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


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

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

Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Midyear Update

In late September 2020, the Diocese received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to fund a thriving congregations initiative that will engage up to 36 congregations over five years in a journey toward greater vitality called Tending Our Soil. 

The application period opened just after convention in January of this year with several open houses and visits with vestries. By mid-April, we received 16 applications and have made invitations to 12 congregations to begin this fall. Using the Vital Signs for Parish Health, we will be working with the four congregations invited to wait to help prepare them to join Tending Our Soil in 2022. If your congregation is interested in participating, please take a look at this promotional flyer or invite the Rev. Jenifer Gamber to give a presentation to your vestry.  

One of the central features of Tending Our Soil are professional coaches who will accompany leadership teams from each congregation, helping them identify learnings and make commitments in next steps on the journey. We received a number of applications and have  selected four individuals from the diocese who are currently being trained by the Holmes Coaching Group. We will announce the names of participating congregations and their coaches shortly. 

Finally, we are making plans for the Tending Our Soil launch on Saturday, September 18 at  9:00 a.m. with Eucharist, Bishop Mariann Budde, presiding, and the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, preaching. We are working to make this event accessible to all members of the diocese. More details about this event are forthcoming. 

While the Tending Our Soil initiative will focus on participating congregations, it is intended to benefit all congregations. As such, the assets, activities, and courses developed for the initiative will be available to the entire diocese along with the afternoon teaching portion of the quarterly gathering of leaders.

The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Missioner for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and Program Director for Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations

The Rev. Emily Snowden
Program Coordinator for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations

School for Christian Faith and Leadership Midyear Update

One year ago, leaders from across the diocese cast a bold vision for our future: Establish a School for Christian Faith and Leadership. Start with offerings that have been equipping both lay and ordained leaders for ministry for years and allow these seeds, that have been faithfully sown over time, turn our vision into a reality. Today, the School is well on its way to that reality.  

Firmly committed to the belief that every baptized person is a full member of the body of Christ, with gifts to fulfill the mission of the Church, the School seeks to affirm, strengthen, and celebrate the gifts of all people for baptismal living. Our vision is to be known as a catalyst for faithful discipleship and adaptive leadership, offering trusted resources and learning journeys that equip individuals for baptismal living and lead faith communities into greater vitality for the 21st century.

Since its soft launch in September 2020, the School has hosted nearly 40 offerings in areas of congregational leadership and discipleship. We have served more than 1,500 individuals within the diocese and throughout the Episcopal Church and beyond. You can view our summer offerings at A number of past courses will be made available for on-demand learning. Fall 2021 offerings will be announced soon.

In addition to online courses, in collaboration with congregational leaders the School has:

  • Discerned a path of discipleship with five core practices–pray, learn, serve, give, and share–to help individuals grow as followers of Jesus committed to his loving, liberating, life-giving way. Look for a Path of Discipleship phone app to be premiered in the fall. 
  • Piloted a six-week online seekers program for adults called Discover as well as an online confirmation program for youth called CREATE. Both can be customized for your congregation. Consider bringing your congregation on board with Discover. Learn more about Discover here and CREATE here. Both will be fully available for your congregation’s fall formation program. 
  • Assembled an Advisory Board comprised of leaders from the diocese and a few outside the diocese to guide the ministry of the School going forward. Jordan Rippy has accepted the invitation to chair the board, which will meet for the first time early this summer. 

We invite you to consider taking advantage of some of the many opportunities offered by the School and to hold the School in prayer as we move forward together. 

The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Missioner for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and Program Director for Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations

The Rev. Emily Snowden
Program Coordinator for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations