Be inspired by what is happening with South Loop Campus Ministry in Chicago

The South Loop Campus Ministry (SLCM) of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, the ELCA Campus Ministry, and the Metro Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) offers a spiritual community for the students, faculty, and staff associated with the universities and colleges of Chicago’s South Loop who are seeking an open dialogue centered in faith focused on service, worship, and prayer.

Watch the video below to see this wonderful ministry and be inspired by South Loop Campus Ministry in Chicago.

Where Do You See God? (Part 2)

Easter Reflection

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As a young Millennial in seminary, I have found the prejudice and obstacles facing my generation, both inside and outside the Church, daunting. Taken as a whole, my generation has been painted as a spoiled, lazy, naïve group of children who know nothing about the world and who refuse to do the hard work necessary to build a life within it. In the Church, I have found this same mindset to be prevalent. We are expected to attend services on Sundays and participate in activities designed by and for our parents and grandparents, with little to no say in the formation of those services or activities. Far too often, we have been pushed away from leadership roles and relegated to the back pews, our voices silenced. Amongst our secular peers, we are viewed as ignorant and brainwashed, hoodwinked into believing in a “mythical” God and a “fairytale” resurrection. On both ends, we are ostracized. “Heaven help the Church if a Millennial is a faith community leader!” “Can you imagine the devastation on our society if those “brainwashed” Christians enter it!”

Yet, my generation keeps pressing onwards in new and innovative ways. When we are pushed aside by the leadership, lay and ordained, we create our own communities, tackling the problems of our Church and our nation head on, rather than accept the Church and the world as it is given to us. We tap into the deep, faithful witness of generations before us, from all walks of life: Christian and non-Christian, Protestant and Catholic, white and black, male and female, straight and gay, rich and poor. Emboldened by their witness, we strive to challenge the status quo of our Church and our world today to bring about a newer, older order, one that is enveloped in Christ’s acceptance, love, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We are a generation that holds hope for the future, hope that the problems of yesterday and today may be fixed, that the wounds of hatred may be healed, that the Church Universal can once again lead the world in the authentic expression of Christ’s love to ALL people, in ALL places.

You ask where I see God in my life right now. I see God in my life every day, in the faces of millions in my generation who struggle in poverty, yet give abundantly to others out of their emptiness; who face violence and prejudice based on their skin color, sex, or sexuality, yet refuse to fight violence with violence, hatred with hatred; who face skepticism from those in older generations and among our peers who believe that we have nothing to offer the Church or the world. I see God every day in the lives of millions of Millennials who stand as faithful witnesses in Christ, despite fierce skepticism from both sides. I see God, and God’s hope, in my life every day, every time I see a young person living into and out of Christ’s Easter Resurrection, who believe that life in Christ will always triumph over death!

GrantWritten by Grant Mansfield 

Postulant for the Holy Order of Priesthood, Diocese of Virginia

Where do you see God?

Where do you see God in your life?

During Eastertide, we will be featuring young adults answering just that question.

The first comes from a video originally on Episcopal News Service about the Rev. Shannon Preston who is one of two Episcopalians who joined the Community of St. Anselm the inaugural “year in God’s time” which is an initiative being established by the Archbishop of Canterbury “to draw young Christians aged 20-35 from all over the world together for one year of prayer, theological reflection and service in local communities.

From ENS:

Preston, 27, an Episcopal priest and graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, said there’s a constant reminder that the community members have chosen to love and to live with one another. “Living with people from around the world who are excited and exploring, who recognize that there is an endless mystery to learn from and grow into and serve, is so valuable,” said Preston, who also is assisting at St. Luke’s Church in Peckham, London.

In addition to prayer and community, service is also a key element of the Community of St. Anselm, with all members spending about a third of their time with local charities and agencies serving the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the poor throughout London.

Where do you see God in your life?

