Repairing the Breach: Reparations as Healing – EDOW’s Evening with Dr. Catherine Meeks

Repairing the Breach: Reparations as Healing – EDOW’s Evening with Dr. Catherine Meeks

“For the Diocese of Washington reparations is the spiritual practice of the beloved community. It involves a process to remember, repair, restore, and reconcile historical and continuing wrongs against humanity that can never be singularly reducible to monetary terms, but must include a substantial investment and surrender of resources. Reparations is principally concerned with the harms done to those most hard pressed by the system of injustice and speaks to the health of all humanity.”
– Working Definition of Reparations by EDOW Reparations Task Force, 2022

Holding this definition, we are honored to invite you to join “Repairing the Breach: Reparations as Healing – EDOW’s evening with Dr. Catherine Meeks” on Saturday, May 21, 2022, 4:30-6:00 p.m. EST at Calvary Episcopal Church in DC.

This dynamic presentation & panel discussion will focus on “Repairing the Breach: Reparations as Healing” in an effort to continue laying the foundation for EDOW’s commitment to remembering, reckoning and reconciling our histories pertaining to racism. With such an amazing keynote speaker found in Dr. Catherine Meeks, Director of The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, we knew it would be a gift to put her in conversation with powerful leaders in our community. We are excited to have our local clergy, the Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher Stewart and the Rev. Peter Jarrett-Schell join as panelists alongside Mr. Don Edwards, a trusted diocesan and wider church colleague and advisor for the work of racial equity & healing. We are in for a treat!

Registration is requested. Please RSVP here.
*Please note, we will observe appropriate COVID-safety protocols for this event.


About the speakers: 

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Catherine Meeks, Director of The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing
Panelist: The Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher Stewart, President of the DC Chapter of The Union of Black Episcopalians
Panelist: The Rev. Peter Jarrett-Schell, Chair of the EDOW Reparations Task Force and Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church
Panelist: Mr. Don Edwards, Founder, CEO and a principal of Justice and Sustainability Associates


The Work Continues – Save the Date!

Building from the Repairing the Breach: Reparations as Healing – EDOW’s evening with Dr. Catherine Meeks event, we’ll have the opportunity to continue with this work in the coming months. We invite you to mark your calendars for The Diocesan Reparations Symposium on Saturday, October 1, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Calvary Episcopal Church.

We’ll hear from historians researching the history of Diocesan participation in chattel slavery, EDOW congregations investigating their own legacies with race and racism, and Black community leaders working on the question of repair in the DMV.

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will deliver the keynote, laying out the theological and spiritual foundations for reparations work. Participants will leave with concrete next steps to share with our congregations.

Registration for this event will open in late May. For now, please save the date!

Short Course for Parish Vitality

Short Course for Parish Vitality

Consider taking one or more of the following short-courses as a vestry or leadership team. The first course is a stand-alone introduction to vitality. The final four are meant to be taken in sequence. To take any as a team with private access, please contact The Rev. Emily Snowden, Coordinator for the School.

Introduction to the Vital Signs of Parish Health
Learn about the Seven Vital Signs of Parish Health, including prompts and ideas about engaging the signs more deeply in your congregation. Instructor: Anne-Marie Jeffery (Register here)

We Need Alignment
This short-course overview, based on the Unstuck Process, clarifies for teams that “why” we do ministry comes before the “how”. The materials presented will set the foundation for how your team will be moving through a strategic process that aligns every team and every team member to the work they are called to do and teams will learn the life-cycle of a congregation, vital signs of parish health and the strategic alignment pyramid. Instructor: Mark Meyer (Register here)

We Need to Face Outward
Who is God inviting you to reach out to share Jesus’ liberating, life-giving love both in acts of service and invitations to know and be in relationship with God in community? Learn how to become a congregation that reaches out to neighbors. Instructor: Mark Meyer (Register here)

We Need a Vision
Vision and values are terms often talked about but rarely implemented within parishes. Without vision, congregations tend to look inward and talk (and sometimes bicker) about smaller things. This short course offers an opportunity to develop and cast a vision to be part of something bigger than any of us could do on our own. Instructor: Mark Meyer (Register here)

We Need a Plan
How your team fundamentally operates will have a huge impact on whether your team and your people will accomplish your faith community’s vision plan. Breaking down goals into next steps, equipping your team, and keeping folks’ focused on the vision are all necessary elements for success. This short course covers organizational goals, path of discipleship, and growth engines. Instructor: Mark Meyer (Register here)

Parish Website Design and Hosting Program

Parish Website Design and Hosting Program

In the wake of a two-year pandemic, there can no longer be any doubt that a parish’s website serves as the digital “front door” of a congregation. Or that an effectively designed and well-positioned website is essential for welcoming and connecting both parishioners and visitors to a parish’s mission and ministry.

