October 16th, 2019

In one of my favorite episodes of “The West Wing”, President Bartlett is sitting with a psychiatrist and talking about lack of sleep. After a back-and-forth, Bartlett says, “Stress is for other people.”

Stress is for other people.

How many times a day do we feel the burden of stress? Whether it be money woes, family issues, grief from missing our loved ones, transitions in our lives…stress is an unwelcome passenger in that veritable clown-car of daily happenings. We must be the other people. We feel it. We carry it like a handbag, whether we like to admit it or not, and we rarely acknowledge it, as though ignoring stress would make it disappear. But there it is, the ever-willing and never-invited participant in our already full lives. Stress has become—for many people, if not all—part of our daily routine; grab the coffee, find your keys, pick up your to-do list and open the door for stress to follow you out into the world.

Let’s face it: Stress is something we all deal with. In one way or another our bodies react to the happenings around us and stress manifests in different ways. For some, it’s mental anxiety; for others, it’s bodily aches, pains, and illness. Sleepless nights, scrambled thoughts, and/or poor physical health can all become presents from our unseen companion. So how can we do better? How can we overcome stress and allow it to melt away?

I don’t have the answer to cure all stress, but I have a few thoughts on how to diminish the effects of it.

1.     Sleep. Did you know that lack of sleep is one of the most often over-looked causes of stress? When we’re tired, we can’t think as clearly, work as efficiently, and care for ourselves or others nearly as well. Now, I know some of you are thinking, “duhhhhh,” but here’s the thing: There’s a difference between knowing something, and actually putting that knowledge to use. So, if you’re feeling a little stressed out, perhaps some sleep is in order. We’re all busy, and all of us have deadlines and tasks to meet, but making time to sleep is absolutely paramount for our well-being and for the mitigation of stress.

2.     Prayer. I know, I know, I can see some of your eyes rolling. But prayer works. Prayer can be a moment wherein all the other ‘stuff’ rolling through your mind can take a backseat. Stopping for a few minutes every other hour and letting God know how thankful you are for your family/friends, your job, your significant other, pets, trees, the wind…anything for which you are thankful…can literally change your day. Sometimes I’m guilty of saying I’m too busy to pray, it happened yesterday; but I realized it and went a little while later. Praying is more than just taking time to ask God for stuff, it’s also a time to speak with God and lay some of our worries on the altar—altars are wherever we are when talking to God—and allowing a sense of grace to wash over us and offer respite.

3.     Talk about it. Don’t think for a moment that feeling stressed makes you weak. Talking about things with other people helps. The conversation may not yield any solutions, but it will always, always, allow a little unburdening. There’s something holy about sharing ourselves with others; the stress begins to melt away a bit when we interact with each other. Part of being human is relying on other humans; talking about things always helps, even just brief conversations.

4.     Allow your body some grace. Don’t overdo it, folks. If you need sleep, adjust your schedule. If you need food, eat. If you need to cry, well, watch Old Yeller or something. But listen to your body and keep it happy. The better we feel, the better we operate. Take it from someone who puts his head down and goes face-first, mouth-open through life; there’s no possible way to sustain a constant state of busy-ness…it will not end well for any of us.

5.     Be good to yourself. You are created in God’s image, with love in mind. Sometimes our faith is deep and strong, sometimes it is tested by outside circumstances. In either space, or the space between, allow yourselves to feel God’s unending grace. There are times in our lives when we feel as though we’ll never get through, that our luck is just gone, and that the hurt/strain/stress/pain/hardships will never end. They will. Try to pick three things a day for which you are thankful, and concentrate on them. Try to remember to give yourself a break and know that not everything has to be done, today. And try to remind yourself that you are a beloved member of a beloved community full of people Just. Like. You. People who feel stress, who need love, and who are willing to love others.

This life is a gift. The presence of stress can belittle that gift and make it seem as though we’re just constantly at odds with the ‘next thing’. Take a breath. Exhale. And realize that you are worth so much more than what you accomplish or what’s on your to-do list. Let that companion of stress be replaced by a presence of grace. And let grace guide you through the rest of the week.

