It is that time of year when many of you prepare for your parish UTO In-gatherings, and I thank you for that. The images to the left give you some ideas about how people have promoted UTO.
It is with gratitude and sadness that I share with you that Kathy Graham has resigned from the position of UTO Coordinator in Nebraska because of health reasons and an expected move. She has been Nebraska UTO Coordinator since 2013 and has done great work here. We will miss her, and thank her. Until she can be replaced, I will fulfill that role. I will drop a bill in my blue box in thanksgiving for Kathy’s service.
Since our meeting in North Dakota, much has happened with the Dakota Pipeline. I know some of you believe the President did the right thing to allow the pipelines (Keystone and Dakota) to go through contested land and others do not. I think we still need to pray for the people of Standing Rock Reservation, the safety of their water and grieve with them over the intrusion of their sacred sites. Likewise in Nebraska, we need to pray for the protection of our people and our land with the resumption of the work on the Keystone Pipeline.
UTO Blue Boxes–how to get one, how to use it, collecting the money, and where does the money go?
- How do I get a blue box? Ask your priest or UTO parish coordinator for a blue box. If you can’t find a blue box, let me know and we will get you one. I have many stored in my garage in Omaha.
- How do I use the blue box? Put it in a prominent place where you will see it every day. I have a tray with change right next to my box so I don’t have to dig through my purse. Add giving to your blue box during your prayer time. Something great happens, thank God and, put money in the blue box.
- Where does the money go? Take your money to church for the Ingathering Sunday. Don’t have an Ingathering Sunday? Send it directly to the diocesan office to Beth Byrne, and tell her it is for UTO.
Every penny given to UTO is given in grants. 2016 funds will be given in 2017 in grants. Likewise, everything collected in 2017 will be given away in 2018. Questions? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic community, is offering “Five Marks of Love” as a free individual or group Lenten devotional. Below is their invitation, including a link to the materials:
This six-week series invites us to observe and reflect on the ways in which the Divine Life expresses itself in and through us; individually and in our faith communities, as well as in the world around us. Week by week we will explore each of the Anglican Communion’s five “Marks of Mission” (Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, and Treasure) through videos, questions, and exercises designed to help us speak clearly and act truthfully, motivated always by hearts marked by God’s love. We Brothers of SSJE believe that the Marks of Mission are actually “Marks of Love,” signs that God’s love is making its mark on us, and through us, on the world in which we live.
We are eager to share with others our experience that these Marks of Love are not a list of tasks to be checked off; rather they are signs that our life is rooted and grounded in the Being of God. Therefore throughout the series, we will reflect not on what we should do, but on how we should live. We will draw on our own monastic spirituality to suggest how we all can balance action with contemplation, so that our words and deeds proceed from the deepest places of our hearts, where God dwells.
This series is designed for use by individuals and small groups. Small group facilitators are invited to download the series facilitator’s guide to help you encourage participants to discuss and learn together. For individuals, be sure to check out the workbook and online video content, which will guide your own exploration. All materials and videos are free online and as downloads at 5marksoflove.org.
By the series’ end, we hope you will feel ready to offer yourself, body and soul, to God’s Mission, and to live for God’s glory.
Yours in Christ,
David Vryhof, SSJE
Director of Formation and facilitator of “5 Marks of Love”
The Prayer Vigil will begin with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM, and continue throughout the morning, concluding with the Holy Eucharist at 12:00 Noon. From 9:00 until 12:00 will be a time for silent prayer. People of all faiths are invited to stop into Trinity Cathedral for a few minutes, a few hours, or the entire morning to join us in the vigil.
Dean Craig Loya of Trinity Cathedral said that, “This is an opportunity to quiet ourselves and to offer our hearts and minds a chance to rest from the tension and noise of this uniquely difficult time in our nation’s history.” Brother James Dowd, of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, said, “The time we will spend together will be completely non-partisan. Our prayers will be offered for peace and justice in our country and throughout the world. We will simply offer our prayers and engage in meditation.”
Dean Loya went on to say, “The level of conflict and divisiveness we’ve seen this season is really unprecedented in recent memory. As people of faith, we are called to promote peace and reconciliation. We developed this vigil as a follow-up to the one we held on Election Day as a way of offering a sanctuary of peace in the midst of a tense time, and helping us all offer our lives, our leaders, and our nation to God’s care.”
The specific schedule for the day is as follows:
8:30 AM Morning Prayer
9:00 – 12:00 Silent Prayer/Meditation
12:00 Noon Holy Eucharist
At all other times there will be at least one person praying in the church. All are welcome to join in the silent meditation, the prayer services, or both. For further information, please contact Brother James Dowd at 402-342-7010.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral • 113 North 18th Street (corner of 18th and Capitol) • 402-342-7010
Join Fr. Randy Goeke and Fr. Jerry Ness as we explore God’s call to deeper relationship with Christ and each other.
