Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easter Vigil 2019: "I have called you by name and you are mine."

This is the night ...

Tonight at All Saints Church we will gather as countless Christians do around the world to kindle the first fire of Easter, to light the Paschal Candle representing the light of Christ in the world, tell the stories of our scriptural ancestors and then -- with a joyful cacophony of ringing bells and all-the-stops-out organ music -- proclaim "Alleluia, Christ is Risen ... Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!"

Then we will do what we always do at the Great Vigil of Easter: to baptize some folks, to welcome some new members and to come to the table to receive the bread and wine made holy.

And this year we will so something else. We will affirm the new name of a beloved member of our parish family ... asking God to continue to bless and guide her as she continues the journey of living fully into her gender identity and claims her name as part of that journey.

We will do that after we kindle that first fire of Easter out on our quad lawn where the sign hanging under the venerable All Saints Oak Tree reads "Transgender Rights are Human Rights." And we will do that with deep gratitude that we are part of the branch of the Jesus Movement that is living ever more fully into its high calling to be a church where all God's beloved are welcomed, embraced, and included in the Body of Christ.

I love these words from the liturgy adapted from "Affirmation of a New Name" by friend and colleague Cameron Partridge ...
We honor the other names you have lived by. We release them into your history and acknowledge that the time has come to declare a new name. This name is the culmination of a journey of discovery and, at the same time, its beginning.
You can see our Great Vigil liturgy here ... and you can find out more about the journey the Episcopal Church has been on toward fuller inclusion of our transgender and non-binary siblings in our liturgical life in this blog post by TransEpiscopal.

And I want to celebrate that the "Rite for Receiving or Claiming a New Name" is (as of General Convention 2018) included in our Episcopal Book of Occasional Services and authorized for use in the whole church. From the notes on the liturgy:
When an event or experience leads a baptized person to take or to be given a new name, the following rite may be used to mark this transition in the parish community. This new beginning is distinct from the new life begun in Holy Baptism, which conveys regeneration and the responsibilities of Christian discipleship. Throughout the rite, the pronouns “they,” “their,” and “them” are used, with corresponding verb forms. These pronouns should be adapted to the preference of the person receiving or claiming the new name, with appropriate adjustment to the accompanying verbs.
No, we are not "there yet." There is still work to do and I pray that we will continue to raise up leaders and activists and agitators to do the work ahead of us. And ...

This is the night when we celebrate how far we have come on our own journey as a church -- a journey of discovery that continues to call us beyond binary boundaries and into God's future.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Abduction of the Holy Innocents

Watching the ongoing crisis at our border where refugee families fleeing the terror in their home countries are being terrorized by order of our President made me re-think the Collect for The Holy Innocents as this prayer for The Abduction of the Holy Innocents:
We remember today, O God, the abduction of the holy innocents at our border by the Trump Administration. Pour out your mercy, we pray, on all innocent victims of racism and nativism; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.