Recognition and Celebration of Eastertide

Easter Meditation

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Today’s the day! After forty days (and six Sundays) we can finally indulge in sweets, log back into Netflix, and proclaim that most blessed of phrases, “Alleluia!” New life in Christ is represented by the collection of Easter eggs, the presentation of flowers, and the joyful ringing of church bells. Friends and family gather together to celebrate the reunion of Jesus and his disciples with food and prayer and, in the case of my family a team-building – or should I say competitive – game of basketball.

Indeed, the Lord is risen this Sunday and all Sundays forevermore. However, we must not forget that according to the Gospel of John, when Mary Magdalene first came upon the empty tomb, she could not believe that Jesus had truly been resurrected. Instead, she wept and mourned the loss of what had been. Like Peter who denied Jesus as his master and Thomas who doubted Jesus’s return, Mary follows the tradition of hesitation that is so often found in the Gospels. This hesitation, though undesirable, is pure human instinct that we all experience from time to time.

For example, I must admit that while I usually revel in the quiet reflectiveness that is Lent, I’ve struggled through it this year. I’ve blatantly disregarded my own goal to stop spending money on unnecessary items, I’ve put off assignments indefinitely, and I’ve taken my building irritability out on the people closest to me. Approaching the end of Lent, it was as if God had to pry my resolute fingers away from the unaccountable sadness of which I couldn’t seem to let go. Like Mary, I had momentarily forgotten to trust in the approaching happiness God has promised God’s people in the face of the tragedies that surrounded me.

Letting go of something, while it’s meant to feel like a release, requires a lot of hard work. Humans are so accustomed to self­-preservation, to holding the things they love close in anticipation that they might be taken away, that something as simple as a trust fall could feel as dangerous as plunging backwards off a cliff. We must constantly remind ourselves that, while it is okay for us to be swept up in our own preoccupations every once in a while, God will always be standing behind us, ready to catch us.

If there’s anything I’ve learned this Lent, it’s that doubt, while natural and sometimes necessary, can be toxic. In the past few weeks, doubt has pervaded my thoughts and negatively affected my actions. Doubt has poisoned the activities I love and mistreated the people I love. My doubt has changed me, and not for the better. As it’s Easter, it’s about time that I surrender my doubt to God and believe that in this beautiful world that we live in, this time of tragedy and strife can be overcome, starting with the recognition and celebration of Eastertide.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 7.55.18 AMWritten by Abigail E. Page

Abigail was baptized and confirmed at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wallingford, Connecticut, where both sides of her family have been attending service for over fifty years. She now attends Grace Church in New York City and participates in the student organization Canterbury Downtown. Abigail studies English and American Literature and Creative Writing at New York University, and has spent a semester in London. She hopes to do a little bit of everything in the future, including teaching, editing, publishing, reporting, and writing. Lent is her favorite penitential season, but she always looks forward to Easter as long as there are Cadbury Eggs and family sporting events to be had.

Power and Truth

Lenten Reflection for Good Friday

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As I reflect on Good Friday this year, at the culmination of Jesus’s ministry in a world that failed to recognize its moment of redemption, I find myself facing the relationship between power and truth.

Whether it was in Jesus’ time or today, those who have power hold it tightly. Those who want power stand close to those who have it. The powerful employ militarization, violence, and force to maintain their control. The powerful take advantage of and manipulate the masses to hold onto their power. They twist the fears and anxieties of the people so that releasing a man who is a bandit and a murderer and crucifying a neighbor and friend, one of their own, seems like the best option that they have. The masses don’t want to feel powerless so they inch closer to the powerful to feel like they are not at the bottom.

Nobody wants to feel powerless. Nobody wants to feel like they are at the bottom of pyramid of power. Nobody wants to be the one forgotten, a side thought, in the system of power. So we betray, we deny, we accuse, we condemn in order to grasp at perceived power and to avoid association with powerlessness. To not feel broken, to not feel worthless, to not feel forgotten, we end up using and abusing others to ascribe meaning to our own stories.

