Bulletin Insert – September 9, 2018

The Feast of Alexander Crummell and UBE Sunday

On September 10, the Episcopal Church celebrates the life and legacy of notable saint, the Reverend Alexander Crummell. This day is also designated as Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) Sunday to commemorate the racial justice ministry of this organization which was an outgrowth of Crummell’s advocacy.

The Rev. Alexander Crummell was born March 3, 1819, in New York City to Charity Hicks, a free woman of color, and Boston Crummell, a former slave. Both parents were active abolitionists. The first African-American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was published out of their home.

As a young man, Crummell was driven out of an academy in New Hampshire, dismissed as a candidate for Holy Orders in New York, and rejected for admittance to General Seminary because of his race. He was eventually ordained in 1844 as a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts, but left for England after being excluded from participating in diocesan convention.

Ever determined, Crummell studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge and was the first officially black student recorded as graduating. Soon after, he traveled to Liberia as a missionary to convert native Africans to Christianity and educate them, as well as to persuade American black community of their duty to go to Africa to spread Christianity across the continent. Crummell lived and worked for 20 years in Liberia. Finally, political opposition, lack of funding, and the potential for life-threatening violence forced him to return to the United States.

Upon return to the U.S., he was first called to St. Mary’s Episcopal Mission in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, DC. In 1875 he and his congregation founded St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the first independent black Episcopal church in the city. When in 1882 southern bishops proposed that a separate missionary district be created for black congregations, Crummell was a founding leader in establishing national black convocation to fight the proposal. That organization became known as Conference of Church Workers Among Colored People and is a predecessor body to Union of Black Episcopalians.

After retiring from St. Luke’s in 1894, Crummell taught at Howard University until 1897. He died September 10, 1898, at the age of 79. Crummell was an important voice within the abolition movement and a leader of Pan-African ideology, influencing other black nationalists. In fact, W.E.B. Du Bois paid tribute to Crummell with a memorable essay entitled “Of Alexander Crummell” collected in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk. His feast day in the Episcopal Church is September 10.

The Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) is a national faith-based advocacy organization whose goal is to address racial and social injustices and disparities within and outside our church. Visit UBE’s website, www.ube.org, to support their ministry of justice and racial reconciliation.

Collect for Alexander Crummell

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Alexander Crummell, whom you called to preach the Gospel to those who were far off and those who were near. Raise up, in this and every land, evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Bulletin Insert – September 2, 2018

The Feast of Constance and Her Companions: The Martyrs of Memphis

On September 9, the Episcopal Church celebrates the witness of Constance and her companions, remembered along with other faithful Christians as the Martyrs of Memphis.

Yellow fever, a mosquito-borne illness that frequently affected the American South during the late 19th century, had reached an epidemic status in August 1878. Memphis, Tennessee, on the banks of the Mississippi River, had been afflicted by the disease several times before, leading citizens to flee the city en masse at the earliest signs of an outbreak. More than half of the city’s population left, leaving more than 20,000 people behind. According to A Great Cloud of Witnesses, “As cases multiplied, death tolls averaged 200 daily. When the worst was over, ninety percent of the people who remained had contracted the fever; more than 5,000 people had died.”

Martyr Icon Memphis

Icon of Constance and Her Companions, from St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis, Diocese of West Tennessee.

Faithful Episcopalians and other Christians remained behind in the stifling heat to serve the city in its crisis. Chief among these saints were Constance, the Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary, and several other sisters of the order, who had come to Memphis some years earlier to found a girls’ school at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. The cathedral was located in the thick of the yellow fever epidemic, which provided ample opportunity to minister to the afflicted. They tended the sick, gave rest to the weary, soothed the suffering, and blessed the dying, making a special effort to find and take care of the numerous orphaned children of Memphis.

Constance and her companions knew well the danger and destruction that the fever represented, but would not be deterred from serving God and neighbor in that place. By the end of September, four of the sisters, along with two Episcopal priests and many unnamed volunteers, had succumbed to the fever: Sister Constance, Sister Thecla, Sister Ruth, Sister Frances, the Rev. Louis Schuyler and the Rev. Charles Parsons. Sister Constance’s last words, uttered when she was no longer physically able to serve, are enshrined in the altar at St. Mary’s Cathedral: “Alleluia! Osanna!”

Collect for Constance and Her Companions

We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death; Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This bulletin insert was adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses’ account of Constance and Her Companions.

