Advent Blog

Advent Reflections

December 5, 2019
Tagged in: AdventWord

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring … at Voorhees College and Saint Augustine’s University, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) founded by The Episcopal Church, voices are raised this season in celebration of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Episcopal AdventWord Raise

Why support our Episcopal HBCUs?
Voorhees College and Saint Augustine’s provide an excellent liberal arts education to thousands of students, the majority of whom come from low-income households, and over 40% of whom are the first in their families to attend a four-year college. The gospel work of education and emancipation, evangelism and formation, reconciliation and commitment to a just and humane society and world is happening at these schools! Yet in today’s economic and political climate HBCUs increasingly struggle to secure the funds they need to maintain their facilities, retain excellent faculty, and provide much-needed student financial aid.

You can help raise up young leaders from these HBCUs. To learn more, visit https://episcopalchurch.org/development/HBCU.


 
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring … at Voorhees College and Saint Augustine’s University, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) founded by The Episcopal Church, voices are raised this season in celebration of...
December 4, 2019
Tagged in: AdventWord

In the crypt of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, a painting in an apse represents Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrounded by the disciples on Pentecost. A glittering golden mosaic depicts rays of light descending from a dove: the Holy Spirit is being poured out on every disciple and Mary. While all the disciples have their eyes opened, their heads lifted up or turned in various directions, Mary, at the centre, holds her eyes closed, facing the viewer.

Her expression is of perfect serenity. She is focused, in the orans position – her hands outstretched sideways, palms up – which contrasts with the agitation of the disciples’ hands, indicating their confusion and interactions with each other. Mary is silent, in a position of prayer, alert and deeply peaceful. Her confidence is contagious, and nothing seems to be able to distract her from listening to God, being in communion with God, in a position that reminds us of her son on the cross. The expression on Mary’s face reflects for me what it means to be humble.

Episcopal AdventWord Humble

Humility and humiliation are two very different attitudes which are conflated, alas, way too often. Mary’s serene openness and confidence come forward through her expression. Her peace and trust are conveyed in a very powerful – though unassuming – way.

She is. She is herself. She does not need to seek power or recognition. She is not afraid of losing any of them. She does not need to prove anything. She remains herself, in the midst of the agitation around, and her confidence is contagious.

Being humble in leadership and in partnership is crucial, perhaps especially if we say that we are Christians. If we develop our capacity to listen carefully, to open ourselves to the other, while intentionally staying focused on our main purpose, even in the midst of agitation and distress, we will discover new ways of partnering with others. Our ultimate partnership is with God and through prayer, we are given the gift of having our expectations, preconceptions, fears, love of power, and need of recognition being transformed. What matters is no longer what we can get from the world, but what we can give.

[Learn more about the important work of Global Partnerships in The Episcopal Church]

In the season of Advent, we hear the story of the Annunciation, we await the coming of Christ, and we walk this path with Mary. We hear the story of her partnership with God: her encounter with the angel Gabriel – a messenger from God – her careful listening of what is presented to her, and her careful answer. Her life is dramatically and forever transformed, as the world is dramatically and forever transformed. Global Partnerships is centred on our very partnership with God. Through it, we accept our responsibility in this world and commit ourselves to listen carefully to God, to others, to God through others, knowing that it will transform us and transform the world around us.

In Mary, we find the best example of what can come to be through humble partnership.


 
In the crypt of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, a painting in an apse represents Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrounded by the disciples on Pentecost. A glittering golden mosaic depicts rays of light descending from a dove: the Holy Spirit is...
December 3, 2019
Tagged in: AdventWord

