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Convention Videos

08 Nov

These are the six video reports I created for the 193rd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Three report on progress made in areas of the Campaign for Congregational Development with the others showing three ongoing ministries in the Diocese.

Episcopal Development Agency of Thomasville:

Congregational Development in Rincon and Cordele

Honey Creek Summer Camp

Rebecca’s Café in Statesboro

The St. Athanasius’ Food Pantry in Brunswick

Good Samaritan House Free Medical Clinic in Dearing

 

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Mission in the Diocese of Georgia

07 Nov

This Talk given by Canon Frank Logue was the Opening Presentation
for the 193rd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

The word “Mission” gets used so much in the Church, that mission is in danger of becoming so laden with meaning that it crosses over into being meaningless. Let me take mission from the theoretical to the very real and practical. We are to make disciples of all nations and to care for the least among us. Here is a snapshot of who we are as a Diocese, right now, and what we are doing this coming week:

It’s Monday in Kingsland, Georgia where the first staff member arrives at 6:20 a.m. to open up the preschool. The 70 students 15 staff will soon fill King of Peace Episcopal Day School. The church will stay busy all through the day and into the night when twenty people come out for the Boy Scout Troop 226 Venture Crew before the preschool closes. While that meeting is taking place, the school board or vestry is usually meet and the last person leaves at 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile just north in Brunswick, volunteers gather at 8:30 in the morning to get ready to give out food collected from five Episcopal Churches in the Golden Isles at St. Athanasius’ Food Pantry. More than 100 people will leave with bags heavy with food for the coming two weeks.

At noon Good Samaritan House opens its doors in Dearing, Georgia, 30 miles west of Augusta. In response to real need in the area, our Archdeacon, Sandy Turner, opened a free medical clinic with help from parishioners at Our Savior, Martinez, and in partnership with Dearing Baptist Church and others. More than 20 patients will receive free care until the clinic closes at 4:30 that afternoon.

As the workday ends, it will be a full evening at Good Shepherd, Augusta, with the Prayer Shawl group gathering at 5 p.m., a Grief Group at 6:30 and finally the Alcoholics Anonymous group starts at 8 p.m. Good Shepherd is not just active in its building, the congregation also gives significantly of its resources for God’s work in the world. In 2014, this amounts to $340,500 or 26% of the church budget.

On Tuesday morning, ten volunteers gather in the dark at St. Paul the Apostle, Savannah, to distribute food through its Thomas Park Food Pantry which opens at 7 a.m. By 8:30, they will hand out 175 ten-pound bags of food to their neighbors. The ministry has been underway in varying forms for more than three decades.

Before the pantry is packed away in Savannah volunteers will begin arriving at Rebecca’s Cafe in Statesboro to begin preparing food for the 85 or so guests who will eat in the former school cafeteria that now houses the ministry. Created by Trinity Episcopal Church, the twice weekly soup kitchen now combines volunteers from ten local groups.

At 12:30 p.m., Tuesday Music Live gets underway at St. Paul’s, Augusta, where since 1988 the 13-concerts-a-year series which brings 5,000 people a year into one of the Diocese of Georgia’s three founding churches.

That afternoon in Martinez, members of Holy Comforter continue their partnership with Lakeside Middle School. The church’s mentoring program currently serves more than five percent of the student population with more children on a waiting list, hoping to be mentored. Since the church and school partnered, test scores have shown an improvement, but more importantly vital relationships between parishioners and students have formed, this includes one middle school student kicked out of school for behavior issues who got back in school through mentorship, moved on to high school and now attends Holy Comforter with his family. The church is now setting aside scholarships to assist Lakeside graduates who move into Tech School or other high school graduation needs.

Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. the community women’s Bible study gets underway at St. Elizabeth’s in Richmond Hill. The large group gathers women from a variety of denominations. In the background are the happy sounds coming from the children in the congregation’s preschool.

Wednesday at 4 p.m. the ECW Knitter’s Guild is gathering at All Saints, Thomasville, in the parish hall to make prayer shawls for the sick as well as blankets for new babies.

