open arms across a long block facing Echo Park Lake.
When I get to work and head up the stairs, I sometimes remember my excited, unsettled feeling that day. The building was just a few years old back then – and as a matter of fact, I was in my infancy as well, at least spiritually speaking.
The Cathedral Center still feels just right to me. As my vocation matures, I’ve come to care for this building (and its devoted occupants, my beloved fellow ministers) more and more.
Built and completed during Fred Borsch’s episcopate, inspired and nurtured into bricks and mortar by its first provost, Jon Bruno, the church in the Cathedral Center stands for two historic institutions. One is St. Paul’s Cathedral downtown, which was damaged in a 1971 earthquake and eventually torn down. The other is St. Athanasius Church, founded in 1864, the oldest continually operating Protestant congregation in southern California, which provided the land in Echo Park. Not that Bishop Bruce and I sit in them much, but our cathedrae are there, signifying that it is a cathedral church, as during chrism masses and other diocesan services. The rest of the time, our lively, multicultural congregation of St. Athanasius calls the same space home.
Meanwhile, ten years ago, Bishop Bruno designated St. John’s as a pro-cathedral, which is a cathedral that begins its life as a parish. Research amply demonstrates that this is the case with many historic cathedrals. Accordingly, we removed the “Pro-“ – and bingo, we now had two cathedrals, one in Echo Park on the brink of its second quarter-century, the other on Adams Blvd. beginning its second decade.
As you know, we’ve been in conversation and discernment about this ecclesiastical dichotomy for over a year. The upshot is that later this year, on a date still to be determined and announced, we will rename your Echo Park headquarters. The new logo will contain this information:
ST. PAUL’S COMMONS
Retreat and Conference Center
The new name will preserve the building’s historic connection to the downtown cathedral. It will make clear that the bishops and all our colleagues are still at work there. It will highlight our continuing and new ministries to our Echo Park neighbors, especially those grappling with food and housing insecurity. And it will draw more attention to our beautiful, underutilized retreat center and all our public spaces, which are available to community organizations for lease (in the name of sustainability) and sometimes for free (as at the neighborhood-minded institutions you serve).
The change to St. Paul’s Commons will, we trust, further energize two other beloved institutions.
St. Athanasius Church will again have a space that is entirely its own. As we spruce up the whole complex with new carpet, paint, and signage, we plan a concerted effort to draw attention to the congregation’s presence so that more people have the opportunity to enjoy its abundant ministries.
St. John’s Cathedral also enters an exciting time of visioning about its role as a diocesan and civic institution in the heart of one of the greatest cities on earth. St. John’s’ neighborhood, which actually is our whole diocese, is a harbinger of Christ’s church’s multicultural, pluralistic, socially progressive destiny — if the church is to survive and thrive, that is. Though many of our neighbors are skeptical about faith institutions, their hearts are still hungry for purpose, meaning, justice, hope, mystery, and love. These challenges and opportunities engird our cathedral’s future. Its vision, as well as its more pressing needs such as a seismic retrofit, will be centerpieces of our diocesan capital campaign.
And while our offices, I stress again, won’t move to St. John’s, those cathedrae soon will.
With clergy conference coming up next week, Bishop Bruce, Canon McCarthy, Canon Williams (who has played a vital role in this transition), and I look forward to answering your questions about all that’s in store for St. Paul’s Commons. See you in Riverside.
Yours in Christ’s Eastertide love,
From Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce:
Dear Friends in Christ:
In mid-March Bishop Taylor and I spent four long, intense days with our fellow Bishops at Kanuga in North Carolina. You have already seen the letter from us and our spouses regarding the controversy surrounding Lambeth 2020.
Leaving Bishop Mary Glasspool’s beloved Becki off the guest list was shocking and painful – especially for those of us who have experienced their powerful and loving ministry among us. The response of the House of Bishops (HOB) as well as your bishops here was undertaken prayerfully. Mary herself gave a moving account of what transpired in the weeks leading up to our gathering at the HOB.
The work of the HOB in this triennium is centered on The Way of Love. For those of you who haven’t reviewed the materials for The Way of Love a good place to begin is here.
