Introduction

intro 1intro 2Hi there! Welcome! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kelly. My husband, Chris, and I joined Epiphany when we were expecting our son, Ashton. We were looking for a spiritual home for our family, and were so impressed by the strong sense of community the instant we entered the worship at Epiphany.

While I was on maternity leave, Kathryn approached me about writing a blog for new parents. I was thrilled by the idea. I am a developmental/pediatric psychologist by day and a nervous/excited new mom by night. At work, I administer developmental and behavioral assessments of children birth to five, to make appropriate diagnoses and recommendations for treatment. At home, I try really hard not to check off assessment items in my mind as Ashton learns new skills. I am excited to share my personal and professional experience and knowledge in the the hopes that it could help other parents celebrate and commiserate the little moments with little ones.

Photo captions:

#1: Our little family, pre-Ashton

#2: Our little man

 

Mary’s Sabbatical Blog Post #4

September 20, 2014

When last I wrote we were preparing to leave the beautiful island of Iona. The next day, (August 9) we took the Iona ferry over to the island of Mull to spend the night there in order to catch the early morning ferry to the mainland of Scotland to allow time for our long drive back down to Heathrow. We stayed in the village of Tobermory on Mull, a charming fishing village with a sheltered harbor lined with colorful houses and shops. (Pictures included are of our departure from Iona, the wild and remote mountain scenery of Mull, and the village of Tobermory).

Our hotel, the Western Isles Hotel, was a pilgrimage place of a different sort for Bill and me, as it was one of the locations used in a favorite movie of ours, ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945), which was filmed on the island of Mull. While in Tobermory that afternoon we saw signs in shop windows for a family Ceilidh, which is a social gathering with traditional Gaelic music, dancing and singing. We thought this would be a wonderful way to spend our last evening in Scotland, so shortly after supper we set out on (you guessed it!) a narrow single lane track up hill and down dale, and around some hair-raising hair-pin turns on the tops of ancient volcanic mountains to descend into the remote and charming village of Dervaig.

As we came up the last steep climb, there lay Dervaig below us, with the sun shining across the sea in the west. The Ceilidh was great fun, and included all ages, from very young children to the elderly. Everyone took part, including Bill and me, in the dancing, which at times reminded me of square dancing. There was a small band consisting of accordion, guitar, and bass, and a ‘caller’ who called out the steps of the dances. It was great fun, and a wonderfully inclusive and welcoming evening. When the band took a break there was a general invitation for anyone there to come up and perform. A teenage boy played his guitar, and then a young woman got up and sang unaccompanied two hauntingly beautiful ballads in Gaelic. You could have heard a pin drop in the hall as she sang.

Finally Bill and I tore ourselves away, as we had to make the trip back to Tobermory and get the early ferry the next morning. As we ascended the steep hill out of the village at around 9:30 p.m. the sun was beginning to set and I looked back down at the twinkling lights of the village nestled in the glen—it was unforgettably beautiful.

Unfortunately I have no pictures to share of this last memorable evening of our trip, but I carry the pictures of it in my mind’s eye. Bill and I are so very grateful for the opportunity to have made this amazing trip together, and the memories of it continue to sustain us both back on this side of the Atlantic. Bill went back to work the day after our return, and I spent a couple of weeks at home tending our rather overgrown garden and dealing with a rather large list of ‘to-do’ items on my desk and at home which I had been postponing since early summer.

At the end of August we took some family vacation time with Gilbert up in New Hampshire for a week and visited friends in Exeter, where we used to live, and ended up at our favorite lake, Pleasant Lake, in New London, New Hampshire for Labor Day weekend. We enjoyed bicycling, swimming and canoeing at the lake, and on a particularly beautiful late summer day we climbed Mt. Kearsarge, which overlooks Pleasant Lake. Pictures included are of Little Boar’s Head Beach, North Hampton, NH (near Exeter on the Seacoast), St. Andrew’s by the Sea (an Episcopal summer chapel at Little Boar’s Head), Pleasant Lake, and views from the top of Mt. Kearsarge, and of Old St. Andrew’s Church in New London, where I worshipped on Labor Day Sunday.

After a week back at home after our New Hampshire trip, I was back on an airplane again, this time to go to San Francisco! Stay tuned for details about my week in California in my next blog post!

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Mary’s Blog Post #3

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We bid farewell to Worcester and the Malvern Hills on Sunday and began the second half of our journey by heading northeast to Yorkshire, where we spent a delightful two days touring and rambling around the Yorkshire Dales, taking in the James Herriot museum in Thirsk. I was enchanted to discover that the museum is actually the original “Skeldale House” where James and Siegfried lived and worked. James Herriot’s real name was Alf Wight, and Siegfried’s was Donald Sinclair. I highly recommend the museum to Herriot fans–well worth a visit! Having read and loved the books many years ago, it was also a real treat to see the Yorkshire Dales countryside.