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

October 2nd, 2019

The smell of smoke still clings to my shoes, to my hat sitting in the back seat. The images from last weekend’s St. Crispin’s Cookoff loom in my mind. Initially, this was to be a fundraiser for St. C’s—something to aid in buying ‘stuff’ for new buildings; what it became has overwhelmed my wildest imaginations.

Of the images mentioned above, I see five men playing a frisbee version of horseshoes; I see four others joyfully arguing over the rules of cornhole; there are two people on the fringe speaking their hearts; there are teams interwoven in conversation; there are children running, laughing, and playing without the aid of technology. I’m witnessing God’s kingdom in action—the true community which Christ intended; people loving their neighbor as themselves.

Too often, we are competitive in life. We compete for money, attention, glory, pride. We compete with agendas. We compete when we don’t really need to; sometimes our competitive nature shoves the communal nature aside in order to satisfy our immediate needs. As I watched these people come together to compete in a food showdown, I noticed how deeply they connected prior to the judgment day. I witnessed relationship take place of division—the teams still wanted to win, sure, but they were more concerned with connecting than ‘winning’. This is what church looks like to me; this is what I desire for our community, for our world.

Can you imagine a world free from agenda? Okay, maybe that’s a little too idealistic. Maybe this instead: Can you imagine a world with very little agenda? With our competitive nature constantly overwhelming our better sense, life becomes difficult—well, more difficult—and often unwieldy. We have elections to win. We have arguments to win. We have competitions to win.

Win. Win. Win.

If we take our agendas and shove them to the side, allowing space for grace to reside in their stead, the face of the world has the chance to look more like the face of God and less like a mask of hatred, of the drama mask intimating our fake laughter or real tears. We’re approaching another season of potential division; a season wherein pride will overcome righteous desire and we will become lesser because of it. Whatever our leanings, whatever our penultimate desires, we would do well to remember that we have more in common than that which divides us. It may read trite—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. This week, this season of life, look for the ways in which to play, to pray, and to simply ‘be’ with your neighbor. If we can remember that it’s in His name we pray, in His name we play, perhaps it can be in His name that we stay…connected…loving…and unified into the beloved community He so longs for us to be.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

September 25th, 2019

A few years ago, some of my peers began posting the following question on facebook: “How can I pray for you, today?” At first, I thought it was a little strange…not in a bad way, just a “hmmm, why haven’t I thought of that?” kind of thing. As I read the comments people were leaving, I noticed actual need in some of them. People were battling cancer, had family issues, were fighting monetary problems—and they had the courage to put that out there on the internet for all the world to see. The beautiful part of it? Not one single comment was answered by an internet troll or a cyber-bully. No one replied with, “Well, you think you’ve got it bad? MY problems are…” blah blah blah.

 

I was amazed and encouraged. I started doing it, too. The response was overwhelming. People messaged me privately, commented publicly and some even commented below others’ posts and said they were praying for them, too. What a ministry. What a way to co-opt a secular device and arena and make it better! And it’s so easy…

 

The truth is, we get busy in our everyday lives. Sometimes, unfortunately, prayer takes a backseat to problems, rather than riding shotgun and taking them on alongside us. More often than admitted, prayer seems to come as an afterthought, post-fix, or not come at all. But even if you have a great prayer-life, there’s still something here for you, too. Think about the people on social media. It isn’t a strictly religious venue, so there are all types of folks on it. What would it look like for you to reach out and offer prayer to people who have never stepped foot in church? Who have been hurt by the church? Who don’t know if there’s a God or not? Who don’t believe in God but are experiencing hardships? I wonder what the impact would be if fifty people simultaneously asked the social media world, “How can I pray for you, today” one time a month. I’m willing to bet that quite a few folks would take advantage of that opportunity, in a positive way; and I equally imagine that very few would respond with negativity.

 

Just some musings from a priest on a Wednesday. Whatever you choose to do with this, there’s no expectation from me! But having said that…

 

How can I pray for you, today?

