A Joyous Celebration of San Romero

If they kill me I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.

– Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 23, under a perfect blue sky hundreds of people gathered at Iglesia San Mateo/St. Matthew’s in Hyattsville, MD to celebrate the beatification of Monseñor Oscar Romero, martyred Archbishop of San Salvador. It was a moment of jubilation for Salvadorans and others of the Americas who have revered Monseñor Romero for so many years. The church was packed and beautifully festooned with flowers and photos of the martyred Archbishop. The joyous music of the Misa Salvadoreña filled the air. Our hosts, the Rev. Vidal Rivas, Senior Priest, and the Rev. Anna Langerak, priest associate, and the good people of St. Matthew’s/ San Mateo gave all a splendid welcome. Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde celebrated the Eucharist in Spanish and the newly consecrated Episcopal Bishop of El Salvador, Juan David Alvorado, preached for the occasion.

Monseñor was a great prophet and martyr. Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered because he spoke for those who had no voice at a time when violence and intolerance ruled all of the social structures of our country, El Salvador…Romero is a guide and inspiration for interreligious understanding because Monseñor Romero does not belong only to the Roman Catholic Chruch. He belongs to all historical churches and other religions as well.

– Juan David Alvarado

WHAT IS BEATIFICATION? WHO WAS OSCAR ROMERO? WHY WAS HE IMPORTANT?

Beatification is one of the last steps in the long process of becoming a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. On the very same morning of the 23rd, in San Salvador, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans gathered to witness the beatification of their hero. A letter from Pope Francis read by the pope’s envoy declared that the faithful might find in the newly Blessed Oscar Romero the “strength and courage to build the Kingdom of God, to commit to a more equal and dignified social order.” Romero, duly beatified was now holy and worthy of veneration. We Episcopalians have known that for a while–in 2009, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that Oscar Romero would be celebrated in our calendar of saints on March 24 along with the Martyrs of El Salvador. His statue appears in the Portico of Justice in the Washington National Cathedral as well as in the gallery of 20th century saints in Westminster Abbey.

In truth, the poor of El Salvador have always considered Monseñor Romero a saint. During the years the Salvadoran civil war, Romero tirelessly defended the poor from the repression and the mounting violence and visits of military death squads.  In response to this violence, Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter warning him of growing human rights violations and asking him to reconsider U.S. support of the military-backed junta government. The dignity of all people and his solidarity with the poor was at the very heart of his understanding of Christianity. He became the “Voice of the Voiceless.” The price he paid was his own death. On March 24, 1980, while celebrating the Holy Eucharist in a hospital chapel, Monseñor Romero was assassinated—silenced by a government plot. His role in history and in the church has been politicized and controversial. His beatification on May 23rd was much welcomed recognition by the Catholic church that the struggle for justice is indeed at the core of who we should be as followers of Jesus.

At the end of the joyful celebration at San Mateo, Bishop Mariann presented the congregation with a statue of Monseñor Romero—the first casting of the stone carving of Romero that adorns the Washington National Cathedral. It was a moment of sheer joy—a perfect tribute for a man adored by Salvadorans and honored and respected around the world.

El Salvador continues to be plagued by violence, but it came together in the name of Romero in a moment of historic significance. Pope Francis hoped that his beatification would serve as a seed “for true and proper reconciliation.”

Before he died, Oscar Romero said, “If they kill me I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” He does indeed live on in the hearts of his people. Let us pray that the dignity for the voiceless poor, the justice and peace that were at the heart of his struggle may rise as well. 

Kenworthy Named Interim Vicar of Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall announced today the appointment of the Reverend Stuart A. Kenworthy as interim vicar of Washington National Cathedral. Kenworthy was previously the longtime rector of Christ Church Georgetown, Washington, D.C. from 1991 until his retirement in 2014. He also served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard from 1994 through 2007, including a deployment to Iraq in 2005 – 2006. 

Kenworthy will assume on an interim basis the position vacated by the Reverend Canon Jan Naylor Cope, recently named the Cathedral’s provost. “I am grateful that Stuart has accepted my invitation to serve as interim vicar at the Cathedral during this transitional period. He is a gifted and beloved priest and pastor, and we will call upon his unparalleled leadership skills to help us all discern and live into the next phase of the congregation’s life and ministry,” said Dean Hall.

Kenworthy will serve as the pastoral leader of the growing Cathedral congregation, which now numbers more than 1,350 members. He will work closely with Dean Hall, the senior staff, the Cathedral chapter, and the congregation itself as they envision the congregation’s role in the Cathedral and the community. 