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Bulletin Insert – August 26, 2018

The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life - Part II

Early in his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth was surrounded by crowds. He turned and asked, “What do you seek?” (John 1:38). For more than a thousand years, monastics have greeted pilgrims knocking on their doors by asking: “What do you seek?” Today, each of us can pause with the same question. As much as the world has changed, the fundamental human hopes and yearnings that draw us to faith may not be so different. For so many,

We seek love. We seek freedom. We seek abundant life. We seek Jesus. Come and follow:

Pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus
Like the disciples, we are called by Jesus to follow the Way of Love. With God’s help, we can turn from the powers of sin, hatred, fear, injustice, and oppression toward the way of truth, love, hope, justice, and freedom. In turning, we reorient our lives to Jesus Christ, falling in love again, again, and again.

Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings.
By reading and reflecting on Scripture, especially the life and teachings of Jesus, we draw near to God and God’s word dwells in us. When we open our minds and hearts to Scripture, we learn to see God’s story and God’s activity in everyday life.

Dwell intentionally with God daily
Jesus teaches us to come before God with humble hearts, boldly offering our thanksgivings and concerns to God or simply listening for God’s voice in our lives and in the world. Whether in thought, word or deed, individually or corporately, when we pray we invite and dwell in God’s loving presence.

Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God
When we worship, we gather with others before God. We hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, give thanks, confess, and offer the brokenness of the world to God.  As we break bread, our eyes are opened to the presence of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are made one body, the body of Christ sent forth to live the Way of Love.

Share faith and unselfishly give and serve
Jesus called his disciples to give, forgive, teach, and heal in his name. We are empowered by the Spirit to bless everyone we meet, practicing generosity and compassion and proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ with hopeful words and selfless actions. We can share our stories of blessing and invite others to the Way of Love.

Cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus
As Jesus went to the highways and byways, he sends us beyond our circles and comfort, to witness to the love, justice, and truth of God with our lips and with our lives. We go to listen with humility and to join God in healing a hurting world. We go to become Beloved Community, a people reconciled in love with God and one another.

Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration
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. 

Learn more about the Way of Love at episcopalchurch.org/wayoflove.

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Bulletin Insert – August 19, 2018

The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

— Ephesians 3:17-19

In the first century Jesus of Nazareth inspired a movement. A community of people whose lives were centered on Jesus Christ and committed to living the way of God’s unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive love. Before they were called “church” or “Christian,” this Jesus Movement was simply called “the way.” Today I believe our vocation is to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. But how can we together grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world? The deep roots of our Christian tradition may offer just such a path. For centuries, monastic communities have shaped their lives around rhythms and disciplines for following Jesus together. Such a pattern is known as a “Rule of Life.” The framework below – The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life — outlines a Rule for the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

It is designed to be spare and spacious, so that individuals, ministry groups, congregations, and networks can flesh it out in unique ways and build a church-wide treasure trove of stories and resources. There is no specific order you need to follow. If you already keep a Rule or spiritual disciplines, you might reflect and discover how that path intersects with this one. By entering into reflection, discernment and commitment around the practices of Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest, I pray we will grow as communities following the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus. His way has the power to change each of our lives and to change this world.

Your brother in the Way of Jesus,

The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Primate and Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

Next week: Go deeper into the Way of Love

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Bulletin Insert – August 12, 2018

The Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

On August 15, the church celebrates the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin. Mary, the mother of Christ, has been celebrated since the earliest days of the Christian church.

Stained glass depiction of St. Mary the Virgin from the Episcopal Church Center, San Diego, Diocese of San Diego

The Gospel of Luke contains a “Song of Praise” that was sung by Mary when her cousin Elizabeth recognized her as the mother of the Lord (Luke 1:43). Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist when her cousin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, came to see her:

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy’” (Luke 1:41-44).

“Mary’s Song of Praise” is also called “The Magnificat” because its opening line in Latin is: “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise (The Magnificat)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.
Luke 1:46-55

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Bulletin Insert – July 22, 2018

United Thank Offering 2018 Grant Awards

Each year, the United Thank Offering (UTO) encourages every Episcopalian to adopt a personal spiritual discipline of gratitude. UTO invites the church to notice the good things that happen every day, give thanks to God for the blessing, and then make a thank offering in a UTO Blue Box. Each year, 100% of what is collected is given away through grants to support innovative mission and ministry in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Since our official founding in 1889, UTO has awarded 5,257 grants for a total of $137,094,170.52. For a complete list of all UTO grants, please visit www.episcopalchurch.org/UTO and click on the Resources tab at the bottom of the page. As a result of your gratitude and generosity, UTO raised $1,283,216.21 in 2017. Of this, $25,438.04 funded the 2018 Young Adult and Seminarian Grants (which can be found at bit.ly/uto-yasg).