Wednesday at 7 p.m. and historic Christ Church Frederica is lit by more than 200 flickering candles, most of them LED candles. Incense and the use of Taize chants and periods of sustained silence, create a different tone for the liturgy. The liturgy is designed to speak to a deep need for the Holy through an experience of God in worship offering a chance for over-programmed lives to hit pause in a more significant way than in our typical Sunday morning liturgies.

It’s Thursday morning at St. John’s, Savannah, and just before 7 a.m. 60 or 70 participants in the Sunrise Solutions Alcoholics Anonymous Group come in from the dark. While AA functions independent of the churches where it meets, the group is not just for the community, as AA groups in congregations across the Diocese are attended by our members including our clergy who are in recovery. But the AA group meeting on the ground floor does not have Cranmer Hall at St. John’s to itself. At 7 a.m. this Thursday, the Men’s Bible Study is underway upstairs in and as they leave, the sounds of the 50 toddler through pre-K students arriving for The Children’s School at St. John’s Church will ring out in the building.

It’s Thursday afternoon and as school gets out in Thomasville, students around Good Shepherd filed into the historic Parish Hall for the after school program offering enrichment through the school year for 40 students with an additional program in the summer. This is part of the work of the Episcopal Development Agency in Thomasville which draws on all three Episcopal churches in the community—All Saints, St. Thomas and Good Shepherd.

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Friday and the side door opens to the Parish House at Christ Church Savannah. More than 200 people enter to eat breakfast every weekday. Day services of the ministry include washer and dryer, shower and rest room facilities, distribution of donated clothing and shoes. The founding congregations for Emmaus House include Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Baptist congregations. Deacon Jamie Maury now serves as a Chaplain to this vital ministry.

Friday at 9 a.m. Hello-Goodbuy opens its doors on Highway 17 in Brunswick. The Thrift Shop Ministry of St. Mark’s Brunswick is open 8 hours a day, six days a week in a prominent location. Since moving to a new location and more frequent hours two years ago, the store has funded nearly 20 grant requests from local charities, totaling $31,000.

At noon on Friday in Valdosta, parents start picking up their preschoolers from the church’s new education building. Most days, Christ Church’s Parents’ Morning Out program will have five to eight kids while the half day preschool daily cares for 34 children two through four-years olds in three classes.

Friday afternoon in Darien, volunteers with c3—Community Cares Cafe—watch students cross the road from the elementary school across the street and enter the Parish Hall. Two dozen children have after school care with a meal and homework assistance. This is an outgrowth of a partnership with the Elementary School across the street that began with tutoring during school, the after school program was added and now there is a community youth group.

Saturday morning in Augusta sees the Soup Kitchen at Christ Church in the Harrisburg neighborhood has a line leading out from the building as physician assistant students at the Georgia Health Sciences University set up their medical screening clinic to run alongside the Soup Kitchen. The students offer screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other common diseases at this church that has seen outreach ministries as a central focus since the church was established in 1882.

As the Soup Kitchen volunteers open the doors in Augusta, the St. Thomas Thrift Shop opens for business in its store on Montgomery Crossroads in Savannah. Open four days a week, the Thrift Shop is a major source of funds for the Unseen Guest Ministry of St. Thomas Isle of Hope. Since its founding 20 years ago to serve primarily persons suffering from HIV/AIDS, Unseen Guest has served 90,000 meals and currently serves about 350 each month.

Saturday morning also sees a group of volunteers gathering at St. Patrick’s, Albany, to tend to the eighteen growing beds in its Food for a Thousand Community Garden. The ministry has given away a literal ton of food as 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables have been harvested and distributed to local food pantries including Neighbors in Need and The Lord’s Pantry.

On Sundays, our 68 congregations worship with Eucharists across south Georgia starting at 8 a.m., from Trinity, Blakely, on the western edge of the Diocese to Christ Church St. Marys in the southeast corner to Holy Cross, Thomson on our northeast edge. In a few hours on Sunday, nearly 6,000 of us will worship in our Diocese of Georgia churches on a given Sunday. Take just one example, at 9 a.m. on Sundays in Cordele, the bell rings and the opening hymn plays at Christ Church. Nestled in its beautiful church among the pine trees on a lot in the town, each Sunday the children of a different family pulls a red wagon up the aisle at the time of the oblations. The food offered Sunday by Sunday to God in the Eucharist then goes to stock the Open Pantry ministry that distributes food every third Wednesday. The worship and service all connect week by week.

