Equity and Justice Midyear Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Experience of Parish Transition

The experience of parish transition spans a wide and vast emotional spectrum. Currently in the diocese, there are 20+ parishes in active transition (i.e. parishes that do not have a “settled” priest). Some parishes are positioned very well to absorb the effects of clergy leadership changes. But other parishes may not be as well positioned to weather the winds of such changes. For these parishes, transition is fraught with anxiety and frustration further exacerbated with a sense of urgency to get back to normal.

While the winds of clergy leadership change may be daunting, they need not be debilitating. Transition provides exciting opportunities for growth and healing, especially through reflecting upon the identity of the parish. What has been the identity of the parish in the past? What is the current identity of the parish? What is the identity that God is calling the parish to develop and live into? Truly, if the experience of parish transition is embraced with an openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the experience can weave a richness of texture within the fabric of parish identity that may have never been imagined!

The experience of parish transition also provides an opportunity for not only nurturing healthy relationships, but also healing broken and fractured relationships. Community Counselor, Christine Langley-Obaugh suggests that, “We repeat what we don’t repair,” implying that any and all elephants in the room need to be acknowledged and managed if there is to be any movement towards healthy relationship development. Normalizing dysfunctional behavior further develops a dysfunctional parish DNA that, if not addressed, can lead to a toxic environment that is far from life giving, but rather anxiety producing. Addressing these elephants in the room can breed healing and ultimately stimulate personal growth in new and profound ways.

Again, the experience of parish transition can be daunting, but it does not need to become debilitating. During this Pentecost season, if your parish is currently experiencing transition, invite the winds of the Holy Spirit to blow upon you guiding you towards spaces of exploring your identity and developing healthy relationships with God, others, and self.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Phillips
Canon for Leadership Development and Congregational Care

 

 

2019 Fall Congregational Growth Grants Awarded

Fall Grants Awarded

During the November meeting, Diocesan Council awarded seven congregational grants totaling $91,850 in six diocesan regions.

In Central DC, the Church of the Epiphany will continue to enhance their justice work through The Epiphany Power Hour, a free social justice conversation series taking place every Thursday. The Power Hour was born out of Epiphany’s long history of befriending the poor, coupled with the community organizing experience of our rector, the Reverend Glenna Huber.

In North DC, Trinity, DC will concentrate its efforts on revitalization through focused attention on a Family Ministry initiative. It is designed to expand and grow their commitment to the Jesus Movement through an intentional outreach effort into their surrounding neighborhood to attract families and head of households who are in the age range of 30-45 and their children.

In South DC, St. Augustine’s will be able to embark on the work of the Unstuck Group.

In Southern Maryland, two parishes received grants: Christ Church, La Plata and Christ Church, Wayside will expand on their HeartSongs open-mic program they implemented in the Spring and will offer a fresh expression Sunday evening worship service.  St. Paul’s, Piney will partner with area elementary school through relationship-based outreach that will be rooted in one of the parish’s four core values of bringing God’s hope, healing, and fellowship to their community.

In Central Montgomery County, St. Mary Magdalene will expand and support their music program between both English and Spanish speaking congregations as music is a vital part of worship in a multicultural community.

In North Montgomery County, St. Anne’s will embark on creating a fresh expression of worship that uses the information gained  using MissionInsite and Experian Mosaic lifestyle categories that were more likely to respond to a unique experience and message of God. 

St. George’s, Glenn Dale Youth Group Mission Trip to Puerto Rico

St. George’s, Glenn Dale Youth Group Mission Trip to Puerto Rico

 

This summer, the Youth Group from St. George’s Episcopal Church, Glenn Dale went on a mission trip to Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Below is a reflection of their time there, in their own words. 

Looking back now, none of us anticipated how life-changing and impactful our 2018 mission trip would be. For several years St. George’s Youth Group discussed going to Puerto Rico, but the amount of money required discouraged us. When Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017, we feared that chaotic events occurring on the mainland would overshadow the devastation taking place in Puerto Rico the following months. We then decided we were going to make reaching Puerto Rico a priority. To bring all 11 members, we needed to raise $10,000. At first, this number was daunting, but the generous support from our Parish amazed us all. Throughout the year, we worked to put together several fundraising events which displayed just how compassionate our parish is as a community and a family. Events included raking leaves, putting on a pancake supper, selling flowers for Mother’s Day (and many more). Our most successful event was the post-trip dinner which 100 people attended, including the bishop.

