Events and Celebrations
Annual Council Scottsbluff & Gering
Mark 10:46-52 October 26, 2018
Right Reverend and Dear Friend –
I write in October of the year 2018 for the sesquicentennial celebration of the diocese you now serve. This may seem like an impossibly distant past to you – this age of which you could only know through reading a history book. The Gospel text for the celebration for which I am writing is the story of “Blind Bartimaeus,” who memorably calls out to Jesus, “I want to see!” From that Gospel cry, let me tell you what I see.
As I sit down to begin, it is a stunning late autumn afternoon in Nebraska. The sky is deep blue – almost cobalt – and the fallen leaves rustle with every gentle breeze that sweeps across the roads and the fields. The leaves still turning in the trees are shimmering brilliant scarlet, orange and gold. Our weather is unsettled, and that makes me wonder and worry about yours. Ten days ago, a whole bunch of snow fell across a great swath of the diocese – a too early storm that complicated an already soggy and slow harvest. That snow fell wet and heavy – so brought down limbs and trees that caught too much weight in their leaves. It was a mess.
The wonder and the majesty of this land seems like the right place to start.
Nebraskans are especially appreciative of the beauty of this place, and keenly attuned to the rhythms of the natural order, including the changing of the seasons and the life cycles of their crops and livestock. One of the first things I learned when I became the Bishop of this place was that I would not be needing to teach anyone about the grandeur of God’s creation, nor what it means to be a mere creature of that same God. Instead it is the people of Nebraska who have been teaching me for the last seven years about the miracles of nature, the right place of a human being in this lonely landscape, and God’s providence over it all.
Some of my most vivid memories of this ministry have been those moments traveling the state when I have happened upon wonders both great and small that have reminded me of the miracle of God’s handiwork, and the privilege of having been born here and called back home, after a time away, to live and work. I remember seeing my first-ever dust devil! It was in the springtime, and I was so hopped up worrying about tornados that I about jumped out of my skin when a dark brown cloud suddenly twisted right up next to me as I was zooming by a recently plowed field off interstate 80. The cloud was fifty feet high anyway – and it was sucking up dry dirt and spewing it out all around that field and the Interstate. It was a marvel.
I remember an afternoon driving down highway 97 from Mullen towards North Platte right at sunset. Canon Easton (my Canon to the Ordinary) said, “I hope we see an antelope,” and not two minutes later, the pick-up startled an antelope that was hiding in the ditch just off the road. She raced us for almost a mile – caught between the road and a barbed wire fence. I could not believe the speed and grace with which that creature moved, nor will I forget the final glance we caught of her little charcoal-swiped nose and
blunt black horns, before she found a way under that fence and off into the tall grass to hide once more.
I remember driving out to a Sandhills ranch on the day that a full solar eclipse slouched in a diagonal shadow all across the whole diocese from Chadron to Falls City. I kept my expectations low (there’d been a whole lot of hype in the build-up that summer), but when the disc of the sun finally blinked all the way out that day and a gloaming suddenly appeared at every compass point on the horizon, and the crickets started chirping because they thought it was time for us to go to bed…well, I cried right along with the rest of them. (A “rest of them” I might add, that included a bunch of cowboys half drunk at 11 in the morning, and who looked like they might have been as surprised by the tears on their cheeks as they were by the suddenly dark sky.)
This place! This place is just as beautiful and full of the wonder and majesty of God’s handiwork as absolutely anywhere else on this whole amazing planet.
I sure hope that’s still true. For all our appreciation of that beauty in this here and now we have not been honest about how fragile it all is … about the full extent of what it means to be stewards of creation and the true nature of the work entrusted to us by God as caretakers of this garden. I know that humans beings have always taken a toll on creation and I have no doubt that change is a part of what it means that our God is alive and in charge of our world, but in this last generation, it seems there has been a shift.
Now we know beyond the shadow of a doubt what great an impact human beings have on the delicate balance that exists between the plants and animals that all coexist in our fragile ecosystem. And we’ve been too slow to admit that the patterns of the lives we
lead are unsustainable … that if we don’t change how we live the generations that follow will not have the same possibilities or the same choices.
I am sorry for that, and I hope you can forgive us. I wonder if corn still grows in Nebraska. I wonder if we still have antelope.
I’ll bet you’re asking yourself about the people here. That’s what I would ask about, if you could tell me of your life. They are amazing, these people.
In a time and place when increasing numbers of folks have only a vague notion of whether God is real, and most of whom would be hard pressed to point to anything at all about their behavior that suggests they actually believe in God, I work every day and visit each week with people who pray and sing and serve and read the Bible, and who in a dozen, dozen ways say and show that they are really trying to make the words they say in church on Sunday morning a guiding star by which to steer their lives the rest of the week.