What a sight it must have been: Jesus, the One with ultimate power, taking on powerlessness on behalf of those he loves. In the face of betrayal, denial, accusations, condemnation, and death Jesus chooses a posture that gives up power as the world understands it and aligns him with criminals, outsiders, the least of these.

In the midst of the accusations and condemnations Pilate essentially asks Jesus, “So you have power?” And Jesus answers, “You say that I have power. But my power looks different than the power of this world, my power points to a greater Truth, all are invited into it and belong to it.” And then Pilate asks, “What is truth?”

What is truth, indeed? What is the Truth that we belong to? What is the Truth of this Good Friday? That the only way to fight power is to embrace powerlessness. To align ourselves with the marginalized. To move toward what looks like and feels like and possibly is death so that there can be reconciliation, resurrection, and new life in the end. This is the Truth that we listen to and are called to live out of: That Love is the greatest power there is and this Love will overthrow all systems of oppression and injustice.

On this Good Friday let us speak that Truth to all other imitations of power.

Written by Erendira Jimenez-Pike

EJPikeErendira is a California native who has called Louisville, KY home for the last five years with her husband, Adam. She currently works as the Episcopal Campus Minister at the University of Louisville and on the Bishop’s Staff at the Diocese of Kentucky. She is also a self-taught weaver and aspiring rock climber. Erendira completed her M.A. in Spirituality in 2013 from Bellarmine University. Her passion is listening with people as they name their stories, discover their true selves, and discern how they’re called to love and serve the world.  

Jesus is All Inclusive

Lenten Reflection on John 13:1-17,31b-35

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As we reflect on the Last Supper, let us remember that we are all guests at the table. It is iniquitous for us to think we have the authority to delegate seats and proximity at supper time. Jesus is all inclusive.

Imagine a young adult who is anxious to activate her faith. So she moves to a new city hoping to encounter Jesus in such a way that she will be transformed.

Good Morning Lord,

I’m so excited to transition into the Episcopalian tradition. I called my grandma today to explain Mass and some of the liturgy but she just laughed. I have never heard of formation until today but it seems like this experience will certainly bring me closer to you. Maybe next Sunday I won’t sit near the aisle. The incense gave me a migraine but the service was beautiful.

Here’s the thing, my jovial spirit was short lived. My experience has been that not all Episcopal sanctioned organizations and ministries are inclusive. My attraction to the tradition was based on the premise of inclusivity. I have been reminded that as young woman of color, I should feel privileged to have a seat at the table. I have not been awarded the same compassion and empathy as my white counterparts; and my feelings have been hurt as a result. God is not pleased when we prayerfully dismiss the hurt and pain that folks harbor as a result of navigating discrimination within the church.

This prayer followed a few months after the one listed above:

Dear God,

I thought Episcopalians were different. They’re not. I know that you are also God of my oppressor so please help me to understand. Why can my white peers put forth less effort and still receive more compassion than I do from leadership? Its not fair. Now I have to navigate the dual consciousness of being a black woman. Why did I come here? Why did you send me?

Freebie.

Everyone gets a seat. Isolated communion among folk that only share the ways you self-identify, and that make you comfortable with your complacency, is not an activation of faith. It is a disservice to the teachings of Christ. I have yet to find in the Bible where Jesus instructed attendees to hang signs outside the door that say  “whites only” or “men only”before the evening meal. Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Antiquated racist and sexist schemas, no matter how unintentional, are ungodly.

Perhaps, we have found ways to compartmentalize the teachings of Jesus. We must be participatory in anti-racism and anti-sexism. Non-racism and non-sexism equate passivity.  Activate your faith. Challenge the habituation of issues that do not directly impact your being. Because when we become unburdened by the oppression of others, we do the teachings of Christ a disservice.

Jesus showed us the full extent of his love. In return we edit his guest list to our liking. Then we create a VIP section and add special menu items to fit our taste. You cannot supplement his teachings with your personal bias and prejudices nor skip the washing of feet because you feel privileged to do so.