To better position our congregations in this digital world, we’ve partnered with Worship Times – the team that helped to redesign the diocesan website – to bring a new cost-effective, secure, and robust web design and hosting solution to parishes in the Diocese of Washington.

This new design and hosting solution for congregations offers a number of benefits, including:

  • An initial parish website audit to assess needs
  • Website design and set-up
  • Website hosting
  • Easy to use content management system for handling parish news, events, service times, online forms and more
  • Rapid support response from the Worship Times team
  • Improved search engine optimization (so folks can find you more easily)
  • Access to training in best practices for parish websites and social media presence
  • Regular and timely site maintenance to ensure peak security
  • Option to share diocesan content on parish websites (e.g. Bishop’s sermons and reflections, the Path of Discipleship)

Each parish is unique – and so is each parish website – which is why we made sure this opportunity is not a “one size fits all.” With three tiers of functionality (basic, standard, or advanced) and price points for development between $800 and $4,000 and hosting fees below $50/mo, parishes are able to select what features and site capacity they need for their ministry context.

We’re excited by this opportunity for parishes to work with Worship Times. With years of experience providing design and hosting services for diocesan and parish websites, their friendly and professional team offers knowledge and guidance in the particular aspects that make parish websites successful. They’re also equipped to provide ongoing training and support in optimizing the effectiveness of a successful online presence – another huge plus.

We are confident this new partnership with a trusted vendor will help parishes maximize the potential of their digital “front door.” If this sounds like something your parish would be interested in, please contact Keely Thrall, Director of Communications.

Congregational Growth Grants are available to provide funds for initiatives that support enhancements to parish communications and technology. We invite you to review the grant requirements and consider submitting an application by May 6 for the spring grant cycle. Another cycle of Congregational Growth Grants will open in the fall.

Learn about Congregational Growth Grants

Parish Website Design and Hosting Program – Explanation of Tiers and Costs

Parish leaders wishing to take advantage of the Parish Website Design and Hosting Program are invited to learn more about the three tiers of functionality and associated costs so that they may choose the option best suited for their ministry context.

Basic
Design Fee: $800
Monthly Hosting Fee: $35
Functionality: 2-3 pages with premade template

Standard
Design Fee: $2,000
Monthly Hosting Fee: $35
Functionality: Events managements system, blog, forms, publications, and social media tie-ins

Advanced
Design Fee: $4,000
Monthly Hosting Fee: $47
Functionality: All the functionality of the Standard option, plus: drag and drop template, SEO tools, live streaming tie-ins, and advanced forms and events system

Homily in Celebration and Thanksgiving for the Life of Madeleine Korbel Albright

Homily in Celebration and Thanksgiving for the Life of Madeleine Korbel Albright

Let me begin by expressing my condolences to the Albright family and to all who were blessed to know Madeleine Albright as a colleague, mentor, and friend. Thank you for the honor of being part of this celebration of her life. It means more than I can say.

The most important words have already been spoken. What we have heard about the one who came into this world as Marie Jana Korbel, or Madlenka, as she was known as a child, is testimony to the theological adage: “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Drawing upon every circumstance and experience, both wondrous and harsh, Madeleine learned to live fully and well, as the Apostle Paul wrote of his own life, when she had little and when she had plenty, in times of hardship and times of joy. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” Paul wrote. (Philippians 4:13) Madeleine was more circumspect about her faith in God, though it was the foundation beneath her.