Episcopal Time AdventWord

  • More than six years of preparation.
  • Hours and days spent in planes, trains, and automobiles to visit sites for General Convention and to attend meetings around the Church.
  • Eight days to “move in” and one day to “move out” of a convention center for General Convention.
  • Deputations are elected at least 365 days before General Convention.
  • Nine days of legislative sessions.
  • The hours and hours it takes to load the software onto over 2000 tablets to ensure that General Convention can do its legislative business.
  • The pauses in our speech to allow translators to do their invaluable work.
  • Five minutes of a pop-up prayer service.
  • Two minutes counting down at the microphones in the House of Deputies.
  • The moments of silent prayer that feel far longer than they are.
  • Hours to edit and format a new seasonal worship resource for publication on the web.
  • The turnaround time for a PDF file of the Constitution and Canons to become a paperback book on your desk.
  • A calendar in the Extranet that has the details of close to a thousand video conferences and more than one hundred in person meetings of the 67 Interim Bodies.
  • It’s 8 am in Honolulu, 8pm in Paris and 2 am tomorrow in Taiwan. How do we schedule a Zoom call?
  • One-month advance notice to provide a rooming list to a hotel.
  • Ninety minutes to flip a hotel ballroom from a meeting space to a reception and dinner space.
  • Worship services conducted and new Christians baptized in a year.
  • One hundred and twenty days for a Standing Committee to consent to the election of a new bishop.
  • The minutes it takes red wax to melt to the proper temperature for sealing a new bishop’s ordination certificate.

These are some of the ways we measure the passage of time in the General Convention Office. Time can feel linear, a systematic ticking off of tasks in preparation for an event. There are days filled with conversations with people across the Church and creation of resources from handouts to websites to reports and presentations to multivolume books. There are days that begin and end in the dark to ensure that all the pieces of General Convention happen on time and in good order. There are days that are set aside for reflection on what went well and how we can do even better next time. Of course, time is not merely measured in seconds on our watches or days on our calendar. Nor is it merely marked in tasks accomplished and events held, or even in job transitions. We are the Church; we mark time and milestones with prayer and ritual. And, of course, ultimately time is not in our hands. “O God, our times are in your hand…” [BCP, p. 830]


 
More than six years of preparation. Hours and days spent in planes, trains, and automobiles to visit sites for General Convention and to attend meetings around the Church. Eight days to “move in” and one day to “move out” of a convention center...
December 2, 2019
Tagged in: AdventWord

We visit because being in relationship is one of our deepest callings from God.

We visit because we desire human contact, companionship, friendship, and love.

We visit to share a moment in time, to share joys and sorrows

We visit to share the essence of who we are with another

Episcopal AdventWord Visit

Visits bring hope, a reminder that we are not forgotten or discarded, but that we are precious children of God and that God knew us before we were born.

We visit the elderly, those who once held us in the palm of their hands, and who now, in turn, need to be held and nurtured.

We visit the prisoner, to help humanize those dehumanized by the institution of incarceration.

We visit because God first visited and knew us in our mother’s womb and because God’s son visited humanity in its hour of need and reminded us that we are all beloved of God.

We visit because we need to experience the wonderful diversity of God’s creation, to seek the Christ in the other, to expand our experience of Christ in the world.

Visits can be sacramental acts, from the breaking of bread together to recognizing Christ in the other and being reminded of the Christ within ourselves.

We visit to remind ourselves that despite our own peculiarities, our own limitations, our own social, cultural narrowness, that we are all cut from the same cloth, that we are equal in God’s eyes.

We visit to walk alongside, to accompany, to journey with, to walk in another’s shoes.

We do not bring God to the encounter, for God is ever-present in all creation. As such, our visits will always be mutual if we enter into them with humility, with hearts open to experiencing God’s presence in the other.

We visit because it is good for our soul and for the souls of those who travel with us on this journey with Christ.

The Rev. David Copley was born in the U.K., trained as a pediatric nurse and worked in Liberia, West Africa during the civil war from 1991-94. He was a missionary in Bolivia from 1995-99 before being ordained in The Episcopal Church in 2003. He was appointed Mission Personnel Officer in 2006 and is currently Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel on the Presiding Bishop’s staff. To find out more about global mission and The Episcopal Church, visit www.episcopalchurch.org/global-partnerships or email David at dcopley@episcopalchurch.org.


 
We visit because being in relationship is one of our deepest callings from God. We visit because we desire human contact, companionship, friendship, and love. We visit to share a moment in time, to share joys and sorrows We visit to share the...
December 1, 2019
Tagged in: AdventWord

Come, thou long expected Jesus
born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

The above text is from the well-known hymn by Charles Wesley published in 1745. According to its history, this hymn is based on Haggai 2:7 – “And I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.”

The hymn is one of the most popular hymns during the Advent season. Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming”. The hymn calls us to reflect on the reason why the coming of Our Lord is something to be expectant about. It is at the core of this expectancy that we realistically move from being expectant to facing the unexpected reality of God’s coming. Yes, the coming of Our Lord is about facing the unexpected. It is in many ways like the realities of our daily life, for example, we expect to have a job, but we do not expect to have to work so hard.

