Called to Hope

by | Jan 14, 2021

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened,  you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
Ephesians 1:17-18

Called to Hope is the theme for Diocesan Convention on January 29-30, and indeed, for all of 2021. 

Hope is not optional for followers of Jesus. It is the approach to life to which he calls us. 

Christian hope is not to be confused with wishful thinking or naive optimism. Nor does it allow us to turn away from the brokenness in our lives and our world. Rather this hope is rooted in a firm persuasion–and sometimes a leap of faith–that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, and that through Christ, God is always on the side of life and love.

Christ calls us to hope, and gives us hopeful work to do. Where there is despair, we pray in the words attributed to St. Francis, let us sow hope. Thankfully, the hope to which we are called doesn’t depend on us alone, but the Holy Spirit at work within and among us. 

A journalist recently asked me to offer a word of hope after the events at the Capitol on January 6th. First, I said, we must grieve what happened and see it for what it is. For as James Baldwin famously said, “Only those things that are faced can be changed,” and we have much to face in our land. Yet I am hopeful for our future, I continued. The self-corrective capacity in our nation is real and has been activated. There are people across the country with love in their hearts who are determined to make things better. Yes, there are others who must be held accountable for their actions and dangerous movements that must be contained. But we are called to hope. 

The hope to which I feel called inspires me to persevere as your bishop. I refuse to lose sight of the vision with which God has blessed us. January is a pivotal month for us. At our annual convention, your leaders and I will present our final accounting of the work we committed to accomplish last year and our stewardship of diocesan resources. Equally important, we will cast our gaze to the future and set forth specific goals for 2021. We do this work in prayerful, collective discernment. 

I am mindful of the hardships many have endured and how exhausting ministry has been. Yet there is a contagious spirit of determination, adaptation, and courage evident across the diocese. For some, this year has borne great fruit; for others, holding on was a triumph. The outpouring of generosity for those in greatest need has been awe-inspiring. And by grace we accomplished many of our goals, even in a ministry context that changed overnight. You can find a full account of diocesan ministry in the 2020 Annual Report. Read and be inspired. 

We’ll dedicate the Friday evening of Convention, January 29, to our goal of partnering in ministries of equity and justice for greater impact. After the events of this summer, the overwhelming diocesan consensus was to collectively address racial equity and justice. Together we commit to bravely uncover, understand, reckon with and act to dismantle racism within ourselves, our faith communities, the Diocese and our localities. 

We’ve invited Bishop Eugene Sutton to speak to us about the Diocese of Maryland’s comprehensive study of its legacy of slavery and racial segregation–a legacy we share. Maryland’s efforts culminated in the decision to establish a Diocesan Reparations Fund. We’ll also hear from our own Reparations Committee and have time for questions and discussion in small breakout groups. Please come to learn from others and share stories from your congregation’s history. Registration is required to participate or you may choose to watch the live stream

On Saturday morning, January 30, our focus will be our strategic goals of revitalizing our churches to build the Jesus Movement and inspiring all people to grow in faith and equipping  our leaders to lead well. Eligible participants have been emailed registration information. All who wish to follow the proceedings online may watch the live stream.

I look forward to highlighting the strategic initiatives for 2021. These include the launch of Tending Our Soil, a Lilly-Foundation funded 5-year initiative supporting our congregational revitalization work; further development of the School for Christian Faith and Leadership; and how we’ll take up the proposal put forth from the Taskforce for Diocesan Stewardship and Congregational Vitality. 

At Convention we’ll also celebrate the ministries of three beloved diocesan staff members: Ms. Cheryl Wilburn and the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, who are retiring; and Canon Paula Clark, Bishop-elect in the Diocese of Chicago. (Here’s more on how we’re saying farewell and how you can participate)

Their gifts to us have been immeasurable. How we will miss them! 

Thanks to those who have expressed concern for the remaining diocesan staff, given this month of transition. We appreciate your support. At the Convention I’ll describe how we as a team are facing the future with hope. With staff transitions also come opportunities, and our collective commitment to diocesan ministry is strong. 

My personal commitment has never been stronger. God willing and with your consent, I hope to continue serving Christ and this diocese for years to come. Together we are called to hope, as we follow Jesus, draw others to him, and embody his love for the world.