DonneciaWritten by Donnecia Brown

Donnecia is a graduate student in Philadelphia University’s M.S in Community and Trauma Counseling program. She is passionate about the intersectionality of race, gender and religion. She hopes to engage communities in racial reconciliation and foster healing. When she’s not in class you can find Donnecia volunteering or enjoying a cup of coffee at a local book store. 

River of Grace

Reflection for Psalm 31: 9-16

A few years ago my husband and I began going to a rural village in Haiti as part of the delegation from my children’s school to visit our sister-school there. I fell in love with the country, the people, the food, the culture… all of it…instantly. Over the past few years we’ve formed close bonds with people there and have hosted some in our home when they’ve visited here. The school, the people, and the community in Haiti is as much a part of the fabric of our family life as our real-life cousins and family. But, my children are still young, and it’s very hard for my husband and I to both be out of the country for a week – especially when we are more than 24 hours of hard travelling away and essentially cut-off from them electronically. So, while I still support this work behind the scenes and on campus at my children’s school, I haven’t been back to Haiti in a couple years, and I miss it terribly.

Last week, while my husband was in Haiti, a girlfriend called, encouraging me to go to the Haiti Connection Conference that’s coming up in Port-au-Prince. At the first mention of it, my heart leapt and I started checking flights. But two days later, I wrote her back and listed—in 3 well-articulated paragraphs— all the reasons I thought it was not a great idea for me to go.

…I’m frustrated with the bureaucracy and hierarchical structures of the church; I don’t feel like anything I could do would make any difference (I don’t even speak French fluently like my husband does); the people on our sister-school committee here keep doing things that bother me or that I think are the wrong way; no one seems to appreciate my input; my daughter was recently mistreated at school and I don’t like the way the school handled the situation; all I seem to do lately is ruffle people’s feathers because everyone is taking everything I say the wrong way…

My phone rang less than a minute after I hit the send button. After talking for almost 3 hours, we hadn’t fixed even one of the institutions or people that were causing me so much heartache….not one. What did change was me. In the course of the conversation it became very clear that I was the common factor in my litany of troubles. And, while I hadn’t done anything “wrong”, no one else had either. In all cases, everyone was doing their best and acting faithfully; and, more importantly, we all have the same end-goal, to bring more Goodness to the world around us.

So, I’m praying that God will shine God’s face on me, a faithful servant. I pray that my faith is deep enough to refresh itself –because I feel cut-off from or I’ve alienated the people who would normally help me refresh it from the outside. I pray that I will get out of my own way– because I’m the only one damming up the river of Grace that could flow through me. I pray that I can re-focus my vision to Good-ness, not Right-ness.

You are my God. Save me, your servant, made in your image. Save me in your steadfast love…save me from the destructive side of myself…save me from the side of myself that is my enemy and my persecutor. You are my God.

 

Written by Jennifer Merritt

37175287_jenJennifer Merritt was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but grew up in Galveston, Texas. She earned undergrad and graduate degrees from the University of Texas in Austin, and has worked in various iterations as a “Speech Language Pathologist” since graduation. “Although I was raised in a largely Catholic / largely non-religious-at-all household, and although I spent most of my high school years with close friends who lived in a largely Jewish household, I gradually found my way to the Episcopal Church, which has suited my faith and belief system quite nicely (fully aware that everything that came before has influenced me greatly).” Jennifer and her husband were married in an Episcopal Church in Houston, and have two wonderful children who attend an Episcopal school in San Antonio. 

Jennifer says, “I consider myself to be an active, energetic church member, with particular interest in exploring how our faith can be better integrated into our daily lives. That isn’t to say that I’m interested in evangelizing (I am Episcopalian after all) – but rather I’m interested in how our value system can better influence how we act every day in the world around us, how we absorb everything that comes before us, and how we respond to other people’s behaviors and actions. I don’t want to change the world, and I don’t really even want to change the people that I encounter (who may not share my faith) – but I do want to do be the person that wears and projects the values that I hold to be the most important, the most universal, the most faithful to the teachings that are meant to guide our lives.”

