If It’s Not About Love, It’s Not About God

If It’s Not About Love, It’s Not About God

One of the scribes came near and heard the Sadducees disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Mark 12:28-34

The title of this sermon is “If It’s Not About Love, It’s Not About God,” something I’ve heard our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry say many times.

I’d like to begin by telling you a bit about my journey of faith.

I had a disjointed spiritual upbringing due to circumstances in my family, and for many years, when I lived with my father and stepmother, we didn’t attend church or have any explicit spiritual grounding at home. But I had friends at school who were Christian, and when I was in 9th grade, one of my friends invited me to join her family for Easter Sunday services. It was a Baptist Church, with an altar call, and when the minister asked anyone who wanted to invite Jesus into their heart and accept him as their Savior to come forward, I found myself walking to the front and allowing this kind man to pray for me, that I would be saved.

I don’t remember feeling all that much different afterwards, but I knew something had happened. My friend and her family were overjoyed that I had accepted Jesus and was now among the saved, and I was happy to be among people who seemed to care about me. Thus began my conscious life of faith.

I didn’t join my friend’s Baptist church, but I stayed within the world of what we might call biblical fundamentalism through my junior year in high school. I eventually joined a church and even lived with the minister’s family for a time when my own family collapsed. By and large, my experiences with the church and the minister’s family were positive. They were kind, generous, and sincere in their faith. I loved to sing, and I was part of a touring choir that traveled from Colorado to Mexico, singing in churches about the love of Jesus.

But there were several things that troubled and confused me that I didn’t know how to talk about with anyone from my church.

First, although I was now among the saved, I didn’t feel the way others described what being saved was like for them. I struggled with all manner of fear and doubt. And I saw that others in the church did, too, but nobody talked about it. What’s more, living with the minister and his family, I saw all their foibles and sins up close, but nobody talked about that either. All the church focused on, it seemed, was ensuring that other people could be saved like us.

That was the other thing that troubled me–this notion that the human race was divided among the saved and the unsaved, and we just happened to be on the narrow path to heaven. I was surprised to learn that even other Christians were not on the saved path. When the time came for me to leave Colorado and return to live with my mother in New Jersey, the minister of my church warned me not to join my mother’s Episcopal Church for fear that I would “backslide into sin.”

I simply couldn’t believe that anyone who wasn’t on our narrow path of faith was condemned by God forever. Out of love and respect for the people who were so good to me, I kept quiet. But when I returned to my mother and began attending church with her, the Episocpal priest there helped me integrate my nascent spiritual experiences with an understanding of God broad and generous enough to encompass all that was swirling around in my head. He said to me something I’ve never forgotten: “Mariann, if you wouldn’t condemn another human being because of what they did or didn’t believe; rest assured that God wouldn’t either.” Which was his way of saying, “If it’s not about love; it’s not about God.”

Seven years after I started attending my mother’s church, I entered seminary to become an Episcopal priest and here I am, now a bishop. Through it all, I have held that unwavering view that if it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God. It was for love that Jesus came to us. When he told the story of the Prodigal Son and his forgiving father, he was talking about us in relationship to God. When he said there once was a woman who lost a precious coin and spent all night looking for what she had lost, and when she found it called in all her neighbors to celebrate, he was talking about how much God loves us. When he asked God to forgive even those who had sentenced him to death, he knew that God had already forgiven them, because God is love.

Jesus came into the world to put human flesh on this wondrous love of God, and to save people like us from ourselves and all the ways we get caught up in anxiety, judgement, greed, anger, despair. He came to show us what it looks like to walk in love, to live in love, and to experience in ourselves the kind of transformation that only love can bring about. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

There are two main ideas that I want to leave you with today, the first having to do with how we read and understand the Bible. For as you know, the Bible is a collection of all kinds of ancient documents that tell the stories of the Jewish people as they came to experience what they called the One Holy and True God. Then, for Christians, our texts tell the stories of Jesus as they were eventually written down, and include documents from some of the earliest Christian communities, made up of both Jews and those the Jews referred to as Gentiles–that is, everyone who wasn’t Jewish.