We had the privilege of hearing from Bishop Vashti McKenzie (AME Bishop, Texas) as well as Bishop Ric Thorpe (Bishop of Islington) on Evangelism as it relates to the Way of Love.
Bishop McKenzie is the Bishop in charge of all the AME churches in the State of Texas. She talked about the fact that many people practice “CHURCHianity” rather than “CHRISTianity”.
She asked the question, “Is it possible that we are more in love with Church than we are with Jesus Christ?” It is so easy to get caught up in the mechanics of Church that we forget the reason we are here and what we are called to do. While we need the institution, we also need to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Ric Thorpe has been Bishop of Islington, a suffragan bishopric in the Diocese of London with special attention to the ministry of church planting, since September 2015. He is responsible for the London diocese’s goal of creating 100 New Worshipping Communities by 2020 and is also working nationally to support other dioceses to plant new churches and revitalize existing ones. Before being appointed to Islington, Bishop Ric was the Bishop of London’s adviser for Church Planting and the rector of St. Paul’s Shadwell.
Bishop Thorpe offered that the Way of Love re-centers us on what really matters. He shared that the decade of Evangelism in England didn’t produce much fruit in terms of the programs and projects that it did — EXCEPT for Alpha and for a renewed passion for the poor and the marginalized.
Reflecting on his work turning around St. Paul’s, he told us that St. Paul’s had 12 people left in it and was going to be closed. The Bishop of London asked Bishop Thorpe and a team to revitalize it — 95 people came with him to revitalize. The neighborhood is 45% Muslim, 45% secular young professionals, 10% aging cockney. The congregation grew! Check out their website here.
Bishop Thorpe draws his tradition from Gregory the Great — a vision for the re-visioning of a community and re-evangelizing of the nation. Augustine similarly worked with the powers that be to plant churches. Bishop Thorpe then looked to the Celtic saints and found Cuthbert who worked by coming alongside a community, developing a church outside the city limits and offering hospitality. The Celtic way is all about relationships.
Both Bishop McKenzie and Bishop Thorpe agreed that if we want to see the church revitalized and become a church that is full of the love of God in Christ and is following The Way of Love it starts with prayer. Here we are, back to where we started. The bishops spent time and prayed as we dealt with the harsh reality of Lambeth 2020. It all starts with prayer, and it all must end with prayer.
Please know I pray for you all daily. I pray for our Church. I pray for our nation. I pray for our world. May all we do be begin and end in prayer.
From Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy
Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain peak in Wales and the highest peak in all of the United Kingdom outside of the Scottish Highlands. This 3,560-foot peak seems small for us here in California where snow falls generally occur at 4,500 feet and above. However, each mountain has its own personality, its own treachery, and Snowdon is no different.
I visited Wales in 2005 and, with my friend Isabella, decided to take a day to make the climb. I was barely 30 and still had that feeling of invincibility when we embarked that July morning. We decided to take the longest and busiest route to the top because we had been warned by so many locals to be careful of sudden weather changes and the danger such changes would bring us along the less traversed and more narrow paths. As I recall, it is a five-mile hike to the top so, after a good and fortifying breakfast, we started our ascent early that morning.
The hike up to the peak was beautiful. We encountered many fellow pilgrims, shook our figurative fists at those who zoomed past us on the train to the top, and enjoyed every moment of it. Almost. When we were about three-fourths of a mile from summiting the strangest thing happened. I got tired. Really tired. My legs felt heavy. Every step was a monumental effort. I kept pushing myself until finally I couldn’t do it any longer. I told Isabella what I was experiencing and she, being older and much wiser, said, “Oh, you are bonking,” which I inferred to mean some kind of crazy fatigue that she was aware of and I was not.
As it turns out “bonking” or “hitting the wall” is a real thing. It is the onset of sudden fatigue caused by a loss of glycogen. I sat down, she handed me a cliff bar, and I ate about half of it along with some long sips of water. A few minutes later I was fine. In fact, we ate that last three-fourths of a mile for a midmorning snack. The summit was as amazing as promised with cool winds and breathtaking views.
Being in ministry is a lot like summiting a peak. It’s a process and a journey. It’s something we sign up for and embark on with the best preparation we can have. It’s something that we do with others and, like my experience on Snowdon, it can wear us out. This is normal. Strength and energy comes and goes. We need periods of rest and quiet.