On Sunday afternoon in Rincon and Girl Scout Troop 30235 meets at St. Luke’s, one of the numerous Scout groups across the Diocese that offer a sustained chance for adults to mentor children and teens through those programs.

Celtic Masses at St. Paul’s Augusta and St. Paul’s Albany as well as the more seeker-oriented Sunday evening liturgy at St. Paul the Apostle, Savannah, bring the day of worship to a close as the Diocese of Georgia readies for another week of loving and serving the Lord.

To the degree we are in business, we are in the business of changing lives through the power of the Gospel. We serve in the midst of a lost and hurting world deeply in need of the forgiveness, healing and wholeness that come through Christ alone yet all too often sure that Christians have but nothing but judgment to offer. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by people lost to drug and alcohol addiction, abusive relationships trapping them in violence and degradation, and all sorts of other harmful situations. For there are many kinds of oppression in the world, there is all kinds of hurt and sin, but there is only one source of healing and that is found in Jesus.

Yet if we are trying to follow the Great Commission to make disciples and baptize them, we are not bringing in new Christians in any large numbers. In 2013, the Diocese of Georgia baptized 222 new Christians with 42 of these being persons 16 and older. That is less than one adult baptism per congregation, especially as two churches account for a quarter of that number. St. John and St. Mark’s, Albany baptized six adults in 2013 and Holy Comforter baptized five.

For St. John and St., Mark’s, five adult baptisms represent a tenth of a typical Sunday’s attendance. While little growth has resulted from it, the congregation has sustained an effort to connect with the people who live around the church through block parties, their Trunk or Treat and the Radium Springs CyberCafé which offers a free place for students to cross the digital divide with a supervised place to use the internet for school work.

At Holy Comforter, adult baptisms grow naturally as the congregation attracts persons who grew up either unchurched or have been away from church since childhood. A recent example is that of a couple preparing for marriage in the church and the groom deciding that forming a Christian marriage mattered to him very much and so now is the time to commit to God through the sacrament of baptism. People with no church background know others with no church background and so as the church grows, they continue to attract persons who have not yet made a public profession of faith and been initiated into Christ’s Body, the Church.

I say this because we are not the Rotary Club at prayer or a social service agency. We are the Church and we don’t just reach out in mission, we also have a story to tell about how Jesus has broken into our lives in a meaningful way. And still we can be shy about telling out stories of faith. And this is true even though every Episcopalian I have ever met shows strong evangelical tendencies. My fellow Episcopalians tell me about good restaurants to try in their town, the best hotel to stay at, good books to read and movies to watch. We have lots of Good News to share and we do it effortlessly.

The key is to bring this all together. Take the ways in which we are connecting to our communities as I shared in my tour of a typical week. See how we might not be afraid to share our faith with the new people God brings across our paths. It is not as difficult as you might imagine. We are not talking about witnessing in the way other denominations might. We are only saying don’t keep how Jesus has made a difference in your life a secret from family and coworkers. Don’t make your congregation one of the best kept secrets in your town.

If we really have eyes to see the world as God sees it, I promise the fields are ready for harvest. As we get out of our church walls and encounter the world for whom our Lord suffered, died and was resurrected, we just need to not shrink back from sharing the one known cure for the deep hurts we see. And in this, we do nothing by our own effort alone. It is really the work of the Holy Spirit. The key is to get out in the world in loving service so that we encounter the world and then to be unafraid to share the Balm in Gilead. Jesus will handle the rest. For it is not our mission but his. We just work as the hands and the feet for the good hard work of being the Body of Christ and trust that God will take what we offer and accomplish more than we could ask for or imagine.

 
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The Million Dollar Resurrection Question

01 Nov

The Acts 8 Moment BlogForce question this week is “If you had a million dollars to help ‘proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church,’ where would it go and why?”