The Cost is $140 for a single and $120 for a double, per person, includes 2 night’s stay and 6 meals.
The Registration Deadline—February 1st, 2017
Here is the agenda
FRIDAY EVENING – Feb. 17
5:00 p.m. – Arrival & Check-in
6:15 p.m. – Dinner
7:00 p.m. – Evening Prayer in the Chapel
7:30 p.m. – Introduction to Weekend
Gathering Exercise – Bible Trivia
9:00 p.m. – Compline in the Chapel followed by Meditation & Time for Reflection – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups
SATURDAY – Feb. 18
Quiet time for prayer, walking, rosary, etc.
7:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Eucharist in the Chapel
10:00-10:15 First Meditation – A New Heart and a New Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
10:15-11:00 Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
11:00-11:15 Second Meditation – The Gathering of God’s People (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
11:15-Noon Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
12:15 – Lunch
1:00-1:15 – Third Meditation – Newness of Life (Romans 6:3-11)
1:15-2:00 – Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
2:00-2:15 – Fourth Meditation – The Resurrection (Luke 24:1-12)
2:15-3:00 – Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
3:00-6:15 – Quiet time*
6:15 p.m. Dinner
7:00-7:30 – Community Conversation
7:30 – Movie, games, quite time*
After Movie Compline in the Chapel
SUNDAY – Feb. 19
Quiet time for prayer, walking, rosary, etc.
7:30 a.m. – Breakfast
8:30 a.m. – Holy Eucharist with healing in the Chapel
*During these times of quiet and meditation Fr. Jerry and Fr. Randy will be available for prayer, confession, direction, conversation, etc.
Here are links to downloadable resources for the retreat
Cold December flies away
at the rose-red splendor.
April’s crowning glory breaks
while the whole world wonders
at the holy unseen pow’r
of the tree which bears the flow’r.
On the blessed tree
blooms the reddest flow’r.
On the tree blooms the rose
here in love’s own garden,
full and strong in glory.*
Christmas comes at the darkest time of year—just days after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. For a number of months, the dark of night has been encroaching on the daylight, building to the solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. But thereafter, the daylight begins to chase the darkness of the night away. Light makes its grand re-entry. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined,” says the prophet. “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,” says the Gospel writer. Into the midst of the darkness comes the Light, chasing cold December and its shadows away; into the midst of the darkness, “April’s crowning glory breaks”—the Light of Easter shines—“while the whole world wonders.” Oh God,” we pray, “you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light.” Jesus, the Light of the world, is born!
In the hopeless time of sin
shadows deep had fallen.
All the world lay under death.
Eyes were closed in sleeping.
But when all seemed lost in night,
came the sun whose golden light
brings unending joy,
brings the endless joy
of our hope, highest hope,
of our hope’s bright dawning,
Son belov’d of heaven.*
A recent study of the effects of terror attacks on people found there are two primary emotional responses to the attacks: anger, which can have the effect of short-circuiting one’s nuanced thinking processes, causing people to lash out with brash and irrational words and actions against the perpetrators of the terror; and fear, which can be debilitating, leaving people immobilized and victimized. Neither of these responses is surprising; in fact, in our present world—in this “hopeless time of sin”—such emotions seem to be the norm. Wars and rumors of wars, economic inequality, terror attacks, and natural disasters caused by a changing climate leave us angry and fearful. But it’s not just brokenness on a global scale that elicits these emotions in us. Brokenness in ourselves and our families and friends also call up anger and fear: broken and hurting relationships; grief that will not heal; disease that threatens our very lives; captivity to addictions that have stolen loved ones from us. Yet, into the brokenness of the world a ray of hope has shined—shined so brightly, in fact, that the angel’s words of comfort are as timely and relevant to us as to the shepherds that night, “Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”; unending joy, endless joy “of our hope, highest hope, of our hope’s bright dawning, Son belov’d from heaven.” “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” On this night we discover that anger is not the final word; fear is not the final word; hope is. Oh God,” we pray, “you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light.” Jesus, the Light of the world, is born!
Now the bud has come to bloom,
and the world awakens.
In the lily’s purest flow’r
dwells a wondrous fragrance.
And it spreads to all the earth
from the moment of its birth;
and its beauty lives.