In a time and place where the culture that surrounds us is either openly hostile to the teachings of Jesus – or more often has twisted those teachings into an image of the worst prejudices, fears and desires of our present moment – I work every day and visit each week with people who are deeply committed to the idea that every human being is
created in God’s image. People who believe that Jesus can be found most especially and reliably in the lives of those cast to the margins by the powerful, and that really and truly loving after the fashion of Christ is hard, hard work and the highest calling of human life.
And in a time and a place where the church is often said to be dying – or even dead – I work every day, and visit each week, with people whose best thoughts, hopes actions are a determined shout to heaven of, “Not so!” And so they go to church meetings and care for church buildings and read church publications and try – first and foremost – to love the precious, weird and wonderful brothers and sisters who are part of their local church communities and so are most especially entrusted to their care.
These people inspire me and amaze me every single day of my life. I’ll imagine that’s true for you, too!
We have a strange and holy job, don’t we? There is the tension of trying to be faithful about speaking hard truths in the name of Jesus when folks need to hear them, juxtaposed against the equally deep need our people have to hear and know that they are treasured and beloved of God no matter what. There is the difficulty of knowing when to stand firm in inherited teachings and traditions that have guided us for centuries and more and when to try some bold, new thing, trusting in the presence of God’s living and Holy Spirit to show us the way. There is the constant stripping away of the ego, as we’re reminded day-by-day and sometimes hour-by-hour that we’re probably not really worthy of the office we inhabit, nor the kindness and the love with which we’re showered.
But on the other hand – on the other hand – what an unbelievable journey, and privilege and delight is this ministry! To visit these cherished, sacred spaces, on a constant pilgrimage from one site to the next all across the Nebraska landscape, every one holy … every one unique. To be welcomed into the lives of the faithful people of God with such incredible kindness and generosity: the warm embraces, the little gifts, the potlucks. (The potlucks! If those groaning tables of every grandmother’s best recipe and every child’s favorite treat are not a eucharistic foretaste of the banquet table in the Kingdom of Heaven then I don’t know what is!)
And to be welcomed. To be welcomed right into the middle of their precious lives and their most intimate moments. As little church vestries work and pray to imagine what Christ calls them to in this generation. As teens stand with knocking knees and trembling hands before their church families and promise to follow Jesus for the whole rest of their lives. As we shout out at the funerals of beloved saints who have gone before the most incredible, improbable and hope-filled words of all time: “Even at the grave, we make our song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!” It’s a crazy cool job, isn’t it?
Strange and holy.
My dear friend, I wish you well in the impossibly remote land of the Diocese of Nebraska as you help celebrate our tri-centennial. I want you to know that we thought of you, and we hoped for you, and we prayed for you 150 years ago.
Know that though we dwelt in a time of extraordinarily fast change and deep challenge in the life of Christ’s Church, we did our level best to seek and serve Christ in our day. We read our Bibles, and worked to support one-another as a community upon whose life the treasured stories of our sacred book placed a duty and a call. We prayed our prayers, both the beautiful inherited poetry of the generations that went before, and the earnest, humble and heartfelt entreaties that we offered in graces at our tables, in devotions before meetings and at our bedsides each night. We cared for each other and we cared for our neighbors, imperfectly and sporadically to be sure, but by God we tried, believing as we were taught that loving a neighbor is loving Christ himself. And we labored – how we labored – to simply keep being the Church, by celebrating and sharing in worship every week, by teaching our young people the stories and traditions of our Episcopal way, by proclaiming to our friends and neighbors – equally in our smallest towns and our largest cities – that we are followers of Jesus Christ: who lived for us, and gave his life for ours and by whose presence and power we are even still becoming a whole new creation.
We wish you well, dear friend, from the distant past. May the people of God in the Diocese of Nebraska in the year 2168 be richly blessed. Know that we thought about you one hundred and fifty years ago and that we prayed for your well being and that of our Church …
And that we now look down on you with pride: our own course finished, our work now done.
Faithfully Yours –
+ J. Scott Barker, XI
Cathedra, a professional vocal ensemble in residence at Washington National Cathedral, will perform a concert at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 113 N 18th Street, Omaha, Nebraska on Thursday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free with a donation of a non-perishable food item or a cash donation to Food Bank for the Heartland.
Established in 2010, Cathedra has already achieved high acclaim for its “beautiful, blended sound” (The Washington Post). Specializing in music of both the Renaissance and Baroque and a champion of the modern-day composer, Cathedra is a highly skilled ensemble dedicated to bringing the highest form of musical expression to music from across the ages.