Having spent three days this week in a Program, Budget & Finance Committee meeting for The Episcopal Church, I have been considering this question a lot lately. The short answer is that I would bet it all on the Holy Spirit. Here is the only slightly longer explanation:

The Beatles were right that money can’t buy me love. And if money could buy resurrection, most of the upper deck folk who went down with the Titanic would still be among us. And a lot of money is not usually healthy in the church. If you want to hurt a congregation’s finances, give it a big endowment so people don’t feel they need to give back to God through support of their congregation. Yet, money can have a role in supporting the work of the Church and in that the key is to discern what the Holy Spirit is up to. Look for where God is already doing a new thing and then support that work of the Spirit with a little boost in funding.

Momentum is hard to get going. If nothing is going on, money seldom will get it going. I know this first hand from that portion of the Church that seems the most like we put in money ahead of momentum—church planting. But I know from first hand experience that even in starting a new congregation from scratch, one can readily see how the Holy Spirit was out front breaking ground in people’s hearts and getting things moving.

Find where some momentum is taking place and add support. For a church start, that will take something in the $300,000-$500,000 range; working to support an existing congregation jump to the next level might take just $100,000-$200,000; a new ministry from a community garden to a homeless shelter can get a real boost from even $20,000. Don’t believe me, stand by for the reports due ahead of the next General Convention on the impact of church start and mission enterprise zone grants. While I wonder about the wisdom of sending money to a denomination and then applying to get back a grant, I do know that these grants have sought out opportunities to match local funds for mission to under-served groups. And the Episcopal Development Agency of Thomasville, the grant recipient here in the Diocese of Georgia, is a great example of resurrection. Three Episcopal churches in one south Georgia town created out of division have come together for some exciting community development. The Episcopal Church put in just $20,000 to support the resurrection already being lived out.

But in no case is the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit something that needs money alone. Resurrection is the work of the Spirit. Seeing where and when money can assist this work is not a business decision, but a matter of prayer and discernment. So prayerfully discern where God is already at work doing a new thing and then get behind that work of the Spirit with some support and watch it continue to flourish.

-The Rev. Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary (Assistant to the Bishop)
Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

 
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Remixing the Church

04 Oct

I created this 1-minute film following the Task Force for Reimagining the Church’s churchwide meeting held on October 2 at Washington National Cathedral. It is something of a highlight reel for the 2.5-hour meeting. And it has a beat you can dance to as well. You can watch the actual meeting at the TREC website: http://reimaginetec.org/live/

 
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Jesus Said Love

04 Oct

A slightly updated version of a 30-second video I created earlier. This short commercial emphasizes the command to love one another as the heart of Christian teaching.

 
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Fall Gathering – Factionless

21 Sep

During the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia Youth Program’s Divergent-themed weekend, participants learned about the factions within the trilogy of novels and also the plight of those with no faction, who are the homeless of that world. During the weekend, we made signs to hold up as if God is the one passing by. What do we want to say to God?

 
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Nothing Less than the Power and Presence of God

08 Jun

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at
Christ Church Savannah on The Feast of Pentecost—June 8, 2014

Nothing Less than the Power and Presence of God
Acts 2:1-21 

Nothing less than the presence and power of God breaks into the room where the disciples are waiting and praying on that 50th day after Jesus resurrection. Here the Evangelist Luke lets us know language breaks down as he resorts to simile saying it was a sound like a violent wind and then something happened he could only describe as if it were divided tongues of fire. The experience was beyond words and Luke reaches into metaphor and analogy to convey the ineffable.

When the Gospel moves to the tangible—what they did see and hear that morning—a miracle is occurring. The Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ first followers on Pentecost, empowering the frightened pack of disciples to become a brazen bunch of evangelists. The curse of the Tower of Babel was reversed in one amazing outburst. At Babel, people were divided. Now, the former fishermen and other followers of Jesus became interpreters par excellence. In this Babel scene played backward, the devout Jews from Elam, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Pamphylia and other far flung parts of the Roman Empire hear the Good News of what God has done through Jesus each in their own native language.