At one point as we were walking along a high path up in the Dales, Bill remarked that he felt like he was walking in a calendar because of the spectacular scenery! Bill also deserves a medal for navigating the steep and narrow roads up and down the Dales!

We took in Richmond Castle gardens in Richmond, which has spectacular hilltop views of the River Swale coursing swiftly below the castle walls. Of particular note in the gardens was a memorial topiary garden dedicated to 16 prisoners held in the castle during World War I because of their conscientious objection to war. They were eventually sentenced to 10 years hard labor.

We left Yorkshire to begin our journey to the Isle of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland in the Hebrides, arriving on Wednesday afternoon. Along the way we visited Benmore Gardens in Dunoon, Argyll, and Inveraray Castle in Inveraray. Benmore is a large, primarily wooded botanical garden with hundreds of species of trees and plants from all over the world. We could have spent several days there and still not seen it all. Inveraray Castle, for all you Downton Abbey fans, is where they filmed the episode where the Grantham family went to visit their Scottish cousins! The Lord of Argyll actually lives there with his wife and children.

We finally arrived at Iona, after two ferry rides and a long drive across the Island of Mull on a single track road (did I mention that Bill deserves a medal for his expert driving and nerves of steel?), and settled into the charming Argyll Hotel.

It is hard to describe how beautiful and serene Iona is. There is something about the light and the color of the water that is almost other-worldly. There is almost a complete absence of commercial enterprise here, and the small village on the island is quiet and peaceful. Iona is a place of pilgrimage and of quiet Scottish sheep farming life.

The Iona Community has services mornings and evenings in the Abbey, which is on the site where St. Columba founded a monastery in the 6th century, and from which Christianity spread throughout Scotland and northern England. The Iona Community is an ecumenical Christian Community devoted to “seeking a more just and equal society, a fairer, more sustainable way of living on the Earth, and a progressive renewal of the Church and its worship.”

I have enjoyed entering into their morning and evening worship, especially the late evening Eucharist on Thursday night where they set up big tables down the middle of the nave of the Abbey with everyone sitting facing inward toward the table, with many candles throughout the Abbey. Communion was shared by passing many loaves of bread and chalices of wine around the concentric circle of people, with each person passing the bread and wine on to his/her neighbor. I will include a picture I took after the service was over.

You will notice that at the far end of the nave is a beautiful seemingly blue window. This window is actually clear, but it was just getting dark at the end of the service at around 10:10 p.m., and that is the evening sky! I will also include a picture of a rainbow I saw just over the Abbey right before the service began.

I have also attended services at the nearby Bishop’s House, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s retreat house on the island. Bishop’s House has a lovely Chapel of its own where morning Eucharist and evening Compline are offered each day.

Bill and I took a boat trip over to the Isle of Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave on the most beautiful day of our trip. The weather was gorgeous, and the climb along the rock face on the side of Staffa was unforgettable. Pictures are included! Fingal’s Cave was made famous by Felix Mendelssohn, who visited in the early 19th century, and was inspired to write “The Hebrides or Fingal’s Cave Overture.” I’m really impressed to think that Mendelssohn made this trip back in those days when he had to sail out here and there were no iron railings to hold onto along the cliff face!

We’ve also tramped around the Isle of Iona, searching for colored stones on the pebble beaches, and have been glad we brought rain gear!

Our hotel has been homey and comfortable, with lots of sustainable practices, including their own large organic garden, from which comes a lot of the delicious food we’ve been eating. Between the great food here and the cream and butter I’ve consumed, I’m definitely not going to have my cholesterol checked for a while!

It has been the trip of our lives, and we are both so grateful for the opportunity to have made it. We will indeed be sorry on Sunday to leave this beautiful place to begin our long journey home, but also grateful to return fortified and renewed by our spiritual and musical pilgrimage.
–Mary and Bill

Saturday, August 2nd

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The Three Choirs Festival ended this evening, and it had been my hope to write a little bit each day about our experiences, but the vagaries of internet connection and the incredibly busy schedule of the week have prevented me from my original plan.
However, what follows is a recap of the past 6 days since I last wrote.

MONDAY began with a poetry walk on the Malvern hills led by Linda Hart, a writer and editor whose specialty is a group of poets called the Dymock poets, which include Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Frost, as well as several others. These poets lived in the village of Dymock (near Worcester) in the period before the First World War, and two of them were killed in the war. All of them wrote lovingly of this area around the Malvern Hills and Robert Frost wrote his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ while living here. I had not known that Frost, a New Englander, had spent time living in England at the beginning of his career.