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

Anger. What is it good for?

 

Anger can be an emotion that allows our greater demons to shout down the inborn grace of our humanity. Some people don’t allow anger to guide them, instead sluffing off its yolk and allowing it to melt away.

 

Lucky them.

 

For the rest of us mere mortals, anger issues surprise us in everyday life. In a seemingly innocuous encounter, anger can flare up into an inferno—turning a small issue into a bonfire of emotion. Typically this is because we haven’t dealt with (or are unable to do so on our own) something that’s transpired in the previous weeks or years. Anger can destroy us if we let it; it can break relationships, divide families, and/or separate us from one another for no good reason at all. Before I go any further, I’m aware that in certain situations, anger is justified and righteous—slavery, murder, and other atrocities that defy immutable natural law. 

 

What I’m getting at is the anger we hold that turns into a grudge, or anger that sparks an undeserved harsh statement. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who pushed the right button (intentionally or otherwise) and reacted inappropriately? Have you ever—to quote The West Wing—doled out a fifty-dollar punishment for a fifty-cent transgression? Have you ever been in a situation wherein you accepted someone’s anger as your own and returned it twice as much? I have. In my youth, anger was a constant companion during arguments. It was how I ‘won’ disagreements. Say something hurtful and shut the conversation down, then you don’t have to worry about being wrong. It was completely inappropriate given that the reason I was angry usually sprouted out of a need to be ‘right’.

 

But that doesn’t help. Ever. The only thing venting anger during a disagreement does is add insult to an already tense situation. But there’s good news: We have a choice as to whether or not we accept the anger offered by another. We won’t always be able to allow our better selves to shine forth—we are human, after all—but we can control ourselves for the most part. It’s amazing what occurs when anger is removed or mitigated in tense moments. People’s posture changes, breathing slows, calm appears and then we’re able to work through things rather than allowing our own anger to rule our mouths and actions.

 

And anger is usually born out of pain. Pain of loss, pain of disappointment, pain of embarrassment for being wrong. But the choice to say two simple words and mean them, “I’m sorry” is always at our disposal. Anger from pain and disappointment doesn’t necessitate “I’m sorry”, but rather “I’m hurting”. Being honest about how we’re feeling can go a long way to bridge understanding and replace anger with compassion. Additionally, apologizing when we’re wrong is difficult for many of us—we want to be right, justified in our opinions and actions. But sometimes, we just get it wrong and need to admit it. If we do that, then the choice lies with the ‘other’ in terms of how it’s received…and we’ve done our part to begin reconciling with them.

 

I write about this because I see the anger in the world. And so do you. I want to make an attempt to do my part in removing some of it, not letting it add to everyone else’s. I believe God made us imperfect so that we’d learn from one another’s mistakes, learn to accept the grace that comes with forgiveness, and learn to allow our love for one another outweigh any differences we may have.

 

We are unique. We have passionate opinions. But we are better together than we are apart, and that unity comes by virtue of love and the release of unrighteous anger. Try to allow joy to take anger’s place, or in the least, allow anger to diminish and God’s love to shine through instead. If we do this, we’ll all be better for it. Grudges lose their meaning. Harsh words aren’t spoken as often. Hearts are healed. Lives are changed.

 

Faithfully,


Fr. Sean+

September 11th, 2019

The phone rang too early, I knew it wasn’t a casual call. I’ve never been an early-riser. I had just been promoted to general manager of Journeys footwear; this day was slated for packing the truck and moving from Lubbock, TX to Las Cruces, NM. The voice on the other end of the line squawked loudly, “Are you ok? Have you turned on the television? Get up, man!” Click. It was my new boss, a man typically unflappable, with currents of hysteria in his voice.

I got up and made my way to the living room—my roommates were all still asleep—and turned on the television to see scenes that would indelibly mark my memory. At this point, only one plane had struck—as I watched, a second plane careened into the second building. The World Trade Center was being attacked; all I could do was watch. Buildings afire, ash and debris raining down from the sky. People covered by veneers of gray and black, mingled with red. Horror. Terror. Pain. 

