Saturday, July 28, 2012

Preaching non-violence in violent times

At All Saints Church the senseless tragedy of the recent gun violence in Aurora, Colorado has called us to recommitment to being non-violent agents of change in our ongoing work of turning the human race into the human family.

On Sunday, July 29th we will be gifted with the presence of the Reverend Dr. James Lawson in the All Saints Church pulpit. Dr. Lawson is a true giant of justice – a hero of the Civil Rights movement, a powerful advocate and architect of the principles of non-violent direct social action and a dynamic and prophetic preacher.

In response to the Aurora tragedy the church will also be providing a tool-kit for non-violence to members at the Action table on the lawn. This toolkit will include information about online petitions to President Obama and Mitt Romney, plus resources for writing to Senate and House Leadership expressing support for several gun control measures.

Dr. Lawson will preach at both the 9:00 and 11:15am services.
More info on visiting All Saints Church here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reach for the Stars: The Legacy of Sally Ride

by Susan Russell ...  cross-posted on The Huffington Post

The news of the passing of Sally Ride -- a bona fide American hero and our first woman astronaut -- struck home here at All Saints Church in Pasadena as not just a public loss but as a personal grief. Sally's mother and sister are much-loved members of our parish community, and so her death after a valiant fight against pancreatic cancer took not only an iconic figure in our collective history but a member of our extended family.

The day after her loss, Sally's sister Bear shared some thoughts about her sister's life and death with us -- and I offer those here with her blessing:
Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space and she was my big sister. Sally died peacefully on July 23 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. I was at her side. We grew up in Encino, Calif. Our parents, Joyce and Dale Ride encouraged us to study hard, to do our best and to be anything we wanted to be. In 1983, Newsweek quoted our father as saying, "We might have encouraged, but mostly we just let them explore."

Our parents encouraged us to be curious, to keep our minds and hearts open and to respect all persons as children of God. Our parents taught us to explore and we did. Sally studied science and I went to seminary. She became an astronaut and I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Sally lived her life to the fullest with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless. Sally died the same way she lived: without fear.

Sally's signature statement was "Reach for the Stars." Surely she did this and she blazed a trail for all the rest of us. My sister was a very private person. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy. It was just her nature -- maybe because we're Norwegians, through and through. People did not know she had pancreatic cancer and so this is bound to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew -- and now everyone knows. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer.

Most people did not know that Sally had a wonderfully loving relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy for 27 years. Sally never hid her relationship with Tam. They were partners, business partners in Sally Ride Science; they wrote books together and Sally's very close friends, of course, knew of their love for each other. We consider Tam a member of our family. I hope the pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about.

And, I hope the LGBT community feels the same. I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.
I hope so, too. I hope that this great American hero -- the woman who inspired a generation of girls to reach for the stars in math and science -- will also inspire a generation of LGBT youth to reach for the stars in their lives and relationships.
I hope her example of 27 years of faithful commitment to the love-of-her life will demonstrate that it is indeed possible to balance career and family -- to make a difference and to make a home.

And finally, I hope that her legacy will contribute not only to curing pancreatic cancer but to healing homophobia. The greatest tribute we can pay to the work and witness of Sally Ride is to follow her example in living our lives with as much energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love as we can muster -- and to be curious, keep our minds and hearts open and to respect all persons as children of God -- because we don't have to be astronauts to reach for the stars.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fence Between Fear and Possibility

Sermon for the 7:30 a.m. service @ All Saints Church in Pasadena -- Susan Russell

Sunday, July 22, 2012

As most of you know, I am just back from the Episcopal Church’s General Convention -- our every three year conglomeration of liturgy, legislation and shopping – held this year in Indianapolis. This was my eighth General Convention and my first as a deputy -- and I was honored to represent the Diocese of Los Angeles in the legislative process which is one of the “councils of the church.”

And it was quite a process. We studied up on, prayed about, debated over and voted on a wide range of issues -- from a church-wide response to bullying to committing to work for a just peace in the Middle East to making our non-discrimination canons transgender inclusive to adopting prayers for the loss of beloved animals. Just to name a few. We passed a budget focused on mission, created a task force to intentionally plan for major organizational restructure and committed to a three year study of the history and theology of marriage.

And we also worshiped, prayed, sang and heard from some very fine preachers … including our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. It was her Sunday morning sermon that gave me the title for this reflection this morning – “the fence between fear and possibility” -- and what it was going to be was an opportunity to “unpack” the events at General Convention – including a couple of amusing, anecdotal stories of who did what when -- and concluding with why I think what we did in Indianapolis matters to All Saints Church in Pasadena.

And then Aurora Colorado happened. And it was clear this sermon wasn’t going to go where I thought it was.

And yet, when I turned back to quote from the Presiding Bishop I found that her words were just as relevant to our post-Aurora world as they were before the gunman armed with an arsenal of assault weapons opened fire in that crowded movie theater:
Until we can see the chasm between what is and what ought to be, we don’t have any hope of changing. Indeed it is the act of crossing that boundary between what is and what ought to be that is so characteristic of prophets. When Jesus is called a prophet, it has to do with erasing the boundary between God and human flesh. Prophetic words of comfort or challenge urge a kind of frontier work – getting across the fence between fear and possibility, reconciling division, transforming injustice, urging the lost onto the road home.
Bishop Jefferts Schori preached those words to us in the context of a General Convention wrestling with the challenges of re-imagining and restructuring our church to meet the challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st century. She was preaching to a congregation of people who love their church and strive to live out the Gospel while not always agreeing with each other about how to do both of those things. And she was challenging us – and, I suspect, challenging herself (because we know all the best sermons are actually the preacher preaching to the preacher) – to suck it up and get over that fence between fear and possibility in order to bridge the gap between what is and what ought to be in our church and in our world.

This morning what “is” is that the arsenal of weapons the gunman used to kill twelve and injure nearly sixty others were obtained legally. And what “ought to be” are reasonable gun control laws making the kind of carnage we saw in Aurora Colorado not only unimaginable but impossible. In the words of satirist Andy Borowitz – via twitter this morning: "Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun."

And that, my brothers and sisters, is a tweet that deserves and “Amen.”

It not only deserves an “amen” but it deserves our best energies committed to getting over whatever fences stand between what “is” – a world where fear dominates our discourse, pollutes our politics and feed violence – and what “ought to be” – what Jesus called “the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

I have often quoted Verna Dozier from this pulpit and I’m going to do it again. Dr. Dozier famously said, “Don’t tell me what you believe. Tell me what difference it makes that you believe.” And this morning in the All Saints Church chapel we gather to be fed by word and sacrament not just because we believe – but because we believe we are called to make a difference. Called to climb the fence between fear and possibility. Called to refuse to settle for what “is” but to work together with God to create what “ought to be.”

And that brings me back to some of the good news out of the just completed General Convention of the Episcopal Church. We’ve gotten some press out of the gathering – mostly around the movement forward on the fuller inclusion of LGBT people in the work and witness of the church. And by telling what we believe – by putting our faith into action through the legislation passed in Indianapolis – here are a few examples of the difference we are making in comments received on some of the online stories, blogs and news sites:

Here’s one from the Huffington Post: “In response to this story I immediately went on Google and found a local Episcopal Church to attend on Sunday (they even have a female priest), I am very excited...”

And here’s another: “It's amazing that some churches can go out of their way to make sure everyone feels welcome. Someday I may walk into your church just to see what it’s about. KristineE.”

And finally this moving email from “Melissa” -- “You make me want to believe in God. I think you have interpreted with love, kindness, and thoughtfulness the true doctrine of Christ. For what it's worth, you make me wish I believed, so I could belong to a group with you as such a member. I think the Episcopal Church just may save the soul of Christianity with its open and affirming love, which is truly Christ-like in my opinion.”

Having climbed over the fence between the fear of who would leave if we included everybody at the table, the Episcopal Church is now – finally – moving forward into the possibilities open to us as we sing a new church into being … one of faith and love and praise … committed to love, justice and compassion. Stepping out of the “house of fear” we are building “the house of love” – and, as the witness of those comments I just shared illustrate – if we build it, they will come.
One more Dr. Dozier quote to leave you with: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong I will trust that if I move by the light that is given me, knowing that it is only finite and partial I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.

Together let us climb that fence. Together let us claim the future. Together let us make the impossible possible as we work to reconcile division, to transform injustice and to urge the lost onto the road home. Amen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jim White Reports from General Convention

Canon Jim White is a long time diocesan and national church leader, as well as several-times-vestry member here at All Saints Church. A founding member of Beyond Inclusion and Claiming the Blessing, Jim also serves as the co-chair of our Diocesan Commission on Minstry. An Alternate Deputy to the 77th General Convention, he monitored the Committee on Structure and reports here on its important work.

