Are you a deacon? Are you exploring  the possibility of becoming a deacon? Do you want to find out what God is up to in New England?  If so, then join us at  Extraordinary Promise: Love and Service to the World, the 2014 the New England Deacon’s Network Conference in Framingham, MA from Friday, October 3 to Sunday, October 5, 2014.

Our keynoHandsheartte speaker is Deacon Susanne Watson-Epting. She will speak about deacons, past and present and will add her take on what the deacon of the future might be up to. Three bishops from Province 1, including our own bishop, will be part of a panel discussion.

During the weekend, there will be lots of time to network  with deacons and others who are following God’s call to ministry in the world.  We have lots of fun and invite you to join us!   Learn more and register

ashesBrother and Sister deacons–This is a slightly edited version of an article I recently submitted to my parish’s monthly newsletter, “Dragon Tales”
Sudie Blanchard
——————————-

As deacons, an important part of our call is to “take the church to the world.” I work as a part-time chaplain at a small community hospital, so I do that daily, but in a general way.  I try to bring God’s love and light to people of all faiths at York Hospital, where they may be struggling with matters of life and death. This past Ash Wednesday, however,I was able to do that in a more specific way. It all started a year ago….

Last year, on Ash Wednesday, I carried ashes with me when I made visits to patients. When it seemed appropriate, I offered them.  The patients who received them were grateful that they had not missed the ashy mark on the forehead that begins Lent. One staff member who happened to be in a patient’s room when I offered ashes, took me aside later and mentioned how nice it would be if ashes could be made available for staff who couldn’t make it to church. I made a note of this, and early this year, got permission from the hospital administration to offer ashes to staff and anyone else who wished them. As the day approached, I wrote an article, created handouts — and got a little nervous!  This was a first. What if no one came?

Well, I didn’t need to worry. They did come.  13 people came between 1 and 2 p.m., and three more came between 9 and 10 p.m. Most came because service times at their churches didn’t fit their hospital schedule. I had a chance for some brief one-on-one conversations – one person spoke about grief she was experiencing over a death, another about a complex family situation she was dealing with. Still another person wanted to deepen her faith. Two of our physicians came to get ashes—one in the afternoon, the other in the evening.  One staff member who knew I was an Episcopalian asked with a smile if Episcopal ashes worked the same as Catholic ashes.  I was able to tell this person that the ashes I was using were “ecumenical”—though they had been blessed at an Episcopal service, I had burned both Roman Catholic and Episcopal palms to make them!  That was good enough for him. He received the ashes.

In addition to the scheduled times, there were two other encounters. First thing in the morning, I had gotten in a conversation about the ashes with the van driver who brought me to the hospital. “Is there any reason why you can’t give them to me right here?” he asked. “None at all.” I said. So he pulled the van over, I said a prayer, and marked his forehead.  It was an Acts 8:36 moment! Later, as I was walking to the van for the trip back to my car, a staff member approached me and said how sorry she was to miss the hour I was offering ashes. She’d been in a meeting. I had the ashes in my pocket, so we stopped right there on the sidewalk, prayed together and I marked her with the ashy cross. She was moved by the experience—and how the timing worked out. I remember her saying: “I really needed that this year.  God’s timing is pretty amazing–He meets us just where we are.” I couldn’t agree more.

ADVENT: God’s Victorious Light

Day 17

Equanimity and Equality


by the Rev. Brian C. Taylor

 

The Rev. Brian C. Taylor

I’ve always struggled a bit with Isaiah’s prophecy that comes to us in this season through George Frederic Handel and John the Baptist.

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked ways shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth.

But I like crooked paths, deep valleys, high mesas, and rough roads. Isaiah’s vision of salvation sounds more like a freeway cutting through Kansas. In fact, I wouldn’t want my emotional life to be a flatland either, with all the rough places made smooth, the valleys lifted up and the hills brought down.

But I don’t think this is what Isaiah or John the Baptist had in mind. The passage begins with this: Prepare the way of the Lord. And how do we do that? In every spiritual tradition, there is an acknowledgment that before we can grow in spirit, we may first have to learn to settle down.

One who meditates has to learn how not to be a victim of the tempests of desire and aversion. Just be still, focus on the breath, we are told, and those storms will subside. A recovering alcoholic must first stop drinking in order to move from the insanity of a chaotic alcoholic lifestyle to the sanity of a sober one. It is only then that growth in recovery can begin. In any spiritual or religious tradition, we must learn some measure of equanimity as a way of preparing the way of the Lord.