In both Jewish and Christian texts, there are certain stories and teachings about God that have what biblical scholars call “hermeneutic priority.” That is to say, they come so close to expressing our clearest–though imperfect–understanding of what God is like that they take priority over texts that are in contradiction to them.

For example, there are many passages in the ancient Jewish texts that describe elaborate rituals of animal sacrifice that were deemed necessary in the ancient world, in order for human beings to make restitution for things they had done wrong in the sight of God. But there are other passages that describe God and what God wants from us in completely different ways. If you were in church last Sunday, you heard Father Tim reflect on precisely such a passage from the prophet Micah:

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

That is the text with priority for us. What God wants from us and for us is a relationship–to walk with us. And God wants us to love as God loves: with kindness and justice toward all humankind, for we are equally beloved by God.

The encounter Jesus had with those in religious authority that we just heard and is another example of a text with priority for us. The authorities don’t know what to make of Jesus–he seems so disciplined and yet so free when he speaks of God. So they repeatedly ask him questions to test him. Today’s text tells of someone who asked him of all the commandments given the Torah (the Scriptures of the Jewish people) which was the greatest–which, in other words, had priority. Jesus answered quoting from both the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus: The Lord our God is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all other laws and teachings of the prophets.

If it’s not about love; it’s not about God. Which doesn’t mean that we throw out all the biblical texts that seem to contradict these teachings with priority; only that we know their priority and learn other lessons from them, mostly how our forebears struggled to know and love God, and their neighbors as themselves. Remembering their struggles allows us to have a bit of self compassion when we flounder ourselves.

The other main idea I want to leave you with is that Jesus came, and is in relationship with us now as the Risen Christ, so that we might know ourselves to be loved by God and to grow in our capacity to love others.

Love, as Jesus lives it and as the Scriptural passages with hermeneutic priority describe, is a high bar, and we fail to reach it most of the time. As the Apostle Paul famously wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians: love is patient and kind. It is not envious or arrogant or boastful or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right. It bears all things, endures all things, hopes all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13:1-13)

God wants us to love like that. And most of the time we fail.

For the last several weeks, Tim has been exploring with you questions at the heart of what we call the baptismal covenant, which describe the path of what it means to walk in the ways of Jesus. One way to approach these questions, as we’ll be asked to do a bit later in this service, is as commitments we make. Yes, I will do these things, with God’s help. The “with God’s help” clause is an acknowledgment that we cannot do things on our own.

But let me suggest another way to understand the questions. They also describe some of the ways God comes to us and helps us grow in faith and love.

For example, the first question is Will you continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers? On one level, this expresses our commitment to show up in Christian community. But it’s also one of the ways (one of the catalysts, to quote another pastor) that God uses to help us grow in faith and love. When we’re here, or together in our homes or other places, God is also here–drawing us in through the words, through the sacraments, helping us to know ourselves as loved and practicing loving others.

The next question is: Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Again, this sounds like something we need to do whenever we fail to love or do what’s right, and it is. But it’s also one of the ways God helps us grow in faith and love. I don’t know about you, but when I have done something I regret and experience God’s forgiveness, or the forgiveness of others, my heart grows in response, my capacity to love and forgive others grows through God’s forgiving me.

Thus we can hear each of the foundational promises as something we strive for, yes, but also as ways that God uses to draw us closer, and helps us, by grace, to grow in faith and love. Tim talked last week about the last question in the baptismal covenant, and how hard it is to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being, and it is. We regularly fail miserably at this. But whenever we step into the gap between what is needed in our world and what we are capable of offering, God also shows up in the gap with us, often empowering us to accomplish more than we ever do on our own. That’s a growth experience like no other. Moreover, when we engage the suffering of the world and allow our hearts to break, we give more of our hearts to God to work through, as we, like Jesus, take in the pain of others as our own. We can’t help but grow in love as a response.