#GC77 Addresses Structural Reform by Jim White

While same-sex blessings and expanding the rights of transgender persons within the church grabbed the headlines from General Convention, probably the more significant action was the creation of a Task Force “whose purpose shall be to present the 78th General Convention [2015] with a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration.” The enabling resolution, C095, whose first paragraph explains that “…this General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself…” was passed unanimously by the Legislative Committee on Structure, the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

The House of Deputies was so shocked when there were no “No” votes that an audible gasp filled the hall. Chair of the Committee on Structure (and newly elected President of the House of Deputies), the Rev. Gay Jennings, then asked permission for the house to stand and sing “Sing a New Church Into Being,” as the committee had done when they passed the Resolution. As an Alternate Deputy, I had the freedom to monitor whatever I wanted and I chose the Committee on Structure to watch all of this go through the sausage-making factory of that committee.

This effort to examine the current structures of the church began with a presentation to the House of Bishops from the Chief Operating Office, Bishop Stacy Sauls, at their meeting last fall. Since then there has been much conflagration and tongue-wagging about the “Bishops trying to take over the governance of the church” and “eliminating the voices of lay people in our polity.” But what it all really boils down to is the sense that the church is top-heavy with administrative staff at the Episcopal Church Center in New York and with overlapping responsibilities between the Committees of Executive Council and the Standing Commissions of General Convention – all of which comprise the ongoing work of governance during the triennium when General Convention is not meeting. Not to mention the huge expense – both to the Church Center who has to put the thing on and the Dioceses who have to pay for travel and lodging expenses of a minimum of eight deputies and a bishop – of gathering the largest legislative body in the world every three years (General Convention) to attempt to wrangle through hundreds of pieces of legislation in eight days. All of that is on the table for this Task Force.

The resolution proposes that the Task Force (which is un-named, expecting the Task Force to name itself as part of its work – a symbol of the expansive freedom given it to look at anything and everything) be composed of “as many as 24 members,” appointed by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies and should “reflect the diversity of the Church, and shall include some persons with critical distance from the Church’s institutional leadership.” In other words, it ought not to be filled with the “usual suspects.”

It also requires that the Task Force “convene a special gathering to receive responses to the proposed recommendations to be brought forward to the 78th General convention, and shall invite to this gathering from each diocese at least a bishop, a lay deputy, a clerical deputy, and one person under the age of 35. It may also include representatives of institutions and communities (e.g., religious orders, seminaries, intentional communities).” And it requires that “the Task Force shall report to the whole Church frequently,” which is taken to mean that it will use all forms of digital media to keep the whole church updated on what it is doing as it goes along.

It’s going to be an interesting three years – and a really interesting 78th General Convention.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets every three years ... and the just completed 77th General Convention met from July 5-12 in Indianapolis.

It was an extraordinarily successful gathering as the deputies and bishops from around the 110 dioceses that make up the Episcopal Church gathered for worship, legislation, collaboration and communication. Some of the links below will take you to news reports on the actions of convention and others to reflections on the tone and timbre of the debates and decisions.

All Saints was well represented in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church at its national level ... and you'll see many familiar faces in the slide show below. And in the fall, Susan Russell will lead an adult education offering on "The Episcopal Church 101: Forward into the Future" -- where we'll look at the decisions made in Indianapolis and what they have to do with our work and witness here at All Saints Church.


New York Times
Landmark Decision for Transgender Inclusion -- Huffington Post
Episcopalians Say Yes to Bless -- Huffington Post
Susan on CNN: a follow up interview about what was accomplished in Indianapolis
Religion News Service
Associated Press
Episcopal News Service


Mel Soriano's "Let All Who Are Thirsty Come" -- "Breathe" I told myself. It's the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention, you'll be surrounded by other faithful people, and you've worked at high tech conferences and convention halls for 25 years. But this was different. I was volunteering to be the social media dude at Integrity USA.

Jim White "Reports from General Convention" -- While same-sex blessings and expanding the rights of transgender persons within the church grabbed the headlines from General Convention, probably the more significant action was the creation of a Task Force “whose purpose shall be to present the 78th General Convention [2015] with a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration.” The enabling resolution, C095, whose first paragraph explains that “…this General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself…” was passed unanimously by the Legislative Committee on Structure, the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.