We couldn’t have had a more beautiful summer day to hike the Malvern Hills and stop periodically to hear Linda read poems by the Dymock poets. Interestingly, Linda, although now a British citizen of some 40 years, was born and raised in the US, and is a graduate of Goucher College!

In the afternoon we attended Evensong and in the evening a concert featuring Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (Symphony No. 2) with the Festival Chorus and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The concert was beautiful, and for Bill especially was one of the highlights of the week!

TUESDAY saw us on another outing in the morning to go to composer Edward Elgar’s birthplace and museum, just a few miles outside of Worcester. We were fortunate to have along with us a new friend, Tom, whom we had met on the poetry walk, who is a member of the Elgar society and quite knowledgeable about all things Elgar. We felt like we had our own personal tour guide through the house and museum.

In the afternoon we attended a wonderful performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass by the three Cathedral Choirs and the Academy of Ancient Music, followed in the evening by a concert by the choir Tenebrae of Russian liturgical music entitled ‘Russian Treasures’. Tenebrae is hands-down the best choir I have ever heard! Go out and buy their CDs! Bill and I were blown away by their singing, as well as by the deeply spiritual nature of this music.

I should also note here that every concert of the whole week here has begun with a prayer led by one of the clergy or lay staff of Worcester Cathedral. Some of them have been written by the person leading the prayer at that particular concert, and usually have included references to the themes of the day and week as we work through remembrance of WWI to redemption and reconciliation, but also include references to what is going on in the world today.

It has been quite wonderful to find ourselves in prayer in a packed Cathedral with 1500 other concert-goers before each concert begins. At one of the concerts, one of the Canons of the Cathedral read this prayer from Shakespeare:
“O Lord that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thanksgiving.” I thought this prayer would make a good table grace.

One final vignette from Tuesday:
At breakfast at the university dormitory where we we staying, I overheard the two young men who were manning the breakfast buffet talking about “the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”,the first book in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. Only in England!

WEDNESDAY began with a wonderful choral concert by Rodolphus, a high school youth choir who were amazing. They sounded like professionals. Great Britain is overflowing with choral excellence, I have decided. Whenever there are opportunities to sing at services here, one is surrounded by such hearty singing by all in attendance. I met so many people this week who sing in enormous choral societies in their home towns and villages. Choral singing is a national pastime here!

In the afternoon we attended another beautiful Evensong sung by the combined three Cathedral choirs. This one was being recorded live for the BBC program ‘Choral Evensong’, which broadcasts live an Evensong from a different Cathedral every Wednesday at 3:30 and repeats it the following Sunday at 3. I learned that ‘Choral Evensong’ is the longest-running and most- listened-to BBC program, with over 20 million listeners worldwide. And now I can say that I have sung for the BBC, as I sang the hymns!

On THURSDAY we attended a lecture given by Linda Hart on the Dymock Poets: “A rural idyll ended by war”. Following the lecture we attended a luncheon sponsored by the Vaughan Williams Society, which featured a talk on how Vaughan Williams was influenced by his experience in the Great War, interspersed with readings by award-winning poet John Greening.

The interweaving of poetry and music throughout the week has been so enriching, and it has been wonderful to have the time during this week to reflect on many moving texts and poetry.

After lunch we attended a fabulous concert by the King’s Singers, followed by another glorious Evensong, which featured a new anthem by a young composer (24 years old!) on the text “let all mortal flesh keep silence”. Bill and I were blown away by this anthem, which made me think of this text in a wholly new way.

After dinner we attended the premiere of the commissioned work for the Festival: “A Foreign Field” by German composer Torsten Rasch, who was born in Dresden, one of the cities obliterated in WWII. A German choir from the city of Chemnitz (also bombed during the War) joined forces with the Festival Choir for this concert, symbolizing hope for reconciliation and an end to war. The texts used for this work were an interspersing the Latin Requiem Mass with poetry by Dymock poet Edward Thomas. At this concert I sat next to a woman who was from Coventry in England (also heavily bombed during WWII), who said the music brought those experiences to her mind again.

On FRIDAY Bill and I took another jaunt out to the beautiful countryside to visit a garden at Croome Court. Bill has become quite good at navigating the challenges of driving on the opposite side of the road with a stick-shift transmission along the narrow and winding country roads, which include frequent round-abouts, with everyone going around the wrong way!

In the evening we attended a concert by the Festival Chorus, the Girl Choristers of Worcester Cathedral, and the Three Choirs Festival Youth Orchestra of Elgar’s oratorio “The Apostles”.

