Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Scriptural direction for Lenten disciplines

An Ash Wednesday reflection from Bishop Haynes
In a culture that does not encourage much attention to the interior life, Lent offers us a time to focus on exactly that. During the 40 days (excluding Sundays) that lead up to Easter, Christians have an opportunity to engage in disciplines that deepen their relationship to God and to each other. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (February 26), and we mark its beginning by receiving the sign of the cross in ashes upon our forehead. Then hopefully, for the next 40 days, we engage in a discipline that enables the deepening of our spiritual life. Many people settle easily on a Lenten discipline. Others are at a loss. If we consider the Scriptures appointed for Ash Wednesday, we are actually given some direction.
In the Gospel of Matthew for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 16:1-6, 16-21), Jesus is counseling his disciples on the need for a humble practice of personal piety. The purpose of practicing piety is to move closer to the heart of God, not to show off for fellow Christians. Jesus offers three examples of how to practice this piety. These three examples form a sturdy three-legged stool that makes a good place to sit for Lent: Alms-giving, Prayer, and Fasting.
Jesus begins by saying, "Whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be praised by others." Notice that Jesus says, "Whenever you give alms..." Not, "If you decide to give alms..." The assumption is that alms-giving is...well...a necessary spiritual discipline that is not a matter of choice. Further it is not a discipline that is done in order to show off. In fact, the secrecy of its execution probably adds to its spiritual benefit. What kind of alms-giving will you make your Lenten discipline? Maybe a dollar a day to your favorite charity? Maybe an item a day to your local food pantry? Maybe a few minutes a day to someone who is lonely and needs your friendship? It's not a matter of if, but when.
Jesus goes on to say, "Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others." Again, note that Jesus assumes not if you are going to pray but when you are going to pray. Christians are expected to pray, and Lenten disciplines are incomplete without some attention to prayer. And as with alms-giving, prayer is not a showy discipline but a matter between God and the one praying. What can you do during Lent to deepen your conversation with God? And once again, not a matter of if, but when.
Finally, Jesus counsels his disciples, "Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others they are fasting." Once again, the admonition is when, not if. The practice of self-denial helps to deepen one's prayer life. For some people, fasting, in the earlier understandings of the word (not eating food), is medically counter-indicated. But if we think of fasting as self-denial, it can be the giving up of something upon which we have come too dependent. The point of fasting is to remind us of the source of provision for all of our needs - God alone. Some people fast from social media during Lent. Some fast from saying unkind words or engaging in gossip, disciplining themselves to put money in a jar each time they catch themselves slipping. Imagine the church deficits that could be righted with such a discipline!
The most important thing about Lenten disciplines is that they draw us more closely into the heart of Christ. The prophet Isaiah (as he talks about fasting) calls us to a spirit of humility, but also to action:
Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
The kind of fasting, praying and alms-giving to which we are called is a discipline of justice and reconciliation...a kind of discipline that gives life and gives it abundantly. What is your Lenten discipline? If we engage in this discipline faithfully, listen to the promise that Isaiah foretells:
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
   the restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:12)
Can you imagine a world where ruins are rebuilt, foundations established that can be trusted, breaches repaired and streets restored? With heartfelt blessings, I wish for you a good and holy Lent, one that draws you and others closer to God.
Bishop Susan
Click here for a printable PDF of Bishop Haynes' reflection.

Join Bishop Haynes for Clergy & Vestry Day this spring!

In place of our traditional vestry training days, Bishop Haynes is reformulating our approach to include both clergy and vestries. The Bishop will be taking part in all three Clergy & Vestry Days being held throughout the Diocese this year. Clergy will be an integral part of the day with their vestries. Healthy, skilled vestries who understand their role and ministry in the life of the church and their relationship with their clergy are essential in creating and maintaining vital congregations. Bishop Haynes looks forward to welcoming vestries and clergy to this year's sessions.  
Saturday, March 21, at Emmanuel, Virginia Beach. Register here.
Saturday, March 28, at Christ & Grace, Petersburg. Register here.
Saturday, April 4, at Trinity, South Boston. Register here.

Clergy Renewal of Vows services April 8

The annual Renewal of Ordination Vows services for clergy will take place on Wednesday, April 8 at:
  • 10:00 a.m. at St. Cyprian's (1242 W. Queen Street, Hampton)
  • 2:30 p.m. at Manakin Church (985 Huguenot Trail, Midlothian)

Go golfing and help children

Help children at Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services who suffer from mental health and/or substance use disorders while having fun golfing.
Jackson-Feild will host its 25th Annual Golf Tournament on May 4 at the Golf Club at the Highlands in Chesterfield County. Over the past 24 years, this tournament has raised $538,520 to meet a variety of operating and capital needs that benefited its children.
The proceeds this year will be used to improve upgrade much-needed infrastructure projects on campus. Jackson-Feild seeks raise $30,000 from the tournament to meet these needs.
The cost to pay is $150 per player, or $600 for a team. Lunch is provided at noon, and a banquet at the close of play. Play begins at 1:00 p.m. with shotgun start.
Jackson-Feild's mission is to provide high-quality evidence-based services for children who have suffered severe emotional trauma, mental illness, and/or struggling with addiction. The goal is to restore wellness so that children can successfully return home to their community.
For more information, call Tod Balsbaugh at 804-354-6929 or tbalsbaugh@jacksonfeild.org. You may register by phone or on our website at www.jacksonfeild.org.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls for Good Friday Offering to support ministry in Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Love is at the foundation of the Good Friday Offering of our Church which provides an opportunity for every parish throughout our Church to be connected with the ministry of love and compassion carried out by our Anglican sisters and brothers throughout the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East," Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry wrote to the bishops and clergy of The Episcopal Church. "Love is at the heart of the meaning of the cross.  Love is at the heart of the life Christ calls us to live.  Love is at the heart of the movement Jesus began and which we live in our own time."
In his Good Friday letter, Presiding Bishop Curry asks each Bishop and congregation to consider providing assistance for the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
"I believe our partnership with those who keep the faith of Jesus alive in the region, where our Lord walked and began his movement, is a significant aspect of our work as part of the church catholic," he wrote.
Information, including bulletin covers and bulletin inserts on the Good Friday Offering, is available here.  

Nominations open for positions on Episcopal Church committees and boards

The Joint Standing Committee on Nominations has issued a call for nomination for Episcopal Church positions, committees, and boards. A full list of the open positions and their applications is available here. The deadline to submit an application is March 31, 2020. Applications may be submitted electronically, and nominees are able to apply for multiple positions on the same application.   
If you have questions, please contact Toni Hogg, tonih68@gmail.com. Elections will take place at the 80th General Convention, in Baltimore, Maryland from June 30 to July 9, 2021. Nomination materials are available in English, French, and Spanish. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Youth Missioner leads retreat in Chatham

The first ever Chatham Hall youth retreat was held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church the weekend of Feb. 7th. For two nights, Youth Missioner Megan Dern, led the girls in prayer stations and practices, small group discussions, a service project and a town scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt took the girls around town, to businesses and other important places in the town. The girls then wrote prayers for each place they went and these prayers were offered during a noon day worship service at a local gathering spot in town.  
In their evaluation the girls mentioned the importance of learning about different ways to pray, making an Anglican Rosary and the time for spiritual reflection.