We need time to refuel and re-energize. As I was beginning to “bonk” I felt a sense of shame. I wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t just keep going. I looked at Isabella and she was fine. How come I wasn’t? I tried to push through and then I stopped. What Isabella did was normalize it for me, give me some fuel, and sit with me while I rested.
We can do the same for each other: normalize the fatigue, share the fuel for ministry that we have with each other, and be with each other in those periods of rest. Doing this for each other helps neutralize any shame we might be experiencing as well as any sense of competition with each other we may be indulging.
In the end, our vocational lives are most healthy and vibrant when we are in good relationship with each other, which necessarily means being able to share our vulnerabilities with each other and receive the support that is waiting to be offered.
These are my reflections on the eve of Lent, a time that is guaranteed to wear out anyone in active ministry. Be gentle with yourselves, reach out to one another (and to me!), and enjoy the journey with fellow pilgrims on the way.
A blessed Lent to all!
From Bishop Diocesan John Taylor
From Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy
Greetings, dear colleagues!
I sit down to write this note to you on the morning after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s harrowing testimony. I will confess that I am still reeling from watching the hearing and how it all played out. I am still reeling from the fact that a victim is being prosecuted. I am still reeling from the dehumanization she has experienced.
I am still reeling from the undeniable and incontrovertible evidence this testimony and the whole hearing has provided us of how far this country’s leadership has fallen and how openly, indeed publicly, sexual abuse of women has been given the rubber stamp of approval by our current president.
Meanwhile, while we are all focused on this hearing, ICE detained 150 good people in Southern California, which is yet another example of the horrific policies put into place by the current president.
Given everything that is happening in our world, how do we continue our vocational tasks of preaching, teaching, and living the good news?
How do we find the energy for it?
For me, it has come through reflection upon a question a colleague posed to me. A couple of Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to do a parish visit, sit with the vestry of the church, and talk about mission in ministry in their particular context. During this meeting, their rector asked me a question that caught me up short for a moment. It was a simple, articulate, and profound question. It was an articulation of something I have wondered during all my years of priesthood but have never been able to put words to, at least not this way. The rector asked what our bishops expect of us, the clergy.
I went back to Echo Park and told Bishop Taylor about this question, how it had struck me, and how I answered the question. Together, he and I put some more thinking behind what is expected of us, and by “us” I mean all of us, including the bishops.
Here’s what we came up with:
In a cultural context that dehumanizes and renders invisible those that it deems “other,” one of the most profoundly easy and highly impactful things we can do is to be curious about the people we meet. We can learn their stories, get to know them, and listen to what they have to teach us. Our curiosity and interest in others helps them to feel seen and heard, and it fosters a sense of safety in community’
An underrated charism in our church, joy is infectious. It is almost impossible not to feel it when you encounter someone who has this infectious joy. Joy for me has been an on again/off again experience, but more and more, in the light of what is happening in our world, I am doing my best to lean into it. Our lives are resurrection narratives and that is something we can be joyful about. We have Jesus and that is where our joy is found.
Talk less and listen more
We clergy are in the business of talking. We pray, we preach, we provide leadership for our people. We certainly value listening as an essential part of our vocation, but it’s easier said than done. Simply listening, without jumping in to share our own story or make a connection with an experience we have had, is one way we can really see the people with whom we minister. Listening to someone is receiving them.
Do the opposite
In a context and time in history which is increasingly polarized, binary, either/or, impatient, anxious, suspicious, and volatile, go and do the opposite.
We have the opportunity to bring in the gray areas, to see the both/and, to adopt radical calm, and to believe what people tell us. Whatever we can do that is the opposite of what is happening around us will be transformative. Of course, this goes back to our baptismal promise to seek justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. Whatever we can do to live into this promise, one relationship at a time, will make a difference.
Love one another as God has loved us
Our collegial relationships are among the most important relationships we have beyond our families. Let us love each other as God has loved us. A safe community of holy love and grace is what God wants for us. Let us be that for one another.
Thank you, dear colleagues, for the ministries you do, for the love you share, and for saying yes to God’s call to bring hope to the world during this time. It is an honor to be doing ministry with you!
From Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce
Dear Friends in Christ,
As I write this article to you, I’m preparing to head to General Convention on Sunday, July 1.
I arrive early as I have responsibilities to attend to as Secretary to the House of Bishops. We will be talking about and voting on a wide variety of subjects – some of which many of you are passionate about.
It will be about two weeks of intensive work, which is designed to point us as a Church in the direction that the Spirit moves us.
I am never good at predicting the outcome of elections to offices or of the fate of various resolutions, yet one thing I do know: much work will be done, many conversations will be had (some heated) – and all this set in the context of prayer and the Eucharist.
In addition to preparing for General Convention I have been working on finance and stewardship work, and am most grateful to Lorenzo Lebrija for his help and work on the Stewardship event we held last weekend. Thanks also to Chris Tumilty, who used his expertise to allow us for the first time to go “live” to you – with the plenary and all workshops live-streamed.
We hope to do more of this, so that the diocese can meet YOU where YOU are — not just at Echo Park. Videos of the plenary and workshops will be available for your viewing here.
The work was designed to help congregations with planned giving, narrative budgeting, utilizing TENS (The Episcopal Network on Stewardship), utilizing Holy Currencies, etc.
Speaking of TENS, if you want to use the materials, the Diocese has purchased access for you. The login ID is: Mark; the password is: 10:21. The work we are doing in Finance and the work of the Stewardship Conference was and is to equip you and all of us for the work God is giving us to do.
While I am personally preoccupied at the moment with General Convention preparations, and in the midst of work in Finance and just through with our Stewardship Conference, I’m most grateful to our Bishop Diocesan John Taylor and the men and women, lay and ordained, who are working tirelessly to bring attention to and end the separation of children from their parents at the border.
From demonstrations to protests to phone calls to letter writing–something has to change. The evil – and I use the word evil — separation of children from their families is one of the most depraved acts we as a nation can commit against a human family. Families must be reunited again – now. I keep thinking about the Holy Family – fleeing to Egypt. What if Jesus had been separated from his parents at that border?
Friends in Christ, we need to band together as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus movement to not only move in the way the Spirit is leading us through the work of our General Convention, and through the way we utilize our gifts of time, talent and treasure, but most importantly through the way we shed light into the darkness that sometimes overtakes our world.
We must continue to advocate for those who have no voice or whose voices are being silenced. That is Jesus-work for us all. May we continue to do so, speaking out, using our resources, advocating for, loving, caring and protecting ALL whom God brings to us.
From Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy
I am writing to you after a wonderful meeting with those who will be ordained on June 2 at St. John’s Cathedral. I came to my scheduled time with them with no agenda.
As we talked, a few questions began to emerge. Among the things they asked were the usual questions about when to wear or not wear their collars, when to call the bishop, and all the other things you may remember having questions about when you were newly ordained.
As the conversation continued, the questions moved from the practical to the personal and theological. One of the ordinands asked me something like this: “What lies do the newly ordained tell themselves and how can we stay true to the truth?”
I was struck by the honesty of this question and how important it is for us to stay true to the truth of our vocations. What are the lies we tell ourselves? What is the truth of our vocation that we need to keep in focus?
For each of us, the answers to these questions may be different but I imagine there is a similar theme. The lies we tell ourselves are most likely rooted in ego and insecurity, arrogance and fear. The truth of our vocation is rooted in love, humility, faithfulness, and hope. That part of the question is not so tricky to identify. Staying true to the truth is a more difficult task.
How do you avoid the lies of ego and insecurity, arrogance and fear, and stay rooted in love, humility, faithfulness, and hope? What does that mean for you?
For me it has something to do with remembering what a privilege it is to be called into a vocation where our work is to love others as Christ has loved us as well as the fact that while we will always have lots of tasks, what matters most in our ordained ministry is who we are. Our presence is our primary strength as leaders. Everything else will take care of itself when our presence is rooted in love, humility, faithfulness, and hope.
Please pray for those being ordained on June 2, as well as for all of our colleagues in this sacred work into which we have been called.
Know that you are held in prayer by Bishop Taylor, Bishop Bruce, the whole diocesan staff, and me. My prayer for us all is that our work may be rooted in God’s love, humility, faithfulness, and hope!