“I am deeply honored to serve in this important role within the cathedral community. Washington National Cathedral has long been a very special place to me, and I greatly look forward to working with Dean Hall and the Cathedral leadership in the months ahead.”

Kenworthy is married to Fran Prescott Kenworthy, and they have three grown children. He will begin his new position on June 1.

Bishops United Plans Prayerful Procession Against Gun Violence

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 60 Episcopal bishops, will sponsor a prayerful procession through the streets of Salt Lake City during the church’s General Convention. The gathering is intended to urge people of faith to seek common ground in efforts to curtail gun violence.

The event, called Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence, will begin at 7:15 a.m. onSunday, June 28, outside the Salt Palace Convention Center on the northwest corner of West Temple and South 200, said Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark, a co-convener of Bishops United.

The service will last roughly one hour and cover a one-mile route, Beckwith said. It will include opening prayers, a stop for testimony in nearby Pioneer Park, and concluding prayers outside the Salt Palace.

Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, who survived a gunshot wound as a young man, will be among the speakers. Bishop Jeff Lee of Chicago, Dent Davidson, music chaplain for the House of Bishops, and the Rev. Lester Mackenzie, chaplain to the House of Deputies, will lead prayers and music during the procession.

“The debate over gun violence in our country has become polarized, but it need not be that way,” Beckwith said. “There is broad agreement among people who own guns and people who don’t that universal background checks and other common sense measure save lives while protecting the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. We want to focus the attention of our church and the broader public on these common sense reforms, and muster the political will to see them enacted.” 

Beckwith convenes Bishops United with Bishops Ian Douglas of Connecticut and Eugene Sutton of Maryland. The group formed after mass shootings at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. 

Bishops United supports:

  • Expanding the federal background checks system to cover gun shows, internet and commercial sales
  • Making gun trafficking a federal crime
  • Encouraging the development of “smart gun” technology to reduce accidental shootings—especially among children
  • Requiring that guns be stored safely
  • Improving access to mental healthcare for all Americans.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is an ad hoc group of nearly 60 Episcopal bishops who have come together to explore means of reducing the appalling levels of gun violence in our society, and to advocate for policies and legislation that save lives. Bishops United works against gun violence by forming relationships and coalitions with interfaith colleagues, fellow advocates, and families whose lives have been touched by gun violence; giving voice to voiceless gun violence victims through public liturgy, advocacy, and prayer; and supporting each another in efforts to end gun violence in local communities. 

Focused Spiritual Attention on Racial Justice

See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Luke 24:49

I marvel today at the power of spiritual intention, when an individual or community focuses attention on a particular goal or concern. In an individual Christian’s life, this is most evident in personal disciplines and practices that comprise what spiritual teachers call arule of life,a way of being in the world that seeks to align one’s daily activities with core values. In Christian community, we experience this power whenever we turn our collective energies of prayer and commitment toward a common goal. In so doing, as a friend of mine likes to say whenever we decide to do something brave, we give God more to work within and through us.

Examples of focused spiritual intention in our personal lives include the decision to address areas we’ve neglected, commit to the things that give us joy, or act on the issues that trouble us. This is what Bishop Rob Wright meant when he exhorted us at our last Diocesan Convention (quoting President Theodore Roosevelt) to step into the arena

Examples of focused spiritual intention abound in our congregations, for which I give thanks to God. They include, among many endeavors, congregation-wide initiatives to engage Scripture, nurture young people, engage the neighborhood or invest in needed (and expensive) building improvements.

Last Sunday we experienced the power of collective spiritual attention throughout the diocese, when 40 congregations participated in All Mother’s Children a time of prayer, intentional preaching, and public witness. Our goal was to use the national holiday celebrating mothers to highlight our collective grief for children of color in this country who are, collectively, at far greater risk than their caucasian peers to experience violence.

As I said in my sermon, given the staggering statistics and heart-breaking testimony of disparities in our educational and criminal justice systems, I am now among those who believe these disparities to be the civil rights issue of our time. And as churches played a pivotal role in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, I wonder how God is calling us to take our place today. Reading the sermons and other reflections from across the diocese, it seems that that the Holy Spirit is stirring in the Diocese of Washington.

As your bishop, I pray for God’s spirit of wisdom and courage to lead us. Alongside other leaders of the diocese, I commit myself to a season of prayer, study and engagement.  