Today, SATURDAY, August 2, is my birthday, and a wonderful birthday it has been! We drove over to Hay on Wye, just over the border into Wales, and wandered around browsing in second hand book shops (there are over a dozen in the town!), and had a pub lunch. Then back to Worcester for dinner with our new friends Pauline and Mike (who have lent us a parking space all week) and the final concert this evening: “Best of British”, featuring a line-up of such classics as Handel’s “Zadok the Priest”, Parry’s “Jerusalem” and Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1″. I think I can honestly say that this has been the best, and certainly the most memorable birthday I have ever had!

As our week at the 3 Choirs Festival draws to a close, I am so very grateful for the opportunity to have come here and to have heard such great music, met such interesting and kind people, and had my love of words re-kindled. The final words of John Milton’s poem ‘Blest pair of Sirens’ from tonight’s concert sums it up:

O may we soon again renew that song,
And keep in tune with heaven, till God ere long
To his celestial concert us unite,
To live with Him, and sing in endless morn of light!

Greetings from Worcester, England!

 

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Greetings from Worcester, England! We arrived at Heathrow early Friday morning and rented a car, drove to Oxford and had lunch with Bill’s cousin Liz and her husband Bill, and then had a lovely late afternoon drive through the Cotswolds on the way the Worcester. We stopped in Bourton-on-the-Water and strolled along the river running like a street between two rows of houses and shops. We arrived in Worcester around 8 pm and settled into our dorm accommodations for the week at the City Campus of Worcester University after a late dinner. A long day, to be sure, but some beautiful scenery and quite warm weather (in thThe Three Choirs Festival began Saturday morning with an opening service at the Cathedral with a grand procession of all kinds of dignitaries from the three cathedral cities of Worcester, Hereford, and Gloucester, including Mayors, Deputy Mayoresses, City Marshalls, Lords and Ladies, an Earl, Vergers, Bishops, Deans, the 3 choirs and their Directors, and lots of gold chains, amazing headgear, swords, and vestments.

The Three Choirs Festival is the oldest continuous Choir festival in the world, and this year is the 287th festival! There was only one year that the festival did not happen, and that was in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War. This year’s Festival marks the centenary of the start of the “Great War”as they call it here, and that theme became apparent in the opening service of music and readings and in the Dean’s inspiring sermon, where he spoke of the power that music and art have to bridge the gap between the horror of war and the indomitable human spirit, which continues to love and laugh and sing.

At the Festival Reception afterward we met a very nice couple who ended up offering to let us park our rental car in their driveway for the duration of the festival. We have already met so many lovely and friendly people!

Saturday evening began with Evensong sung by the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, after which we caught a quick bite to eat in order to return to the first concert of the week, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. As I was waiting in the line to re-enter the Cathedral from the cloister, I studied the stained glass windows along the cloister, all of which were memorials to sons, husbands, and fathers killed in the First World War. One boy died 5 days before his 18th birthday. Britten, born immediately after the war, was a pacifist, and the War Requiem, his monumental work, interweaves the traditional texts of the Requiem Mass with poetry by Wilfred Owen who died in France one week before the Armistice in 1918. Bill and I were struck by how deeply the memory of this war is still felt here. There was a palpable feeling of engagement with the music by the rapt audience in the packed cathedral.

After this concert we attended a late night concert by a group called Opus Anglicanum, comprised of 5 men who presented a program of songs and readings about angels throughout history. They were amazing. Bill and I finally got back to our dorm around 11:30. A very full day for Day 1 of the Festival!

Today, (Sunday), featured the opening Eucharist in the packed Cathedral, after which we took a drive into the countryside and ended up in Hereford, where we went to Evensong. We had our first glimpse of the Malvern hills in the beautiful Wye Valley during our drive. Tomorrow we are scheduled to go on a poetry walk in the Malvern Hills. This is Edward Elgar county, which he said inspired a lot of his music. I can see why– the scenery is breath-taking. We are hoping to go see the Elgar birthplace museum (a short distance outside of Worcester) sometime this week.

It is hard to believe this is only the end of the second day of the Festival!

Faith in the Public Arena: An Experiment in Healing Prayer on a Suburban Sidewalk

Epiphany Episcopal Church Kristofer Lindh-Payne Prayer
 
For the last three years, members of Epiphany have gone to public spaces like light rail stations, coffee shops, parks, street corners and shopping districts to offer the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday (for more info see epiphanybaltimore.org for video link and written reflection). When people have asked
about the experience, each year we’ve said things like, “Let’s not wait until next year to come up with another creative expression of sharing our faith”.
 
There are elements of our rich Christian tradition that aren’t much of a stretch to share with our wider community. Each year we talk about ideas for creative evangelism (dare I use the “e” word), but most ideas don’t see the light of day. It’s weird, but even for an extrovert like me, it’s difficult to put myself out there in these out-of-the-ordinary contexts. It feels risky somehow, and more than a little outside even my comfort zone.
 