And as we continue in the spiritual path, equanimity increases. Now equanimity is not a loss of emotion, a detached flatness. It is the ability to move through our highs and lows with perspective. It is the inner knowledge that while this excitement or that sorrow is currently gripping us, it is impermanent, and there is another level that is eternal, stable, unchanging. With equanimity, we are no longer victims of circumstance. We are grounded, even as we traverse life’s hills and valleys.

But there is another dimension to which Isaiah’s prophecy speaks: the social, the political. It is what Mary also spoke of in the Magnificat:

You have shown strength with your arm

and scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones

and lifting up the lowly.

You have filled the hungry with good things

and sent the rich away empty.

This is the same social and political message of Jesus when he spoke of the last being first and the first being last, that the meek will inherit the earth.

These are not just words about heaven, or the second coming. They are what we are asked to do in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord in the here and now. And so the way we vote, our advocacy for the marginalized, the time and money we put towards social causes — these are ways to fill valleys and level mountains, so there is more equality, and–dare I say it–a redistribution of wealth and other resources. This is not class warfare as some claim, but a fulfillment of the vision of the prophets, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus himself.

We prepare for God’s appearance in this earthly realm by leveling the playing field socially, politically, and economically. Because wherever God’s people are not held in place by systemic advantage and disadvantage, we see them blossom and become the people God created them to be. Women become priests; a kid from the projects becomes a scientist; a man can marry the man he has dedicated his life to; an African village with clean water and mosquito netting can become a place of life instead of death. We prepare for God’s coming by leveling this world’s inequalities.

And so during this month, we prepare for God’s coming as the Christ child. We seek equanimity in the spiritual and emotional dimension, that we may be settled down enough to greet the coming one. And we seek equality in the social and political dimension, that the world may see the justice of God’s reign on earth.

Elizabeth Ring shared the following letter from the Poverty Initiative of the National Council of Churches. She thought Maine’s deacons might be interested because the letter offers specific actions one could take in response to the General and Diocesan Conventions’ Resolutions on poverty that passed this year. Note: actual handwritten, snail-mailed letters are so rare these days that politicians take special note of them, but email is also effective. Read on – Mary Lee

Many churches remember people living in poverty during holiday seasons by preparing and delivering food and gift baskets to those in the community who might otherwise go without. Some churches also take up special collections for relief efforts at home and around the world.

Over the next several months, important decisions will be made about the federal budget. People of faith from many traditions have gathered in the Faithful Budget and Circle of Protection coalitions to call on politicians to get serious about deficit reduction in a way that does not harm struggling poor and hungry people. While church relief efforts help, they often meet only a fraction of the hunger needs in the community. We need government to reflect who we are as a nation — We are our brother and sister’s keepers, and we respond to our neighbors in need.

As churches gather to prepare and deliver holiday baskets, the National Council of Churches also encourages you to write a short letter in your own words to your Representative and Senators. You can hand write the letter according to the template below, then send it in the mail.

You can also simply click here to email your message:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1845/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=11952

Grace and Peace,
Shantha, NCC Poverty Initiative

Dear __________ (name of your Representative or Senator),

Paragraph 1: Describe what your church is doing to help people living in poverty, either at home or around the world.

Paragraph 2: Ask your leader to develop a deficit reduction agreement that gets our fiscal house in order while also keeping a Circle of Protection around programs that serve people in poverty at home and abroad.

Paragraph 3: Ask your leader to tell you what he or she plans to do to protect people living in poverty during the budget and deficit negotiations.

Paragraph 4: Assure your leader of your prayers for wisdom and courage as he or she makes these important decisions.

Sincerely,
______ (Your Name)

To address the envelope:

The Honorable __________________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
or
The Honorable _____________
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

As we all prepare for Convention, you may have heard about Resolution 9:

RESOLVED: that the 193rd Convention of the Diocese of Maine call upon all of its constituent committees, commissions, institutions, and congregations, to include as part of every meeting in calendar year 2013, no matter what the purpose, the following agenda item: “How will what we are doing here affect or involve people living in poverty?”

At the recent NEDN Conference, where the focus was poverty, Maine deacons and deacons-in-formation who were there met with fellow deacon Chick Carroll, wordsmith of the resolution, and offered our thoughts and suggestions. We all felt that more explanation was needed. What resulted from that conversation was an excellent piece published a few days ago on the Diocese’s NNE BLog.  Rather than copying the text here, we’re offering a link.  After the piece itself, there are comments that make for good reading. Feel free to join that conversation and add your own comments: http://episcopalmaine.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/talking-about-poverty-in-maine/

The Rev. Heather Blais reflected recently on Resolution 9 on the Justice and Mercy blog. Again, there are comments that follow the article, hence just the link: http://justiceandmercyme.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/why-our-buildings-just-dont-matter/

Those of us who are sponsoring the resolution hope you will read these articles before you leave for convention. We ask for your prayerful consideration and hope you will encourage the clergy and delegates you know to join you in that prayerful consideration.