Resources for our study are many, and we are beginning to catalog them on the EDOW website. Please let us know of materials that you have found useful. Specifically, if you have preached or heard a sermon in recent weeks that has addressed the events in Baltimore or other racial tensions, send them to the diocesan office so that we may discern the Spirit’s movement through our collective work.

Here are a few events that I will be part of in coming weeks. Please join me if you can.

  1. EDOW People of the Way Book Club reading of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. On Monday May 18th from 2-3 pm, the National Center for Children in Poverty is hosting a free webinar discussion with the author.
  2. Conversation with the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas at Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday June 10, 7:30-9:00 pm. Theologian, Episcopal priest of our diocese, and author Kelly Brown Douglas brings her personal experience as a mother and scholarship as a theologian in her most recent book: Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and God’s Justice.
  3. Civil Rights History Pilgrimage/ 50th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Episcopal Seminarian Jonathan Daniels from August 12-16Canon Paula Clark and I will be taking part this historic opportunity. Up to 8 people from the Diocese of Washington can join us. For more information contact Paula Clark.

All Mothers’ Children inspires diocese

Mother’s Day on May 10 in the Diocese of Washington was marked by many of the usual traditions. There were warm greetings and prayers for mothers, flowers to take home. But in 40 churches, the annual celebration of mothers was refocused in response to Bishop Mariann Budde’s call to dedicate the day to prayer and witness for all mothers — particularly those who live with the daily fear of losing their children to violence, as well as for the children themselves.

Every congregation is unique, and each of the 40 churches found its own way to incorporate the bishop’s ideas and the materials provided by the diocese. Here are just a few highlights from a day filled with powerful preaching and prayer and witness in the surrounding neighborhoods, a day that may mark the beginning of a new unity and resolve among our congregations to build a just society that reflects Christ’s love for each and every mother’s child. 

The violent deaths of young black men at the hands of the police and the unrest that has followed provided the initial impetus for All Mothers’ Children. Preaching at Calvary Church, DC, the Rev. Gayle Stewart-Fisher said, “I spent 20 years on the Metropolitan Police Department in this city and so I am torn because I was the police, I married the police, my step-son is the police, and my friends and colleagues are the police.”

But Fisher is also the mother of a grown son, and she spoke of having the talk that most black parents have “about how to survive an encounter with the police, how to come back home safe, come back home alive.” She called the congregation to action, to fight against “the tyranny and oppression of a society that denies the humanity of our black sons.”

Like Calvary and other churches participating in All Mothers’ Children, St. Mark’s, DC, used the litany provided by the diocese, and designed the liturgy to reflect the day’s focus. After 11:15 am service, Priest-in Charge Justice Schunior led 30 parishioners down the street to the Capitol, where they offered the All Mothers’ Litany again, read Langston Hughes’ “As I Grow Older,” and passages from scripture. “It was a little quiet at the Capitol on Sunday afternoon,” she said, “but it was meant to be symbolic. It is a center of power in our nation.”

The preacher at Misa Alegria at St. Stephen and the Incarnation, Esperanza Conesds, asked the congregation, “What is love? And she talked of the love a mother feels for her child as soon as she learns she is pregnant, of how she protects that child and longs to keep it safe.”

She told the story of coming to the United States and working “like a machine” to provide for her two sons. And she told of losing the oldest, because of our immigration policies and the violence in Guatemala, where he was murdered as he intervened in an attack on an elderly woman. 

“For me,” Conesds says, “it is no longer a happy Mother’s Day. When you think of other mothers whose kids are in prison or who are in prison themselves, the mothers whose kids are here and they have been deported, today is the day that we should unite with those mothers who are suffering the loss of their children.” [Translation, courtesy of Phil Kennedy] 

Bishop Mariann visited Good Shepherd, Silver Spring, on Mother’s Day and participated in the congregation’s procession in the neighborhood. In her sermon she quoted devastating statistics from the Department of Education and the criminal justice system that show the impact of racial disparities on people of color. 

“Just as churches played a pivotal role of civil rights efforts of the 1950s and 60s,” she said, “we have a role to play today.” She invited the people of Good Shepherd to join with her and others in the diocese in discerning what shape that role might take. 

In the gospel proclaimed on May 10, Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us. That command was at the heart of All Mothers’ Children. It was heard in the sermons preached by mothers of children of color and in the prayers. It was seen in the processions beyond the walls of our churches. And it will lead us on.

More sermons, video, photos, and articles from All Mothers’ Children