In the flow’r it lives,
in the flow’r, and it spreads
in its heav’nly brightness
sweet perfume delightful.*
Oh God,” we pray, “you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light”—you have caused this holy night to be fragrant with the sweet perfume of the purest flow’r. Jesus, the Light of the world, the lily’s purest flow’r, is born! Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey S. F. Nelson+
Church of Our Savior, North Platte
*Catalonian Carol; tr. Howard Hawhee, b. 1953.
Dear friends in Christ,
I write this on Election Day, not knowing yet what the results will be. As you receive this, we know who will be the next President of the United States. We know by now many of the people who will serve in Congress. Local races have been decided, and important issues have been decided in ballot initiatives.
No one needs a news anchor to predict something else. However our presidential campaign has turned out, we know that the United States is deeply divided. During the campaign–and before, to be sure–we have seen increased division along lines of race, economic class, political preference, sexual orientation and identity, religion, and more. That won’t change with the results of this election. In some ways, this election, like all others, is an opportunity to start a new chapter. This is true today perhaps more than any other day in recent memory.
What can we do? It’s an easy question to ask, a difficult one to answer, and a really hard one to live out. We Christians can pray. We can pray for reconciliation, for our enemies, for those who wish us harm, for those we fear, and for all those working for reconciliation. We can form relationships across obvious lines of division. We can make sure our churches are places where the whole community, not just some of the community, is welcome and involved. We can practice empathy by putting ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we disagree and trying to imagine what might bring about a common vision. We can work for justice and peace for all people, even when it is difficult or dangerous for us to do so. We can, above all else, give thanks for the God who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and whose love is stronger than any division on earth, stronger even than death itself.
Thanks be to God it is nearly Advent. We have a whole season ahead of us, a time to devote ourselves to preparing our hearts and our lives to receive the gift of Jesus Christ. We have a whole season to remember the promise of God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness. We have a whole reason to seek mercy and truth.
It’s time for us to stop decrying our division and to start doing something about it. That will take a different form for each person and each community. What will you do? What do you hope others will do? For now, let us pray.
O God, give me strength to live another day; let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; let me not lose faith in other people; keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness; preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; grant me this day some new vision of thy truth; inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Forward Movement Executive Director
[Editor’s note: Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to counter a period of anxiety, distrust, and decline in the Episcopal Church with a “forward movement” charged to “reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work.” It is best known for the popular daily devotional Forward Day by Day, which provides daily meditations based on scripture readings appointed by the lectionary and Daily Office. Forward Day by Day is published in English, Spanish, large print, audio cassette, and Braille editions, and the daily meditation is available online. Since 1935, Forward Movement has produced pamphlets, booklets, and books on such topics as prayer, liturgy, pastoral concerns, evangelism, stewardship, church history, and introductions to Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church.
Andrei Sorokin graduated from the Art Institute in Russia. Initially, he worked as a portraitist and icon painter. Since leaving Russia in 1993, Sorokin has lived and worked in the United States, primarily in the Midwest. Over 300 of his oil paintings have been sold to collections all over the USA and internationally – specifically Russia, Italy and Germany.
Through his work as an artist for a memorial company, Sorokin added stone etching as another artistic skill. He has worked in three dimensions as well – both restoring and creating sculptures. Sorokin continues to enjoy learning and experiencing a variety of fine arts techniques as he develops his own style of expression.
Sorokin’s works can also be seen at Metro Gallery in downtown Lincoln.
First Friday Artwalks are held on the first Friday of every month at galleries and business (and now, with St. Mark’s, Churches!) in downtown Lincoln. To keep up to date on future Art Walk exhibits and other happenings at St. Marks, like their Facebook page found here.
For more information, contact St. Mark’s on the Campus Episcopal Church and Student Center, 402-474-1979 or email@example.com.
Applications are now accepted for the 2016 United Thank Offering grants. The application forms are available here.
The focus for the 2016 United Thank Offering grants is Mark Five of the Anglican Marks of Mission: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
“The United Thank Offering is continuing its tradition of thankfulness by awarding grants for 2016,” commented Sandra K. Squires, Ed.D., United Thank Offering Board President.
Established by United Thank Offering, a ministry of The Episcopal Church to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church, the purpose of the grants is to provide start-up money for a new project that focuses on the Fifth Mark of Mission. The funds are not permitted for the continuation of ongoing ministries.
Detailed guidelines for applying for the grants are here. The deadline is 5 pm Eastern on Friday, March 4.
The list of allowable and projects not eligible are listed here.
Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.
The United Thank Offering will accept:
• grant applications for start-up costs of a new ministry.
• one grant application per diocese within The Episcopal Church;
• one additional application for a companion grant from a diocese of The Episcopal Church may be submitted. This relationship may be formed with an aided diocese from The Episcopal Church or with a diocese from The Anglican Communion. The sponsoring bishop with jurisdiction will be responsible for the accounting of the grant.