After lots of conversations, prayer and planning, I took a very small action step with this today in offering anointing and prayers for healing outside a local Panera. While this blustery cold January morning might not have been the wisest choice for an outdoor effort, it seemed a good idea when I set the date weeks ago before with my fellow co-rector, Kathryn Wajda. 
 
Epiphany is a place that takes healing seriously. We have offered midweek healing Eucharists, have stations for healing every Sunday during worship, and have a list of people we pray for that is so long that it can leave you out of breathe if you pray the names aloud.
 
On Sundays we offer two services with communion, and even with strong lay leadership and a cadre of clergy, we could wait a long time before all the pews in our building are filled up for both liturgies (images of flying pigs come to mind). In a time when more and more people make the choice to not participate in a regular rhythm of worship, prayer, and faith formation in community, maybe God is calling us to take our faith to the streets in thoughtful, care-filled ways. No offense to passing out religious tracts that draw fear-filled lines of exclusivity or walking with placards condemning this group or that one, but that is not what I am talking about here.
 
The world in which we live in, the communities we inhabit, the families we are part of, even/ especially ourselves are in need of healing. That’s not to say that our churches don’t need healing too (because of course they do), but Jesus and his disciples did not spend most of their time hanging around the temple or synagogue waiting for people to show up. They went to where the people were and they preached and teached, healed and mealed, cast out and raised up. How much time do we spend as followers of Jesus just waiting, hoping that people will flow though our doors?
 
The choice for Panera was an obvious one for Epiphany because after our 8 o’clock service on most Sundays people gather at Panera for breakfast together. Parishioners didn’t mind the idea of having one of their clergy leave the altar to go out into the world in an effort to bring a loving witness and an offering of healing prayer to members of our community on their way to grab a coffee, danish, or breakfast sandwich. In fact some were even excited to see how it went when they arrived for their regular breakfast routine after worship. This seemed like a safe place to start such a ministry when many of our parishioners already call Panera “Epiphany West” (I’m considering a pilgrimage to St. Arbucks also, as well as a range of other neighborhood hotspots).
 
Well more than a hundred people walked back-and-forth from their cars, hurrying in from the cold. While only a few stopped for prayer, many made comments, and all were greeted with a warm “good morning” as they came to the doors. Lots had comments to make about the cardboard sign set beside me that read “May I offer prayers for healing for you or someone you love?” They said things like “How nice” or “God bless you.” The most popular was something akin to “Geez, it’s cold out here. Are you going to be okay?”
 
I couldn’t help but think about the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, Michael Curry, and his address to our General Convention a couple of years ago in which he challenged us all to become “crazy Christians”. I had the sneaking suspicion that a few people wanted to call me just that this morning.
 
Not only did more than a hundred people pass me by, but well over a thousand Canada geese in a bizarre migratory pattern also made their way past me as I sat shivering.As each beloved creature of God passed me by -friend and fowl alike- I found the intensity of my prayers escalating as I felt them ascend in heaven- bound spirals. While I would’ve much preferred to pray with more people, the opportunity to pray for all of these children of God really warmed my heart in spite of the cold.
 
Yes, it was cold, for sure. In fact, so cold that I could see my breath and probably every other person that shuffled past. Watching all this breath brought to mind the Hebrew word ruach- a word that I seem to remember means both breath and spirit. While I may have gone out this morning with the intention of bringing healing and love to the world, what I found myself left with was the even more profound reminder that God’s Spirit is present in each one of us in this breath of life. I needed that reminder that God is present and active in the world, and that we are called to first witness then engage with this powerful, life- giving Spirit that calls us to be healed and to heal others.

–the Reverend Kristofer Lindh-Payne

Don’t be shy! Leave a comment.

Thoughts on reading Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

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Have you read Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden? Actually, the full title is Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West. I read it a week or so ago on my Kindle, and I can’t stop thinking about this man, Shin Dong-Hyuk, and this unforgettable book. I think most of us can recall a few “unforgettable” books, and this one is certainly on my list.

In fact, I’ll even go out on a limb here and say I think it’s . . . changed me, somehow. Now, I’m not going to give all my money to Amnesty International or fly to Seoul and release balloons with subversive messages about Kim Jong-Un. Maybe I won’t end up doing anything in response to reading this book, but I hope that’s not the case. Even though the story is difficult to read and yes, shockingly brutal at times, it didn’t depress me and make me feel insignificant in the big picture. Instead, it made it clear to me that any kind of existential struggle and questioning about the meaning (or lack thereof) of my life and choices, seems not the least bit interesting or relevant anymore. Here it is, good and evil, very little “gray area.”