The gospel is spoken not in confusing babble but with a crystal clarity that leaves the hearers cut to the quick. Before this amazing day is over, 3,000 devout Jews will be baptized as followers of Jesus, the Christ. Yet not everyone understood what was happening in their midst. The account of that day in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that some onlookers took the excitement for a drunken mob. The first Christian sermon begins as Peter explaining to the crowd that the disciples are not drunk, “for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” Clearly Peter never showed up early for the Georgia-Florida game, which is the world’s largest cocktail party. There the saying, “It’s five o’clock somewhere” could become “It’s 9 a.m. somewhere.”

But what Peter is assuring the crowd is that the miracle they are witnessing cannot be dismissed so easily. For these unschooled Galileans are speaking clearly in languages they have never before understood, if they had even heard them spoken. Certainly, it feels safe to reduce the disciples’ behavior as coming from heavy drinking. It might also be comforting to relegate Pentecost to an outbreak of religious hysteria. But the Pentecost experience was not due to alcohol and is not so easily reduce to nothing more than hysteria.

This is an ongoing tendency about lots of phenomenon for which we have no ready understanding. We seek safe, tidy answers. The physicist turned Anglican priest, John Polkinghorne, said in his book Quarks, Chaos and Christianity, some people are “nothing butters” when it comes to the world we live in. Reductionists see a thing is “nothing but” its physical explanation. They need only look at the most elemental form of a phenomenon to explain everything.

For someone with a “nothing butter” way of making sense of the world, the compositions of Bach are nothing but vibrations that ineract with our eardrums to create the effect we call music. The Mona Lisa is nothing but flecks of paint that we experience as differing colors. Baptism is nothing but water poured over someone’s head as a part of a ritual observance. The Eucharist is nothing but bread and wine and the Pentecost experience was nothing but religious hysteria.

Yes, Bach’s music does reach our ears as nothing but vibrations against our eardrums, for that is how the beauty of the composers’ work is transmitted. But you can’t reduce their music to mere vibrations hitting your eardrum as what one hears is nothing short of miraculous.

Of course, the Mona Lisa is just flecks of matter we call “paint” put on matter we call “canvas” in ways that we experience as an interplay of colors. But her enigmatic smile cannot be reduced to the physical matter that forms the art. In these works of art, the notes of music and the paint on the canvas convey so much more. Reducing them to the essential physical phenomena misses the point.

The Pentecost event defied any “it was nothing but” explanation. We can’t reduce Pentecost to “It was nothing but emotionalism,” or “It was nothing but mass hysteria,” or even “It was nothing but a long-ago event we can no longer explain.” The closest we can get is “Pentecost was nothing less than the presence and power of God.”

That day, the Jesus Movement was transformed not by human will, but by an act of the Holy Spirit. For while the apostles first gathered out of fear, this same rag tag band of disciples will bust out of the room, go into the streets and tell the world about Jesus. Within generations the Good News of their resurrected Lord will be known throughout the Roman Empire and in time it will go out to the ends of the earth all through the work of the Holy Spirit. On receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples preach the Good News of Jesus and miracles follow.

That same Holy Spirit is right here, right now in you as I preach. Every preacher depends on this every time she or he preaches, knowing that even if the preacher, despite all effort, gets the sermon not quite right, the Holy Spirit can still work with those imperfect words to speak to the hearer’s heart.

There is a story which illustrates what I mean about the work of the Holy Spirit. Its told of the ancient Celtic saint, Comgan, that takes place as he arrived in a village soon after the death of the priest.[1] A man of some substance, the priest had 17 horses, but he left no will. The people were arguing among themselves as to who should get the horses when Saint Comgan comes riding onto the scene.

Comgan told them he could both solve the horse dilemma and find the village a new priest. He said that the horses should be divided so that the sexton should have half the horses for digging the graves and caring for all the property; the beadle should get a third of the horses for his care of the church’s things, especially those items used in worship; and the choirmaster should receive a ninth of the horses for leading the church music. And the person who could resolve how to divide the horses should be the new priest.