For more information about guidelines and applications, contact the Rev. Heather Melton, missioner for United Thank Offering, firstname.lastname@example.org
United Thank Offering materials are available in Spanish and are available for download here. Included are both Blue Box designs which can be printed out on cardstock, cut and folded.
“The hope is that offering the materials for download will allow our dioceses that would have had to pay a high fee for shipping or import into their country to have access to United Thank Offering materials for just the cost of printing in their diocese or parish,” Melton added.
For more information contact Melton at email@example.com.
The Five Marks of Mission are:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Nancy Brown and the Recovery Commission of the Diocese of Nebraska submitted this beautiful poem by the Rev. Sam Shoemaker as a reminder to keep our doors open and warmly welcome all our brothers and sisters into our lives and our churches in the Christmas season just ahead.
Note: Rev. Sam Shoemaker was a co-founder of A.A.
For more information on Rev. Shoemaker, see this link http://aa-history.com/samshoemaker.html
The Voice of a Christian
One of the strange realities of our newly-dawned “Information Age” is that we can become acutely aware of every great and serious topic from every sphere of life. Our local community hears news from our town, our state, our region, our nation, and the world.
One challenge this creates within the life of faith – and especially faith lived out in community, including our own parish, is that we can get hold of full or partial information about many of the great topics of our age. I confess that this is one of my greatest satisfactions from technology: it means quite a bit to me to be aware of the movements of history and nations, and to feel secure in my sense of my own place within them. I love to take up serious topics in conversation. The challenge of this is that our opinions, formed by diverse experiences and the different aspects of a story that we come to hear or experience, can become sources of tension, anxiety, or even division within our friendships, families, and churches.
I offer two thoughts in response. One is that Scripture is as true for us today in our Information Age as it was for the early churches to which Paul wrote – and in particular the community of the church in Corinth. I encourage you all sometime to read Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (you can finish it in about 20 minutes). It’s a letter to a church divided: they’ve chosen different leaders, and they’re unclear about what public Christian behavior should be, what sexual morality should be, and whether they still have a need of the Jewish law or not (any of this sound familiar?). Paul writes wonderful things to them, including a reminder that no human vision is perfect (“now we see in a mirror, dimly” 1 Cor 13:12), and that we all have a need of one another (“For just as a body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. […] The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” 1 Cor 12:12, 21). Paul understood that those who seek to follow Jesus would disagree in good conscience, but that it’s Christ who gathers us all together again, in spite of the visions and expectations we have – as scattered today as they ever were after Babel way back in Genesis 11!
The other thought is this: Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury and head of our sister church, the Church of England, wrote this in a Lenten book called Christ on Trial (one of my favorite spiritual reads): “In the late nineties, Britain and other countries took up arms against tyrannical regimes elsewhere in the world. These military adventures may or may not have been justified or helpful, but the underlying problem for the Christian is how to be truthful about them. Yes, there is a cost in civilian deaths. Yes, such and such a policy, at home or abroad, will cost resources that will not therefore be available for other things. Yes, politics is frequently about the choosing where the cost will come, not about finding a cost-free option. The Christian is certainly called on to take up the unpopular position of being the person who asks about specific costs, about the tragic element in public decisions – not to turn the screws of guilt, but to remind us that facing cost is the only adult way of understanding the full nature of freedom. The Christian may also be the person who has the still more unpopular task of saying that this particular cost is unacceptable in terms of social or international wellbeing or public integrity,” (p 115).
It strikes me that we are in a time where that is precisely the public conversation we are having. Christians, and others, are raising our voices to face costs: the cost of taking on risk in our own nation if we seek to shelter others and someone who would do us violence might slip in amongst those fleeing that same violence, and the cost of locking in the innocent with the terrible. Each of these comments is a matter of facing cost: each has at its core a hope that human lives will not remain in danger.
I have already valued at Saint Augustine that we are able to have these conversations and understand that our higher commitment is to remain a part of Christ’s Body the Church together. That whatever cost is paid, we will acknowledge it soberly with our prayer and, when possible, our relief. We have had Syrian refugees as visitors at our parish on several occasions, and they have been treated with respect and hospitality. Few of us have the ear of the powerful, to offer our voice directly to them, but I believe we take on fully the challenge of living out the faith that demands that we follow Jesus, and not our own simple pleasures, and I believe that we have the capacity for loving conversation even around the weightiest topics of our age.
May we never neglect to face the true costs of our choices, nor the actions of our nation, and may we always speak to one another what we could also offer to God in prayer,
Fr Benedict Varnum,
St. Augustine of Canterbury, Omaha