Each generation has their dark remembrance, a moment of catastrophe that lingers in the back of their collective conscious and springs forth annually reminding them of the chaos of the day. As the years go by, new remembrances emerge; this day is no different. I’m sure I’m not the first person to ever write this—I haven’t researched it—but the people’s faces on television are what strike me, today. In all the chaos, in all the confusion, each face was the same color. The ash had covered and created a hue that made each ethnicity indistinguishable; racism couldn’t etch its name in the dust that covered a human family’s visage. Each of them looked the same. Not black, not white, not Latino. Just. Human.

In the months that followed, America became a unified front. This country pulled together, exhibiting a level of ‘love thy neighbor’ rarely—if ever—demonstrated in its history since the American Revolution. For the first time in two centuries, we the people stood together and cast down our greater demons to uphold one another in our deepest moment of sadness. We looked into one another’s eyes and saw a brother, a sister, a fellow American. A fellow human.

Fast forward to today. We have forgotten that feeling for the most part. As the world tears itself apart in the name of violence and random acts of terror, we no longer come together. Instead we blame each other. We point fingers at instruments of destruction, or at people’s beliefs. Some sit in silence while others drown each other out in meaningless diatribes. On a regular basis terror strikes at the heart of our beloved home; instead of rising together, of seeing each other as ‘same’, we elect to divide deeply and step further away from the tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’. We have started to ignore thy neighbor; hate thy neighbor; mistrust thy neighbor.

Lest we forget, September 11th was a short time ago, in the grand scheme. Under two decades have passed and we have already forgotten that we have the ability to get over our own schisms to come together and work as a human family…as the American family…as the World family.

Today, I will try and remember that feeling of love I had for every person in that terrible moment. And I will try to recreate it. It shouldn’t take moments such as these to remind us of how important we are to one another. Of how much we need each other. And of the fact that, every eye staring back at us holds the gaze of a beloved child of God. We used to reach for the stars, setting our sights on unimaginable goals only to find that, when we worked together, those goals weren’t unreachable at all. Remember that. Remember that moment when the dust covered the faces of humanity and allowed for a glimpse at equality and what it meant. Remember that we are dust, and to dust we should return. If only to see the true nature of who we are meant to be.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

September 4th, 2019

I recently read an article detailing the collapse of the Episcopal Church, which can be found here. Over the years, I’ve read quite a few articles such as this, proclaiming ‘the end is nigh’ and doomsaying TEC (The Episcopal Church, national). Some of the points in this particular writing are accurate—we’re an aging church with little diversity and our ethos is stuck in an old mentality of ‘they’ll come to us’. But much of what the good dean from General Theological Seminary states seems to be the musings of a jaded and tired priest, whose context doesn’t provide much hope for his surroundings. He is still going to ‘go down swinging’ (sic) and hasn’t given up, but his projection is that the church will decline to an average Sunday attendance of 400,000 nationally by 2035.

And I don’t want to believe that.

I can’t.

While numbers and statistics point to his favor, I feel as though he’s missed something vitally important: There are pockets of Episcopal culture throughout the country that are already implementing the changes he deems necessary. The Diocese of Oklahoma is growing and diminishing at the same time. We’ve seen growth in recent years, followed by decline, but the numbers are not too overwhelming. As many of the boomer generation clergy retire, they’re being replaced by younger enthusiastic priests and deacons who have not accepted the imminent collapse of the church. This isn’t to say that boomer clergy are to blame—they have run the race well and provided us with stellar leadership for well over four decades. What I’m attempting to convey is the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit and the life-giving energy being passed from generation to generation.