 

Imprinted with Tenderness

Reflection for John 12:1-8

We are reminded tThis passage opens with a dinner party. The hosts, John tells us, were Jesus’ friend Lazarus and his sisters, the man who was recently raised from the dead. My mind at this point in the story bends towards boundless curiosity: what would a resurrected body have looked like? How was Lazarus adjusting to living again? Did he remember anything from the other side? The Evangelist is apparently uninterested in such questions, but instead tells us about a meal, about sights and tastes and smells.

The drama begins as Mary takes an inordinate amount of perfume that is very precious to her, and anoints Jesus with it. With great emotion, she wipes his feet dry with her own hair. And the house is filled with the aroma, maybe even overpowering the scent of the simmering food.

This smell, sweet to the nose, falls hard on Judas. Judas loudly makes the appropriate social justice-oriented comment (this money should have been given to those who need it!) but the narrator reveals his motive: the man didn’t give two cents about the poor. He was embezzling money, and likely wanted to “look good” in front of others by asking as if he was concerned. “Leave her alone,” Jesus says to him, seeing right through the charade.

There is a call to selflessness inherent to Jesus’ scolding. It is a call for Judas to step outside of his own embittered patterns, to walk into concern and connection with what the rest of the room is smelling and feeling. Some of us have heard beautiful music and, because of a sour mood, let its sweetness grate rather than soothe us; when I am in pain, there are few things that sadden me more than seeing beauty and joy that I feel I’m missing out on.

Many of my friends have chosen to “give up” social media for Lent. The same desperation that leads some people to pray loudly on street corners or to make empty comments that appear to care about the poor is certainly visible in our online spaces. As much as the miracle of social media can help us connect with others, at our worst it can also foster the sense that we are constantly performing for an audience of invisible critics, or make us feel that we are alone in our fears and insecurities.

Lent itself is bookended in between the ambitious, caffeinated consumerism of the Christmas season and the bright pastel eggs and bunny rabbits of our country’s colorful spring rituals. Online and in person, we are often surrounded by a projected cheer that might not live in our own hearts. Perhaps this is why excessive social media usage has been linked to depression, why for many the family “holy days” can be the most disheartening time of year.

This Ash Wednesday, I applied ashes to those who attended my seminary’s worship service. “You are made of God’s fertile earth, and to God’s fertile earth you shall return,” I said again and again, marking the sign of the cross in black soot. Ashes are not simply a cold sign of the chasm of the grave. For what do those of us already constantly hounded by death need this reminder? Rather, this season is offered as an antidote to the forced, fluorescent happiness that inflects much of our culture.

We are reminded that we are surely marked by God, imprinted with tenderness as lovingly as Mary lavished care upon Jesus’ dusty feet, as powerfully as Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the grave. May this time of ashes be to you a reminder of God’s call for you to speak your own pains and to participate in others’ joys. You are not alone. The triumphs and brokenness of life is as human as human gets. None of this changes during Lent. It only deepens.

Written by Kenji Kuramitsu

Kenji KuramitsuKenji Kuramitsu is a Masters of Divinity Student at Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary. He is interested in the study of sacrament, public service, critical mixed race theory, and liberation theologies. Kenji works with queerspawn (the children of LGBTQ parents) and diverse groups to foster healthy conversations about Christian faith and LGBTQ identity. Kenji serves on the board of The Reformation Project and the youth council of the Japanese American Citizens League. Kenji was raised both Roman Catholic and evangelical, and was joyfully received into the Episcopal Church this spring.

Stand with Integrity

Reflection for Psalm 32

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I get emotionally involved. I mean really absorbed and enmeshed. As in, I don’t know how to put sentences together, overcome with sadness, we are all hopeless, and I am angry. When I feel things, I feel things deeply. My heart is the world and it is broken. So, sometimes I decide it is better to not feel anything than to lose myself in grief. I turn off the news. I don’t check my feed. I give wide berth to the articles floating around which point out every little injustice. I bite my tongue when someone spouts offensive or problematic language. I surrender my will. I am sure that we all do this in some way. We choose to ignore the wickedness of the world. We cannot fight every battle. We cannot stand up to every oppressor. We feign ignorance to the reality in which we find ourselves. But, the moment we silence ourselves we become contributors to injustice.

