Inclinándose hacia las posibilidades

Inclinándose hacia las posibilidades

Este mandamiento que hoy les doy no es demasiado difícil para ustedes, ni está fuera de su alcance. No está en el cielo, para que se diga: “¿Quién puede subir al cielo por nosotros, para que nos lo traiga y nos lo dé a conocer, y lo pongamos en práctica?”. . . Al contrario, el mandamiento está muy cerca de ustedes; está en sus labios y en su pensamiento, para que puedan cumplirlo.
Deuteronomio 30:11-14

El domingo, en camino a la iglesia, escuché el final de una conversación entre Krista Tippett, presentadora del programa de radio On Being (Siendo), y alguien de quien nunca había oído hablar, pero que ahora ha pasado a encabezar mi lista de lecturas/podcasts: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

Johnson es una joven bióloga marina dedicada a abordar nuestras crisis climáticas desde el doble punto de vista de la evaluación honesta y la creencia de que no todo está perdido. Es la editora de una antología titulada All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (Todo lo que podemos salvar: Verdad, coraje y soluciones para la crisis climática); cocreadora del podcast How to Save a Planet (Cómo salvar un planeta) y cofundadora del All We Can Save Project (Todo lo que podemos salvar). Ahora está trabajando en un manuscrito cuyo título provisional es What If We Get It Right? (¿Y si lo hacemos bien?)

Por el sonido de estos títulos, se podría suponer que Johnson es una persona naturalmente esperanzada, pero se describe a sí misma como una persona atraída por las soluciones y por hacer las cosas. “No soy fanática de la esperanza como principio rector, porque supone que el resultado será bueno, lo cual no es un hecho”, dijo. “Pero estoy completamente enamorada de la cantidad de posibilidades que están disponibles para nosotros”.

Mi corazón dio un salto cuando Johnson habló de la posibilidad de que hagamos las cosas bien, de que ya tenemos gran parte de lo que necesitamos para abordar el cambio climático y otros problemas medioambientales. “Sólo tenemos que hacerlo”, dijo.

Me pregunté: “¿En cuántas otras áreas de la vida es también cierto que ya tenemos las soluciones que necesitamos al alcance de la mano?”

El Grupo de Trabajo Diocesano para el Cuidado de la Creación está terminando su tarea inicial de hacer un balance de las muchas maneras en que nuestras congregaciones están trabajando para reducir los residuos, disminuir su dependencia de los combustibles fósiles y cuidar el mundo natural. Pronto publicaremos su informe como base para nuestros esfuerzos colectivos en el futuro.

Alerta de revelación: los esfuerzos locales son inspiradores.

Lo mismo ocurre en otros ámbitos. Hay personas entre nosotros que se dedican activamente a la equidad racial, al apoyo a los refugiados, a la inseguridad alimentaria y a la prevención de la violencia armada. Tenemos líderes apasionadamente comprometidos con la vitalidad de la congregación, con la participación de las nuevas generaciones y con animar a cada uno de nosotros a dar nuestro siguiente paso fiel en el camino de seguir a Jesús. Es inspirador estar cerca de ellos, porque ellos mismos están inspirados y motivados por el amor.

Mi oración para este verano es que todos nosotros volvamos a conectarnos con nuestras fuentes de descanso e inspiración: las personas, los lugares y las experiencias a través de las cuales Dios puede alimentar nuestras almas y animarnos a vivir con valor y amor. Porque, como insiste Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, el amor y la creencia en lo posible son lo que motiva el cambio con mucha más eficacia que la desesperación y el cinismo.

El rechazo de Johnson a una esperanza simplista basada en ilusiones está, de hecho, muy cerca de la comprensión cristiana de lo que es la esperanza: la capacidad de enfrentarse a la realidad, por difícil que sea, y seguir buscando el bien que sea posible. Como personas de fe, nos atrevemos a confiar en que Dios está actuando en medio de las realidades más desafiantes de nuestras vidas, y que por gracia y aceptación, nos unimos a Dios en la santa obra de transformar el mundo.