I even found Camp 14 on Google Maps, for crying out loud, and that somehow made it all feel much more real and personal to me. You can find the Kaechon prison camp, too, outside the town of Bukchang.

Now, I haven’t talked much about the actual story. Here are a few facts. Oh, and that word, fact? Did it make you wonder how we know these are facts, given that the story seems almost too sick and evil to be true? Well, Shin bears the scars on his body as proof. He has held up his shirt and shown his back to cameras, rolled up his pants legs and showed the burn scars from when he crawled through the electrified fence–over the body of his friend, who didn’t make it. I think that was what made me the saddest, seeing him show his scars. It wasn’t the scars themselves, exactly. It was him having to show the scars, and knowing how painful it was for a long time, for him to even talk about his life in the prison.

He was born in the camp.

He didn’t know anything about “God” or “love.” He never felt any tenderness from his mother. In fact, he viewed her mostly as a competitor for food.

The author, Blaine Harden, says that he didn’t lose God, or lose any kind of faith. Rather, God simply didn’t exist for Shin.

He was there because his uncle managed to escape to South Korea. Yes, his uncle. The “crime” against the state must be punished by lifetime imprisonment for three generations.

Now, it is not a pretty story, obviously, and this man is still struggling to live in the world outside the camp. However, one thing in his story encourages me, as someone who aspires to the Christian life. In an interview, he talked about being concerned . . . are you ready? For the guards. Yes, the ones who tortured him and killed his family. To paraphrase, he said that he believed many of them would suffer terribly from guilt and trauma about the brutality and torture they’d inflicted on innocent people. He said he understood, now, that they were also victims, caught up in this evil system. That sounds like forgiveness to me, and in that I see the hand of God — and I remember the words, “Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Here’s his Facebook page. I hope you follow him on Facebook and read Blaine Harden’s book about his “remarkable odyssey.”

https://www.facebook.com/NKSDH?fref=ts

–Amelia Franz

Have you read the book? Even if you haven’t, what do you think? Don’t be shy, leave a reply!

http://www.epiphanybaltimore.org/shin-dong-hyuk/

A Moment Lost

kristoferheadshot-150x150I waited listening, trying to pay close attention to the comments of leaders from our church, seeking the words that I myself was feeling led to speak: synthesizing, hesitating, preparing. When I heard them: “I rise to make a motion to table the resolution…”

These words made my heart sink this afternoon when discussion ended (without any action) regarding Adoption and Implementation of a Non-Violence Training Program at the 229th annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Now let me be clear- I feel like we accomplished some really good things at Convention (including resolutions on poverty, violence and the environment) and I love this opportunity we have to gather as a wider church. And furthermore, I do not long for another requirement for leaders in the church to be added to an already long list of mandates (important though they may be).

And yet, I have felt the powerful effect of a training like this one, on my own life and ministry, that teaches creative approaches to non-violence — both interpersonally and systemically.

Now I have three college and graduate level degrees, but I have never been a part of an institution that valued the ethic of non-violence so greatly that it would take the chance on making such education a requirement. My wife, Heather, whom I met in college, actually created a non-violence curriculum for children as part of her senior project, because she felt like it was so critical.

I guess I wish that the church – a body that seeks to follow Jesus still today, some 2000 years after his own violent death – would jump at the chance to teach people how to face courageously into the violent realities of our world and choose differently. I am not talking about about learning rhetoric or theory about why we should give peace a chance, nor a gathering of people waving the peace sign at each other. I am talking about the kind of things that one can learn from people like Colman McCarthy at the Center for Teaching Peace in DC (to name one of many approaches). I met him through Heather, when we were in college, and things I learned from him (almost 15 years ago) still impact my life today.

Because the world in which we live is constantly assaulted by violence, our traumatized selves, families, and institutions of all sorts seem to be blind to the fact that there are other ways to do things. But I am not sure that most people would choose to practice those ways – to learn how to be creative about our responses to the onslaught of violence in our lives – unless communities like the church get serious about teaching it. If the church doesn’t see it as important enough to mandate, as a practical way to live into the second part of the Great Commandment (to love your neighbor), than why should anyone else?

I wish that when I was a small child and I experienced being bullied for the first time that I had tools to handle the situation. I wish that when I was 14 years old – hanging out after my first high school basketball game – that I had those tools when I watched a classmate “stomped” within inches of his life by a bunch of other classmates. I wish that I had those resources when my school floundered to respond to this violence as retaliative attacks erupted. And I am so glad that I did have those skills when (as a young adult) I witnessed what seemed like most of a fully-padded middle-school football team “jump” three other boys in the middle of the road as I sat at a stoplight. In that moment as I recalled my non-violence training, rather than retreat into whatever primal fight, flight or freeze instinct, I got out of the car and ran toward the altercation screaming the Lord’s Prayer. This was just one of the many “out of the ordinary” approaches we learned, but it was the only thing that came to my mind in that instant.

