‘Don’t be afraid to be people of love,’ presiding bishop tells Pittsburgh revival

Don’t be afraid to take the love of Jesus into the world.

Scallop shell with red cross: be evangelists on your pilgrimage

Note: The post “Don’t b afraid to be people of love” appeared first on Episcopal News Service (ENS)

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Editor’s note: A photo gallery of scenes from the Pittsburgh revival is here.

[Episcopal News Service – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania] The old church tradition of the revival received new life in the Diocese of Pittsburgh Feb. 3-5 with a distinctly Episcopal feel.

The emphasis was on both sparking individuals’ faith lives and a commitment to show the love of Jesus beyond the four walls of their churches. Anchoring Episcopal revivals in the needs of the world was a constant theme of the weekend.

“Episcopal Church, we need you to follow Jesus. We need you to be the countercultural people of God who would love one another, who would care when others could care less, who would give, not take,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during his Feb. 5 sermon at Calvary Episcopal Church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

For those who think the words Episcopal and revival don’t go together, the size of the crowds, the depth of their emotion and Curry’s insistence begged to differ.

His prayer for this and subsequent revivals, he said during one of his four sermons, is that they will be the beginning of “a way of new life for us as this wonderful Episcopal Church, bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus in this culture and in this particular time in our national history.”

Curry’s Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism in Southwestern Pennsylvania is the first of six revivals being planned with diocesan teams in different cities around the country and the world this year and in 2018.

“I want to suggest this morning that we need a revival inside the church and out – not just in the Episcopal Church. For there is much that seeks to articulate itself as Christianity that doesn’t look anything like Jesus,” Curry said in his Feb. 4 sermon during an Absalom Jones Day Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross. “And if it doesn’t walk and talk and look and smell like Jesus, it’s not Christian … and if it’s going to look like Jesus, it’s got to look like love.”

Curry said the revival of the church, centered in God’s love, is not about a church rejuvenated for its own sake. The church’s revival must spill God’s love out into the world “until justice rolls down like a mighty stream,” he said, echoing Micah.

Marianne Novy, foreground, and John Welch pray together Feb. 3 in Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Hicks Chapel after a sermon in which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry called for Episcopalians to help heal the world’s divides. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

To do that, a revival must channel the emotions of the moment toward something bigger and lasting, Curry said during a news conference. “It is about claiming new and authentic and genuine life. That’s true for our nation, true for our world. We must find better ways to live together, to care for each other, to care for our society and to care for our global communities,” he said.

“We who are followers of Jesus believe that the way of love and the way of Jesus is the key to doing that. But, we join hands with people of other faiths and people of goodwill – anyone who wants to help us end what so often is a nightmare of poverty and injustice and bigotry and wrong and violence, and realize God’s dream of true harmony and peace and justice for everybody.”

The six revivals will vary in design, according to a recent press release, but most will be multiday events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, speakers, invitations to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren’t active in a faith community. Pittsburgh Episcopalians were encouraged to bring with them neighbors who were not part of a faith community.

The next five revivals are:
May 5-7: Diocese of West Missouri
Sept. 23-24: Diocese of Georgia
Nov. 17-19: Diocese of San Joaquin (California)
April 6-8, 2018: Diocese of Honduras
July 2018: Joint Evangelism Mission with the Church of England

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, is organizing those efforts, along with a team including Consulting Evangelist for Revivals Carrie Headington and Evangelism Associate Emily Gallagher. The planning for each begins with asking diocesan members what the good news of Jesus looks like in their communities. Pittsburgh Episcopalians discerned that the good news would help them cross the divides of their area, build relationships with neighbors of different traditions and start reconciling with each other, Spellers said during the news conference. Thus, that was the theme of the Pittsburgh gathering.

She and others will return to the dioceses after the revivals to work with Episcopalians to cultivate a group of leaders who have new abilities, new relationships and a new common purpose to further enact Jesus’ love in their communities.