Artistic Director Michael McCarthy is regarded as one the leading choral conductors of today. A native of the UK, McCarthy moved to the United States in 2003 when he became Director of Music at Washington National Cathedral. In addition to his accomplishments as a conductor and composer of sacred choral works, he is widely recognized for his musical work in the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter films. His series of recent recordings with Cathedra in the New American Choral Series on the Gothic label have received excellent reviews.
The ensemble is visiting the Midwest for the first time this spring at the invitation of Trinity Cathedral’s Canon Precentor, Marty Wheeler Burnett. “I heard Cathedra perform in Washington, D.C. at the Association of Anglican Musicians national conference two years ago,” stated Burnett, “and I invited them to Omaha immediately following the concert. Cathedra is one of the top choral ensembles in the country today, and we are honored to host them in our diocese.”
The concert, entitled “Expanse of Eternity,” focuses on themes of remembrance and resurrection. The program includes sacred choral music by Lotti, Victoria, Tavener, Howells, and several contemporary composers. Childcare is available in the nursery during the performance. A reception will follow the concert with the opportunity to meet McCarthy and the singers.
Through support from the Nebraska Arts Council, the Nebraska Endowment for the Arts, the Bishop Clarkson Foundation, and individual donors, the concert is offered with free admission for all. “We view the Trinity Cathedral Concert Series as outreach to the community through music and the arts, an offering of beauty that is accessible to all,” stated Burnett. For more information on the series, visit http://trinityepiscopal.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
John sends us his reflection on the Passion:
The Passion reading has a way of making all words about it seem inadequate, as though the best response I could make is simply to stand before the cross and watch without blinking. But every year when I look, I see something different, catch some new idea or detail. This year it concerns the place of a skull.
I am accustomed to thinking of Golgotha (or Calvary, as it is named in Latin) as a hill. Visual arts tend to depict three crosses on a rise more often than on level ground. Our hymns speak of “Calvary’s mournful mountain” and “a green hill far away” and “Calvary’s height.” But none of the four Gospels refer to Golgotha as anything other than a ‘topos,’ a ‘place’ in the most non-descript sense of the word. We have no hint in the Gospels that Calvary was anything other than flat.
In fact, the Roman custom was to crucify the condemned along a road leading into a city so that people coming to town would see the punishment meted out to those who defied the authorities and, if the travelers were literate, they could read the crime posted on the cross as well. If you’ve seen Spartacus with Kirk Douglas, or for that matter the first episode of this year’s Game of Thrones, you’ve seen this phenomenon of lining the road with crosses and have some idea of the psychological effect it might have if you had to pass a bunch of dead or dying people on your way to conduct your business in the city. And Matthew’s remark that “those who passed by derided” Jesus certainly would fit with this theory that Golgotha was just the customary place on a road leading into Jerusalem where the Romans would crucify folks.
This deconstruction of my mental image of the hilltop crucifixion would be of academic interest only except for the way it modifies and modernizes an interesting but troubling strand of medieval theology. According to some thinkers, if Jesus’ death on the cross was an atonement for our sins, and we knowingly sin after our baptism, then our sins amount to a literal re-crucifixion of Christ. The poet John Donne best stated this when he wrote that, because he sinned and sinned, “I crucify Him daily.”
This is poor theology, to be sure, but it does raise the question of how our sins today come into contact with the hours of crucifixion. And I think the image of Jesus on a roadside cross provides an interesting answer: our sins do not put Jesus back on the cross, but instead put us in the position of the passersby. In what we think and do and don’t do, we do not cause his suffering but instead daily approach it. We’re going about our business and suddenly see his face, barely recognizable in its pain, on the faces of those we wrong through our actions or inactions or we see him watching us from the deep recesses of our hearts. Our road to the heavenly city of God is like the Appian Way after Spartacus’ defeat, lined with thousands of crosses. And each day as we walk, when we pass that stricken face, we can choose to stop and mock him or keep going and barely notice him. Or we can do what the Queen in Game of Thrones does when she finds that her enemies have crucified a slave along every mile of the road between her and their city: she vows to “see each and every one of their faces” before the bodies are taken down and remember them as she proceeds. As we pass the crucified Christ while walking our own roads, may we do likewise.
In addition to ordination, this is more exciting news from Chris:
See this link for today’s “Special” edition of TNE http://nebraskaepiscopalian.org/aprilfools/
Women’s Retreat Friday April 25th – Saturday April 26th
This year’s retreat is extra special with The Rev. Canon Judi Yeates presenting the program on her last weekend as Canon to the Ordinary. We hope you will display the poster and advertise the event in your congregations.
