Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our Cathedral buildings -- Today and Tomorrow

The church is first the Body of Christ -- people centered in Christ offering our lives to God and sent by Christ to love the world. When we say "church," our thoughts often first jump to buildings -- but we must always remember that the buildings exist to serve this mission of being Christ-centered and Christ-sent.

We at Christ Church Cathedral have been blessed with two impressive buildings for generations. There is the Cathedral proper, a national historic landmark, which for nearly 150 years has been place for congregational worship, diocesan gathering, and a spiritual, cultural and community center for downtown St. Louis and the region. There is also the Bishop Tuttle Memorial Building, which for nearly 100 years has lived out its purpose to be a center for mission and ministry in the city in many and various ways.

We are not so much owners of these buildings but stewards of them for Christ. And Christ invites not only us in, but invites the faithful of our diocese and the people of St. Louis and the surrounding region. The difference between owner and steward is significant. The buildings are not "ours" but Christ's. As stewards we are not called to the us/them question of "should we let them use our building" but how is Christ calling these buildings to be used and cared for ... and inviting as many people as possible into that conversation.

That said, we as Cathedral parishioners and clergy have a special responsibility for this stewardship, so I want to use this space to update you on some of the ways we are addressing this ... and some questions for your thought and prayer in the weeks, months and years to come.

First, the present.

Building Maintenance Tasks - The Cathedral Property Committee, under the leadership of Cal Guthrie, has worked with the staff to design a process for identifying building maintenance tasks, prioritizing, and determining how the work can be most effectively completed. The basic unit for this system is a Building Maintenance Work Order, which is available to be filled out on the wall by the security guard's desk on the first floor of the BTM. All work orders will be reviewed by a combination of staff and property committee and progress tracked on a weekly basis. The details of the process are available by clicking here.  Anyone may fill out a Building Maintenance Work Order ... so if you see something that needs maintenance, here is how you bring attention to it.

Complete Facilities Audit - The Cathedral and BTM are old buildings with many systems of varying ages. It is easy for building stewardship to become purely reactive -- only becoming aware of pieces when they break and not planning ahead for paying for large systemic overhauls (roof, HVAC, etc., structural work, etc.) As we near the 150th anniversary of the Cathedral, we will be undertaking a complete audit of both the Cathedral proper and the BTM. This "basement to belltower" audit will assess the current state of every system and feature of both buildings, chart what maintenance is overdue, what systems need replacing, and help us establish schedules for ongoing maintenance not only annually but decades into the future.

This week, we are sending out proposals to companies around the country who specialize in this work for old church buildings (this will include assessment of things like our organ and stained glass windows, so it is crucial it be done by someone who has expertise in churches). The goal is to have bids in and ready for Chapter approval by January with the audit taking place throughout 2015. When completed, we will have - possibly for the first time - an accurate picture of the state of our buildings and the issues (financial and otherwise) involved with maintaining them with excellence. Special thanks to Cal Guthrie, Gary Johnson, Ward Buckner, Jason Wiggins, Betsy Clark and Walt Johnson of the Property Committee who have been working on the proposal, and to Betsy Kirchoff and Karen Barney who brought back this idea from the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes meeting this past February.

Next, the future.

The immediate future - Our partnership with Lafayette Preparatory Academy last year and this year has given us a wonderful opportunity to use the BTM for the kind of mission -- providing excellent primary education to city children -- for which it was built and is also providing us with nearly $70,000 a year in income that has closed our annual deficit. LPA will leave in June, 2015 (we will no longer have the space to accommodate them as they grow) and with them the income they bring. We need a short-term plan both to use the space for mission and to close the gap of the income we will lose when LPA moves on. I am gathering a subgroup of Chapter (Laura Lambrix, Titus Olajide and Jane Mayfield) to explore options. Please let me know if you are interested in engaging this work as well.

The long-term future - As we approach the 150th anniversary of the Cathedral (2017) and the 200th anniversary of the Christ Church congregation (2019) it is time to look at the next 50 - 100 years of Christ Church Cathedral. This raises exciting questions for us. How is God calling us to use the buildings of Christ Church Cathedral to love downtown and the St. Louis region. What are the mission and ministry needs our buildings can fulfill both in the coming years and the coming decades? How can we build a sense of ownership in our buildings as sacred public spaces and catalysts for the common good -- and a shared financial stake in maintaining and perhaps even remodeling/adding to them?