At the beginning of our Convention, we recognized the one-year anniversary of the shooting at St. Peter’s in Ellicott City. So many, so many more, have died since that day. How many more will be injured or killed? How many more will injure or kill? I believe that the church is called to be a witness of Christ’s love today, and that love can be exhibited in countless ways. I only wish that we could have used the opportunity that we turned away from today to do something different.

Brian McLaren (our keynote speaker) held up the critique of many who do not wish to be part of the church: the voice that denounces “organized religion”. He further clarified that for most the trouble is not with organized religion, but with the fact that religion is organized for the wrong purposes (and often poorly organized at that). McLaren called our Convention to participate in the liberating work of God and the priorities of Planet, Poverty, and Peace. I could really feel the Spirit moving.

We concluded our Convention, as requested by Bishop Sutton, with the prayer attributed to St.Francis of Assisi: “Lord make me an instrument of your peace…”. I regret, however, that that petition cannot be more easily realized, as I believe it would have had the resolution been passed.

Those words “I rise to make a motion to table the resolution…” still resound in my heart and mind. Mostly because I did not say anything. The moment passed and I missed it. Because I wavered, looking for the right words, a moment was lost. Its not that I feel like my voice would have changed anything in the vote (though I concede that that is possible). It’s more that I have to walk around with this “truth” festering inside me for the next year, until next Convention when we might talk some more about it again. I know that I have to let that go, but my heart feels heavy.

Tomorrow I will rise and go forth to the table that Jesus set for us all. I pray that when I do, I do not go to that table “for solace only, and not for strength, for pardon only and not for renewal”.

Lord, please, make us all instruments of your peace. And please do it quickly, in spite of ourselves and in spite of our reluctance to act.

– The Rev. Kristofer Lindh-Payne, Composed on a bench outside the Maritime Museum, 5/4/13

http://www.epiphanybaltimore.org/a-moment-lost/

How Much Did Those Shoes Cost? Thoughts on the Factory Collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh

 
“Where are those shoes from?” “How much were those pants?” “Who made the shirt you are wearing?”
 
I am embarrassed to say that I don’t have answers to these questions, but the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh last week that killed more than 400 workers has me searching for them.
 
On the radio this morning, I heard various American shoppers interviewed about the recent tragedy. I was struck by the callousness, the disconnect, the lack of understanding that the clothing they had just purchased could very well have been made by someone working in that factory. The report went on to share a study that placed two identical articles of clothing side by side in a department store, the same price, only one had a sign stating that the shirt had been made in a factory that treated its workers justly (fair wages, safe conditions, etc.). The study showed that when priced the same, shoppers chose the latter.
 
With a variation of only 5% of a price increase though, shoppers began to regularly chose the cheaper product that offered no information about factory conditions. Is the cost of human life worth so little?
 
The report left me at a loss for words…that is, until my eyes fell upon this collect as I prayed compline (“night prayer”) from the Book of Common Prayer. It reads: “watch over those, both day and night, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil” (pp.134).
 
How often do I forget about these literal “threads” that link our common lives? I wonder how often you do. I expect it happens to most of us. All of us even, at least some of the time. Even if I was able to live into that vigilant awareness, what can I do about injustices that occur on the other side of the planet? Is choosing not to buy something really enough? It’s not like this kind of stuff that happens here in this country, right?
Later this afternoon I listened – from across the lunch table – to someone recount terrible stories of how members of their family, working in a Baltimore area factory, were subject to unsafe work conditions, and were harassed and arrested a mere generation ago for trying to organize to change this unjust situation for the better.
 
This is a reality in our world and it doesn’t have to be. We can do something. We must do something. God cries out for it. Change is possible.
 
In Luke’s gospel account, when Jesus is faced with the provocative question “and who is my neighbor?”, he responds (brilliantly, I might add) with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Most of us know how that story ends. If you don’t, check it out (Luke 10:25-37). I don’t want to be the guy that walks past and does nothing, but I know that there are times when I am “that guy”. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget. I forget about those threads that connect us all. I forget to love my neighbor. I forget and I am sorry.
 
As I prepare for bed, please God, “watch over those, both day and night, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil”. And when I do forget again, please forgive me, God. Forgive me, and guide me to change. To change not only myself, but also work to change the injustices in this world that deny human dignity – that fall down upon your people. Show us the way to resurrection and new life.
 
