Memorial Day May 31, 2021

Memorial Day May 31, 2021


Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. 

 Now a holiday to remember all those lost to us in war, Memorial Day touches that place of grief we all feel with the death of those we love. After a year of great loss in our land, we are united in grief and thanksgiving for the lives of those taken from this earth too soon. We honor their lives, and this day and every day, we remember them. 


We Remember Them 


At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them. 


At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.


At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.


At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.


At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.


At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.


As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.


When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.


When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.


When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.


When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.


When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.


For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.


by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer


Caminando hacia adelante: Walking Forward with Latino/Hispanic Ministries and Diocesan Initiatives

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Psalm 32:8

Yo te instruiré y te enseñaré el camino que debes seguir, te aconsejaré y pondré mis ojos en ti.
Salmo 32:8

Since moving into the role of Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries and Diocesan Initiatives three months ago, I’ve hit the ground running–occasionally wishing I had more time to get acclimated to this new position, yet committed to moving forward and creating an intentional balance between the transactional and relational components of my work. 

Within the context of our Latino/Hispanic Ministries, I’ve been focusing on better understanding the composition of the counties in which our six Spanish-speaking communities reside, using MissionInsite to get a better understanding of potential opportunities for mission, outreach, and engagement. Here are some of the fascinating data points I’ve uncovered:

  • The United States is the second largest Latino/Hispanic country in the world (Mexico is the largest). 
  • In DC, Latinos/Hispanics are 11.3% of the population, making them the 3rd largest ethnic group in the city. 
  • In North Prince George’s County, Latinos/Hispanics are the 2nd largest segment of the population at 19.1%. 
  • In Montgomery County, Latinos/Hispanics are 19.9% of the population, making them the 4th largest ethnic group in the county.  

This data suggests there is a rich mission field open to us as we seek new opportunities to serve our Latino/Hispanic communities and invite those in search of a spiritual home into the Episcopal Church. 

In the next 90 days, I will convene an Advisory Group and lead them in the development of a vision and goals for Latino/Hispanic Ministries that align with the Diocesan Strategic Plan and its priorities of spiritual formation, church viability, and equity and justice. An essential part of this work will include journeying alongside our Latino/Hispanic clergy and six Spanish-speaking faith communities, listening deeply to their issues, challenges, opportunities and dreams. 

Under the “Diocesan Initiatives” section of my new portfolio, over the last three months, I’ve found joy getting to know more about our various diocesan grants–from the COVID Emergency Relief Fund to student scholarships to clergy support grants to Congregational Growth Grants. The committee members who help administer these grants dedicate their time, passion, and care to ensure that our leaders–lay and ordained–and our congregations have an opportunity to embark on continuing education, support initiatives that foster collaborative partnerships in evangelism, worship, and justice, and support college expenses for students. In June, we’ll make an announcement about the reopening of the Congregational Growth Grants, so stay tuned! 

With much joy and excitement, I continue to caminando hacia delante [walk forward] with God’s grace and blessing in advocating for and supporting our Latino/Hispanic faith communities, and supporting our key diocesan programs and grants to strengthen our diocesan mission of drawing people to Jesus and embodying his love for the world.

Mildred Briones Reyes
Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries and Diocesan Initiatives

The Diaconate: Supporting and Empowering Ministry

The hopes of the diocesan strategic plan are dependent on the raising up of transformed leadership, both lay and ordained. And all of the leadership of the diocese are responsible for this work. We make that promise each time a person is baptized or confirmed and every time a person is ordained. 

At a baptism or confirmation, all present are asked a very serious question: Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ? Our response: We will. We do a similar affirmation at ordinations, following the ordinands’ commitments to ministry. We are asked if we support them and then if we will uphold them in ministry. Those responses of — It is — and — We will — are followed by prayers. 

The work we all do in forming committed Christian leaders is so important to the health and future of our congregations and diocese. If we are really teaching and embedding the truths of our faith in the parents of those being baptized and the young persons and adults we are presenting for confirmation, we will have transformed leaders willing to both share their faith and work for equity and justice. This was my commitment when I worked at the parish level. Now as I do ministry at the judicatory level, we seek to do this as we form and empower leaders in ordained ministry and provide liturgies that we hope are both inspiring and affirming. 

Over the last six years this diocese has raised up 30 new deacons. While each one is a unique person with different passions and gifts for ministry, all of them are committed to empowering congregations and individuals to live out our baptismal promises to tell the story of faith and do the work of the church. That is, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ, to seek and serve all, and to strive for justice and peace. The work and ministry of every Christian. 

Over the last months:

  • Nine new deacons have been deployed to 11 congregations in every region of the diocese, increasing the collaborative work for justice ministry.
  • We are forming ten more deacons in our diocesan Deacons School, including persons from our Latino congregations.
  • Our Deacons School is the only formation program in The Episcopal Church doing bilingual formation of deacons. And we are sharing our learnings and materials with the wider church. 
  • The deacons have gathered with Hazel Monae, our new Missioner for Justice, to share information about the various justice ministries of our congregations. 