People living in poverty are not, of course, just in Maine.  Here are several opportunities for both awareness building and action:

  • Check out the “Move your Money” campaign featured on the new Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation web site: http://epgr.org/
  • The National Council of Churches on their Poverty Initiative website is offering a series of webinars that look interesting.  The webinars are listed in the Events section: http://www.nccendpoverty.org/index.html

At Convention, co-sponsors of the resolution and participants in the NEDN conference will be distributing “Vote YES on 9” badges. They hope you’ll wear one!

We are happy to tell you that the Sheraton has extended the room block and special rate until Wednesday, September 12 (to make a reservation, call 508-879-7200), and we have extended general conference registrations until Thursday, Sept 20.

Sooo…if you let summer slip by and let the original deadline slip by as well, all is not lost.  Grace happens….

This is shaping up to be a wonderful conference on an important topic. Check out the brochure with schedule here:  NEDN Conference 2012

Currently, nearly 50 people have registered and we are expecting registrations from several more from RI and VT.  At the moment, we have 3 coming from CT, 18 from Dio MA, 15 from ME (Yay!), 1 from NH (one of our speakers), 4 from RI (one is their bishop-elect, who is a fan of deacons), 4 from VT, and 4 from Western MA. One of the folks coming from VT is Dn. Stan Baker who attended GC and presented a resolution on behalf of AED similar to one that will come before us at our diocesan convention in Oct….

Because we are coming down to the wire, we are making it even easier to register.  

Just send Sudie Blanchard (sblanchard@stgeorgesyorkharbor.org) an email with the following information:

  1. Your name as you want it on your name badge
  2. Your address
  3. Your phone number(s)
  4. Your email address
  5. What you would like for dinner:
    • Friday: Vegetable ravioli or Chicken Picatta
    • Saturday: Baked Haddock or Pot roast
  6. Any dietary restrictions we should know about
  7. Any other issues you may want us to know about
 Then send Sudie your check for $225 payable to The Diocese of Maine:
The Rev. Sudie Blanchard
25 Southside ROad
York, ME 03909
 Once Sudie has received those two things, she will send you a confirmation.

This afternoon, Mary Lee and I met at Panera’s in Biddeford to discuss communication, technology and other things diaconal. We spoke a bit about a posting she made a few weeks back about how we nurture our spiritual lives and live out our vows–there were 3 comments made at the time. We had hoped for more, so this is another “ask” — this blog is as good as we all make it, so put in your two cents worth..

Here are the three comments, in order, without authors (go back to the post “Living our Vows” and find out who they are!)

1. For me it’s reading the daily newspaper. I can’t think of anything in print that would lead me to prayer more effectively!

 2. I’m new to the iPhone world, but I’ve recently begun using the Daily Office app from Mission St. Clare, which I really like because it includes all the readings — and I always have it with me. I’m trying (but failing to keep up with) the Bible-in-a-year challenge; it pushes me to read, but without time to study what I read. Except when I preach, I’m not doing so well with the studying part of our vow. How do the rest of you manage?

3. I love ****’s comment! How true. Listening to the news at night also drives me to prayer on a regular basis. I always have one or more books by Frederick Buechner within easy reach – his sermons, his reflections, are always spot on and so thoughtful and spirit-filled. Am now reading Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity – an older book, but fascinating. Very thought provoking. I am learning to love the psalms more and more as well. So ancient, and yet so perfect for the modern world and its problems!!

I can relate to all of these comments.   For years, music has filled the bill for me–it gets my heart in the right place. I also read books. Within the last year, like one of the commenters, I have begun to use iPhone/iPad apps like Mission St. Clare’s Daily Office (pictured here)–I love the blend of old and new in the “look” of this app–ancient parchment on an a 21st century iPad…  Well, apps are handy, but…

I have a strong attraction to all things digital–I have an iPhone, an iPad, a digital camera, a hospital pager, an iMac–and I’m slightly addicted to Facebook.  A few weeks ago,  I preached about Jesus and his disciples trying to get away for a rest from the crowds. As part of the sermon, I thought I would ask members of the congregation what got in the way of their making time for God. How might they make more space for that all important relationship? As often happens with my sermons, as I was typing the words, I realized that I was preaching to myself … I began thinking about my own relationship with God–and my relationship with other important people in my life. What was taking time away from those relationships? And it hit me–it was all those electronic gadgets. If I were to practice what I planned to preach, I was going to have to make a change in my own behavior. For one day a week, I needed to eliminate those electronic distractions. Gulp.