“Este es un momento que requiere muchos líderes”, dijo Johnson, “porque lo que necesitamos es una transformación en cada comunidad, en cada sector de la economía, en cada ecosistema, con los cientos de soluciones que tenemos. . . Se trata de cómo construir un futuro en el que queramos vivir, en el que haya un lugar para nosotros y para la gente y las cosas que amamos”.

¿No sería maravilloso que la Diócesis de Washington fuera conocida en todo el mundo por la forma en que vivimos la posibilidad de la esperanza realizada? Tal vez estemos en camino.

¿Y si, por gracia y perseverancia, hiciéramos bien las cosas más importantes?

Leaning Into Possibilities

Leaning Into Possibilities

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” . . . No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Driving to church on Sunday, I caught the end of a conversation between Krista Tippett, host of the radio program On Being and someone I’d never heard of before but who has now risen near to the top of my reading/podcast list: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

Johnson is a young marine biologist dedicated to approaching our climate crises from the dual vantage points of honest assessment and belief that all is not lost. She is the editor of an anthology entitled All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis; co-creator of a podcast How to Save a Planet and cofounder of the All We Can Save Project. She’s working on a manuscript now with the working title, What If We Get It Right?

From the sound of these titles, you might surmise that Johnson is a naturally hopeful person, but she describes herself more as one drawn to solutions and getting things done. “I’m not a fan of hope as a guiding principle, because it assumes that the outcome will be good, which is not a given,” she said. “But I am completely enamored with the amount of possibility that’s available to us.”1

My heart leapt when Johnson spoke of the possibility of our getting things right, that we already have much of what we need to address climate change and other environmental concerns. “We just have to do it,” she said.

I found myself wondering, “In how many other areas of life is it also true that we already have the solutions we need at our fingertips?”

The Diocesan Creation Care Task Force is finishing up its initial task of taking stock of the many ways our congregations are working to reduce waste, decrease their dependence on fossil fuels, and care for the natural world. We will soon publish their report as the baseline for our collective efforts going forward.

Spoiler alert: local efforts are inspiring.

So, too, in other realms. There are people among us actively engaged in the works of racial equity, refugee support, food insecurity, and the prevention of gun violence. We have leaders passionately committed to congregational vitality, engaging rising generations, and encouraging each one of us to take our next faithful step on the path of following Jesus. They are inspiring to be around, for they are themselves inspired and motivated by love.

My prayer this summer is for all of us to reconnect with our sources of rest and inspiration–the people and places and experiences through which God can nourish our souls and encourage us to live with courage and love. For as Ayana Elizabeth Johnson insists, love and the belief in the possible are what motivate change far more effectively than despair and cynicism.

Johnson’s rejection of a simplistic hope based on wishful thinking is, in fact, very close to the Christian understanding of what hope is–the capacity to face reality, no matter how difficult, and still seek whatever good is possible. As people of faith, we dare to trust that God is at work amid the most challenging realities of our lives, and that by grace and acceptance, we join God in the holy work of transforming the world.

“This is a moment that calls for many leaders,” Johnson said, “because what we need is transformation in every community, in every sector of the economy, in every ecosystem, with the hundreds of solutions we have. . . It’s all about how we build a future that we want to live in, where there’s a place for us and the people and the things that we love.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Diocese of Washington became known far and wide for the ways we live into the possibility of realized hope? Perhaps we are well on our way.

What if, by grace and perseverance, we got the most important things right?

____________
1On Being – Ayana Elizabeth Johanson: What If We Get This Right?

Interim Missioner for Equity and Justice – Rudy Logan

Interim Missioner for Equity and Justice – Rudy Logan

Please join us in welcoming Rudy Logan, who begins work as the Interim Missioner for Equity and Justice on June 27th. Rudy comes to us from IMPACT Silver Spring, where he served as the East County Network Builder. His work included organizing events and trainings centering on antiracism, conflict resolution and local Maryland Black history; advocacy efforts addressing racial disparities in Montgomery County Public School with special emphasis on promoting robust mental health resource options; and facilitating literature programs focused on race, identity, community, criminal justice, and the relation between interpersonal life and social advocacy with age groups ranging from 10 to 35.