I’ve spent the last two weeks reading her memoirs and some of her speeches, which has felt like a master class in life and leadership. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

I was especially struck by her capacity for self-reflection–her awareness of her strengths and vulnerabilities, her ability to celebrate accomplishments and acknowledge mistakes. “Lives are necessarily untidy and uneven,” she wrote, “It is important, however, to have some guiding star. For me, that star has always been faith in the democratic promise that each person should be able to go as far as his or her talents will allow.”1

I also learned about many of you, as seen through Madeleine’s eyes. She was effusive in her praise and admiration, quick to celebrate your gifts and contributions to this country and beyond. She was generous and respectful about those with whom she disagreed, sometimes vehemently, on policy matters. She was discreet. And she had the capacity to recognize, as criminal justice reformer Bryan Stevenson so powerfully reminds us, that each one of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done, or the best thing, for that matter. We are all more than how we present ourselves publicly or are perceived by others. We are more than our role in each other’s lives, more than our opinions on certain issues, and certainly more than our affiliation in a political party, faith tradition or whatever else might separate us from one another.

Never once in her writings did she describe herself as a godly person, but as I read, I kept thinking of these words from the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister: “The godly are those who never talk destructively about another person–in anger, in spite, in vengefulness–and who can be counted on to bring an open heart to a closed and clawing world.” Chittister goes on: “The holy ones are those who live well with those around them. They are just, they are upright, they are kind. The ecology of humankind is safe with them.”2 The ecology of humankind was safe with Madeleine Albright.

She had very strong words, however, for those who, in her estimation, abused their power and caused others to suffer, particularly those on the world stage whose actions adversely affected millions, and she did all in her power to defeat them.

Speaking of power, Madeleine wrote that her political career began when she served on the board of trustees of Beauvoir, the early elementary school here on the Cathedral Close. “In life one thing leads to another, and in Washington one personal recommendation does too.”3 She described her time serving on the Cathedral’s leadership board, known as the Chapter, during a time when this nave was being completed. At a service when the expanded nave’s cornerstone was laid, she read a lesson from the pulpit, “tasting a bit of my childhood dream of becoming a priest” she wrote, though The Episcopal Church had yet to ordain women. She claimed to have learned as much about politics on the Cathedral Chapter as she did working in campaigns–which you know is true.4 But I daresay she also learned as much about faith in the political arena as she did in church, because that is where her faith was lived.

I’d like to dwell a bit longer on Madeleine’s understanding of power. By way of illustration, let me share a moment seared in my memory that some of you may also recall. It was on the day of President Obama’s second inauguration. We had gathered at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square for a private prayer service for the president and vice president and their families, with other invited guests. I don’t know if Madeleine was there. The preacher was Andy Stanley from Northpoint Church in Atlanta. He stood at the pulpit, looked at the president, and then at all of us, and asked, “What do you do when you know that you are the most powerful person in the room?” He wasn’t just speaking about the power of the presidency. From parents to presidents, we all know what it’s like to be the most powerful person. And what do we do with our power? Good preacher that he was, Stanley reminded us of what Jesus of Nazareth did on the night he shared a final meal with his disciples before he was arrested and subsequently executed. He was clearly the most powerful person in that room, and he assumed the role of a servant, washing his disciples feet.

For Madeleine Albright, power was an essential tool for making things happen. She felt called to positions of authority and influence, and she pursued those positions unapologetically. (The chapter in which she described lobbying behind the scenes to be President Clinton’s choice for Secretary of State ought to be required reading for every woman aspiring to leadership.) She relished being the powerful person in the room, and she used her power in service to others. When she needed to take on some of the world’s biggest bullies, she did, unflinchingly on the exterior, no matter how she felt inside. When she needed to hold back, pivot, or compromise, she did that, too, mastering the art of what our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes as “standing and kneeling at the same time,” which is to say, being at once strong in conviction and humble in spirit.5 She was also aware that with increasing positions of power, one’s mistakes become more costly. Her mistakes grieved her, as did her failures, but she was determined to learn from them and carry on.

I close with a nod toward the mystery of the eternal consequences of our lives, acknowledging the ancient human intuition, embedded in all faith traditions, that there is, in fact, another realm beyond this life. Still on this side of death myself, I know as much about that realm as you do, but I believe in it, what connects us in this life to that realm in those moments of transcendence and grace, of peace surpassing understanding, of unconditional love, of faith as the assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things unseen. The best way to prepare for that other realm is to live fully in this one, to cherish life until the time comes for us to let it go, and to do what we can to make life better for others.