This is a process of visioning that will dovetail with the strategic planning process that Jim Kimmey is currently leading your Chapter through (more on that later this week). It will include people of the Cathedral congregation but also the Bishop and people from around the diocese as well as civic leaders, residents and others from downtown and the region. A second small group (Sr. Warden Tom Gardner, Laura Lambrix, the Rev. Canon Dr. John Kilgore and me) are beginning to meet to begin this process as well.

What do you think? What are your thoughts about the current state of our buildings? How do you think Christ might be calling these buildings to be used in the near future and for the rest of the century? What dreams do you have for the Cathedral and the BTM?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gene Robinson and the Delmar Divide. Storms of yesterday and today.

I remember back in 2003 when the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion were wrestling with the consecration of Gene Robinson as our communion's first openly LGBT bishop, hearing some sisters and brothers wistfully long for when the storm would be over and we could "get back to being the church."

I remember being both sympathetic and saddened by those longings.

Sympathetic because those moments in history we are thrown in the midst of the storm are disorienting, frightening and exhausting -- especially for those of us privileged not to live in the storm the rest of the time. Those moments are hard and require hard work from people whose lives are already pretty full of labor.

Sympathetic because I know the gravitational pull of church being a refuge from a world that is changing so quickly. A place to "be still and know that God is God" and to be about the work of prayer, worship & study and tending to one another as the gathered and beloved community. That idea of church as refuge can feel so holy, compelling and life-giving to us that outside events that disrupt can seem like a distraction from the work of the church.

Saddened because those very places of sympathy reveal how easy it is for all of us -- myself included -- to be tempted to a narrow view of who we are called to be as the church, and the great gift God gives us in those very events that disrupt so profoundly.

Saddened because I realized how easy it is for all of us -- myself included -- to be tempted into thinking and speaking in categories of "us/them" and "either/or" that never seemed to pass Jesus' lips.

Looking back over the past decade since that moment in time, I believe we as Christ Church Cathedral have much to be proud of in how we received and embraced the gift of that storm. We used it to build on a history of welcoming all to Christ's table and stepped forward to witness to Christ's love in new ways.

We witnessed to it within our doors -- asking the hard questions posed by our Oasis Affirmation of Welcome.

We witnessed to it outside our doors -- not shrinking from the platform it gave us to witness to the St. Louis region of our mission to "restore ALL people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

All people. No exceptions.

We experienced the deep truth that while we absolutely must be a place to "be still and know that God is God" and to be about the work of prayer, worship & study and tending to one another as the gathered and beloved community -- that alone that is a vision for the church that is lacking in breadth, depth and joy. Alone that is a vision that is not worthy of we who follow the one who gave himself for the life of the whole world.

All people. No exceptions.

In the past three weeks, I have felt a growing tension. Certainly I have felt it inside myself, and I have also heard it in conversations I have had with people in the Cathedral community.

As I came back from my vacation the day after Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, I have been drawn not just to what was unfolding on the streets of that small community, but more deeply into the foundational rifts of race & class, power & privilege that have long festered throughout St. Louis.

At the same time, prayer, worship, study, fellowship and pastoral care of one another, stewardship of time, talent, treasure and the buildings we have been given -- all those things we traditionally see as "the work of the church" don't go on holiday.

I felt a growing tension inside myself as I tried to balance the two. I felt a growing tension in the Cathedral community as I had conversations with people who were expressing gratitude for the work being done in and about Ferguson and also those expressing concern that my focus was neglecting the care of the gathered community.

And the tension is all the more acute as I recognize deep truth in each voice.

And so as we prepare to welcome Bishop Robinson to Christ Church Cathedral later this month, I thought back to 2003 and realized that we are once again in the midst of a storm that is both challenge and gift. That our experience of that storm can inform God's call to us out of this one.

Christ Church Cathedral was a beacon of the Gospel for the past decade for full inclusion of LGBT persons in every level of church and society because for us this was not a political issue but an incarnational one. Our conviction that all God's children deserve a place to offer their gifts at the table regardless of sexual orientation is rooted in our deep knowledge of one another.

