Convention Address, 2011
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel
October 20, 2011
Thanksgiving is the deep inward certainty which moves us with reverent and loving fear to turn with all our strength to the work to which God stirs us, giving thanks and praise from the depths of our hearts. Julian of Norwich.
Delegates, lay and clergy, other guests that are in our midst, welcome to the 101st Diocesan Convention for, and in, this wonderful, rich, and beautiful diocese we call Olympia as we take up our theme, Living the Eucharist.
The word Eucharist means Thanksgiving, and so living the Eucharist is to live thanksgiving, to live as thankful people. Of course this theme suggests that all we do and be as the Body of Christ comes from our gathering together as we share the sacred meal left to us by Jesus. Living the Eucharist is to learn how to dance, either for the first time, or a new dance completely. We, together, have been doing that now for over four years, and looking back there is much good to show for our collective work. By necessity to a degree, we have spent a goodly amount of energy on ourselves as a diocese, regaining trust, strengthening connections, bettering communication and responsiveness to questions, all the while continuing the generous legacy this diocese has. Over these last four years we have given well over a million dollars through the We Will Stand With You companionship with St. Paul’s, New Orleans, Nets for Life, and this past year’s Wine into Water. I don’t want to steal Chuck Hamilton, ERD Diocesan Coordinator’s thunder, who you will hear from tomorrow, but the short story is, you have done it again! Living the Eucharist.
So, you might be wondering, what next? That is really the theme of this address if there is one at all, what next? As to our focus for giving and outreach, in this next year we are going to focus our attention on the Episcopal Church’s Rebuild our Church in Haiti campaign.
When the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, it effectively leveled the most populous diocese of The Episcopal Church. Most people do not know Haiti is part of the Episcopal Church, USA, or that is the largest. Seventy percent of church buildings were considered a total loss. Diocesan-run schools, clinics and hospitals that served over 100,000 Episcopalians, as well as countless community members, were wiped out in thirty-five seconds.
Many of the services we expect from the government— healthcare, education, culture—are provided in Haiti by The Episcopal Church. And many governmental agencies and NGOs have rushed to fill these needs in the aftermath. Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Church in Haiti to provide short-term employment, provisional homes, and sanitation systems in addition to other community-focused recovery programs. The Clinton- Bush Haiti Fund sponsored mobile health clinics, and a United Nations fund has underwritten the clean-up of six neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. But there is one thing no one else can rebuild for The Episcopal Church: Holy Trinity Cathedral. ERD is doing all it can, and what it does, but it does not do this. Holy Trinity was the home of the famous murals that depicted the Biblical narrative, the Cathedral was a beacon in a land where strength of faith is inversely proportional to economic development.
Holy Trinity Professional School and the primary and secondary schools also located on the Cathedral grounds, raised up future leaders in an environment of cultural and spiritual grace. In 35 seconds, it was all reduced to rubble.
Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin, who sat at my table at the House of Bishops until just recently, and the people of Haiti have asked for our help. The Episcopal Church, acting through the Executive Council, has asked every Episcopal diocese and congregation to join in this initial phase of rebuilding the Diocese of Haiti, and so we will. Our offerings will begin with the offering taken up at the service tonight.
I am happy to say that Jennifer King Daughtery has agreed to chair this project for us. Is Jennifer here. Jennifer is a member of Emmanual, Mercer Island, and a postulant for Holy Orders. She is the go to person on this, and if you can’t find her, find me. You will hear much more about this as the year goes on but suffice it to say for now, our goal is to buy one brick, for $10, for every communicant in this diocese. One brick, to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti. We will be focused on this for the coming year until our next convention and our primary time for the campaign will be the Great Fifty Days of Easter, but much work will need to be done in preparation to lead up to that, and if you have another time you wish to do it, we will certainly work with you on that. Jennifer is going to need a coordinator in every congregation and other volunteers too, so step up, or say yes when asked. Over this year we are going to be taking up some of the questions you may have and we will be answering them, but suffice it to say, some of the biggest questions heard are, will the money be used for what we raise if for. There is an excellent protocol and procedure set up for just this, and I have great faith in it. That is also available.
That is how we will give outside ourselves, you have so many more, that inspire and move us all. Living the Eucharist.
These first four years have been about setting directions, settling in, building the basic foundations needed to create what is to come next.