The next day, Monday (my day off), I powered down the iPhone…the iPad….the iMac. Even the hospital pager went off. It was hard. Harder than I expected. I kept getting tempted to push those power buttons. But I resisted.

The next morning, when I powered up, all was well. The world had gone on without me. I turned it all off again last week and this week. I noticed there were fewer temptations. I spent time with God. I went to the beach and read a whole issue of Weavings. I prayed for others.  I mended a shirt. I cooked a meal using a cookbook rather than allrecipes.com. I wrote a note to a friend. I spent time with my husband. It was a true Sabbath. My spirit was revived.

So from now on, don’t try to reach me on Mondays. We’ll catch up on Tuesday…

Now, it’s your turn.  How do you nurture your spirit?  How do you live out your vows? Leave a comment below, and let us know!

Sudie B

Reprint in case you missed it via email:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The New England Deacons’ Network is providing an extraordinary continuing education opportunity for the deacons this fall, a conference entitled, Crushing Poverty: Service and Solidarity with Those on the Edge. An outstanding group of speakers and workshop leaders will address both urban and rural poverty and will help participants wrestle with their own ministries of service to the poor. Presenters include the Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw (Bishop of Massachusetts), Professor Willis Jenkins (Ass’t. Prof. of Social Ethics at Yale Divinity) and the Honorable Byron Rushing (Massachusetts House of Representatives).

The Conference will take place at the Sheraton Framingham (MA) from September 28 to September 30, 2012.

I urge all deacons in the Diocese of Maine to consider taking part. Scholarship aid is available through my office for those whose financial resources are tight.

I ask priests-in-charge of congregations to prepare for a deacon-less Sunday on September 30, so that as many deacons as possible may attend.

For more information including registration information, Click NEDN Conference 2012 or visit
www.newenglanddeacons.wordpress.com

The Diocese of Maine will not hold a fall deacons’ gathering in order to give our full support to the New England Deacons’ Network conference. Maine has the most deacons of any Province I diocese. I hope we will be well represented.

If you have questions, please contact Mary Lee Wile mlwile@episcopalmaine.org or Sudie Blanchard sblanchard@stgeorgesyorkharbor.org

Faithfully,

Bishop Steve

 Having just been to the glorious ordination of Dick Rasner to the diaconate yesterday (welcome, Dick!), and hearing again those vows we all made — including the promise to “study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them” — some of us got to wondering:  what are some of the ways we do that? What daily reading, books, or “apps” help maintain a life of prayer and scripture? Write back and share what has worked for you.

Deacons serving the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster: Jeri Williams, Judy Burleigh,  Steve Summerson, and Cindy Beaulieu

The Aroostook Episcopal Cluster describes itself as a group of five Episcopal parishes who share a common faith tradition, ministry and mission in northern Maine. The cluster concept not only provides mutual support between the parishes but maintains a parish presence in each of the local communities: The Church of the Advent in Limestone, St. Anne’s in Mars Hill, St. John’s in Presque Isle, St. Luke’s in Caribou and St. Paul’s in Fort Fairfield. The four deacons who serve there are part of a unique ministry support team.

In their own words, here are ways in which three of them minister:

Judy Burleigh: Assist with services at the five cluster churches and at Leisure Village (retirement home), serve on the board of PrISM (student ministries at UMPI and NMCC), participate in: two Bible studies at St. John’s, Aroostook Cluster Lenten Study Series (co-faciliate two sessions), Aroostook Cluster Book Club, monthly meetings of deacons with priest, weekly support group for widows, serve on: the Steering Committee of Seniors Achieving Greater Education, Diocesan Council and its committees.

Cindy Beaulieu:  I am the coordinator of our local prayer shawl ministry. I am part of a busy ministry team that share the responsibility of helping providing coverage for Sunday worship services. I am very involved with our local Hospice where I do home visitations as a respite care giver. I bring communion to shut ins who are no longer able to attend Sunday worship, and do hospital visitations for those members of our cluster who are ill, and I am currently busy setting up a diocesan health program for the cluster with the help of Bruce Nickerson of St. George’s in Sanford. I also lead weekly Bible study when Fr. Bob is not available.

Steve Summerson: My diaconal ministry includes serving five parishes in the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster, providing pastoral care within the parishes as needed. Serving diaconal duties with the priest in charge, preaching and interacting with other deacons. Assist in leading an evening Bible study. Provide Safe Church Training. My ministry is providing a ministry wherever God directs me!


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