“Hopefully, Pittsburgh – not just the diocese but the city and surrounding communities – will look different. And they’ll feel like there was a church that showed up, not only to talk about good news but to be good news,” she said, describing the hoped-for outcome.  Episcopalians will understand that they have grown into being new leaders of the Jesus Movement, she added.

Curry’s call for reconciliation and healing first rang out Feb. 3 during the opening event, an ecumenical service of repentance and reconciliation at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Hicks Chapel.

“I am more and more convinced that Jesus came among us to show us how to become more than simply the human race,” Curry said. “He came to show us how to become the human family of God. And, my brothers and my sisters, in that is our hope and in that is our calling.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches Feb. 3 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

God is calling Christians to a deep and radical sense of repentance, Curry said. The world needs such a manifestation of Christianity, he contended, because it will lead to a desperately needed reconciliation among a litany of ethnic groups and even among “red folk and blue folk,” referring to the nation’s political divisions. Finding ways for Republicans and Democrats to discover common ground echoed through Curry’s sermons.

The congregation greeted Curry’s words at the seminary with murmurings of assent, shouts of agreement and, soon, drum rolls and keyboard riffs from the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church choir, whose members also sang during the service. That audience participation was hallmark of all four of Curry’s sermons during the weekend and it included the presiding bishop leading every congregation in song.

Curry sounded a theme that would echo throughout the weekend: Christians must be people of compassion, people of goodwill, people who dare to live the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ words in the Matthew 25:31-46. For instance, he said, people setting social policy or enacting legislation ought to measure it by the core Christian value of “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Twelve leaders and senior pastors from local Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and African-American churches gathered with elected and civic leaders and members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for the service that many called a historic commitment to ecumenical conversation. The revival began with a revival of the clergy’s commitment to their ministry. Roman Catholic Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik began a 10-part confession based on the Church of Scotland’s Ministerial Challenge of 1671, lamenting clergy’s attention to the business and accolades of the world. “We have been unfaithful to our own souls, and to our sisters and brothers; unfaithful in the pulpit, in fellowship, in discipline, in the Church,” Zubik said.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry makes the rounds in the undercroft of Church of the Holy Cross during a Feb. 4 breakfast meeting with youth of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Curry met the next morning with some of the youth of the diocese at Holy Cross in the struggling Homewood West neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Telling them that they were growing up in a time of complex change, he said technological progress is important but “progress as a way of love, progress in living, progress in learning how to live together in all of our differences and varieties may be the ultimate progress that will make the difference for us all.”

After the breakfast meeting, Curry went upstairs for a rousing Absalom Jones Day Eucharist in the packed nave. During his sermon, the presiding bishop continued his call for Christians to act out of the selfless love exemplified by Jesus on the cross rather than “unenlightened self-interest.”

Saying that the “way of love can save us all,” Curry asked the congregation to imagine how legislatures, corporate board rooms, schools and health care in America would be different if they were approached “not by what I can get out of it but how it serves the common good.”

“We are talking about a revolution of values,” he said, having left the pulpit to preach from the center aisle. “Revival means to give life; it’s resurrection. Imagine our country, imagine what we would say to the immigrant and refugee, imagine what American would say to the rest of the world, imagine what the rest of the world would say to us if that way of love became our way.”

Absalom Jones, the first African-American ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, looks down above a black Jesus in a mural painted on the wall of the side chapel at Church of the Holy Cross in the Homewood West section of Pittsburgh. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Heading to the end of his sermon Curry told the congregation: “Don’t be afraid to be people of love. Don’t be afraid to stand up for the name of Jesus. Don’t be afraid to reclaim this faith again. And don’t you be ashamed to be an Episcopalian.”

As an Episcopal sort of altar call, Curry invited people to sing “There Is a Balm in Gilead” in which Christians are told that it does not matter if they are not good at preaching or praying. Instead, they should simply tell someone else about the love of Jesus. “As we sing, in your own way I invite you to recommit – or commit – yourself to following the way of Jesus, to being a part of his movement in this world,” the presiding bishop said.