For the saints at Christ Church Cathedral, marriage equality is not a theological debating point ... it's an incarnational experience. It is the sacramental love of Shug and Doris, Ron and Don, Tom and Dennis, Betsy and Alicia and so many more.

We didn't and haven't taken a break from prayer, worship, study and tending to one another as the gathered beloved community to work for full inclusion of those among us who are LGBT both in our own community and in the world. Because that work out in the world has always been driven by that very work done within the community. Because justice is never merely an idea. True justice, lasting justice is always rooted in seeing the image of God on one another.

True justice, lasting justice is always rooted in not seeing "the other" or a "them" but seeing an ever-expanding "we."

Circumstance has put we in St. Louis in the center of a national conversation on race, class, power and privilege. And we have the opportunity to embrace this moment in time, the challenge and gift of this storm. But we are not faced with the choice of either witnessing for racial justice or doing "the (internal) work of the church."

The two are inseparable.

Today, as we did throughout the past decade, we can build on a history of welcoming all to Christ's table and step forward to witness to Christ's love in new ways. We can listen to the lived experience of the amazing saints of color in our own gathered and beloved community. We can together gather at the foot of the cross and pray, worship, study and build deeper and deeper relationships with one another -- particularly across those lines that divide us within our own body.

Then even as we are informed and converted by those relationships, we can go outside our doors -- not shrinking from the platform we are being given to witness to the St. Louis region of our mission to "restore ALL people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

We can, rooted in our incarnational knowledge of the deep beauty and worthiness of every image of God in human form, insist that no race or class be privileged over another, that all treat one another with love and equity, and that the current gaps in opportunity, education, economics and prosecution/incarceration be dismantled as unworthy of a city that wants to make glad God's heart.

The title of this blog is "Come Together" -- and we are being given an opportunity to do just that. But it will take all of us. It can't just be me or a few of us. It will take all of us praying, worshipping, studying, and reaching out in fellowship and care for one another. It will take all of us being converted by those relationships going out and building new relationships across the Delmar Divide and the many other divides that fracture us as a region.

57 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King stood a few blocks from our Cathedral at the old Kiel Auditorium and, speaking of race relations in the United States said:

"We have come a long, long way, and we have a long, long way to go."

Those words remain true today. But perhaps the most important single word of that sentence is the first word -- we.

Together, we have come a long, long way. And together, we do have a long, long way to go.

And we will get there, together.

All people.

No exceptions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beyond #Ferguson

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” – John 1:14

By now, everyone in America knows #Ferguson.

#Ferguson is what has been on our TV screens for the past two and a half weeks. #Ferguson has trended No. 1 on Twitter and dominated our Facebook newsfeeds.

#Ferguson is scary. #Ferguson is a place of young African American men shouting and Molotov cocktails flying. #Ferguson is a place of burned out convenience stores, snipers on rooftops and police with German Shepherds and military weaponry. #Ferguson is a 24/7 adrenaline rush and highly addictive dopamine hit.

#Ferguson is a dangerous place. Because #Ferguson isn’t real. It’s one-dimensional. It’s deep complexity and real, human pain with more than just one, simple cause packaged for mass consumption and even entertainment.

#Ferguson is dangerous because it tempts those of us of privilege to think this has no more to do with our real lives than the Real Housewives of New Jersey. #Ferguson is dangerous because it tempts all of us to look “over there” instead of “right here.”

#Ferguson is dangerous because it raises issues divorced from relationships.

Make no mistake, Jesus is on the streets of Ferguson… and on the streets of the rest of our city and cities across this nation. But you won’t find him by watching #Ferguson.

When the Christ saw equality with God not as something to be grasped but emptied the divine self into human form, it wasn’t the #Incarnation – a trending topic for conversation and titillation. It was Jesus, the Word become flesh and living among us.

Becoming flesh. Living among. Deep relationship. From deep relationship comes deep knowledge. From deep knowledge comes deep love. From deep love comes deep healing.

#Ferguson raises important issues of dignity, equality and justice. But #Ferguson will never, never adequately address them. Because we will never care enough to do the long, hard work necessary. Without the deep relationship, the deep knowledge, the deep love … it’s just too easy to turn away.

