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Deacon’s Blog – April 2024

By April 10, 2024No Comments

Quilts symbolize the interconnectedness of mission and ministry, encapsulating the diverse stories and efforts that contribute to their advancing tapestry. Just as patches of fabric are meticulously sewn together, mission and ministry consist of countless individual acts, each adding a unique texture to the narrative. Similar to how varied fabrics in a quilt create a cohesive whole, diversity within mission work highlights the richness of human experience and the healing derived from connectivity.

Through collaboration and solidarity, people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives come together to weave a tapestry of compassion, empathy, and justice. Quilts offer not only physical warmth but also emotional comfort, serving as a symbol of the solace and healing that faith communities aspire to bring to both kin and communities alike. Quilts and quilting serve as a reminder of the profound impact that acts of love and service can have in transforming lives and fostering hope in the world.

In April of 1998, Linda and I, representing St. John’s and ECMN, participated in the inaugural Beyond Inclusion Conference at All Saints Pasadena. Leading up to this event, Anne Miller (a member of St. John’s), Linda, and I had conducted numerous workshops utilizing the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church America) workbook, “Dialogue on Human Sexuality,” across ECMN and at St. John’s. Fortunately, the ELCA released a social teaching statement titled “The Church and Human Sexuality: A Lutheran Perspective” in 1993 paving the way for these dialogues.

All Saints had long been a renowned progressive parish within The Episcopal Church. I had been involved with their youth group in the 1960s and, guided by The Reverends George Regas and Malcom Boyd, made the decision to become a selective service-designated conscientious objector. This Beyond Inclusion conference aimed to propel the church beyond mere inclusion of GLBTQ+ persons towards embracing blessings and marriages. We celebrated Bishop Walter Righter’s heroism in ordaining a gay man to the diaconate in 1995, charged with heresy, and later absolved in 1996.  As early as 1991, well before The Episcopal Church was deemed ‘ready,’ George Regas had officiated the first same-sex covenant ceremony at All Saints.

I share this narrative to remind myself and the Saint John’s community that the arc of justice often bends slowly, as does the creation of a quilt, suggesting we might heed the wisdom in the Romero prayer. We are undeniably living in complex and troubling times. Women’s reproductive rights are being restricted, informative books banned from libraries, educational curricula are restricted, and our nation’s painful history of racism is being censored and rewritten, among other concerns.

In our state and neighborhoods, hateful and dishonest rhetoric targets immigrants, refugees, GLBTQ+, and BIPOC communities. Reasonable discussions on policy in our capital are obstructed, and hearings on various challenging resolutions, such as protecting the environment and supporting marginalized groups, are difficult to arrange. Fortunately, The Episcopal Church and numerous other faith traditions are advocating for legislation based on faith-based values.

With initiatives like the North Star Act and Rise and Repair, I find myself ministering to a significant number of young, impassioned BIPOC immigrants and progressives whose frustration with existing power structures increases daily. The narrative of discussions in the 1990s regarding human sexuality, same-sex blessings, and, years later, legal rights for same-gender marriage serves as a historical demonstration where the Holy Spirit can lead us as co-creators of the Creator’s Reign of Heaven. This history aligned with committed support from Bishop Loya in both teaching and personal presence, helps us follow the path of Jesus, growing disciples called to repair the breach.

In the midst of our disconcerting times, we participate in practices of resurrection and welcome. Saint John’s community demonstrates astonishing ministry to refugee Ecuadorian families, Casa Maria, First Nations Kitchen, and developing initiatives like Good Courage Farm. We are willing to speak truth to power through prayers, marches, and political actions calling for an end to gun violence, the destruction of the environment, to cease warring conflicts such as the one between the State of Israel and the Palestinians, for too long subjected to life in reservations.

While we cannot predict the future of these ministries, I trust that based on our history and faithful engagement, Saint John’s will, with regenerative gardening and committed quilting, continue to move the arc of justice, guided by the Holy Spirit. Reflecting on the Romero prayer and my own life and ministry, focused on my lifelong commitment as a prophetic voice for a future beyond my lifetime. Like MLK, and many others, I am called to nudge our beloved community and The Episcopal Church, which, as Lisa remarked on Easter, often moves at the speed of glaciers.

Consider incorporating one of these fragments from “A Step along The Way,” Prayer of Archbishop Romero into your daily prayers or mantra. There is much healing in stepping back, and taking a longer view, reminding ourselves that we are healers planting seeds of a future not our own.

It’s helpful, now, and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts but also beyond our vision.

In our lifetime, we accomplish only a tiny fraction of God’s magnificent work.

We plant seeds that will one day grow, though we may never see the results.

We cannot do everything, and there is liberation in realizing that.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

As poet Wendell Berry proclaims, “Practice resurrection! Practice resurrection! Practice resurrection!”