I leave you then with this invitation. In the coming week–between now and next Sunday–when you rise each morning, after you simply acknowledge in whatever ways you do that another day has begun, that you’re still here and been given the gift of life, simply ask for one thing: Help me, Lord, today, to grow in love. Or, you might, as I have done for the last week or so, be more specific and ask God to help you love someone that you are struggling to love. Then, as the day goes on, pay attention to what happens inside you. After the week has gone, ask yourself, what, if anything, you noticed. What, if anything, changed inside you?

This isn’t a self-improvement project; this is opening ourselves to the workings of grace. That grace is here for you, and for me, to receive and then to share. We’re meant to get better at love, yes with practice, but mostly through the experience of being loved ourselves to such a degree that we can’t help but share that love with others.

If it’s not about love; it’s not about God. With God, it’s all about love.

Introducing the Path of Discipleship App, Sharing Cards, and Posters

Introducing the Path of Discipleship App, Sharing Cards, and Posters

The Path of Discipleship App for iPhone Picture

The Path of Discipleship App for iPhone

Come, follow me.
Matthew 4:19

From the start of his ministry, and throughout the four gospels, Jesus invites the people he meets to follow him. Turn from what you are doing, Jesus says, come and follow me.

As Christians we have committed to living a Jesus-shaped life. But how do we do that? More than a year ago a group of more than 20 individuals from diverse contexts across the Diocese of Washington gathered to share stories of growing as followers of Jesus to discern practices that we could offer others seeking to grow in faith. Running through our stories, we discovered five core practices along a path of discipleship:


Pray: We begin with prayer–talking, listening, and responding to God, the ground of our being and source of transformation. Finding a prayer practice that draws us close to God can take any number of forms, including worshipping with our faith community, listening to reflections on Scripture, or remaining in silence.

Learn: Learning is a commitment to discovering the story of God and God’s people through ongoing study of Scripture, tradition, science, ourselves and our neighbors so that we can discern how to join God in reconciling all people and creation.

Serve: By serving we take part in God’s mission by using our gifts in service to others and creation. Serving is a matter of relationships marked by vulnerability, courage, creativity and wholeness that honors the dignity of every member of the community.

Give: God has blessed us abundantly. It is out of those gifts we share generously with others, knowing that all we have been given is a gift from God meant for the fullness of creation.

Share: Finally, we grow in faith by sharing the good news of Christ, inviting others to come on the journey with God.

Over the past year, we have been on a journey to create resources to help our congregations and its members to grow in discipleship. Today we share three:

A Path of Discipleship App: An interactive app for iPhone and Android devices offering over 100 activities to pray, learn, serve, give, and share with discussion prompts. Share your practice on social media and watch your progress along a deepening faith path. The app includes a “find a church” feature that shows users Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Washington close to you with links to connect. Download the app from Apple | from Google (coming soon!)

Path of Discipleship faith sharing cards: A set of 54 cards with question prompts in both Spanish and English inviting players to share stories about prayer, learning, serving, giving, and sharing. Great as conversation starters at home, church, or any gathering of a faith community. Use them to begin your small group gathering or to prompt conversation at a community dinner. Three decks available–child, youth, and adult. $8.15 a deck. Order a deck.

Path of Discipleship posters: A set of 6 posters for congregations to display in their churches, highlighting each practice plus a poster that introduces the path of discipleship. Download the posters.

We invite you to go deeper in your faith life through these five essential Christian practices. These five practices, over time, hold the promise of transforming hearts, hands and heads, helping us live more like Jesus along an ever-deepening path of discipleship.

These resources are intended to get you started wherever you are, whether you are new to faith or a longtime follower of Jesus. No matter where you are, you can continue to grow your capacities, commitments, and understandings of God, yourself, and your neighbors.

Related articles, EDOW’s Path of Discipleship 8/19/21

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

The Arc of Life in Our Diocese: Ministry Among Rising Generations

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

In my last article, The Arc of Life, I posited that one of the most important questions to ask ourselves is “Where am I in the arc of my life, or in a particular phase of life?” And I suggested that it is an equally important question to ask in Christian community, particularly for those in leadership. 