This year, the focus of our granting process was Becoming Beloved Community: Racial Healing, Reconciliation, and Justice. 34 grants were awarded as a part of our annual grant process, which utilizes the remainder of the 2017 Ingathering funds, or $1,257,778.17. The smallest grant was for $4,000 to the Diocese of Idaho for their project, Connecting Cultures by Becoming a Beloved Community at the Lillian Valley School, an elementary school serving children on the Fort Hall Reservation in Southeastern Idaho. The largest grant was for $90,000 for the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain to open the Jonathan Myrick Daniels Center in Reus to create a center for young adult refugees.

The UTO Board received almost $2.8 million in requests in 2018. With your help and the encouragement that you give to others to join the United Thank Offering, we hope to raise additional funds in order to support even more of our wonderful applicants. To learn more about the United Thank Offering, our grant recipients, or how to order UTO materials please visit www.episcopalchurch.org/UTO.

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Bulletin Insert – July 15, 2018

For Such a Time As This: Safety Net Sustainability

The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continue our united call to Pray, Fast, and Act in support of programs that provide for necessary care for all people.  Both Churches have in place such programs, but often these programs are designed to meet shortfalls in federal and state assistance.

This month we focus on safety net medical and retirement programs. The United States has a strong tradition of communities working together to care for the less fortunate. Since the time of the Revolution, Europeans such as Tocqueville noted that our ability to form associations and groups to address common problems differentiated Americans from other people. The federal government represents the largest such association formed for the improvement and betterment of our society. Towards that end, we have instituted Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security so that the poor, elderly, disabled, and people caught in economic conditions they can’t control will have a back stop for their health and wellbeing. In recent decades, as investments in programs that spur the economic potential of individuals has declined, the number of people needing these backstops has grown.

On July 21, please join the EPPN, ELCA Advocacy, and the Presiding Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church as we #PrayFastAct.

PRAY for all those who rely on our nation’s common Christian charity to receive medical care or retirement.

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for the Poor and the Neglected, The Book of Common Prayer

FAST to remember those who are unable to access these programs and the many who would be hungry and hurting if they were to lose the bit of help these programs provide.

Share on social media using #PrayFastAct. On the 21st, post a picture of a dinner place setting with the reason you are fasting this month.

ACT by urging our elected leaders to support policy solutions that address the long-term sustainability of these programs not by block granting funding or manipulating eligibility, but by investing in our fellow citizens so that in the long-term, fewer people need a helping hand.

Learn more from the Episcopal Public Policy Network at advocacy.episcopalchurch.org.

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Special Bulletin Insert – July 1, 2018

General Convention: The Episcopal Church’s Family Reunion

Imagine Eucharist for 8,000 people. Imagine a marketplace of goods and ideas. Imagine quiet conversations among friends, old and new. Imagine one of the largest legislatures in the world. Imagine the utter silence of prayer before momentous decisions.

The every-third-year gathering of the Episcopal Church known as General Convention is all of these things. The 79th gathering begins in Austin, in the Diocese of Texas, on July 5 and continues until July 13. Bishops and deputies from the Episcopal Church will make broad decisions about policies and worship.

Those decisions take the form of resolutions agreed to by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

The House of Deputies ranges in size between 800 and 1,000 members. Its sessions are moderated by its elected president, a position held by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio. Each diocese is represented by up to eight elected deputies: four priests or deacons and four lay members.

Deputies cannot be instructed to vote one way or another. They agree to have an open heart so that they can prayerfully listen to others and be led by the Holy Spirit. And they cannot refuse to vote on an issue.

Most resolutions or other actions must pass by simple majorities in each house. Occasionally, the House of Deputies votes by orders, meaning that clergy and deputies vote separately and each order’s votes are counted as one vote with the majority of those two votes being recorded as the vote. If the deputation’s orders are evenly split, the vote counts as “no.”

The House of Bishops consists of diocesan, suffragan, assisting and retired bishops. It will be led by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, who was elected at General Convention in 2015.

Resolutions come from the groups that carry out work authorized by the previous convention, and from bishops, dioceses, provinces (geographic collections of dioceses), and deputies. Before a resolution can come before either house, it must be considered by a committee, which hears public testimony and makes recommendations on whether that resolution will be presented.