Take ECOTR for example. Our church was on the brink of collapse, itself. Attrition and differences of opinion led to very few people in the pews, barely affording to keep the doors open and the lights on. And yet…here we are. The boomers blamed in his article are the same generation that kept hope alive, even the smallest amount, feeling in the depths of their souls that God wouldn’t forsake them and that their faith would be rewarded. Instead of allowing the words from talking heads to diminish your hopes, you stood firm in the face of collapse. You didn’t allow negativity and talk of demise to dash the Holy Spirit’s flame within you. You stood tall, proud, and shouted back, “We will not be beaten. We will not go quietly. We are the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, and we will continue proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, regardless of what anyone else tells us.”

Collapse, indeed.

The only collapse I see happening in the world today is the collapse of tired naysayers who nostalgically long for ‘the good ole days’. There are ebbs and flows to any life-cycle, tides of growth and attrition that naturally occur. If you see articles such as the one linked above, know that. And continue to believe. Because there’s one thing the dean said that I absolutely believe, with one caveat:

“The church as we know it is dying.  But the church itself is not dying, because it can't.  The church is God's creation.  It's not ours to kill; God help us we probably would have already if we could have.  And that rebound in the 2040s, if there is one, will be because have seen the new way of being church that God is calling us, and have embraced it.”

The caveat is that I don’t think we’ll have to wait until 2040 for a rebound, because we’ve discovered that new way of being church.

We’re living it, now.

Keep up the hard work and determination. Keep the faith. Long live the Episcopal Church. Long live Resurrection. And thanks be to God for that.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

August 28th, 2019

On Monday, I stayed later than usual. We have some things happening at the church which require extra attention, so I am trying to keep up. At some point in the evening, I heard voices in the Narthex. Sure enough, a few folks who had been practicing for open-mic night were talking and hanging out—the boy scouts had come for their meeting, so the crew moved out into the Nave to practice and the listeners were chatting idly in the next room. So, I went and checked in on the scouts; what a good group of young people and parents. Tommy, the scout leader, was diligently working on some sort of craft and the boys and parents were doing the same. It was a noisy room, filled with excitement and life. I loved it.

 

While in the Parish Hall, I noticed quite a few vehicles in the back parking lot—you can see it through the window. I walked out there to see what was going on. One of our four teams was winding down baseball practice; parents were hanging out under the pavilion, standing in the parking lot chatting. The coaches were hitting a last round of grounders to the players, who would field them and then run in to collect their gear. I walked over and talked to the boys for a second—something I like to do with the teams when I have the chance—and thanked them for being here. I spoke with the parents for a second, too, who remarked on how wonderful our garden area looked. Then, I hopped in my truck and started to pull out of the parking lot.

 

And stopped.

 

Three groups of people on a Monday night. Three communities tied together by a common place, a home base if you will, just doing ‘life’. The overwhelming joy of Monday night’s activity washed over me, bringing me almost to tears. We’re beginning to be a hub for our local community—people come here to meet, to play, to practice. How beautiful is that? This is what church should be. Not just a destination on Sunday, but a living edifice, housing all walks of life and providing a safe place to do various things.

 

I wanted to share that feeling with you, via writing. Your continued dedication to this space has created and encouraged a feeling of desire to be here for quite a few others in our local area. Your church is starting to be a place where everyone is welcome (and it always has been that) AND where people are beginning to take advantage of that hospitality.

 

We’re starting up for the fall again, and I am grateful that I don’t have to remind folks to ‘come back’. Because, just a few days ago, I realized that no one really ever left. Well done, ECOTR. I hope this message of hope and joy takes you through the rest of the week and on into Sunday. I’ll see you then, friends. May God continue to bless you, love you, and see you safely through all things.

 

Faithfully,


Fr. Sean+

August 20th, 2019

Nicole and I have been constantly plagued by the notion of ‘what’s next’ over the course of the last decade. As we were driving to Enid yesterday, she pointed out that we have moved eight times in the last ten years. Eight. Times. It’s unfathomably exhausting to move that much, both physically and emotionally. We have tried to take root in each of our locations but it’s difficult to make long-lasting bonds with folks when we’re always ‘on the move’. It has to be quick work, done with the might of a whirlwind, sweeping in and enveloping as many people as possible as quickly as possible so that we can do our best within the timeframe we’ve been given.