AdventWord Unexpected Episcopal

In our Advent season, we expect to welcome God into our hearts – but we will eventually realize that with the coming of Our Lord change will come in such a way that we will truly be transformed. The unexpected part of this great gift will be the true power of the Love of God, Emmanuel.

I was called to be a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala two years ago. The journey has been about expecting the unexpected. I get to visit the 39 congregations that are part of this great diocese and each time, I’m greeted with great experiences that fall into this category of the unexpected. I prepare the best way I can for each visit: read the propers that the clergy or liturgical leadership send me, prepare a sermon, pray for the candidates that will be confirmed or received, read any material they send me in preparation for meetings. All this is of my doing, but as I get there, the rest is in God’s hands; the unexpected happens.

[Learn more about the important work of Global Partnerships in The Episcopal Church]

Advent is a time for preparation. We do all that is in our hands to prepare, from the decorations at home to the Advent procession at church. The reality of Emmanuel, God with us, is so true that the only way we can realize it is by being hit with the unexpected. I believe that this reality of the unexpected is one of the reasons that generosity and goodwill are so much more evident during this season. The unexpected nature of Emmanuel hits so hard that all the barriers that limit our expectancy are broken. Welcome! Enjoy the unexpected power of God! Come, thou long expected Jesus and set us free to live the unexpected.


 
Come, thou long expected Jesus born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart...
December 24, 2018
Tagged in: AdventWord

The Episcopal Church works to support peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and reconciliation in our churches, communities, nations, and around the world. We partner with provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion to end violence, create space for healing, and create lasting peace. The Office of Government Relations supports these efforts, urging the U.S. government to promote human rights and to end conflict. We work with Congress and the U.S. State Department to share the stories and perspectives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, amplifying the voices of those who are peacemakers. In Latin America and in the Caribbean region, the Church has advocated for the U.S. government to lift sanctions against Cuba and end the embargo [i]. We have called upon governments and the private sector to continue to provide financial support to Honduras[ii], and we work closely with advocacy groups to ensure Haiti is on the path of sustainable development.[iii].

Advent Word Episcopal PeaceIn Asia and the Pacific, our policies include supporting the reunification of the Korean peninsula and the expansion of humanitarian aid for impoverished Koreans[iv], promoting human rights, supporting land reform in the Philippines[v], and advocating for dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama to address the status of Tibet[vi]. We urge governments around the world to respect religious freedom, including in Pakistan, and ask the U.S. to work combat corruption domestically and around the world.

In Africa, we have partnered with groups throughout the Episcopal Church, as well as advocates and supporters from around the world, to urge the international community to push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan.[vii], including recognizing the humanitarian and displacement crisis the conflict has caused. We have urged the international community to insist on an end to the political violence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe[viii]. We have supported Anglican Communion partners in the Great Lakes region, asking Congress to urge governments in the region to push for representative and transparent governments.

Our work in the Middle East involves advocating for a just and sustainable peace in the Holy Land. We also urge Congress to end the humanitarian and refugee crises in Syria and Yemen[ix], Additionally, for over thirty years we have supported and worked for a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized state of Israel lives alongside a secure, viable, and universally recognized Palestinian state and have called upon the US government to pursue a fair and balanced approach in support of this goal[x].


[i] Cuban Embargo/Relations: GC 2018 (A209), 2015 (B002), 2012 (A020), 2009 (A034), 2000 (C045), 1991 (D021)
[ii] Support for Honduras: GC 2009 (B031)
[iii] Peace in Haiti: GC 2009 (A036); EXC (6/2005)
[iv] Reunification of Koreas/Aid for Korea: GC 2012 (A014)
[v] Human Rights in the Philippines: GC 1994 (A097)
[vi] On Tibet: GC 1997 (C001)
[vii] Lasting Peace in South Sudan: GC 2018 (D024), 2015 (B018), 2012 (A019), 2009 (D007); EXC (2/2014)
[viii] Zimbabwe/Mugabe: EXC (1/2009)
[ix] Syria and Yemen: GC 2018 (B003), 2015 (D041)
[x] I-P Two-State Solution: GC 2018 (B021, D018), 2012 (B019), 1991 (A147), 1988 (D053); EXC (2/2010)

The Episcopal Church works to support peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and reconciliation in our churches, communities, nations, and around the world. We partner with provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion to end violence, create space...
December 23, 2018
Tagged in: AdventWord

Episcopal PersistSt. Augustine’s University (SAU) in Raleigh, N.C., one of the Episcopal Church’s two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), recently celebrated graduation and the 151st year of providing a quality undergraduate experience to young African-American women and men.