I have to say on the diocesan level, perhaps that has been a bit more directed by me in this first few years. Even before becoming your bishop, in reading the profile you set forth, I came with three major focus areas, which have developed into the vision for our work together over these last four years, Those three are Congregational Development, Concentrating on people 35 and under, and Stewardship of all our resources. In congregational development, we have seen some amazing things occur, at the forefront of which is the development and wild success of our College for Congregational Development. Nearly 200 people, clergy and lay, have attended, and we are now seeing second teams from the same congregations come through. Our stewardship efforts are wide, and surely suffered a serious blow with the death of Canon Carl Knirk, but I am most grateful that we called Canon Lance Ousley, since no one had come from Texas recently, we went there to find him. He, like me, worked closely with Carl, he understands that legacy while bringing his own fresh style along. This is also in good hands. The one we have struggled more with is concentrating on those 35 and under. When this comes up, I think we still find ourselves in the programing mode, we still want to be handed the program, just tell me what to do to get these folks interested in our church, but this one is not programmable, it is a cultural shift, and I want us to spend some energy here because it will be a learning for the cultural shift all faith traditions are making right now.
I am currently reading a book that I highly recommend, by Mike Kinnamon of the Barna Group entitled “You Lost Me: Why young Christians are leaving church…and rethinking faith.” This is interesting because it is not about those we have not yet touched, it is about those who consider themselves Christian, and are leaving. Living with a 15 year old, who has loved church in the past, and still does, but is sharing concerns, some of this resonates. The book should be read by us, I am seriously considering using this for one of our reading journeys this year, and a brief look will not do it justice, but for the sake of our upcoming discussion, let me throw out the 6 overarching reasons Barna found for this exodus.
This generation finds the church to be
Overprotective. They want to reimagine, recreate, rethink, and they want to be entrepreneurs, innovators, starters. The church is seen as a creativity killer where risk taking and being involved in culture are anathema
Shallow. Among this coming generation, the most common perception of churches is that they are boring, with easy platitudes, proof texting, and fomulaic slogans. They have been anesthetized by these, leaving them with no idea of the gravity and power of following Christ. How do we see the gravity and power of following Christ?
Antiscience. Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible. They see the mostly helpful role science plays in the world they inhabit, what’s more, science seems more accessible, where the church is not, science seems to welcome questions and skepticism, while matters of faith seem impenetrable.
Repressive. Religious rules-particularly sexual mores-feel stifling to the individualist mindset of young adults. Consequently they view the church as repressive.
Exclusive. Although there are limits to what this generation will accept and whom they will embrace, they have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Thus Christianity’s claims of exclusivity are a hard sell. They want to find areas of common ground, even if that means glossing over real differences.
Doubtless. Young Christians (and former Christians too) say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that faith doesn’t always make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial and fact focused as if people can be talked out of doubting.
When we consider what comes next, we have to consider this? And I believe we are poised as the Episcopal Church in unique and wonderful ways to answer these.
The completion and results of our fourth Mutual Ministry Review will be shared with this convention tomorrow. Again, I commend that presentation to you, but let me say, for now, in summary it shows a faithful people moved from attention to the concerns of diocesan headquarters and a shift to more attention toward and on congregations, moving from a concern about trust, responsiveness, and connectededness, to a place of better health and wellness, and a overwhelming expressed desire to move to a new level, to begin to imagine not just stability and safety but asking now what comes next?
With that in mind, in this next year your Standing Committee and I are in discussions with Russ Crabtree, author of “The Fly in the Ointment” Why denominations aren’t helping their congregations and how they can.” to come and spend the next year, culminating in the fifth MMR. Our intention with this one is to be much more intensive, and hopefully much wider in scope, including questions and opportunities for all who want to have a say, to do so. The focus here will be on what we do, where we want to go, who we want to be in the next five years of our journey in mission. You will hear about this review earlier because it will take more work and input to pull off, but our prayer is that effort will be worth what we find out from you, and what we find out about ourselves as a diocese, and what we find out about our hopes and dreams for these next days and years.
Before I get too far along, I wanted to deal with some old business. Last year, I believe I stood before you and talked about Cheez Whiz. It was yet another instance for you to question just what you were thinking when you elected me your bishop, an act I continue to marvel at and am deeply grateful for. I stood before you then acknowledging that I had done more than my fair share of putting away things probably not much better for you than Cheez Whiz thereby packing on about 25 pounds in that three years since becoming your bishop. I also packed it on because if the people of this diocese knows how to do one thing, it is eat. I guess I should start with cook, because you do that so well. Those Montesano pancakes with powdered sugar and lemon juice (OOH), I made a mistake and told people I am a pecan pie fan and at one stop, I think St. Philip’s, Marysville, I had to taste 6 different versions (now honestly, it wasn’t that bad at all!), I arrived at St. John’s, Snohomish this week and they handed me, no lie, as I walked in the door, a dark beer which their famous St. John’s Brewer’s had brewed in one hand, and a glass of red wine in the other. It’s good to be Episcopalian. We know how to eat, unfortunately I don’t know when to stop. Last year, I stood before you and I vowed to try to learn, in hopes of losing that 25 pounds I have packed on since coming here.