–The Rev. Kristofer Lindh-Payne
What do you think? Don’t be shy, please leave a reply!

http://www.epiphanybaltimore.org/how-much-did-those-shoes-cost/

Rick Warren and the Beautiful People

What was your first thought when you heard that Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, had committed suicide?  Whether or not you agree with Rick Warren’s theology or his stance on human sexuality or anything else, you probably couldn’t help but feel a moment of real sympathy for him and his family. Maybe you said a prayer for them. Could anything be worse than losing your beloved child?

What was your next thought? You probably don’t remember, but I remember mine. It was something like this: Guess he and his family weren’t as “together” as they seemed. After all, he’s the author of The Purpose-Driven Life, the pastor of a church where 20,000 people worship on Sunday mornings. He even eats breakfast with the President now and then. People look to him not only for spiritual guidance, but for life guidance.

Well, that kind of thinking is completely wrong, start to finish, mainly because mental illness has nothing to do with being “together” or not “together.” It’s just that, an illness. It can happen in any family, and can’t always be cured–not by prayer, or doctors, or therapy, or medicine.

It’s not the first time I’ve found myself thinking this way, though. I thought the same thing a few years ago, when I heard that a couple I knew from my former church were divorcing. They were the beautiful people, you see. Their luxurious house boasted a scenic view, a pool, a three car garage. The inside was straight out of one of those Martha Stewart-ish magazines. The husband was a high-level executive at a well-known company. The wife, of course, was pretty and smart. I’ll bet you can guess what their kids were like: adorable, blue-eyed, early readers, the “deep end of the gene pool”. She sent out those form letters every Christmas. You know the ones–“Our family is so blessed”–followed by an enumeration of the many, many ways in which they’ve been blessed.

It wasn’t so much those superficial things, though, that made me think they “had their act together.” At Bible Study and parent get-togethers, she spoke freely and eloquently of their spiritual life–how they prayed together and sought God’s will in their lives. She thanked God for keeping them strong and united, and prayed that He would continue to bless them with the strength to weather any storm.

So I wouldn’t have believed they were divorcing it if I hadn’t overheard it from one of their children. She was telling a little friend that she didn’t want to talk about her parents’ divorce, because it made her feel her so sad inside. At that moment I wanted more than anything to give her a big hug, but I respected her privacy instead, pretended I hadn’t heard anything, and went about my business.

At some point, I found myself thinking it:  Guess they weren’t as “together” as they seemed.

Do you ever find yourself saying those words? I don’t know why I do it. I know the proverbial truth: The rain falls on the just and unjust alike. I know that we’re all broken in some way, “screwed up,” as my son would say. Isn’t that why many of us come to church, anyway, because of some soul-deep brokenness that will never be fixed in this life? I know all this. I suppose I just forget, but maybe I shouldn’t forget. Maybe I need to remind myself that the person I’m sitting next to in church or at a school fundraiser has probably lived through, or is living through, some unspeakable pain.

The “resurrection stories” that Epiphany parishioners have been sharing on Sunday mornings recently can remind us all of  this truth. There is healing and victory in these stories, to be sure, but also admission of human sadness and pain even in those who do, in fact, seem to “have it all together.” I’m so glad that these brave souls are sharing these stories in this powerful way, and I hope we continue the practice.

What if I made it a point to remind myself  that the person I’m sitting next to–this well-dressed, smiling, outwardly confident and competent person–is really hurting, or has been, or will be? What if I imagined this person as the heartbroken parent of a child with a mental illness, whom all the prayers, doctors, and medicine in the world can’t heal? As the parent who sat alone in the dark and cried the night before from sheer frustration, or maybe didn’t cry at all, out of fear that once released, their tears would never stop?

What if I imagine that the person who’s annoying me for whatever trivial reason, has been diagnosed with cancer and is terrified of death and leaving behind his loved-ones? Or realize that he or she might have had to stand and watch, helpless, as his or her life partner walked out the door for the last time. I could picture her having to tell her children that their lives are about to change in a big way because Mommy and Daddy won’t be married to each other anymore.

The particulars vary, of course. Maybe nothing awful happened this morning or last night, at all. Maybe it was a lovely evening, a restful sleep, and pancakes for everyone in the morning. But it will happen–today, tomorrow, next week, next year. The pain will come, no matter how much you pray or attend church, synagogue, or mosque, no matter how close to God you might appear to others or yourself.

Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference at all if I performed this imaginary exercise. After all, he or she would never even be aware of what I was doing. But the thing is, you just never know. It might end up meaning something, after all. It might even make all the difference in the world. I’m going to try it with someone this week. Will you?

–Amelia Franz

What do you think? Don’t be shy! Leave a reply!

 

 

http://www.epiphanybaltimore.org/rick-warren-how/