“Wow, that’s messed up!”

stole_scout_cropThis past Sunday was a momentous one for us at St. Stephen’s.  We heard of the courageous Council speech by our bishop as he begins the work of including openly GLBT partnered clergy into the life of the Diocese of Texas.  For the first time in decades we celebrated Scouting Sunday.  And we displayed a selection from the Shower of Stoles.

“The Shower of Stoles is a collection of over a thousand liturgical stoles and other sacred items representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith. Each stole contains the story of a GLBT person who is active in the life and leadership of their faith community in some way: minister, elder, deacon, teacher, missionary, musician, administrator, or active layperson

“The Shower of Stoles celebrates the gifts of GLBT persons who serve God in countless ways, while also lifting up those who have been excluded from service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The collection bears witness to the huge loss of leadership that the church has brought upon itself because of its own unjust policies.” welcoming resources.org

Integrity/Houston, an advocacy organization of GLBT Episcopalians and their friends, brought the Shower of Stoles display to exhibit at the Diocesan Council.  Integrity/Houston shared the exhibit with St. Stephen’s in the Gathering Area during hospitality.

Standing in front of the display of stoles, Paul Courry, a communicant of St. Stephen’s and an Integrity Board Member, was explaining to two young boy scouts what the display was about.

One of the young scouts said, “You mean that all of these people lost their jobs because of who they loved?”

“That’s right,” responded Paul.

“Wow, that’s messed up,” exclaimed the scout.

Christian witness and formation takes myriad forms.  That day both laid claim to the power of love to change hearts and minds.

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Vestry Prepares for Planning Retreat: March 1

On January 19 the parish held its Annual Meeting.  The Vestry reported on mission priorities discerned through their work and members of the congregation gave feedback to the Vestry about what was missing, and also shared their vision and ranked priorities for the parish.   The results have now been collated.

The congregation ranked the priorities in the following order:

  1. Development of ways to deepen spirituality outside of Sunday morning worship;
  2. Execute the Capital Campaign;
  3. Develop lay leadership;
  4. Engage in effective advertising and marketing efforts to enhance evangelism;
  5. Deepen our capacity for mission partnership with other organizations, beginning with our School.

This contrasted with the Vestry’s rankings:

  1. Advertising and marketing;
  2. Spirituality outside of Sunday;
  3. Lay leadership development;
  4. Capital Campaign;
  5. Partnership.

The congregation identified an explicit commitment to outreach as missing from the Vestry report.

The vestry is taking the feedback to heart as it creates the strategic plan for the congregation through 2020 at its retreat on March 1.  Keep our leaders in your prayers that they might have courage and discerning ears.

In the End, We Are All Americans

In preparation for the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, we are reposting the Rev. Hunt’s blog from May 9, 2012.

From the Rector

We are living at a crossroads moment in history.  As a church and a country we are facing a fundamental choice about how we will be with each other.  Will we be fundamentalist in our interpretation of our foundational texts, be they the Bible or the Constitution?  Or can we risk interpreting our sacred documents in light of current experience and unfolding truth?  What about the human costs of our interpretations?

Today was a whipsaw kind of day, where I stood at the center of the cross.  I listened to the Diane Rhem Show on the radio as she and her guests discussed the results of the North Carolina vote to change their state constitution to define marriage and prohibit civil unions.  The guests who were for the change in the constitution were more articulate and fervent in my view.  The speakers advocating for civil unions and marriage equality spoke…

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Animate Faith

     “Alleluia.  The Lord is risen.”

     “The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia.”

These words are code.  The early church used them to signal to one another shared identity.  In the days when the Romans could arrest you and throw you to the lions for lunch for being a Christian, it was important for Followers of Jesus to know each other without tipping their hands in public.

Knowing how to talk with each other about faith is still a challenge.  While the empire we live under does not throw us to wild beasts, the climate for faith talk is scary and can be hostile.  That’s why during this Easter season St. Stephen’s is offering Animate, a creative way to share our thoughts with each other about God, the Bible, Jesus, the Cross, and the life of faith.  Beginning Sunday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m. in the Chatham Room and continuing for 6 weeks, this course will get us talking in real terms. 

Important voices in contemporary, progressive Christianity will share their thoughts on these critical topics to our pilgrimage of faith.  As Brian McLaren, one of the speakers says,”When it comes to Christianity too many people have their intelligence on ice and their ignorance on fire.”  The course will  invite us to set all kinds of intelligence of fire, by engaging both sides of our brains.  Laura Thewalt is excited to be leading this effort.

You can learn more by watching a video describing the conversations here.  I hope you will join us this Sunday for this fun Easter adventure.

Keep Moving Forward

Sometimes it is hard to know how one is progressing in the journey of one’s life.  It’s not like we have a steady point on the horizon that we can focus on to determine distance covered.  This is true in measuring the growth of community as well.

Last year was filled with challenges for us at St. Stephen’s—staff members left; we were tapped to roll out same gender covenant blessings; a new head of school was sought and found; the financial landscape shifted.  In the midst of it all I found myself concentrating on keeping moving.  Sometimes it felt like I was rowing in a circle.

This past weekend St. Stephen’s exercised our annual practice of inventorying what we have done, what we have spent, and began the next steps of our journey together.  It was in preparing for our Annual Meeting and reviewing the goals and accomplishments that I realized the distance we have traveled together.  Our corporate practice is not such a bad one for individuals either.

Articulating hopes and dreams, moving with intention and allocating resources, acting as best we can, and evaluating the outcomes is the basic rhythm of Christian practice.  St. Ignatius of Loyola laid this process out in his Spiritual Exercises.  Tomorrow is the end of the first month of the year.  It is not too late to name your hope for this New Year.

Amazing Place

This Monday, I had the privilege of going to Amazing Place, a ministry to those who are living with dementia, with our choir from St. Stephen’s School and a number of parishioners from St. Stephen’s Church.  There we were with 30 folks who ranged in age from 45 to 80 something, whose memories are now less reliable, singing our hearts out to Christmas carols.

One participant caught my eye.  He was probably in his seventies and he could no longer read, but he knew the music.  He kept time by pounding out on the table the rhythms to “Rudolf the Red Nosed and Reindeer” and the other songs we sang with utter joy.  He captured the glory of the season by his exuberance.  Light was breaking into darkness.  He beheld it and so did we.

These winter holidays, whether we are observing Advent/Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza, invite us to hone our skills at seeing light as being more powerful than darkness; good triumphing over evil.  We develop this sensibility through symbols and song, not only through intellectual argument.  Our children and students learn to hope and to live a good life by sharing in the light—singing, serving, cooking, eating together, lighting candles, hearing stories.   Our children come to name these longings by doing these practices with us.  These experiences last, even when darkness falls on our bodies and minds.

As we face the struggles and obligations of this season, I hope we can keep our focus on the light and on the practices that nurture it.  Let’s let  the other stuff go.