True healing. True reconciliation comes from incarnational relationship. From in the flesh dwelling with and among one another. From building relationships for the long journey, walking together that long road to the cross, putting each other’s lives in each other’s hands, all the time secure in the hope that resurrection is our destination.

That’s what it means to dive beyond #Ferguson. Each of us, in our own communities -- including us right here at Christ Church Cathedral -- committing to being incarnational Christians. Not just reaching across the segregations of our own communities but journeying across them, building flesh-and-blood relationships across them, truly sharing lives across them.

Becoming flesh. Living among. Deep relationship.

What does that look like for us? What does that look like in our presence as individuals and as a Cathedral in relationship with the primarily African-American churches of our region -- a relationship that has been largely absent? What does that look like as we consider the broader mission and vision of Christ Church Cathedral and what it means truly to be called to be a Cathedral for this whole region?

What does it look like within our own Cathedral Nave on Sunday mornings?

#Ferguson is ending (for now) and the media is about to move onto the next shiny thing. But if we open our eyes, there is a much richer, deeper, riskier, more transformational drama right in front of us.

It is a drama of incarnation. And we are invited not to be viewers and tweeters but intimate participants. A drama of deep relationship. Deep knowledge. Deep love. And ultimately, deep healing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The gift we as the church bring to Ferguson -- being theologians.

"What we need is not just diplomats. We need psychologists and theologians." - Yossi Halevi

Two months ago, I was with a group studying the conflict in Israel & Palestine, and spent a morning in Jerusalem with Yossi, a Jewish author who has spent decades immersed in the conflict in that land. I have come back to these words of his often as Ferguson, just 15 minutes from our Cathedral, has become the epicenter of America's latest seismic encounter with race and class, power and privilege.

Yossi could have been speaking of Ferguson and the national wound that has been ripped open by it. And that has led me to believe our primary gift as the Church in this moment is indeed to be theologians. To provide a theological framework and language for us to engage this work as followers of Jesus Christ.

As Episcopalians, our theology is intensely sacramental. The sacraments and sacramental rites of the church are not just ritual, they are a pattern for our entire lives. And so we engage what is happening in Ferguson the way we engage everything -- sacramentally. Specifically, through Eucharist and reconciliation.

First, Eucharist.

The first act of the Eucharist is gathering. We gather around the presence of Christ and focus our attention on it. We drink Christ's presence in with our eyes and ears. So what is the presence of Christ? The presence of Christ is where divinity meets humanity. It is when human beings allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to speak their deep truth. It is anything from the height of joy to the depths of agony. It is often raw, it is usually messy, and it is always, always real.

For us in this moment, the presence of Christ is the cries that are coming from Ferguson. As I preached on Sunday, it is the cries of mothers, children and everyone else who has been treated as less than full images of God because of their race. They are the cries of frustration from the police, cries of loss from business owners and cries of exasperation and sorrow from teachers who are being prevented from teaching their children. They are the better angels of all of our human natures when our efforts to guard one another's dignity and participate in human thriving are thwarted. They are voices not of a "them" but of part of the "we."

So our first task in Ferguson is simply to pay attention. To look at the faces and listen to the voices. To do so with "inquiring and discerning hearts," asking God to reveal the presence of Christ in these voices crying out in our midst.

The second act of the Eucharist is offering, and what we offer is our whole selves. One of our offertory sentences is a portion of this passage from Romans 12:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In the Eucharist after we gather around the presence of Christ, we offer ourselves to it. We lay our lives -- our whole selves, holding nothing back -- on the table with Christ's life. It is not just listening to the voices of Christ, but letting those voices become part of us. Letting them interact with us. Letting God change us through them.

When we lay ourselves on the table in the Eucharist, the offering of our lives becomes intermingled with the life and presence of Christ, and something new is created that is both each of us and Christ. It is this new life that happens when we all meet in that place where divinity touches humanity. Where our vulnerability touches each other's vulnerability in the model of the cross and together we become something we never could become on our own.

And that is the moment of blessing. That is the moment, as we offer all this life to God, that we ask God to say "this is good." All our vulnerability. All our joy. All our pain. All coming together into a whole that has the highest integrity.