I figured I needed about 750 of my closest friends to keep me accountable. I might have counted on your graceful forgetting of my pledge, but instead I decided to try to do something about it. Here is a kettle bell, one incidentally that has helped me in the task at hand. This is a 25 pound kettle bell and it represents the weight I had vowed to lose. Today, stand before you to report in on my progress. As of yesterday I have lost the 25 pounds, and I am only one pound shy of losing another 10, for a total of 34 pounds. I hope to lose one more of those before next convention. Now, just so you know you have not walked into an episode of the Biggest Loser, I promise not to spend the whole time on this, but, in a sense, it does relate, because in a sense, we are all, as a diocese, and a faith tradition, going to have to go on a diet. We cannot eat what we did before, or live as we have. We are going to have to exercise a bit more, get moving. I am part of a task force in the House of Bishops focused on the cost of healthcare due to mostly, our inability to take care of ourselves. Early in this next year we are going to offer, paid for and presented by our Church Medical Trust, a day on clergy wellness. This has been offered so far in Arizona and Texas, and we are next. In Arizona the bishop made his clergy attend, made it mandatory for them to be there. I can only imagine how that went. He said he was not a very popular guy up to the event, but after the day the clergy and spouses and partners, are offered the chance to enter a 6 week follow up program. The Medical Trust estimated they might get 30 people to do it. Over 120 out of 180 did it. So, when your clergy get this invitation in January, gently insist they attend. It will be one day, and I think it will be worth it. Healthcare is perhaps one of this countries greatest moral issues right now. WE have got to address it, and where we can, as a Church, we must include ourselves. It will only be properly addressed from multiple angles, and together. As much as this one is a personal issue, it is a communal one too, for this Church, and for this country.
But our communal diet also is one that is church wide. Bishop Stacy Sauls, new Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, at this last House of Bishops meeting in Quito shared a bold plan for reorganizing the Episcopal Church. I urge you to take a look at this proposal and I promise you we will engage it. All of these, locally, diocesan, national, will take sacrifice and change, but we all know this about diets they only work if they stop being a diet and become a way of life.
This is what it will be for us to live the Eucharist in these days.
So, we are going to try to make this address a conversation. At your tables you are now going to take up some questions. You get to choose. This is the beginning of next years Mutual Ministry review right here, right now. We want you all to keep notes, and give us your replies, thoughts, ideas, in writing even if you don’t get to speak. We are going to randomly pick 5 tables to verbally respond. You will have two minutes to do it. Questions are coming as soon as I finish
They are based in an idea from Russ Crabtree and some basic truths about organizations. An organizational culture basically consists of four key elements: A set of key ideas, a language, a set of values and norms, and a system of rewards and penalties. What are ours as a diocese, and a church?
So, we, you and I, continue to learn how to dance. I was reading the other day that when Fred Astaire made his first screen test the Hollywood Executive wrote, “Can’t act, Can’t sing, slightly balding, can dance a little.” We see where he went, We have the greatest power behind us, we can learn a new dance too. Our very own George Herbert, that great pastor, priest, and poet in our tradition once said, “He who lives in hope, dances without music.”
Thanksgiving is the deep inward certainty which moves us with reverent and loving fear to turn with all our strength to the work to which God stirs us, giving thanks and praise from the depths of our hearts. Julian of Norwich.
Sermon, Diaconate Ordinations
Carter Hawley and Mark Blindheim
October 21, 2011
Today we gather as a diocese, in what is as close to our annual family reunion as you can get. Although, we are, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, a diocese, one diocese, together, we are never, except at this time, together this way, physically present, with incarnations from every local community represented.
It is quite fitting, when we gather in this unique and hallowed time, that we ordain our deacons, vocational deacons, those called forth by you, to lead us in their unique way. Today we will ordain Carter Hawley and Mark Blindheim. Both have, as we all do, unique journeys in arriving at this day, but as I have reminded them, all that has happened before, did get them to this day, and they bring all of that to this moment.