Where the Diocese of Washington is in the arc of our common life is something I ponder nearly every day, as I discern with the diocesan leaders where we can best invest our resources in service to God’s preferred future.

January 2022 marks the beginning year three of our five-year diocesan strategic plan, launched at the 2020 Diocesan Convention, two months before the COVID pandemic redefined every aspect of our lives. Thankfully, the strategic plan’s clear vision, well-articulated goals, and incremental approach toward accomplishing those goals have proven sturdy as we’ve navigated everything that’s happened in the last two years. 

In Regional Gatherings that have just begun, and in the 2021 Annual Report that will be available in Advent, we can gratefully document collective strides made in the priority areas of congregational vitality, spiritual and leadership development, and striving for justice. The Congregational Vital Signs, Tending Our Soil Initiative, School for Christian Faith and Leadership, Sacred Ground Circles, Reparations Task Force, Afghan Refugee Response Team, and the ministry of our Regional Deans are among the first fruits of the strategic plan. These endeavors are not one-time goals to check off a list, but are the foundation for all ministry initiatives going forward. 

As we look to year three, two new goals will require the careful cultivation of our soil and attentiveness to the seeds of new life that God plants within and among us. I’ll focus on one here and write about the other next time, as well as speak of both of them at regional gatherings. I do this as an invitation to a process of communal discernment and planning. 

The first of these new goals, as stated in the Strategic Plan, is as follows: We will launch or relaunch three worshiping communities focused on rising generations so that we become a spiritual home for our children and grandchildren. The emphasis here is to create communities whose first priority is on rising generations, that is, adults roughly 35 and younger. Most of our congregations want to be welcoming to rising generations, and some are. But a simple survey of faith communities with real numerical growth in younger demographics demonstrates that they have made it their top priority, not one of many. 

Our diocese is unusually well positioned for such a ministry focus, given the favorable demographics of our regions. Younger adult populations in Washington, DC and Maryland differ greatly according to class, race, culture, and educational levels and thus we will need multiple strategies. Some young adults are single; others are partnered and raising children. Some are working in high pressure vocations; others are chronically underemployed or vocationally adrift. Some have been families who have lived here for generations; others are first or second generation immigrants. 

The greatest resistance to past diocesan efforts has come from existing congregations that don’t want to lose their young adults to a new endeavor, and from some of our younger adults who are content in their congregations and prefer a multi-generational community. We have also been scattered in past efforts, with inconsistent leadership and several false starts. We need to learn from our past, discern carefully and collaboratively, and begin again in a posture of learning and adaptation.

My question to each Regional Gathering is this: What areas in your region might be particularly good soil for such experimental endeavors, and who among you feels called to be part of the exploratory conversations? Some new beginnings already exist and could be a place of greater investment. A congregation might feel called to name ministry to rising generations as its top priority. Other possibilities could involve collaborative efforts across several congregations and university ministries. 

God willing and with our faithfulness, I pray that in early 2022, we will identify up to three new expressions of Episcopal life and worship, with a priority on rising generations. If you would like to be part of such exploration in your region, please speak to your regional dean or feel free to email me directly. 

The majority of people in our congregations are over the age of 60. That is actually good news for this initiative, for as I wrote last time, those of us who are 60 or older are in the season of generativity–the time when our life’s work is to make room for rising generations and to invest in them. It’s not easy to de-prioritize ourselves, except for those we love. This ministry initiative must be one of love, not institutional survival, or it will fail. 

Next time I’ll focus on the second new goal for 2022 as stated in the Strategic Plan: We will promote Creation Care practices in all our faith communities.

The Power of Jesus’ Questions

The Power of Jesus’ Questions

Bishop Mariann gave this homily at the 2021 fall Clergy Conference. 