For us in Ferguson, that means listening deeply to those voices, listening for the presence of Christ in them, letting them into the everydayness of our lives and our own stories and letting them change us. It means striving for honest conversation -- conversation whose goal is conversion. It means guarding against defensiveness and shame, which shut us down to the converting power of the other. And it means continually asking God to bless, continually trusting that God takes our efforts, honest and fallible, and says "this is good," continually believing that God means us for one another and that our destiny is to be reconciled to God and one another in Christ (2 Cor. 5).

And then we receive. In the words of St. Augustine, we take this new life that has occurred in all our self-offerings on the table and "be what we see, receive who we are." We become a healed and reconciled people because what we receive is a little peace of each of us and a lot of Jesus. Whereas we came to the table as individuals, we leave as one.

And we do leave ... or, more accurately, we are sent. We are sent out into the world "to love and serve God with gladness and singleness of heart." We are sent because in the words of my good friend the Rev. Dahn Gandell, "transformation not shared is wasted." We are sent because like Jesus, our life is not to be lived for ourselves but given for the love of the whole world.

In Ferguson living Eucharistically means our role as Christians is continually to be asking questions:

*Where is the presence of Christ? Who are those voices that are Christ's voice?

*How is God calling us to lay our lives on the table with that presence of Christ?

*How can we be open to the new life that emerges -- a new life that removes all the "us's and them's" and creates a new and glorious "we."

*How can we let this new life become our new identity -- who Jesus says that WE are?

*How can we, as a new people in Christ, be sent into the world to love and serve with gladness and singleness of heart?

Like the Eucharist ,this does not happen all at once. We come back to the table time and time and time again. We do it because we do this so imperfectly (thankfully God is even more graceful than we are imperfect!). We do it because it is so difficult but it is also so rewarding. It is not a one-time ritual but the gathering-offering-blessing-receiving-sending, wash-rinse-repeat motion of our lives.

Second, reconciliation.

Reconciliation is also a process, and like Eucharist, it is repeatable ... over and over and over again. It is the process of identifying where we have fallen short of living the way God dreams for us, where we have broken relationship with God, one another and creation. It is not about shame -- exactly the opposite. It is the liberating process of realizing that God's dream for us is like Eden ... that we be naked and unashamed ... and that because of the grace of God, even the worst sins and mistakes -- like those of the Prodigal Son -- can be amended and forgiven.

Reconciliation begins with self-examination. In the liturgy, this happens before the Eucharist, but really it's a much messier, more dynamic process. Often the very act of gathering around the presence of Christ and hearing those voices and gazing on that life leads us into self-examination.

The questions of self-examination are intense and unfailingly honest. Where have we fallen short of God's dream for us? Where have we injured or offended others or God's creation? Where have we contributed to the oppression of ourselves or others, and where have we not contributed as we might have to the thriving of every human being.

And then we confess. In Matthew, when John the Baptist is calling people to confession, he uses . the word ἐξομολογέω (ex-om-ol-og-eh'-o), which means “together, acknowledging openly and joyfully.” This is loud, communal, joyful confession. Confession is not a shame-filled dirge, but a liberation because we are freeing ourselves from a burden.

Then we repent. We literally pledge to turn our lives around. We pledge to repair the damage the best we can and, with God's help not to sin anymore.

And then God forgives. That is absolution. And it literally erases what is past. But we still have a covenant promise to keep, and that is the final step. Because finally we have amendment of life -- that's the actual living of it all. Recognizing that repentance is not just lip service, that we actually have to ... and more important, we GET to ... live as new, redeemed people in the world.

What does this look like in Ferguson. Well, like Eucharist, it's all about the questions.

*Self-examination -- where have I/we contributed to the pain that is being expressed in Ferguson? Where do we need to own responsibility for our sins of things done and left undone?

*Confession -- What do we need to stand up and take responsibility for? Not with our head low and mumbling, but standing tall with our heads held high. Knowing that naming it and taking responsibility for it means we are free from being "found out" and defensiveness. Free to receive the love of God.

*Repentance -- Now that we have confessed, what actions do we need to commit to so this is not just an empty apology? How do we work to rebuild trust, rebuild relationship, tear down structures that oppress and build up structures that nurture human thriving?