Enter Resurrection.

For the first time in years—years—we don’t have an expiration date. There’s very little thought these days to “what’s next” in terms of locale. Now, “what’s next” has taken on a whole new meaning. Every time that question is uttered, it has context to it concerning ECOTR. We’re constantly thinking of ways in which to nurture and be nurtured by the place we currently serve. And we’re developing stronger relationships with those around us than we’ve been able to do in years’ past. With that comes learning.

You see, relationships are easy at first. Most of the time, people don’t allow much to ruffle their feathers during the course of a budding friendship. It’s new. It’s exciting. And, as humans, we’re glad for new connections with others. But then, inevitably, something happens. A word is spoken with mistaken meaning; an action is done with unintended receipt. As I said Sunday, meaning is collaborative and it takes all involved to come to a sense of corporate understanding. With individual comprehension at play, this is sometimes impossible. With different perspectives on the world around us, it is often times difficult. With passionate opinions, this can be disastrous.

When you’re always moving, it’s easy to say things and do things (albeit sincerely) and simply move on to the next group. There’s very little at stake. This has never given me license to speak harshly to others or mistreat them, but it has offered the opportunity to get away with much more than I could if I were going to be around a little longer. Why? Because words and actions, when spoken or done with courage, can also require courage to accept the consequences of them. If relationships aren’t strong enough, then those moments can fracture people’s understandings of one another and unintentionally see a rift develop, thereby separating people from those they love.

As a preacher, this becomes very difficult. I’m deeply invested in this community, and Nicole and I have been intentional about cultivating relationships with anyone who is willing to allow us that grace. But sometimes the Gospel commands me to speak the truth in love, much like I did Sunday. And as I said above, meaning is collaborative. There will be times in the future where we will have to face our paradox of truths together and find a way in which to reconcile and move forward together. You won’t always agree with me, and I won’t always agree with you. But if we’ve learned anything about our communal life together, it’s this: Anything worth having is going to take work and dedication to obtain. 

With a sense of permanence here, I hold each of you in high esteem. I mean that. ALL of you and your individual perspectives are important to me, I want to engage with you and learn together. But I can’t do that if I’m afraid to speak my truth, and to have the courage to hear yours. If we all separate from one another every time we get angry, every time we become offended, then the world will continue to split itself into microcosms of like-minded individuals living in boring and stagnant environments. Every time I say something from the pulpit that challenges you, know that I’m also challenging myself. In private conversations, if I offend you, I never mean to; I’m just as imperfect as the rest of the world (probably more-so to be honest). But we can’t always be thinking of “what’s next” when we encounter difficult moments. We have to talk to one another, speak and hear the truth in love simultaneously. If we’re willing to do that, we will forge an unbreakable bond that will allow us to accomplish whatever God has in store for us. 

I don’t have anyone in particular in mind while writing this, nor do I have underlying intentions of whom I hope this message reaches. But it occurs to me that we’re entering a phase in this church life where words/actions can hurt a little more than they otherwise could have due to our growing relationship with one another. Now, more than ever over the last decade, my beloved and I are in a space that we can grow roots and stand firm with commitment to a particular setting. It feels wonderful. But it also comes with the possibility of being hurt deeply by departures or separations due to something I’ve said or the way I’ve said it. As the world continues to see horrible acts of human treatment, I will—when guided by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit—speak out against atrocities committed in the name of undignified anti-grace. And I will never do so with the intent of shaming any of you, or demeaning your understandings. But, as our deacon said, we must stand firm in the preaching of the gospel, unafraid of telling its truth. What I ask is this: Please, when you disagree or become hurt by something, just ask to talk it out. Again, and I can’t say it enough, meaning is collaborative and sometimes I may not have done a good enough job of delivering mine. I’m not a priest that refuses to be approached; I want us to speak truth in love to one another, and I’m willing to hear it just as much as I’m willing to speak it.