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. 
Mark 10:46-52

As our time together draws to a close, we thank Dr. Margaret Benefiel for her wisdom, whole-hearted presence, and confidence in us that we would bring our full selves to the work of discernment. But the choice to do so was yours. Thank you for the ways you have been present to one another and to God.

At our first session, Margaret asked us to offer one word to describe what we hoped to receive from our time together. Do you remember your word? I wonder if you have received what you asked for, in full or in part? Are there other gifts you didn’t think to ask for that you have also received?

Among all the things we can say about our Lord and Savior, surely this is true: when Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth, he was a one-person itinerant clearness committee. Sometimes you’ll see a bumper sticker or billboard that says “Jesus is the Answer.” It would be more accurate to say that Jesus is the Question. In fact, that’s the title of a book by Martin Copenhaver with the subtitle, The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered. Equally as striking as all the questions Jesus asked, Copenhaver points out, is the fact that he rarely directly answered the 183 questions he was asked. Most of the time he responded either with a story to make people think for themselves, or with a question in return.

Imagine sitting in a small group circle reflecting on the questions that Jesus asked. That’s what Copenhaver invited the members of the UCC congregation he served to do. He compiled a list of 150 of Jesus’ questions. Each group began by taking turns reading all 150 questions around the circle–without commentary, without context, without citation.

Of the experience, he writes:

Some of the questions were as familiar as our own names, and other questions felt like we were hearing them for the first time… the experience of hearing one question after another–a shower of questions, a tide of questions, helped us hear them anew in a new way that was powerful. It was as if spending time with the questions, so central to Jesus’ ministry, was a way to spend time with Jesus, and we wanted to linger there for a time.1

Sometimes our lives depend on finding the right question. Certainly that’s true in the life of faith. Whatever else it might mean to follow Jesus, we are to live with Jesus’ questions as our own, and allow them to guide our lives.

So hear again some of the questions that Jesus asked. As you listen, consider the questions you find yourself drawn to, or the one you want to run away from. Which one do you want to take with you as we take our leave this morning?

What are you looking for?

Who do people say that I am? But who do you say that I am? 

Why do you see the splinter that is in your sibling’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?

Do you want to get well?

What is your name?

Do you see this person?

What do you think? Which one of these was a neighbor to the mane who encountered thieves?

Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

Which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves at the table?

How much bread do you have?

Where is your faith?

Why are you afraid? 

Does this offend you?

Do you also wish to go away?

What do you want?

What do you want me to do for you?

What do you want me to do for you? Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus takes center stage in this Sunday’s worship. It was the same question we heard Jesus ask his disciples James and John asked last week. What do you want me to do for you?

Bartimaeus knew what he wanted. Do you know what you want? Imagine Jesus asking you that question. And allow me to channel my colleague Robert Phillips here and suggest that after you give Jesus your first answer, imagine him asking you in return, Is there more? For as Robert reminds us, there is always more. What else do you want? And what else? Allow your desires to go from surface to depth, or to touch upon every part of your life.

In 2007-09, when Michele Morgan and I were both in the Diocese of Minnesota, we served on a group that was called the Bishop’s Commission on Mission Strategy. It was one of the most challenging and important growth experiences of my life. One of the first things we did was collect and face all the hard data that told a story of the precipitous decline in many of our congregations, the lack of focus and coherent vision as to what it meant to be the Episcopal Church, and no unifying sense of identity as a diocese. It was a hard and scary process. I vividly remember one afternoon when we were all gathered at some church, and during a break Michele and I went for a walk in the parking lot. I confided in her what I had been thinking for several weeks: ““I’m not sure that it matters to God if the Episcopal Church survives.” The mission of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit was not in question in my mind, only the relevance of our church in that work.

This was right around the time when Barbara Brown Taylor–one of the most influential Episcopal priests in the country, wrote her book Leaving Church. Like what’s happening in light of the pandemic, it was as if Taylor gave a whole generation of clergy permission to leave their congregations for the sake of their souls. It felt as if everyone wanted to leave.