*Forgiveness -- How can we receive God's love and trust it will never leave? How can we not be burdened by the sins of racism and classism, power and privilege? How can we be open to receiving the healing power of God in Christ that is so much more powerful than any power we have and so necessary to the healing of the world?

*Amendment of life -- How can we go out and live differently? What does effective change look like? How can we live -- together with one another -- as people of a new creation, forgiven, loved and free?

We engage reconciliation both as individuals and as the communion of saints, local, national, global and cosmic. And as with the Eucharist, our call as followers of Christ is not only to live Eucharistically and as ambassadors of Christ given the ministry of reconciliation, but to lead the world into that life as well.

To help train the eyes of the world on the presence of Christ and invite them to lay their lives on the table with it.

To lead the process of all of us becoming something new and life-giving together.

To lead in taking responsibility for our part in the sin and brokenness of the world, not as a shamed, self-flagellating act, but as bold leaders of joyful reconciliation.

To proclaim that, as Becca Stevens says, love is the most powerful force for social change in the universe.

And love looks like gathering around the presence of Christ and laying our lives on the table with it.

Love looks like owning where we have broken relationship and pledging to our sisters and brothers to try not to do it again.

And love also means, in the words of the marriage prayer, to have the grace, when we hurt each other again anyway, to ask for each other's forgiveness and God's.

As we watch the events from Ferguson either from across town, across the country or around the world, we are called to consider what it means to encounter them theologically. Encounter them as Eucharistic people and ambassadors of Christ given the ministry of reconciliation. It is an incredibly imperfect and messy process. Not a single act but a pattern of life lived in community that will be repeated over and over and over again. We will have to hold each other in love and grace because more often than not, we will not get it right. But it is in the holding of one another in love and grace that the power of Christ is set loose.

I am convinced this is the gift we as the church bring to Ferguson ... and to the gaping wound of our nation's original sin of race as a whole.  It is for us not first to be social scientists or aid workers, community organizers or even crusaders for reform. It is for us first to be theologians, offering the life-giving gifts that, if not offered by us, may not be offered at all.

The gift of Eucharist and reconciliation.

The gift of the sure and certain hope of the resurrection that does not detour around the agony of the cross.

The gift of a Christ who gave himself for the whole world -- no exceptions -- and promises that, as we do the same, he will be with us always, even to the end of the age.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Healing the child and "Praying with our Feet" -- joining what God is already doing.

The Rev. Traci Blackmon prays over Gov. Jay Nixon last week.
Yesterday, in my sermon, I named four areas where "all of us working together, with God's help" can help with the long work of healing the child crying out in Ferguson.  We're calling it "Praying with Our Feet," and I want to take a little time to unpack each of those and let you know about some wonderful organizations and people that are already doing this work that you can connect with.

"All of us working together, with God's help, can close the gap of educational opportunity in St. Louis."

This is exactly what we are trying to do in hosting Lafayette Preparatory Academy in our building -- provide excellent public elementary education to children who have no educational choice and are trapped in failing schools. LPA certainly needs your help -- they take financial donations and they also can use volunteers. For more information, email head of school Susan Marino.

There are some other excellent schools that are doing great things at the mission of closing the educational gap. Please check out their websites and consider if you are called to help.

*Loyola Academy - "a Jesuit middle school for boys who have the potential for college preparatory work, but whose progress may be impeded by economic or social circumstances." Their head of school, Eric Clark, is an absolute visionary.

*City Academy - In North St. Louis, the only private, independent elementary school in St. Louis and the State of Missouri providing scholarship support to 100% of our students. I've toured there and know the head of school -- it's fantastic.

Also consider volunteering as a tutor in your local public school. Give to Grace Hill Settlement House to support their Head Start Programs. And educate yourself and promote positive change in educational policy ... such as the Teach Great ballot initiative that is coming up in November.

"All of us, working together, with God's help, can mentor young black men and women in St. Louis."

There is no substitute for relationship. Relationship changes lives. Here are some organizations where you can either build relationships yourself or support the building of mentoring relationships that will shape lives for the better:

*Episcopal City Mission -- Our Episcopal ministry for children and youth in detention. Start out by helping out at one of the birthday parties, then learn about the many ways you can be a positive force in the lives of these young people. Want to know more ... their offices are right here at Christ Church Cathedral on the third floor. Or talk to Dannie Franklin on Sunday morning.