Let me leave you with Madeleine’s closing words from Prague Winter, her exploration of her Jewish heritage and the cataclysmic events that shaped her early childhood.
As you can imagine, she had cited many examples of cruelty and betrayal in that heartbreaking book, but she wrote, “they are not what I will take with me as I move to life’s next chapter. In the world where I choose to live, even the coldest winter must yield to agents of spring and the darkest view of human nature must eventually find room for shafts of light.”6

She concluded with this:

I have spent a lifetime looking for remedies for all manner of life’s problems–personal, social, political, global. . . I believe that we can recognize truth when we see it, just not at first and not without ever relenting in our effort to know more. This is because the goal we see, and the good we hope for, comes not as a final reward but as the hidden companion to our quest. It is not what we find, but the reason we cannot stop looking and striving that tells us why we are here.

You don’t need me to remind you that we live in perilous times. And I have no doubt that Madeleine’s final words to us would be ones of encouragement, to keep looking for the truth, striving for good, and cherishing life in all its wondrous complexity and beauty. She would want us to claim our power and use it to serve others. She would want us all to follow our north star–what ultimate purpose guides us in times of grace and adversity and calls us back whenever we stray off course.7

So leave here today resolved, in words attributed to John Wesley, “to do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, for all the people you can, for as long as you can.”

As you do, the God of compassion will go with you, and rest assured that Madeleine is cheering you on.

Amen.

________
1Madeleine Albright, Madam Secretary. Kindle Version, p.10.
2Joan Chittister, O.S.B, The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), 24.
3Madam Secretary, Kindle edition, 91.
4Ibid, 96.
5Michael Curry, Love is the Way: Holding Onto Hope in Troubling Times (New York Avery/Penguin Random House, 2020), 181.
6Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 414
7Ibid, 415.

Thriving Congregations

Thriving Congregations

In 2020 the Diocese of Washington launched the Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations initiative. We have been working with 12 congregations since September and learning more and more about the practices of thriving congregations. We are not alone in such an endeavor. More than 80 institutions across the United States are leading thriving congregations initiatives. Among them is Vibrant Faith, based in Minnesota.

After working with 28 congregations across the country, they have identified these six practices of thriving congregations:

Practice 1: Presence Matters—Thriving follows an increased capacity to be present to God, to one another, and to the world. What is your church already doing to fuel presence in these three targets? What can you subtract from what you’re doing so you can add more presence-practices into your mix?

Practice 2: Look to the Early Church—Yes, our context is completely different. But Churches in the early centuries grew and spread throughout the world because Christians:

  • Loved Jesus above all else,
  • Loved one another well (took care of conflict and took care of the poor), and
  • Made their relationship with God central to their daily lives.

The power of those things hasn’t changed. How can your church focus on intentional relationships even more than you do now?

Practice 3: Listen—We asked our Thriving Congregations churches to listen before they planned. They listened in their community, to the people of their congregation, and online. They asked questions about people’s longings and losses. They used what they heard to plan a faith-formation experiment. What can you do to make listening a regular practice in your ministry?

Practice 4: Focus on Formation—What is shaping the lives and concerns of your people? How can you use those shaping influences as ways to connect people to an everyday relationship with the God who loves them?

Practice 5: Re-Invent—Many of our “ways of doing things” have lost their meaning. Or it might be that what has been meaningful to us is no longer meaningful for others. Often, we get overwhelmed by these realities and think we must come up with whole new ways of being Christian and practicing our faith. In reality, we just need to do what Christians have always done—re-invent ways that will meet the needs of people in today’s world. To use an obvious example, Christians have always practiced hospitality. What does it look like to practice hospitality online?

Practice 6: Experiment—Try one re-invention for four months. Evaluate and tweak. Decide whether to keep at it or give it up for another re-invention that might be more promising. Don’t think of any re-inventions as permanent changes… yet.

Note: These six practices and their description are reprinted from an April 26th, 2022 Vibrant Faith article by Dr. Nancy Going, Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. If you want to learn more about these 6 practices, consider purchasing the recording of the Vibrant Faith Master Class that explores them here.

The School for Chrisitain Faith and Leadership is proud to offer a host of courses, both live and on-demand, to help your congregation thrive. Take a look and join us!

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