The topic is Forgiveness: A Christian Virtue. Mother Judi has requested that we read the book or have watched the movie Philomena as she will refer to it in her presentation. Sandra Squires may be able to get the movie for us to watch on Friday night of the retreat as well. Retreat attenders will want to bring a journal or notebook and a Book of Common Prayer. The guest rooms at the retreat center have Bibles.
The retreat will be held at the Benedictine Retreat House just north of Schuyler, Nebraska, Friday, April 25th Saturday, April 26th.
The cost is $95 for a double room, $100 for a single room, with meals included. We will gather from 4-6 p.m. and have supper at 6 on Friday, April 25th. Mother Judi will speak on Friday from 7-9, we’ll have snacks and a movie afterward. Breakfast is planned for 7:30 Saturday morning, with the program beginning at 9:00. Mother Judi will celebrate the Eucharist before lunch. There will be time for public or private confession and absolution. We plan to finish by 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 26th.
We hope you will join us for the retreat and we hope you will help us get the word out to as many as possible! Please contact me if you have questions or suggestions!
Deacpon Christine M. Grosh, MA
Convener of Women’s Ministries, Diocese of Nebraska
Theme: Forgiveness: A Christian Virtue
Location: Benedictine Retreat Center, north of
Check-in 4-6 p.m., April 25, 2014
Retreat opens with supper on Friday, at 6 p.m., ends 3 p.m. Saturday
$95 double occupancy/$100 single room, includes meals.
Register online: go to Diocese of Nebraska, click on ministries, then down to
women’s ministry. The registration form will come up on the screen.
Questions: Deacon Christine Grosh
The annual Diocesan Clergy Retreat, Working on our Belovedness: A Retreat with the Song of Songs, will be held February 25th – February 28th at the Benedict Retreat Center at Schulyer. The cost is $175.00.
Please arrive at 4:00 p.m on Tuesday, February 25th and depart at 11:00 a.m. Friday, February 28th.
Here is a link to the registration form http://clergyretreat.episcopal-ne.org/
St. Martha’s Trivia Night Benefits Students in Sudan
2013 marks the 10th anniversary of St. Martha’s annual Basket Raffle and Trivia Contest. Members of the congregation put together thematic baskets that people can buy raffle tickets on. Approximately 110 persons participated in this year’s thematic raffle and trivia contest. Baskets have had a wide range of themes. We have had doggy baskets, book baskets, Irish coffee baskets, martini baskets, chocolate and coffee baskets, along with many Christmas and Thanksgiving baskets. This year there were 40+ baskets that covered a wide range of themes. All proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets go to help us fund our Sudanese Children Education Fund. This year just over $1,600 were raised for this outreach.
St. Martha’s trivia contest is open to the congregation’s family and friends, and the congregation takes great pride in this ecumenical gathering. Not only are there Episcopalians participating in the trivia contest but Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and Jewish friends. This event has become a fun evening that brings many different religious traditions together. Trivia questions are written by St. Martha’s member Jerry Hall. He follows the categories similar to Trivial Pursuit, however, there are often special categories like The Presidents & First Ladies, All Things Biblical & Name the Saint & Academy Award-Winning Movies.
In the pictures below you will find two groups photographed. The first group is the St. Martha’s winners (Bishop Barker pictured). The second group is a group who has been participating from the very beginning: the Walnut Hill Boys Club (along with female friends!) The St. Martha’s winners have their picture displayed in the narthex of the church until the next trivia contest. The St. Martha winner members are The Drew Family and friends.
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and the Church of the Resurrection are excited to announce that Rt. Rev. J. Scott Barker has assigned Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett to serve part-time through the Church of the Resurrection in Omaha. In addition to continuing to serve with the diocesan staff and to making visitations with Bishop Barker, Dn. Bennett will serve two Sundays a month at Resurrection and be involved in local environmental and Deaconal ministries. Church of the Resurrection Rector, Fr. Jason Emerson, says, “I could not be more excited to work alongside an outstanding disciple and dedicated deacon.” Dn. Bennett begins at COR on Dec. 8th.
Church of Our Savior, North Platte honored several veterans in November during the special service to rededicate the newly rebuilt pipe organ.
The guest organist was Ray Johnston, Canon Musician at St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis.
Those who were in attendance and honored on Sunday were from Left to Right – Don Milroy, Milo Shavlik, Norval Holtmeir, Dan Wright, Chub Mapes, Stuart Votaw, and Ron Minobe.