But Michele said something in the parking lot that day that I’ve carried with me ever since: “It matters to me. This is the church that welcomed me.” Suddenly I thought of all the other people I loved who were part of our church, both in the congregation I served and beyond, and I knew that I wasn’t going to leave, and I wasn’t going to give up. In fact, I would dedicate my vocational life to the spiritual renewal and structural transformation of our church.

That’s also when I said to God that if I were ever called to be bishop, I would give my whole heart to the work. I’m not one of those people who resisted the call to ministry–I always ran toward it. I wanted to be a priest. That day, I realized that I wanted to be a bishop.

In the ten years I have been with you, I have come to love you, and I love the people in our congregations. I hold you in my heart. If we’re going down as a denomination, like a captain on a sinking ship, I’m going  down with it. But I’m betting we won’t go down, because of the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of Jesus, and all of you.

It is a privilege to serve Christ alongside you.

Martin Copenhaver, Jesus is the Question, Kindle Version, 2014, p. 119.

Diaconal Ministry: Welcoming the Stranger

Diaconal Ministry: Welcoming the Stranger


Photo from St. John’s, Norwood Facebook page announcing coat drive for ADAMS Center

“…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
Matthew 25:35

Refugee resettlement has long been a priority of The Episcopal Church. Many in our diocese have engaged actively in this ministry. Anticipating what the massive evacuation of refugees precipitated by the withdrawal of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in August might require, Bishop Mariann called on the Diocese’s deacons — charged in The Episcopal Church with “a special ministry of servanthood to serve all people, especially those in need” — to lead us in taking on this new challenge. Through the new diocesan Afghan Refugee Response Team, our Deacons are responding to fulfill this call. They are working to make “Welcoming the Stranger” a shared, sustainable ministry throughout the Diocese, not only to meet the current emergency needs of Afghans, but also to welcome the many refugees from all over the world who will come to our communities in the future.

Meeting weekly with experienced lay leaders, the team, co-chaired by Deacon Anne Derse of St. John’s Norwood, is providing information and resources and making connections to assist parishes new to this ministry in getting involved, as well as to support the great initiatives already underway in parishes with established refugee ministries. Deacons Ethan Bishop-Henchman,  Kathryn McMahon and Mary Sebold have established new refugee committees at St. Paul’s K Street, Good Shepherd in Silver Spring, and St. Dunstan’s in Cabin John.  Deacon Terri Murphy at Ascension Silver Spring, with deacon students Adela Vasquez and Melissa Sites, is collaborating with Deacons Sara Thorne, and Adrienne Clamp at Christ Church Kensington and Redeemer, Bethesda to set up homes for newly arrived Afghan families. With support from Deacons Eugene Wright, David Griswold, and Harvey Bale at St. Anne’s Damascus, St. Columba’s, and St. David’s they are also helping the All Dulles Area Muslim Society ADAMS Center collect at least 13,000 coats this month for refugees on military bases.

At St. John’s Olney, Deacon Janice Hicks and deacon student Nancy Stockbridge are leading the parish in equipping apartments and preparing to mentor new refugees. Our active community of deacons in Southern Maryland, Marty Eldredge, Joan Crittenden, and Steve Seely have united their parishes to raise money, purchase gift cards, and assemble welcome kits for new homes. And the congregation of St. John’s Norwood, supported by Deacon Anne Derse, has just begun supporting a newly arrived Afghan family, and agreed to sponsor two more Afghan refugees for entry to the U.S. Deacons are also working on advocacy for immigration reform, connections with Muslim and Afghan communities, and collaboration with non-profits and community groups supporting refugees.

The support of faith communities makes a crucial difference in our new neighbors’ successful resettlement in the United States. Working collaboratively, our Deacons are empowering us to ensure the compassionate welcome to the stranger that Jesus calls us to offer.

The Rev. Ethan Bishop-Henchman
Deacon,  St. Paul’s, K Street

The Rev. Anne Derse
Deacon, St. John’s Norwood