One of these young men was Kendrick Cunningham. Like many young people trying to make it through four years of the ever-costlier college experience these days, there were certainly hard times-- but he was the first in his family to graduate from college, and his mom and grandmother were his biggest fans.

Cunningham was and is a very busy man. While at St. Augustine’s, he served as Student Body President and as a student trustee on the University’s Board of Trustees. Interested in sustainable energy and politics, Kendrick is currently encouraging young people to participate in the democratic process. While he continues to look at the possibility of attending law school, he is currently working as a youth development specialist at the Police Activities League in Charlotte, N.C. His story of opportunity, education, commitment, and service is one of numerous inspirational stories from St. Augustine’s University and Voorhees College.

Because of the generosity of Episcopalians, students like at SAU and Voorhees like Kendrick can afford an excellent education. The Episcopal Church is proud to support both of these institutions of higher learning. The Church’s Office of Development is continually seeking new sources of revenue for such worthy and important institutions, who sometimes struggle with funding challenges, scholarship needs and deferred maintenance challenges in ways that larger endowed public institutions do not.

[Consider honoring the life and witness of Blessed Absalom Jones, the first African-American Episcopal priest, on his feast day, February 13.]

Your gift to the Episcopal Church’s Annual Appeal makes this work, as well as many of our other programs and initiatives, possible. We invite you to celebrate and support our two schools by giving to the HBCUs online here.

St. Augustine’s University (SAU) in Raleigh, N.C., one of the Episcopal Church’s two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), recently celebrated graduation and the 151st year of providing a quality undergraduate experience to young...
December 22, 2018
Tagged in: AdventWord

Do you know that moment when you are reading a really good book or watching a really good movie when what you expect to happen doesn’t, and what actually happens is way better than you could have predicted? Fortunately, that was the case for me when I decided to take a leap of faith and spend a year serving as a Young Adult Service Corp missionary for the Episcopal Church.

Advent Word Episcopal ExpectNo matter how hard I tried to enter into the experience without expectations, it was not possible. Whether I could articulate them or not, those preconceived expectations were there. I know this because I found myself reflecting on them throughout the whole process – discernment, orientation, landing in Kenya, and through re-entry when I returned to the United States. We all have a lens and lifetime of experience that has helped us create a framework for how we understand and interact with the world. What realized was that it was not about removing expectations, but about becoming aware of what my expectations were so that I could look beyond them.

Serving as a YASC missionary gave me the opportunity to experience God’s love in an exciting way in a new context. YASC opened my heart and mind up to recognize the expectations I bring, and to the fact that God’s love goes beyond those expectations every time. I expected to have more answers than questions, I expected to be needed more than to want, I expected to see more hurt than joy. Admitting this to myself was not easy, but once I did I felt a freedom from the walls that I had put up myself. Serving as a missionary is as much about opening yourself up to how God is working in the world and through others as it is about allowing God to work through you. It is about expecting to serve and be served, to love and be loved, to see joy and be joyful. As a Christian, I believe that human expectations can create barriers that only God’s love can overcome.

[Learn more about the Young Adult Service Corps here.]

If I am called to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” which I believe that I am, then there is not much to expect other than an encounter with God’s love in the world and to share God’s love in the world. God’s love is the only unchanging expectation. It is always met and exceeded! Nothing I do can change God’s love for me or any of God’s creation. During this season of Advent, we wait expectantly for God’s love to take on human flesh. The birth of Jesus is a perfect example of the way that God meets and exceeds our expectations of love. Seek, serve, and be transformed in the love of God.

Do you know that moment when you are reading a really good book or watching a really good movie when what you expect to happen doesn’t, and what actually happens is way better than you could have predicted? Fortunately, that was the case for me...
December 18, 2018
Tagged in: AdventWord

In the gospel of Matthew, the author starts the stories of Jesus with Jesus’ lineage, often fondly known as the “begats.” The King James Version references lineage like this, “Abraham begat Issac…”

Advent Word Episcopal AncestorAdvent season often brings us to consider family, our own “begats,” where we come from, our ancestors.  Some people can trace their family trees back many generations.  Others, like me, can only trace to recent one or two generations - I’m a second generation immigrant on my father’s side.  Records on his family’s side are hard to locate since the two world wars.  I wonder who was so brave to cross an ocean to escape violence and strife, starting all over with nothing in a strange country.

