How roomy?: A Day Nine message from Bishop Cederholm

Bishop Bud Cederholm writes:  

Bishop Bud Cederholm in the House of Bishops yesterday

Bishop Bud Cederholm in the House of Bishops yesterday

“I realized these two weeks how much I feel at home in the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion.  It’s not always a comfortable home, but it is where I am loved and accepted by all.  It is the strength and gift of the Episcopal Church to be a haven and home to all people, including those we disagree with.

“During the conversations regarding blessing same-sex marriages and unions, bishops on either side spoke passionately about making room for each other when we disagree.  I go home knowing we have sincerely sought to listen to each other and sought to have our resolutions reflect that roominess.  I like that in our congregations but am heartbroken when people with different agendas do not make room and engage in power struggles (overt and covert) leading to conflict.  I go home knowing our call continues to make room for all people.  Every congregation and diocese, like every home, is charged with making sure there is generous hospitality and room for all.  How roomy does it feel in your home?  Your home congregation?  Our diocese?  Admittedly, we all have work to do in making room for all.  

“We made room for many these past two weeks and many found their way into our hearts.  There was a group of kids from New York who brought the house down with their singing, dancing and faces of pure joy.  There were two dozen religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist traditions.  When a rabbi, Muslim and Christian chanted a blessing prayer, each in his own language, and then sang together with three languages and harmonies filling the room and our hearts, I was left in tears and spellbound.  Harry Birkenhead, a priest in our diocese, once told me that regular sound waves from spoken words travel straight, while the sound from a single musical note travels in a beautiful spiral pattern.  I imagined all the different musical notes from these people of faith generating hundreds of spiraling waves that united us to God and one another.  Then I thought, what if the peoples and nations of the world learned to sing together and not just talk with one another?  Might there be peace on earth?

“My committee, Social and Urban Affairs, moved a resolution that encouraged congregations to ask Episcopalians to give 40 hours a week in support of public education through direct service, advocacy and/or teacher support, in order to help bring equality in public education to all school systems.  Schools are more segregated now than when Brown vs. Board of Education was decided 50 years ago.  Inadequate schools and classrooms contribute to poverty, violence and crime.  We were told that major cities plan future jail space needs on the basis of the number of third graders who read below grade level.  The Diocese of New York has launched a successful program that is already bearing fruit and changing lives.  We know what quality education can do in our towns and cities when we see the phenomenal success of the Epiphany and Esperanza schools in our diocese.  What transformation of lives would take place if Episcopalians dedicated 40 hours a year in public schools?  Our Chinese ministry is a good example.  Have congregations in our diocese discerned such a mission in their community?  Some have, for sure, but not many.

“Bishop  Tom, whose passion for children and youth is well known, was honored by the national board for Episcopal Camp and Conference Centers this week.  He received their annual Hero in Camping award.  The Massachusetts deputation turned out to the reception and we heard Sam Gould, a counselor at Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, tell how camp changes kids’ lives and attitudes.  One troubled and uncooperative boy was assigned to Sam.  All week the kid grumbled about participating in religious activities at the camp, giving Sam and others a hard time.  On the last day the boy was asked to hold the chalice at Communion.  Sam feared a disaster…what would the boy say?  What would he do?  He hated religious stuff (or so he thought).  When Sam went to receive Communion, the boy said, ‘This is Jesus.  You better like it.’  When adults and older youth care for and serve children in camps and schools, lives are transformed.  How might we make more room in our hearts and lives for children in our congregations and diocese?

“Yesterday Bishop Steven Charleston, now assistant bishop in California, gave a powerful sermon on creation and global warming.  He said we used to talk about an environmental clock ticking down to a point when our greed, neglect and apathy would bring about catastrophic change and destruction to our planet.  Wars over water would make war over oil pale in comparison.  Pandemic disease and drastic reduction in food production would affect millions, and millions would become refugees.  The tick, tick has now become an alarm, and people of all faiths need to unite and make the reduction of greenhouse gases the number one priority.  All the good resolutions we pass now will mean nothing 50 years from now if each one of us and our congregations and dioceses don’t do more to reduce our carbon footprints.  This is an urgent stewardship call; our earth home is in distress—all hands on deck, S.O.S.

“We will pass several more resolutions that will call for sacrifice and lifestyle changes in our churches and homes.  We can make a difference if we unite now.  I call your attentin to the 350.org campaign again this fall.  Go to www.350.org/faith and sign the statement asking world leaders, political, business, economic, science and technology leaders, who go to Copenhagen in December to do all they can to make a strong commitment to reducing carbon in the atmosphere from its dangerous present level of 390 parts per million to a healthy level for sustainability of 350 ppm.  Signing the statement is a first step and a promise to do more.  We are looking for 350,000 signatures from all over the world.

“On Oct. 24 we in the diocese hope to join other religious groups to draw attention to this critically important fact, work and conference.  Conversations have begun in Massachusetts about holding events on several town and city commons where rallies, theater, music, advocacy and awareness will unite us in appreciation of the gift of creation God has given and the work we are called to do to save it with God’s help.  Yes, I am coming home Friday, and at home I will be asking you to make room on your list of really important things to do and pray for and ask others to join you.  Will you join the Episcopal Church’s commitment made here in Anaheim and through our partners at 350.org, by accepting the Genesis Covenant in saving this fragile earth, our island home?  Let us make room for my grandchildren and all children, peoples and creatures of the earth to live with clean air, water and soil, for the welfare and enjoyment of all people, tribes and nations in the years ahead.

“To slightly amend the words of John Denver, ‘Gee, it will be good to be back home again’ where, as in the Episcopal Church, there is always love and room for me, you and all God’s people.”

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