The psalmist reminds us that when we are silent we waste away. When we stay silent we hurt ourselves and we hurt others. Our strength crumbles and at the same time we deny the aggressor a chance to be called in. It is not easy to speak up and there is no guarantee that you will get the response you are seeking. In fact more often than not we will not see the transformation that we hope to create. Yet, we cannot let the overwhelming wickedness of the world lead us into complacency.

And so, I am working on figuring out how to stand with integrity in between complacency and consumption. I am grappling with righteous anger. I am working on acknowledging that I am a part of the problem. I know that I will not get it right all the time. I know that I will still do and say things that are hurtful and oppressive. The world is just too complicated. Still, this reality cannot stop us from doing our best. We must be faithful witnesses to the kingdom of God.

In all of this, God calls us to acknowledge our sins, to claim our participation in unjust systems. We are required to recognize that all of us engage in some way with harmful forces in the world. As the psalmist proclaims, we must confess our iniquity. In doing so we open ourselves to receiving the forgiveness that God provides. Through it all, God offers us comfort in an uncomfortable world.

When we feel like getting angry, when we feel like silencing ourselves; we can return to the psalms and be reminded: “Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.”

39441520_shWritten by Samantha Haycock

Samantha Haycock is the Director of Children and Youth Ministry at Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda. She has been living out her vocation in ministry since 2009 and has served the community of Christ Church since 2012. Her passion in ministry is spreading Jesus’ call for social justice and in helping people to make connections between their daily and spiritual lives so that they can bring their whole and authentic selves to the world. Samantha has been involved in one way or another in most Diocesan sponsored youth events over the past decade from summer camps, to Happening, to Episcopal Youth Event, and beyond. Samantha is a banana slug, holding a BA in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz and has a Certificate in Youth and Family Ministry from Bexley Seabury and Forma Faith Formation Academy. She is a participant in the Collaborative for Church Vitality, serves on the Forma Advocacy Working Group, and assists The Episcopal Church DFMS with the youth, young adult, and Sermons that Work online presences. When she is not working Samantha enjoys concocting strange things in her kitchen and hiking all over the place. Contact Samantha at youth@christchurchalameda.org 

God is Waiting

Lenten Reflection on Luke 15:1-3,11b-32
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I love this parable because we all interpret it differently and I think God knew this.

How unfair! My brother has left, asked for his inheritance and LEFT! How common is this if we apply it to every day…”He doesn’t even believe there is a God, why is he still blessed?”

Why does Jesus tell us this parable? Have you ever known someone like that? Someone that leaves God’s side? I do; this person stopped loving and serving God for sometime, went to explore what else there was out there for the world to offer her. She knew nothing of life…and quickly realized she needed God. I quickly realized I was just like that man’s son; left and guess what I found when I came back to God? God opened his arms and took me back.

Of course sometimes we like to be on the judging side…It’s easier, at least for me it’s easy to criticize and complain about how “unfair” God is. How maybe God loves me less than my brothers in Christ whom I view as sinners…Today the message is to think differently, to think of when we make mistakes. To think of the awesome God waiting with arms wide open…whenever you’re ready. Wherever you are in your journey, know that God is right next to you. To listen, to hold you, to hug you, to take you back. Remind yourself that you choose to either be the upset brother or to be the one to come back to God.

39441520_11377196_10206737635703550_697487602249880390_nWritten by Luz Cabrera-Montes

Luz Cabrera-Montes is a teacher for the Houston Independent School District and is a member of Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. Luz and her husband Thanh Montes live in Houston, Texas along with their three dogs: Louie, Luna and Coogie.