We also may consider our ancestors in faith.  We know from scripture and the lives of saints, and local saints in our communities, the many ways they have been generous, brave, and in all cases very human.  I am inspired to hear how real our ancestors are, their foibles and their failings, as much as their more lauded deeds.  

We are always works in progress, on a journey, seeking God’s guidance for our next steps.  Sometimes it feels that we are guided to a lovely place, other times we end up in places that feel like a wilderness.  In every case, God is with us, and urges us to further faithfulness and closeness. Wherever we are, God blesses us, and asks us to be blessings to our communities.  There is no place where we can be that God is not present.

Photo by Linda Vasconi, Youngstown, Ohio, used with permission.

The Rev. Meghan F. Froehlich serves as the Director of the Office for Transition Ministry.  This office provides support to bishops, Diocesan Transition Ministers, clergy, and lay leaders throughout the Church.  Along with the Board for Transition Ministry, and other organizations, this office analyzes trends in clergy calls and congregational data, and provides support to those in search and call processes. 

In the gospel of Matthew, the author starts the stories of Jesus with Jesus’ lineage, often fondly known as the “begats.” The King James Version references lineage like this, “Abraham begat Issac…” Advent season often brings us to consider family,...
December 16, 2018
Tagged in: AdventWord

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

In Old Testament and New, rejoicing is not just a response; it’s a command. It’s not a feeling; it’s a practice. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord,” decrees the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 2:10). “Rejoice in hope,” directs the apostle Paul (Romans 12:12). We might think rejoicing erupts after something wonderful has taken place, but in the Bible, rejoicing is something God prescribes: this is what you shall do. 

Richter Pagano Advent WordSometimes the details are surprisingly specified. For example, check out these instructions regarding the Feast of Jubilees: “On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40). Not: If you feel like it, rejoice for a whole week! Not: if things are going well for you, seven days of rejoicing is an appropriate response. Nope. You shall. Sev’n whole days, not one in sev’n, I will praise thee, as George Herbert has us sing. Seven is the number of completeness. Maybe we are supposed to rejoice always, not turn off our rejoicing when the week is over. Paul thinks so: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

Perhaps Rejoice! is a command because we are too often like the older brother in Jesus’ parable who would rather stand in the backyard and sulk than join in the party for his wayward younger brother who found his way home. In a world where people say, “Second place is just first place for losers,” our default position is to resent rather than rejoice. How come she got the promotion? Why did he get into a better school? Why do they get all the breaks? Why did he get a fatted calf slaughtered and the best robe and a ring, and here I am, slaving away? We have to be told: Rejoice!

[The Revs. Amy Richter and Joe Pagano serve the Episcopal Church as appointed missionaries in Grahamstown, South Africa. To learn more about the Episcopal Volunteers in Mission program, click here.]

There’s something about rejoicing that changes us. Changes everything. Makes us see what is really there, really here. The father says to the elder brother, “You are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (Luke 15:31). Get it? It’s only by the practice of rejoicing that we see how much we have already been given. The father continues, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:32).

“Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15).

But there’s another reason to rejoice now, and that’s in anticipation of what is coming, which in Jesus is never just in the future. We can rejoice now—we must—because in Jesus, God’s future is already breaking in on us. As Jürgen Moltmann wrote, “The risen Christ does not come just to the dead, so as to raise them and communicate to them his eternal life; he draws all things into his future, so that they may become new and participate in the feast of God’s eternal Joy.” Rejoice! Rejoice! (now) Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. God’s future punctures our present in Christ. 

As we write, it’s evening in South Africa. A woman is in the kitchen preparing supper, and we can hear her singing: He is the savior of my life, He is the way, the truth, the life, He’s the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, I found everything in him.

She may be keeping a commandment. But singing is enacted joy. It rejoices and makes joyful at the same time, and her song is making us rejoice too. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! In Old Testament and New, rejoicing is not just a response; it’s a command. It’s not a feeling; it’s a practice. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your...