*100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis - through empowering youth, a fantastic organization for improving education and economic opportunity in St. Louis.

*SistaKeeper -- Check out their video here.

*Girls, Inc of St. Louis -- A familiar name to us at Christ Church Cathedral as we have hosted it in the Tuttle Building and we have had parishioners intimately involved in this fantastic organization for empowering girls.

"All of us, working together, with God's help, can confess and remove the prejudice in our hiring practices, investment practices and social choices"

Most of us -- certainly Christ Church Cathedral included -- have a lot of work to do here. Does your workplace make sure that when contracts are bid out at least one bid comes from a minority-owned business? Does your staffing represent the diversity of your community? Are you -- either personally or as a business or church -- investing not only in terms of maximizing financial rate of return but also maximizing impact in the community. What about dedicating a portion of your endowment or investment portfolio to investing in minority owned businesses in your area.

When you choose a doctor, lawyer, financial planner, dry cleaner ... do you intentionally use that as an opportunity to diversify your relationships? Are there social situations you can intentionally enter into that, if you are white, put you in a situation where you are a racial minority?

"All of us, working together, with God's help, can with the power of our voice and the power of our vote stand up against racial profiling in our police forces -- and at the same time listen deeply to the voices of our police officers, because they have a cry as well."

Much of this is about listening and speaking up. Listen to the voices that are coming out of Ferguson. Educate yourself about the statistics of how out of proportion stops, searches and arrests of African Americans are to the rest of the population. Speak out in conversations with friends and family -- it's risky and scary, but we have to do it.

And yes, we need to listen to the voices of the police as well. We need to work to get the guns off the street. Our own Mike Rohan is working with former St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom on an anti-violence/anti-youth-gun initiative in St. Louis City. Our good friends and neighbors at Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church have done a toy gun buyback and other efforts to take the guns off the streets. There are plenty of ways to grow this movement.

I'd love to talk with you more about any of these things. And this is just a starter set. The point is that we don't need to start everything from scratch. God is moving in powerful ways. We just need to keep stepping out of the boat and getting in the game!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Worship God in the Beauty of Holiness

"Worship God in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 96:9)

Last Sunday we had our second community conversation about expected behavior during Sunday morning worship: How we can work together to create a space that invites people into God's welcome for all and at the same time recognizes that at 8 and 10 am on Sunday mornings we gather for a specific purpose ... together to "worship God in the beauty of holiness."

Several weeks ago, I invited attendees at our On The Table forum to talk to a wide variety of constituencies and ask them why they came on Sunday morning and what they thought reasonable standards of behavior were. (Read more about that conversation in this blogpost). What they reported included:

*Mostly people gather on Sunday mornings for worship, but -- particularly in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter -- people also come into the space for shelter.

*Different people worship differently -- and different people find different things distracting in worship. We need always to respect and grow from those differences.

*People of different ages and abilities are able to and, in fact, do engage in worship in different ways. Again ... grace is required.

After listening deeply to many different viewpoints, Amy and I have established these guidelines for our Sunday worship time:

In this sacred space, all are invited to “worship God in the beauty of holiness” (Ps 96:9) by together creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and joyful reverence.

Please join in congregational responses and singing with joy and enthusiasm. Look for opportunities to assist visitors and feel free to ask for help yourself. Enjoy the squeaks, hoots and impromptu dances that sometimes come from our youngest worshippers.

In addition, please keep conversation to the barest minimum, silence electronic devices, restrict your eating to the Eucharist and follow Jesus’ command to “stay awake” (realizing the preacher bears some responsibility there).

Please support one another by reminding each other of these “Rules of Respect*” for worship, recognizing that grace may be needed for young children, and that in all things we strive not to be bound by the law but by embodying the love of Christ that gives God greatest glory.

These will be printed in the bulletin and I will speak to them briefly before worship this Sunday. We ask that everyone support and hold one another accountable in living within these guidelines. If you truly feel unsafe reminding someone of these norms, we ask you to get a security guard. However, if you feel not so much unsafe as uncomfortable, we ask you to lean into that discomfort and have the loving conversation. We grow together in Christ by our willingness to have the loving, uncomfortable conversation.

We're going to try this for three months and see what we notice. What do you think?