We are just beginning to see the fruits of our diaconal work and the hope that our churches will be seen and heard in neighborhoods and in places where we are most needed. This is not easy ministry and it confronts our congregations in ways that are new. We have been very comfortable in our pews and buildings for too many years. The deacons’ call and ministry are to push us out of our comfortable places inside and move us outside. Outside to learn about where we can make a difference and partner with those in need. 

In the next months:

  • We will form a Deacons Council which will be focused on helping our diocese learn about the ministry of deacons. 
  • We are continuing our conversations with the wider church about Spanish language formation of deacons.
  • We will be meeting with persons who have been discerning their call to the diaconate and determining possible next steps. 

There is so much work to do and we need every one of us doing this work to create God’s reign now. Where are you willing to go, to learn, to partner and to do justice? 

The Ven. L. Sue von Rautenkranz
Archdeacon and Diocesan Liturgist

Equity and Justice Midyear Update

My name is Hazel Monae and I am honored to serve as the Missioner for Equity & Justice at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. 

God is a word that means anything beyond self; beyond ego. If theology is what I believe about God, then it must be that what I believe about God must go beyond my experiences alone. I’m speaking as someone who is a relentless follower of Jesus Christ and is in love with Jesus’ vision for how we ought to be in the world–workers and strivers for justice. 

Justice means centering historically marginalized communities to ensure their thriving & healing from generations of injustice. A justice framework can move us from a reactive posture to a more powerful, proactive and even preventative approach. This understanding of justice is not just a wish. Even in my short time in this Diocese, I have seen so much potential for this vision to be made manifest. 

  • I see the vision in the revamped Prison Ministry Team that’s working to build a multi-layered approach to restoring human dignity. 
  • I see the vision in the Sanctuary Ministry that’s actively working to support our undocumented siblings. 
  • The vision is nigh in the work of the Reparations Task Force as it seeks to uncover the truth about our past and to repair the breach in our present. 
  • The vision is here and now in the Race & Social Justice Committee’s work to train us all in the important work of anti-racism. 

These are just small glimpses into the myriad ways that your parishes, regions and this diocese are manifesting a lived theology of justice and preparing us for what’s ahead. In the next 90 days we will…

  • Continue to tell the truth about racism through the launching of an Anti-Racism 101 Curriculum and ongoing Sacred Ground circles throughout the Diocese.
  • Pursue Congregational and Diocesan History Projects for the work of Reparations.
  • Create toolkits for individuals and parishes to engage Racial Equity conversations and practices.
  • Discern priorities for future work of equity & justice.

May we continue to respond to God’s promise made in Amos–of justice that rolls like a mighty river and righteousness that runs like an ever-flowing stream. I’m encouraged. I’m excited. I’m ready. Thank you all for being on this journey. I look forward to our work together.

Hazel Monae (she/her)
Missioner for Equity and Justice

Midyear Update on the Work of Parish Vitality

As we engage with the Diocesan Strategic Plan, we follow a rhythm of work to keep us focused. For the last two years, we’ve set 12-month priorities and concrete objectives  in 90-day increments to help us stay focused. 

Our second year goals include engaging every congregation with our seven Vital Signs of Parish Health and the launching of the Tending Our Soil initiative. As a reminder, Tending Our Soil is our grant-funded initiative which will lead up to 36 parishes through a three-year process of vitality assessments, community engagement and new ministry development. Our most recent 90-day goals have achieved some important milestones and energizing activities. 

In the last 90 days, we have welcomed some amazing new staff to Church House, including our Canon for Congregational Vitality, the Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery. Rev. Jeffery comes onto the staff at an exciting time and has already brought her own energy to conversations and planning. An incredible amount of work has been done to get ready for the Tending Our Soil launch with our first twelve congregations in September. We also hosted an online series called Teaching Tuesdays: Signs of Parish Vitality. We gathered at noon each Tuesday for seven weeks to collect wisdom, resources and creativity around the seven vital signs, and just finished the series this week. Registrations for those lunch gatherings included clergy and lay leaders from forty-six parishes across our diocese, not to mention schools and guests from outside the diocese. Even though we finished the series, we’ll be getting together again! 

What are we looking to accomplish in the realm of congregational vitality in the next ninety days? We’ll be calling for more collaborative work like we had back in February of 2020 when we met to combine our experience and wisdom to develop the Vital Signs and their supporting metrics. Some of that collaboration will take the form of establishing a Parish Vitality working group to help us continue to meet our two-year and five-year strategic goals including helping every single parish engage with the Vital Signs and restarting or starting three new worshipping communities focused on reaching younger generations. We’ll be working to craft some vitality meetings and exercises for the Fall, possibly some small group studies, Vital Signs sermon prep toolkits, and media for parishes to adapt and use in their own context. Does the work of parish vitality resonate with you and get your creative passions stirred up? Does the idea of crafting genuine worship experiences and community for younger generations get you excited? Let me know.  We have many exciting things still to come in 2021!

The Rev. Todd Thomas
Missioner for Revitalization and Your Adult Ministry