You are beloved to me. As our relationships continue to deepen, so will our different perspectives collide. Instead of allowing those moments to divide us, let us allow them to unite us in stronger understanding of one another; in these instances, we can live in tension with differing opinions, but grow stronger in mutual affection that over-writes our need to be ‘right’. I want to hear from you. I want you to want to hear from me. Let us continue to build up the kingdom of God, together, and do so with courage, with truth, and with an abundance of love. Thank you for hearing my truth, today. I look forward to hearing yours. 

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

August 15th, 2019

I just had a mountain-top experience.

No, really. I was literally on a mountain, 9000 feet above sea level where the air is crisp, clean,

and very thin. It was a little sad how belabored my breath became after just a few short

steps…but I digress. The landscape was beautiful—clear skies, mild days and chilly nights—and

my body was confused about having to wear a hoodie in the midst of August. The campgrounds

were accommodating and the staff was very friendly. Thirty bishops, priests and lay ministers

from around the nation gathered together to engage in conversation concerning unity and

division within the church—a timely conversation regarding our current context. So…all had

arrived and everything was going well that first day when, all of the sudden, clouds rolled in,

lightning crashed and thunder spoke it’s judgment to the people of the mountain: “You will not

have wi-fi or access to the outer world whilst on my mountain.” For three days, a group of

highly-connected individuals who are always on emails, social media or chatting via text were

suddenly left walking around in a confused stupor, not knowing what to do.

It was awesome.

Being unplugged allowed for a deeper connection, oddly enough. Without our phones or

laptops to distract and call us back to our work back at home, we were able to be present with

one another on a different level. For three days, the Holy Spirit spoke without having to

compete with Siri.

For me, it was life-giving.

I thought about how grateful I am to have this life; there’s nothing like being a priest. I have

been blessed beyond compare to have been called by name to Church of the Resurrection, to

spread by word and example the good news of Jesus Christ, and to do so with a community of

people who consistently and continually amaze me by their faith. You. All of you. You’re so

important to me, you’re my family. Through our ups and downs, and even during the times

when you’re not here, I’m constantly thankful for you and couldn’t imagine being anywhere

else, now, alongside you.

Today marks two years at Resurrection. Two wonderful, challenging, joy-filled, sometimes

heart-breaking years. I realized something: I’ve been on a mountain-top all along. As I listen to

others of my ilk, I hear their woes and worries, their frustrations and chaos; but I also hear in

them the same love I feel in my soul when they talk about their people. It’s not always easy

being a priest—sometimes the heart-ache threatens to overwhelm me during times of conflict

and loss—but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Your clergy love you very much, you need to

know that. We’re not perfect…far from it, actually. Sometimes we say things that we mean in a

different way than perceived, sometimes we don’t have the answers, sometimes we want to

rail and scream just like you. But we ALWAYS love you. No exceptions. And here’s my message

to you, two years in:

I care for you and this place with everything I have. When I stumble, catch me. When I say

something dumb, tell me and I’ll try to do better. When I disappoint, anger, or sadden you,

know that my heart apologizes in advance. But above all, know that you and this place are a

mountain-top for me. A place where I feel connected deeply to the Holy Spirit and to all of you.

A place of exciting times and God’s work. And I hope to be your priest for many years to come,

so that we can continue being on the mountain together, in this holy community of

Resurrection. Thank you for calling me and Nicole, our lives are better because of it.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

July 30th, 2019

Do I belong here?

It’s a question each of us has asked at least once in our lives. Whether it be a new job, a new town, a social environment, and yes…a church, at some point we have all asked ourselves if we have a sense of belonging within that particular moment. For me, it happens quite a bit. Although I’m not socially awkward—well, not too much anyway—I always hold hope that I’ll be accepted for who I am and what I believe. I think the trick is not being too abrasive about stating those beliefs, and being capable of hearing others’ opinions without losing my mind.

Sound easy? It isn’t.