When we first arrived in Puerto Rico, we were taken aback by the lack of progress, because we came 7 months after Hurricane Maria. We were anxious to help with the rebuilding process; however, we learned once we arrived in Arecibo that we would be split into different groups, some helping with manual reconstruction and others with emotional and relational work. At first, those who were sent to relational work sites were afraid that we weren’t contributing enough, but as the week progressed we formed incredible relationships that would change our perspective. It was amazing to see how, in such a short time, we were able to create unforgettable bonds with the children. The group who worked at the manual labor sites not only helped construction, including repairing the sanctuary in an Episcopal Church, but also built meaningful relationships with the congregation and construction workers at their sites.

 

During our trip, we witnessed genuine happiness in a community that we expected to be disheartened. It was uplifting to see the community’s positivity despite their circumstances and taught us that the strength of faith would overcome even in the darkest of times. Throughout our experiences, we learned many things, but the people of Puerto Rico taught us one of the most meaningful lessons, which is to persevere and remain compassionate. We came back from the trip being more appreciative both of what we have and the significance of our faith. We all anticipated that this trip would bring us closer to God, but our expectations were surpassed. It is easy to feel a connection with God through the action of service but what surprised us was that we saw the face of God more through the people we encountered. In a quote by Staff member and friend, Danny, “Different languages may divide us, but our hearts speak to us as a universal language.” We were struck by how much this quote resembled our experience. Despite the language barrier, our love and faith in God are what ultimately brought us together. No matter how different we may be, God will always connect us in unexpected ways.

Marilyn Prosser Yang
Rebekah Rowe
Speaking on behalf of the St. George’s, Glenn Dale Youth Group

Claggett Summer 2018 – A Joyful, Spirit-filled Season of Love

Claggett Summer 2018 – A Joyful, Spirit-filled Season of Love


For many years the Claggett Center has been hosting successful summer camps for Maryland’s young people. This year for the first time, EDOW has partnered with Claggett and the Diocese of Maryland – a collaboration that supports Claggett Summer Camps as the destination for EDOW campers and staff, this summer and going forward.

Claggett Center provides an ideal camp setting – 268 acres that include a working farm and extensive facilities, including a junior Olympic-size pool, a ropes course and zipline, hiking trails, and canoeing. It is holy ground to be sure – with gorgeous views of Sugarloaf Mountain and the surrounding Monocacy River valley.

There were four sessions this summer – featuring three week-long camps: High School Week, Middle School Week, and Youth Week – each hosting 60 campers, including boys and girls from Washington. A fourth session brought participants in the Sutton Scholars High School Enrichment Program – 80 Baltimore City high students (grades 9-12).

I arrived at Claggett in mid-June to volunteer where helpful, accepting a gracious invite from the Rev. Spencer Hatcher, Director of Summer Programs. I was warmly welcomed by Spencer and our own Rita Yoe, who serves as Assistant Director – and by the first-rate counselors and staff at Claggett. I served as Co-Chaplain for Middle School Week and staff-at-large throughout – a role that included playing guitar in chapel, facilitating small groups, pastoral moments with kids and staff, leading several evenings of open mic and karaoke – and lots of relationship building in the Claggett community.


The spiritual heartbeat of community life was twice-daily chapel services and small groups, where campers wrestled with Scripture and explored their personal faith in a more intimate setting. Creativity flowed freely and Scripture was often presented in dynamic, engaging ways. The story of Ruth and Naomi, for example, was shared through biblical storytelling, with campers reading parts and everyone singing a refrain: “Wherever you go, I’ll go too. For you’ve got me, my friend, and I’ve got you…”

Chapel services offered times of unbridled joy as well as more reflective moments. There was always room for the Spirit to move! One memorable morning, the homily opened with a reflection on our freedom to love God and our neighbor – and then the band kicked in, and it became a full-throated roar as everyone stood and joyfully sang the Tom Petty song Free Fallin’“…well I’m freeeeeee! Free falling…”