A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Rudy, strives to orient the spaces he walks in toward antiracism and transformative justice. He believes it is imperative to ground movement work in interpersonal care for the other and finds this focus fosters the deeper conversation, trust, knowledge sharing and relationship building requisite for sustained advocacy in ministry and the larger community.

Rudy’s experience as a Christian minister and justice advocate will bring a holistic lens to his work as Interim Missioner for Equity and Justice. Bishop Mariann writes, “From our first conversation, I was impressed with Rudy’s thoughtfulness, gentle spirit, and desire to pursue justice within Christian community.”

Rudy shares, “I’m excited to join the Episcopal Diocese of Washington! I look forward to getting to know the community and exploring what justice looks like together.”

Variations on the Theme of Limitlessness – National Cathedral School Commencement Address

Variations on the Theme of Limitlessness – National Cathedral School Commencement Address

Dr. Scully, Mr. Moran, Members of the NCS Governing Board, NCS Faculty and Administrators, Distinguished Guests, Parents, Family Members and Friends, I’m honored to be among you and to have the honor of speaking to the NCS graduation class of 2022.

Since the day Dr. Scully asked me to be your commencement speaker, I’ve been pondering the word that as a class you feel best expresses your collective approach to life: limitless.

It’s such a great word, and closely related to another word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately–courage–and specifically how we learn courage, how we learn to be brave. So I’d like to reflect with you about three different experiences of limitlessness and courage. No doubt there are more than three, but these rose to the surface for me as I thought of you.

Here’s the thing: you already know everything I am about to say. My hope is that by hearing me say what you already know, it might help you remember whenever you find yourself in one of those circumstances that cause you to doubt what you know. It happens to all of us, and when it does, it’s good to have images and words in your head to help you come back to yourself. If I do my job here reasonably well, something of what I say might be one of those reminders for you.

Limitless experience number one: when you’re at the top of your game and you know it. It’s an amazing feeling, for you have every confidence that you have what it takes to meet a particular challenge, cross a given barrier, or accomplish a specific task. The task itself can be large or small; it can be something you’re really excited about or something you dread. Whatever it is, you know that you can do it. In some instances–surely the most important–you have the sense that you must do it, and you’re ready.

I’m reminded here of a scene from the film that came out last year about the rise of Venus and Serena Wiliams, King Richard. Most of the film, as you know, focuses on their dad and how he raised and coached them. And as fascinating as Will Smith’s portrayal is of their dad, I couldn’t take my eyes off the girls–how hard they worked at their game, how they loved and supported each other, and at key moments, how they each stepped up with self-assurance.

In one scene, a prospective coach asks Venus, “I know what your dad wants. But what do you want?” Venus replies, “I want to win Wimbledon as many times as anyone’s ever won it.” Taken aback, he says, “You think you can do that?” Without hesitation, she says “I know I can.” The coach then turns to Serena, “And what about you? Who on the tour do you want to play like?” Serena answers,” Well I’d like other people to want to play like me.” While that kind of confidence can sound arrogant, it didn’t as they spoke it. They were simply clear. And they were ready.

You know as well as I that that kind of self-assurance doesn’t drop out of the sky, nor is it a house you can build on sand. It’s the result of natural aptitude combined with tons of practice and skill building, a few lucky breaks, and the sweet sense of serendipity that puts you in a certain place at just the right time to cross whatever threshold is before you. There’s also risk involved–that for all the confidence you feel, you may not cross it this time. But the risk doesn’t stop you, nor does failure. As the former leader of the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, used to say in regards to her commitment to end child poverty in this country (a compelling goal worth giving your life to): “Better to fail at something worth doing than to succeed in mediocrity.” That, incidentally, is one of my reminders.