Each of us hold opinions regarding a great swath of issues. The one thing that all people hold in common is their passion behind those opinions—opinions stated as belief quickly turned to ‘fact’. Conversation seems to be a lost skillset today, in its place rises diatribe and raising one’s voice to be heard over others. The art of listening has been replaced by the need to ‘be right’; we no longer seem to care about other perspectives, only our own understood agendas.  

If this seems like a harsh judgment, well…it’s simply my opinion. I have watched for the last decade as people tear each other down in the name of righteousness, spouting reasons for their own understanding in ways that diminish other’s beliefs. It happens on all fronts.  We have stopped arguing about the issue itself with any integrity; we have started arguing just to be right and feel better about ourselves while simultaneously pinning down people who oppose us.

The context within which I currently present this argument is that of the church. We have traditionalist members, we have progressive members. We have members who just wish to ignore the shouting and kneel in silent prayer. The problem we face as a church (worldwide, not simply Resurrection) is that we are moving further and further from each other. Without the ability to have a civil conversation, which has become very difficult in the last few years, we are becoming entrenched. I see memes and gifs on social media all the time stating, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,” and then has the type of people ‘welcomed’ to it. Oddly enough, that welcome isn’t very welcoming at all. There seems to be a typology emerging in the current Episcopal Church: You must believe this way, agree with ‘us’ or we will decry you as a bigot or hatemonger.

Where, for years, the traditionalists have been gatekeepers to the church (and they have…just ask any woman or person of color), it seems that the pendulum has swung and now those traditionalists are being told that they should go somewhere else. I see it on Episcopal blogs, in chatrooms (yes, those still exist) and hear it from the mouths of some in authority. I wonder, if in the name of inclusion, whether or not we’ve over-corrected and are now seeking to do the same thing that was done in the past—namely, to eradicate and exclude those within our ranks that hold what we deem as an archaic theological viewpoint. I recently witnessed a conversation between two Episcopalians that went like this:

 

Person one: “I don’t really like Rite 2…I wish we’d go back to Rite 1 a little more and worship in the old way”

Person two: “Why? It’s weird language and nobody talks like that anymore. I don’t see the point in being all old in our worship.” 

Person one: “Well, the old way is how I grew up and I really love it. I just miss it, that’s all.”

Person two: “Well, the church isn’t the same as it was when you were growing up. And now we’re trying to get new members. You must not care about the future of TEC. Maybe you should consider leaving.”

Seriously, this is what I watched transpire on the internet. Since when did we lose the ability to disagree with compassion? And before you ask, yes I do believe that we had that ability at one point. I want us to be able to be different from one another, but to do so together. We have far more that binds us than that which separates us. We just have to be able to allow one another to hold opinions without shaming or judgment.

If someone disagrees with you, let them. Give them that grace. Allow for a space where The Episcopal Church—and to be honest, the whole church of God—can be what it ‘was’ for some while also venturing into what it ‘will be’. We’re about to enter another election cycle. We’re about to disagree with one another quite a bit on who we want this country run by and the best ways to do it. We’re about to enter into an election of a Bishop; we’re going to disagree with one another on who the best person will be. But what we need to remember in both instances is this: We care deeply about our faith, and we care deeply about the state of this world. It’s not the ‘who’ that should separate us, but rather the ‘how’ that should unite us. Our differences should serve to make us stronger, not strangers. Our perspectives should come together to find the best possible solution for the future and not continue to divide us into factions at war. The kingdom of God on this planet is far too big to be broken apart by small-minded arguments. We have the ability right now, at this moment, to choose to be better than we have been. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to start listening better. We just need to start listening again, period.

I know we can’t do this overnight, but we have to start somewhere. We have to start hearing each other again, in church and in the world. We’re not doing our children any favors by treating each other like enemies or shouting over one another to be ‘right’. Church can be a place where different perspectives intersect and live in communion, a safe space for all people across the spectrum of beliefs to come and sit side by side, exploring faith and engaging in the paradox of truths, so that everyone feels as though they belong. I urge us to be that. To concentrate on loving God through loving our neighbor as ourselves. That means everyone. Everyone.

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+