Each day at camp was packed full of love and life and laughter. The God moments were powerful and numerous. Yet, it is camp – where some of the best times are unplanned. Lots of memorable moments to share – here’s one… On the last day of camp, a young Sutton Scholar asked Spencer to teach her to swim during our afternoon pool time. They spent some time in the shallow end, and soon she was paddling around with a big smile. That evening, everyone gathered around the final campfire – we sang, we swapped stories, and we danced. Spencer felt a tap on her shoulder – she turned to see her swim buddy who smiled and asked: “Miss Spencer, I want to teach you something. Do you know how to dance the dougie?” And so they danced. It was a beautiful and sacred moment, as they practiced the way of love – each sharing what they have with each other, and letting God’s love do the rest.  Blessed be.

Written by the Rev. Kent Marcoux, rector of St. George’s, D.C.

God’s Hands Among the Laity

God’s Hands Among the Laity

Small group work at AEL session

Excitement and nerves. An opportunity to engage a complex ministry challenge collaboratively. The realization that God had equipped each person in the room with unique gifts to move the process along in a reminder that it is better together than alone. (Ecc. 4:9)

I have no doubt that this swirl of hope and faith, anxious and enthusiastic in turns, lived inside the 11 individuals from five parishes in our diocesan Latino/Hispanic Ministry who attended Academia Ecuménica de Liderazgo (AEL – Ecumenical Leadership Academy) training at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) last November. As mentor to their group, I felt the rush, too. Something powerful was forming, a seed planted that held the potential to bear amazing fruit.

A “train the trainers” program for laity interested in starting and facilitating adult formation programs, the AEL format features an online and small-group hybrid approach shepherded by lay leaders. Before leaving VTS, the newly trained facilitators would develop a draft work plan to guide them through the implementation process in their home parishes.

AEL planning team

By early April, with support from their clergy, the final planning group of six lay leaders embarked on a journey to prepare how they would kick off AEL in their communities. As many of you know, the planning stage of any project is the most critical because you must address the elephant in the room — the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Now multiply that by a common language and add over 11 distinct cultural contexts. With time and intentionality, the planning group agreed upon sharing costs, facilities, a timeline, and out of the 12 possible courses ranging from evangelism to liturgy to the Book of Common Prayer, they would begin forming disciples by offering a class on the Bible.

The group announced the class within their respective congregations. The format for each session would include convivio (fellowship), prayer, hymns, games, video presentation and reflection. The reflection portion would provide space for all involved to synthesize where they encounter God in specific situations, including those simple things that happen in their daily life. In mid-May, they kicked off the first of eight sessions, with 20 participants (two groups of 10). By week three, they were at a maximum capacity of 30 (2 groups of 15). Truly, the Holy Spirit was at work.  

According to Araceli Ma, one of the facilitators and a member of the Church of Our Savior, the experience of AEL and learning to read the Bible among brothers and sisters from various congregations and at different levels of experience, allows everyone to connect, speak, and learn from one another. “There is a special energy that makes everyone collaborate — the participants come enthusiastically to help arrange chairs or equipment, share a Bible, eat together and begin to know each other at a deeper level, which makes it very motivating to do AEL.” Sarabeth Goodwin, Latino Missioner for the diocese, noted it is, “great to see the empowerment of laity as they become comfortable in leading others.”

As their mentor, witnessing and supporting the passion and commitment of these lay leaders has been a breath of fresh air. The excitement as they gather via Zoom week after week to do their lesson plan inspires me as a lay person, to see new paths to discipleship being embraced and created. This calling to incorporate new learning models and experiences that embody the teachings of Christ in Christian formation is extremely transformative. I have learned more than I have taught and look forward to seeing the fruits of all those involved. Knowing that God’s hands are at work among the laity reassures me that there is an eagerness to adapt to a new environment of forming disciples.

Are you interested in creating a laity-led adult formation group? Want to learn more about the AEL model and how it can work in your parish or regional context? Want to explore where your gifts, ministry, and mission can lead you and others? I welcome your questions and looking forward to hearing from you.

Mildred Reyes, Missioner for Collaborative Formation