I'm looking out at Echo Park and the lake where I used to go paddle boat riding with my dad and brother growing up in L.A. in the 1960s ... at the lawn where I sat with a boatload of other Episcopalians twenty-some years ago now when we broke ground to build this Cathedral Center when Fred Borsch was our bishop 1990s in the ... in a building with a ton of muscle memory of countless meetings, events, liturgies and highs-and-lows over decades of ministry in this diocese of my birth, baptism, confirmation and ordination. And I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I ended up here doing work I couldn't have imagined doing that I can't wait to get started at.
I'm still figuring out logins and logistics as we gear up to begin this new program year and this new initiative which is the brainstorm of our Bishop Diocesan John Taylor ... in his words:
"What we will build together over the next three years is our capacity as a diocese to expand relationships and deepen connections across differences in order to strengthen our shared commitment to follow Jesus. In response to the Gospel call to be agents of reconciliation, we envision a recovery of our deep connection to each other and our world so we can participate more fully in the transforming work of love."
“Our aspirations include creating conversational communities to drive bridge building across the differences that simultaneously enrich and challenge us as a diverse, multi-cultural diocese utilizing existing diocesan programs and resources as well as creating new ones."
“Ours are audacious goals: but the challenges of this present day call for nothing less if we are going to be the change we want to see in our beautiful and broken world. And we believe that as Anglicans we are uniquely wired to offer an antidote of hope and joy to the destructive and pervasive narratives that fuel division and polarization."
"We remember that we come from spiritual ancestors who found a way to hold together the seemingly irreconcilable tensions of being both catholic and protestant in the 16th century – and we believe that DNA of Anglican comprehensiveness will equip us to do the work of bridging the differences that challenge us as 21st century disciples."
If any of it touches a nerve or stirs an idea or inspires a connection please do reach out. The first phase of this project will be "research and development" so if you have ideas, resources, stories or suggestions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is wild and crazy work to take on in these wild and crazy times in which we live ... and we're going to need lots of wild and crazy people committed to the wild and crazy idea that we can indeed strive for peace and justice while respecting the dignity of absolutely every human being.
“Increase in us true religion” was part of the Collect of the Day that began our worship last Sunday ... a Sunday I had the privilege of being the preacher at All Saints Church in Pasadena, and here's some of what I said. (You can watch and/or read the whole sermon here.) Can't wait to see what Day Three brings!
When we pray for God to increase in us true religion we are asking to be to deployed into the hard, challenging, joyful gospel work of tearing down walls and building bridges; of living out that promise we make to simultaneously strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every single human being … even those whose actions, policies and worldview we deplore.
It is work we have been committed to for decades in this church and in this diocese and it is work that our bishop John Taylor is calling us to focus on with intentionality as we launch “One in the Spirit” a diocesan initiative with four goals:
• “To live more fully into our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.
• “To understand better how barriers of class, race, language, nationality, culture, politics, geography, orientation, and identification blind us to the burning image of the divine in one another.
• “To proclaim in Christ’s name that we will not submit to our era’s epic division and polarization.
• “To feed hearts that are hungry for connection and community in a secularizing, isolating age.”
Starting this week I will be dividing my time between continuing to serve as a member of the All Saints clergy staff team and leading this initiative as a member of the bishop’s staff.
There will be much more to share and explore in the weeks and months ahead but today is a day to rejoice and be glad in this opportunity to make true religion — that which binds together people in their quest for the divine — not just something we pray for once a year but a reality we try to live all year long.
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
And yet that is the work we have been given to do.
It is why we gather around the altar table week after week, year after year, to be fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life — reminding us that it is in the broken that we are made whole and that until all of us are gathered in none of us are truly home.
Reminding us that our true religion — that which binds us together in our search for the divine – is the ligament of love intimately linking us with all creation as we strive to make God’s love tangible in this beautiful and broken world.