*We call them Rules for Respect for worship because they are a version of our broader Rules for Respect for how we treat one another in community. Download and take a look at those by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lafayette Prep - A great first year and looking ahead to Year 2

When we began conversations with Lafayette Preparatory Academy to be their incubator for their first two years, we were excited at the potential of this relationship. For us it meant both engaging in important mission work -- providing excellent education to children both in the loft communities downtown and in the poorer communities surrounding downtown -- but also an income stream of close to $70,000 a year that would help us balance our budget.

We are now at the halfway point of that relationship -- a good time for a "state of the union" of sorts -- and I'm thrilled to say it has been an extraordinary first year with very few bumps along the way.

LPA operated had 74 students this year (out of a potential capacity of 90) with two kindergarten classes, one first and one second grade class. Next year, they estimate being at capacity with 120 students, with two kindergarten and first grade, one second and one third grade class. Any questions about the viability of LPA have been answered with a resounding YES and we are thrilled to be a part of that success.

The sharing of space has gone remarkably well. There have been adjustments, to be sure. We are especially grateful to our Sunday School teachers and families, who have adapted wonderfully to sharing of space and to others who have had to adjust. We are also especially grateful to our facilities staff: Rick Edwards, Robert Buckley and Dwight Minor, who have been stretched by the increased usage of the building -- even with LPA having their own custodial staff.

Next year, we will be even cozier and the need for additional classroom space will severely restrict our use of some rooms we have become accustomed to having at our disposal. This year we could use Schuyler Hall on occasion and same with the Guernsey Room. Next year, those spaces will be dedicated classroom and lunchroom space so we will not have use of them during the school year.

This will require some adjustment on our part. Events that had been held in those rooms will now have to be in either the Saturday breakfast room, the gym or the Nave. We got a taste of that this January when we had our inaugural Annual Meeting Eucharist in the Nave on Sunday morning. Starting this Sunday, Adult Christian Formation will shift to the Saturday breakfast room. Events like the Black History Month potluck will have to be relocated (the gym?) or re-visioned for 2015.

There will be other adaptations necessary because of sharing the space. It was noticed last Sunday that the refrigerators in the 4th floor kitchen are now locked -- and we certainly apologize for the inconvenience for people bringing food for the potluck! That was necessary because food the school was storing there had been disappearing. We are making sure our security ministers will always have the key to those so that won't happen again!

These adaptations are a sacrifice. But consider that the tradeoff is not only close to $70,000 that literally keeps our lights on, but providing quality education for 120 children, many of whom are living in poverty. It is not just a choice of economic necessity but a choice for mission.

When I first got here 5+ years ago, one of the most disconcerting things about this space was the dead silence in the Bishop Tuttle Building during the week. Now -- even today as 17 children are in LPA's summer program -- the sound of children is everywhere. I hope you take as much pride in this as I do. I will so miss LPA when they are gone.

And that brings me to the final piece of looking ahead. LPA will be leaving in June, 2015 because they will have outgrown our space. That leaves us with short- and long-term questions and possibilities. I have called together two teams to explore what our options are and make recommendations to Chapter.

The first team -- Laura Lambrix, Jane Mayfield, and Titus Olajide -- are looking at what our short-term options are to replace the $70,000 in income LPA is generating. We realize the BTM is our best asset to use to do this. Our initial hope was that another charter school would be ready to move in and incubate for two years -- given that the space would be move-in ready. We've found the existing charter startups are not interested in being downtown, so while we're keeping that option open I'm asking this group to also look at any other options that will both generate income and also accomplish the even more central purpose of using this space for mission.

The second team -- Tom Gardner, Laura Lambrix (she's busy!) and the Rev. Canon John Kilgore -- are exploring long-term possibilities for the BTM both in terms of financial sustainability and for mission engagement. How do we take this building that served as such a wonderful center for mission and ministry in the 20th century and turn it into an asset for mission and ministry in the 21st century? You'll be hearing more about both these teams' work in the months ahead.

As always, please come to me or any chapter member with comments or questions or ideas. Most important, continue to keep Christ Church Cathedral and our common future in your prayers ... and continue to think and pray on how you can be a part of the ongoing life of Christ here in the heart of downtown St. Louis.