Which brings me to limitless experience number two, on the other end of the experiential spectrum: when you’re up against a limit and you don’t have what it takes to cross it. Again, it could be anything, but the inner realization is the same. No matter how many times you say the word limitless, in this particular circumstance, you are up against a wall that you cannot climb and you know it.

Part of this is simply facing the humbling reality of the distance between your aspirations and current capabilities. As the writer James Clear once wrote, “It’s always easier to recognize beauty than to create it.”

Ira Glass is a name you might recognize (I’m pretty sure that most of your parents know who he is). For nearly 30 years he’s been the host of a public radio show and now a podcast called This American Life. He once reflected upon the artistic experience that rings true for all worthwhile endeavors, whenever you come up against your current limitations. He said this:

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t good. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

 

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

 

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work, they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

 

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story (Or whatever it is you’re working on). It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.1

Again, I know that you know this, given all that you’ve already done to close the gap between your vision and your capacities. But it’s unlikely that you’ve peaked at 18, which means that your aspirations are still higher than your abilities, as they should be. It might be helpful to remember that this is to be expected as you face into the gap time again and again and plow on.

A word to those of you who feel a call to leadership of any kind: You also already know that challenge isn’t only that of your personal limitations but also those of the group, or organization, community, or nation that you’re trying to lead.

The leader’s task varies according to the size of the gap between the vision and the group’s capacity, not to mention the collective will to do the work. You’ve got that balance between creating a sense of urgency without succumbing to despair. Beware of despair and its sister emotion, cynicism–your own or anyone else’s. Nothing kills collective motivation quicker, for it takes absolutely no energy whatsoever to be despairing or cynical. But to be creative and hopeful in challenging times, as well as being painstakingly honest and self-reflective and accountable to the vision entrusted to you–that takes effort, and it’s what makes a leader.

Now to the third, and final experience of limitlessness that I’ll mention today, by far the most humbling–and the most personally transformative. This is where faith comes in. By faith, I mean the willingness to entrust ourselves to the spiritual realm that exists both within, among and beyond us that in our limited understandings we name with words like “God,” or “Creator,” or “Higher Power,” and that through the traditions, stories and pracitices of religious traditions such as Christianity or Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, we gain insights for living beyond what we can adequately express or understand. I speak as a Christian–others speak in the language of their tradition or worldview–but the mystery we’re attempting to name is common to all.

This third experience of limitlessness is when the limit prevails, be it in the form of a goal we will never reach. Our path has been blocked by something outside of our control. It could be an illness–ours or someone else’s– an accident, or a tragedy of epic proportions such as what we have experienced in the last two years and continue to witness far too frequently across the nation and the world. It could be a conflict that we cannot resolve or a problem that we cannot fix.

In these instances, it doesn’t help to tell yourself that if you had just tried harder, you could have prevailed in the ways you once hoped or imagined you could. It certainly isn’t helpful to blame yourself, to drown in a self-inflicted sea of shame or to accept others’ attempts to shame or belittle you. This is the time to be your own best friend.

And what do you do then? Here all great wisdom and spiritual traditions say the same thing: let go. Let go, and as they say in 12-step spirituality, and let God.

Letting go can take many forms, none of them involving giving up.

I’ll describe one way by way of a story from the Christian Scriptures. There was a day when Jesus and his disciples had gone to a remote location in order to rest, but a large and needy crowd followed them. Jesus had compassion upon the crowd, and he and the disciples worked from sunup to sundown tending to the people’s needs.

At the end of the day, the now exhausted disciples turned to Jesus and stated the obvious–that the hour was late, the people were hungry, and as they had no food to offer, it was time for Jesus to send the crowd away. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead he asks the disciples what food they had to offer. All we have is a few loaves of bread and some fish, they told him, but what is that among so many? Bring them to me, Jesus said. Jesus took their loaves and fish, offered thanks to God, gave them back to the disciples for them to distribute among the people. There was sufficient food for everyone to have their fill with baskets left over.