Convention is more than legislation. All business stops each day so that everyone can join in the Holy Eucharist.

In the exhibit hall, organizations and interest groups present their wares, recruit members and do their best to influence legislation. Many church-related organizations hold meetings in conjunction with Convention, including the Episcopal Church Women, who hold their Triennial Meeting concurrently.

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Bulletin Insert – August 5, 2018

The Feast of the Transfiguration

August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which commemorates Jesus’ unveiling as the Son of God, and his radical change of appearance while in the presence of Peter, James and John on a mountaintop.

The Gospel of Matthew records that Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” At this moment Moses and Elijah appeared, and they were talking with Jesus. Peter, misunderstanding the meaning of this manifestation, offered to make three “booths” (or “dwellings”) for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud stated, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples fell on their faces in awe, but Jesus encouraged them to arise and “have no fear.” When the disciples looked up, they saw only Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8).

The Transfiguration is also mentioned in two other gospel accounts (Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28- 36) and is referred to in the Second Letter of Peter, which records that “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” and “we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Transfiguration is a pivotal moment because it revealed Christ’s glory prior to the crucifixion, and it anticipated his resurrection and ascension. It also prefigures the glorification of human nature in Christ. Some think that the setting on the mountain is significant because it becomes the point where human nature meets God, with Jesus acting as a point of connection between heaven and earth.

Celebration of the Transfiguration began in the eastern church in the late fourth century. The feast is celebrated on August 6, which is the date of the dedication of the first church built on Mount Tabor, which is traditionally considered to be the “high mountain” of the Transfiguration. There are scholars, however, who believe the Transfiguration occurred either on Mount Hermon, which borders Syria and Lebanon, or on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Collect for the Transfiguration

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 243).

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Bulletin Insert – July 29, 2018

The Feast of William Wilberforce

On July 30, the Episcopal Church remembers William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833), along with Anthony Ashley Cooper (1801-1885), prophetic witnesses of the Gospel of Christ. Wilberforce was a British statesman and evangelical Anglican who used his position as a Member of Parliament from the Yorkshire area to advocate for the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire.

Noted for personal charm and great eloquence as a public speaker, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament from his home town and district of Hull at the age of 21. After a conversion experience in 1784, he joined the evangelical wing of the Anglican church and became interested in social reform movements.

Lady Margaret Middleton, the wife of another Member of Parliament, approached Wilberforce as a likely person to work within the government for the abolition of the slave trade. The enormity of the task was daunting to Wilberforce, who wrote, “I feel the great importance of the subject and I think myself unequal to the task allotted to me.”

But Wilberforce accepted the mission. “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners,” he wrote in his journal in 1787. His health, however, had never been good, and illness prevented him from immediately taking on the challenge. It was May 1789 before he made his first speech in the House of Commons on the subject of the slave trade.

When Wilberforce formally proposed abolition of the trade in 1791, his fellow members voted against his motion by nearly two to one. Wilberforce continued to press the matter, making similar proposals some nine times by 1805. During that time, due to the efforts of many reformers, the British people learned about the horrific conditions endured by enslaved Africans, and public opinion gradually turned against the slave trade.

It took longer to convince Parliament, but the Abolition of the Slave Trade bill was eventually passed in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords by large majorities and took effect in March 1807. Although the successful bill was introduced by another Member of Parliament, Wilberforce received full credit — and a rare standing ovation from the House of Commons — for his untiring efforts. Unfortunately, the 1807 bill did not immediately stop the slave trade. Seafaring traders flouted the law, sometimes covering this illegal commerce by throwing their captives overboard to drown when ships of the British navy approached. Many people became convinced that only the abolition of slavery would stop the trade.

Wilberforce at first resisted calls for outright abolition, writing in 1807, “It would be wrong to emancipate [the slaves]. To grant freedom to them immediately would be to insure not only their masters’ ruin, but their own. They must [first] be trained and educated for freedom.” But he eventually came to support full emancipation and worked to bring public opinion and political will together to that end. He continued to serve in Parliament, supporting a variety of causes, including overseas Christian mission, increased education, and greater freedom for Roman Catholics. He retired in 1825 due to ill health but continued to campaign for an end to slavery.

Wilberforce saw his efforts rewarded when Parliament passed a law in July 1833 outlawing slavery throughout the British Empire. He died three days later at age 73. In honor of his service to the nation, he was buried in the north transept of Westminster Abbey.

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