Video of the entire Eucharist is here. The presiding bishop’s sermon begins at the 22-minute, 6-second mark.

Curry returned to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary that afternoon to welcome Episcopalians and others from across the diocese for a conversation billed as “Bridging Divides and Healing Communities” and aimed at beginning to form relationships among individuals and churches in hopes that they can work together to address hopelessness, poverty and addiction in local communities.

Kim Karashin, Pittsburgh’s canon for mission, told Episcopal News Service before the conversations began that the “best case scenario” for the gathering would be that people agree to meet again to talk about these issues but that this gathering was about getting to know each other. “We’re not going to move the needle without building relationships,” she said.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry listens Feb. 4 as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto praises the Episcopal Church’s efforts to build bridges across the city’s divided neighborhoods. The mayor spoke at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary before a conversation aimed at forming relationships among individuals and churches in hopes that they can work together to address hopelessness, poverty and addiction in local communities. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who joined in welcoming people to the conversation, said later during the news conference that Pittsburgh is a divided community needing this sort of training in conversation to cultivate leaders who can step in during emergencies and try to move people into productive ways of acting.

“Pulling a community together only happens with things like this,” he said. “You have to be pro-active; you can’t wait until something happens. It’s taking these actions that will help build those bridges that we speak about.”

The last day of the Pittsburgh revival featured two Eucharists: the first at Calvary Episcopal Church, and the second 40 minutes away at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, McKeesport, in the economically struggling Monongahela River Valley south of Pittsburgh. Representatives of nearly three dozen Episcopal congregations gathered at St. Stephen’s to support “The Mon Valley Mission,” which is a new effort to revive the faith and well-being of the river communities.

Curry used the morning’s gospel story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well to tell the McKeesport congregation that God pushes people to build bridges between people who society says are enemies. In their conversations at the well, Curry said, both Jesus and the Samaritan woman learn something about each other and themselves. Moreover, the woman discovered within her the image of God and she experienced the love of God as being active in her life, he said.

Then, Curry said, she became “the first evangelist in the New Testament” when she told her neighbors what happened at the well with Jesus.

Each person at St. Stephen’s received a small scallop shell with a red cross painted on it, an ancient symbol of pilgrims, to symbolize their pilgrimage to take the good news of Jesus into the world. The service ended with Curry commissioning all 320 people in attendance to be disciples sharing the good news of Jesus.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Continue reading “‘Don’t be afraid to be people of love,’ presiding bishop tells Pittsburgh revival”

Collect: Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (Jan 25)

Caravaggio: Conversion of St. Paul
The Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio. Click the image to read more.

Today, because many of you will not have access to this material, I quote in its entirety the description of this commemoration in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006. ~Fr. Dan

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Paul, or Saul as he was known until he became a Christian, was a Roman citizen, born at Tarsus, in present-day Turkey. He was brought up as an orthodox Jew, studying in Jerusalem for a time under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi of the day. Describing himself, he said, “I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).

A few years after the death of Jesus, Saul came in contact with the new Christian movement, and became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy.” Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was on the way to Damascus to lead in further persecution of the Christians when his dramatic conversion took place.

From that day, Paul devoted his life totally to Christ, and especially to the conversion of Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles describes the courage and determination with which he planted Christian congregations over a large area of the land bordering the eastern Mediterranean.

His letters, the earliest of Christian writings, reveal him as the greatest of the interpreters of Christ’s mind, and as the founder of Christian theology. He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Paul describes himself as small and insignificant in appearance: “His letters are weighty and strong,” it was said of him, “but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Corinthians 10:10). He writes of having a disability which he had prayed God to remove from him, and quotes the Lord’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, Paul went on to say, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul is believed to have been martyred at Rome in the year 64 under Nero.