Now that’s a fantastic tale, I know, and improbable on so many levels. Yet I, for one, live my life inside it every day. For its invitation is clear: even when you know that what you have to give isn’t enough, offer it anyway. Even when you know that you can’t accomplish on your own what needs to be done, do what you can. Even when you don’t have enough love, or kindness, or money, or food to make a lasting difference in someone’s life, give what you have anyway.

Sometimes God shows up in the gap between what we have to give and what’s needed, and makes up the difference. I don’t know how that happens; I only know that sometimes it does, not always, but enough to make the effort worthwhile. The experience of being met in that space by a power and a presence takes your inadequate offering and provides through it what is needed instills within you a different kind of courage and confidence–not in yourself, but in God’s providence and grace.

You can go a long way on that kind of experience, because you realize that you’re not alone, and everything doesn’t depend on you. The more you live from that place of faith, the more you encourage others to do the same, which may have been what happened on the day when the disciples offered what they had. Maybe they inspired others to give what little they had, too, and as a result, all had enough.

Another way of letting go is to accept the limit you cannot cross and take it in as part of your reality. This is really hard, and it should only be a last resort, when you’ve done everything you can think of and there’s nothing left but to accept what you cannot change.

Over time, what acceptance does is enable you to grow large enough inside to take in what you cannot change, and not be completely defined by it. It’s part of you, but it’s not all of you, and life goes on. The narrative of your life–the arc of it–now contains this limit, but you are no longer limited by it in the same way. It becomes part of your offering to the world. This is not easy, and it takes time and struggle and the mysterious alchemy that in religious language we call grace–God’s gift of mercy and transforming power.

Let me leave you with an image of what that kind of acceptance and letting go and taking it in can look like. It’s from another film from last year that won the Academy Award for Best Picture: CODA. It tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Ruby, the only hearing person in her family. All her life she’s felt like an outcast in school, and at home she serves as primary negotiator for her family’s fishing business. When we first meet Ruby, we also learn that she loves to sing and secretly wants to pursue her dream of being a singer.

Through the film we watch Ruby struggle between her loyalty to her family and her dream, until she finally decides that it’s too hard and she has to let the dream go. But then her family, her teacher, and the very sweet boy she has a crush on all encourage her to go ahead and audition to be accepted into a music conservatory. So she goes, and we watch as she falls apart on stage. Her teacher, who is accompanying her on the piano, pretends to make a mistake and asks if they can both start again.

Then we see Ruby’s moment of acceptance and transcendence as she decides to sing and sign in ASL. She’s no longer trying to escape from the pain, the struggle, the in-betweenness of her life; instead she takes it in and makes it part of her artistic offering.

You are the National Cathedral School graduating class of 2022: you have been educated here by a wondrous community guided in its belief in your power as young women. Your power is a wonder to behold, and we celebrate you.

But they, and I, also believe in something more, a different kind of power. We believe that there is grace and mercy and strength that will sustain and guide you–cheering you on as you cross countless thresholds, there for you in the slog of hard work and necessary failures, and at the ready to help you grow large enough inside to transform the limits you cannot overcome and make them part of your creative offering.

Don’t ever imagine that you are alone, because you’re not. The Spirit of God working in you will indeed accomplish far more than you could ask for or imagine, with a power that is truly limitless. To that grace and power, we entrust you now.

Amen.
_________
1https://jamesclear.com/ira-glass-failure

 

Introduction to the 2022 Annual Giving Campaign Toolkit

Introduction to the 2022 Annual Giving Campaign Toolkit

“See, I am doing a new thing.”
Isaiah 43:19

If you are new to stewardship or would like to gather with others who are doing the same kind of work in congregations across the diocese, you are warmly invited to attend one of our Annual Giving Workshops.