Deacons have a special ministry, one which was very well described and highlighted in our latest Episcopal Voice. There I wrote, and I am going to say it again tonight, that
I believe there is no more misunderstood order in our church than the diaconate. Many of you have heard me say I believe deacons are called to go into the world, find trouble, and bring it back to the church. I believe that, but there are some things this does not mean, too. It does not mean they are supposed to go out into the world, find trouble, and handle it on their own. They are not slaves, although there is a lot of talk of that in our readings for tonight.
It does not mean, since they are sent out by us to find such things, that we are off the hook. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. By virtue of our baptism we are all called to be there and we are not relieved of that duty by anyone.
You might think of it this way: if our tribe, as catholic Christians, has anything close to a scout, a deacon would be it. A scout was sent out ahead to check things out, to assess the lay of the land, to bring back the news to the rest and then lead them all back to whatever, whomever and wherever the need or danger. Deacons are our scouts.
Deacons are not “junior priests,” either. This is an oft- made projection onto the deacon. They are distinct. They are unique. They are called to specific tasks in the liturgy, reserved only for them, to mark within the context of our common worship the role they
play in our common life. They
proclaim the Gospel, they bid
and often ask the prayers, and
they give the “great beginning” (which I described in the last Voice) known as the dismissal, which as our Archdeacon reminded us Paul Moore, former Bishop of New York used to enact by saying, Get up, Get out, Get lost, calling us back into the world, where a deacon most wants to see us go and get lost.
They are clearly not called to hang around the church building or grounds. They are our collective connection to the world we say we have been called to transform, into the kingdom Jesus envisioned.
This is one reason deacons are peculiar in other ways. They do not get paid by the church. They are not ultimately under the authority of anyone in the local congregation, not even the rector, but directly connected to the bishop.
I always like to read again the ember letters the ordinands have sent throughout their time as postulants and candidates. Carter wrote
From this point forward, regardless of the result of this nomination, big things are going to happen. What I’ve learned, what I’ve done, and what I’ve planned to do are setting me on a path to continue to grow more into my baptismal covenant.
And Mark wrote, My purpose in embarking on this journey was not to become ordained. It was to discern what God was calling me to do and to be. There is still a sense of wonder and amazement for me for all that has taken place since then. My desire has always been to serve the Church that I deeply love in any capacity that I am asked to. If I am asked to serve in an ordained capacity I am willing and ready to do so. Regardless of what happens I will continue to have that desire and purpose. As Paul is quoted in Hebrews “I have run with patience the race that was set before me, looking to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith.”
When we look for people to ordain to any order, our discernment should begin with finding those persons who already live out of the reality of that calling, in a sense they are already, a bishop, priest, or deacon. We don’t really look to call raw talent forward, those we might be able to “turn into” a deacon, because one of the failings or great illusions of our church is that we are even capable of doing that.
We can impart theology and history and new and old testament, and even the liturgical training of what it is to perform in these roles, but in the end, it is about who they are.
It is easy this night, to talk about this, in this way, with these two, because if there has ever been a time when what I have just described is true, this is one of those times. Carter and Mark, are deacons. Tonight the church, all of us, will, after all of our discernment, careful checking, all of the ember letters, (Carter opened one of her ember letters by saying, “Happy Ember Day, I tried to find a Hall mark card but they were all out!”) after all of the formation, and learning, and physical and mental exams, and some would say hoop jumping, and bureaucracy and perhaps some other not so flattering descriptions, but regardless of all that, we will collectively say, YES, you two are deacons, and we want you to live that out, in our midst, from this day forward as a living outward and visible sign in our collective life together.
I had two grandfathers who each had a distinct influence in my life. One named Ole came from Norway to America when he was 17 years old. He worked in the gold fields of Alaska and returned to Seattle to become a successful Dairyman and businessman. When he was 65 years old he cleared stumps off 5 acres in Bothell and began a blueberry farm which he ran well into his 80s. When I think of assuming a new vocation at this point in my life I look at what he did and gain encouragement. My brother, on a recent trip to Norway, took a picture of a church which has been built by Ole’s grandfather. It seems, in building this church, that my grandfather’s grandfather said that someone in our family, one day, would be ordained into the ministry. I’m curious if that might be me.
Carter the details at this point, as well as the route to get there are sort of foggy, but it will clear,
it always does, because we have the light, that shines out of the darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and because of that, we do not lose heart.
So, here we are, the church, gathered, ready to give a sign in the two of you, of where are real work is found. yes is our answer, and our answer means if you lead, we will follow.