End quoted material

 

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

May we follow the “holy teaching” of Saint Paul as we let our own light shine with the radiance of Christ. ~Fr. Dan 

For further reading

Image: On Art via The Christian Century

Collect: Confession of St. Peter the Apostle (Jan 18)

Today, because many of you will not have access to this material, I quote in its entirety the description of this commemoration in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2003. ~Fr. Dan

petersinaiWhen Simon Bar-Jona confessed, “You are the Christ,” Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” This rough fisherman and his brother Andrew were the first disciples called by Jesus. Peter figures prominently in the Gospels, often stumbling, impetuous, intense, and uncouth.

It was Peter who attempted to walk on the sea, and began to sink; it was Peter who impulsively wished to build three tabernacles on the mountain of the Transfiguration; it was Peter who, just before the crucifixion, three times denied knowing his Lord.

But it was also Peter who, after Pentecost, risked his life to do the Lord’s work, speaking boldly of his belief in Jesus. It was also Peter, the Rock, whose strength and courage helped the young Church in its questioning about the mission beyond the Jewish community. Opposed at first to the baptism of Gentiles, he had the humility to admit a change of heart, and to baptize the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household. Even after this, Peter had a continuing struggle with his Jewish conservatism; for Paul, writing to the Galatians, rebukes him for giving way to the demands of Jewish Christians to dissociate himself from table-fellowship with Gentiles.

Though the New Testament makes no mention of it, the tradition connecting Peter with Rome is early and virtually certain. According to a legend based on that tradition, Peter fled from Rome during the persecution under Nero. On the Appian Way, he met Christ, and asked him, “Domine, quo vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”). The Lord answered, “I am coming to be crucified again.” Peter thereupon retraced his steps, and was shortly thereafter crucified, head downwards. “I am not worthy to be crucified as my Lord was,” he is supposed to have said.

As we watch Peter struggle with himself, often stumble, love his Lord and deny him, speak rashly and act impetuously, his life reminds us that our Lord did not come to save the godly and strong but to save the weak and the sinful. Simon, an ordinary human being, was transformed by the Holy Spirit into the “Rock,” and became the leader of the Church.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2003

May we have the grace requested in this collect so “that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and the one Lord.” ~Fr. Dan

Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For further reading

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Collect: Martin Luther King, Jr, Civil Rights Leader and Martyr, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta. […] King lived in constant danger: his home was dynamited, he was almost fatally stabbed, and he was harassed by death threats. He was even jailed 30 times; but through it all he was sustained by his deep faith. […] After preaching at Washington Cathedral on March 31, 1968, King went to Memphis in support of sanitation workers in their struggle for better wages. There, he proclaimed that he had been “to the mountain-top” and had seen “the Promised Land,” and that he knew that one day he and his people would be “free at last.” On the following day, April 4, he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts

Martin Luther King, Jr.Commemorations in the Episcopal Church often occur on the day the Holy Woman or the Holy Man entered into glory. While America remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday (Jan. 15) the Episcopal Church remembers him on April 4, the day he was assassinated. In the collect for the day we pray for the strength to resist oppression with love. May it be so in all that we say and do so that “all [God’s] children [may enjoy] the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” ~Fr. Dan

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Like Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, Episcopalians honor our ancestors in the faith, men and women of exceptional character and action as Christ-followers, who inspire and encourage us along the Way. The Collect used on the day they are honored often asks for graces to become a better Christ-follower in our day and in our lives. What did you hear today?

For further reading

What is a Collect?

 

begin-quote-purple-x7152What is a Collect? The origin of the term collecta, while rather obscure, refers to the “gathering of the people together” as well as to the “collecting up” of the petitions of individual members of the congregation into one prayer. This at first extemporaneous prayer would later also be connected to the Epistle and Gospel appointed for the day. A Collect is a short prayer that asks “for one thing only” (Fortescue) and is peculiar to the liturgies of the Western Churches, being unknown in the Churches of the East. It is also a literary form (an art comparable to the sonnet) usually, but not always, consisting of five parts.

Read more here: “The Collect”

Source: “Introduction.” Zahl, Paul F. M. and Barbee, C. Frederick, eds. The Collects of Thomas Cranmer. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. [Kindle Edition]