Annual Giving Campaign Workshops
Saturday, July 9 | 10:00 AM | Grace Church, Silver Spring
Thursday, July 28 | 7:00 PM | Zoom

Register for a Workshop

Annual Giving Campaign Toolkit Resources page

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is pleased to share the 2022 Online Annual Giving Toolkit. The theme for this year, See, I Am Doing a New Thing, comes from the prophet Isaiah, and reminds us that God is always doing something new. As ever, undertaking an Annual Giving Campaign is an opportunity for parish leadership to remind congregations that their financial pledges are a crucial investment in the future life and ministry of the church.

For many, the recent past has been a mixture of uncertainty and concern, excitement and hope. We have continued to live with the ongoing pandemic, never quite knowing what the next day might bring or when the next surge in cases might come. At the same time, we have been able to regather inside our churches, worship together in-person, see old friends and welcome new ones, many of whom we have only known online.

While we continue to cherish the traditions that ground us and help provide some much-desired stability, the wilderness of the pandemic has also given us a chance to reevaluate how we can best follow Jesus into, as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry proclaims, a loving, liberating, and life-giving relationship with God, with each other, and with the earth. Long standing ministries have been revitalized with new ideas and focus. Buildings, sanctuaries, and worship spaces are being viewed with fresh perspectives. New ministries have sprung to life. Across the Diocese of Washington, we have:

  • Sponsored families fleeing war and hardship from around the world
  • Helped people experiencing food insecurity find healthy meals for their families
  • Supported community members on the edge of homelessness in finding resources to pay utility bills
  • Offered a warm and safe place to rest for people who are unhoused

Throughout the Scriptures, we see God and God’s people “doing a new thing.” In Genesis, God did the first new thing by creating the world out of a dark void, promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, and gave the 10 Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The prophets reminded the Israelites to look for new things in unexpected places. In the Incarnation, we see and experience the ultimate new thing as Jesus lives, dies, and rises again in our midst.

God is also inviting us to continue the work of discerning how best to preach the gospel afresh in this and in every generation. Through the financial support of our parishes, we join together with the Holy Spirit in breathing life, light, and hope into the world. This kind of engagement requires thoughtful and prayerful financial commitment from each of us.

No two congregations are the same in terms of available time and resources to conduct their Annual Giving Campaign.

With this in mind, we invite you to explore, modify, and use the materials collected in this toolkit in whatever ways will be most helpful to your parish. Your greatest success will come from adapting the timeline and other offerings to reflect your congregation’s unique needs and experiences. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions if something seems unclear or if you’d like further guidance. The Financial Resources Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is ready to assist you in conducting a successful Annual Giving Campaign.

Email the Financial Resources Committee

2022 Clergy Conference – Save the Date

2022 Clergy Conference – Save the Date

Dear Clergy of the Diocese of Washington,

Your bishop, regional deans and diocesan staff look forward to your presence and participation at the 2022 Fall Clergy Conference, October 24-26 at the Maritime Center in Baltimore.

The focus this year will be on clergy wellness and how we walk alongside one another in our call to serve God’s people. We will provide ample time for you to gather with peers and to explore new collegial relationships. And – while the regional deans and diocesan staff are still working on a final agenda –we are excited to announce that The Rev. Dr. Allison St. Louis will be our conference leader.

Rev. St. Louis says:

“I am passionate about supporting individuals and groups in using their time on this earth wisely – to develop their strengths, attend to their growing edges, and live a joy-filled and purpose-centered life!“

We believe this will be well worth your time and that you will leave encouraged and supported.

Please remember that it is our bishop’s expectation that parish clergy will attend Clergy Conference.

Registration will open in early September. For now, we ask you to hold October 24-26 on your calendar for Clergy Conference 2022. Scholarships will be available.

We look forward to gathering with you in the fall.

Faithfully,

The Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery
Canon for Congregational Vitality