The village was mystified, but agreed to the plan. The sexton, beadle and choirmaster set out to find someone who could solve the new mathematical problem of how to divide 17 into half, a third and a ninth without sawing up any horses or dividing days of the week. They ran into lots of people interested in the dilemma, but none who could solve it.

Then a young man offered his own horse to the priest’s herd. Now enlarged to 18, the herd was divided in half, with the sexton receiving his nine horses. The beadle got his third by taking home six horses, and the choirmaster got a ninth of the herd with two horses. The original 17 thus divided, the young man took his own horse back.

The villagers promptly asked the man to be their priest, citing Saint Comgan’s advice. The man agreed and he was sent to the bishop for first training and then ordination before returning to the village for three decades of faithful service to the congregation who miraculously found him.

One has to assume the role of The Holy Spirit in this story. The story doesn’t work without the Holy Spirit touching the hearts of those involved, speaking with that still small voice. The Holy Spirit is the one who inspires Comgan to set up the task and also inspires the young man to ride into the village and offer a solution. The same Holy Spirit then gets the Bishop to back the whole plan leads the young man to return to be a faithful priest after going away to study.

The Holy Spirit is that 18th horse. Just as the inheritance issue could not have been solved without first adding the 18th horse, so there are things in your life that you will not be able to get through or able to bear without the Holy Spirit. For God’s presence working in and through you can get you through problems which seem insurmountable.

Rather than reducing how God is working in your life to safe or tidy explanations, look for the unexpected ways in which you are being opened up to something more. For the God that broke into the midst of the disciples that Pentecost morning is here now within you if you are open to God’s presence.

Brother Roger, the monk who founded the Christian community at Taizé put it well in writing,

“Let yourself be plumbed to the depths, and you will realize that everyone was created for a presence. There, in your heart of hearts, in that place where no two people are alike, Christ is waiting for you. And there the unexpected happens.”

Pentecost is a time to remember that God’s spirit is still present in a mighty way. That’s why our worship can’t be reduced to “nothing but” music, readings and a sermon. The Eucharist can never be described as “nothing but” bread and wine, any more than baptism is “nothing but” water and words. That is far too limiting. We don’t want nothing but a religious experience. We long for nothing less than the power and presence of God, a presence for which you were created and for which your soul longs.

There will be times when you really need the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Not sure when that might be? Well, there are two times in life: 1) the times when you pretty much have everything under control and you are facing no challenges, and 2) the times when everything seems to be spinning out of control and you are left reeling.

The truth is that having everything under control is an illusion. The reality is that you can’t control everything, even the things that matter to you most. The good news is that you don’t have to. Instead, each of us can count on the presence and power of God not just in our worship each week, but in our daily lives. That is what we need anyway. If I were to depend on my own abilities, I would fall short of the mark. When I solve things they work out like this (interlock hands with only one finger crossing over). But when I work to discern God’s will and really listen and wait for the working of the Holy Spirit, I find that God is very economical and several problems are solved at once, for God’s solutions work more like this (interlock all the fingers of both hands).

To do this, follow the path of the disciples who remained in prayer and came together all in one place. So keep a pattern of daily prayer and weekly gathering for worship. Pray for God to show you God’s will. One way to pray for this when making a decision, such as whether to move or take another job, or whatever big decision you face, ask God to close the wrong doors and open the right ones. Then prayerfully walk forward and watch the sure thing fall apart while the long shot falls into place.

Also, make time to share what you face with other folks who are prayed up, asking someone to listen with you to how God might be speaking. For God does not always call us to an easy path, just the right one. In these ways, you can open yourself up to something more than the echo chamber of your own desires. For as Brother Roger said, when you really hear God, the unexpected happens. But it starts with refusing to settle for nothing but your own will and remain open to how God might be trying to get your attention. For the Holy Spirit remains so wild and unruly that sometimes only metaphor can describe what is taking place. And God can still break into fearful and broken heart like mine and so I know the Holy Spirit can do this for you as well. I don’t know what you face this day or will face this week, but I do know that if you will faithfully seek God’s will and listen, that God is faithful and you will be led by nothing less than the presence and power of God.

Amen.



[1]     This is my own retelling of the story, which I found in Robert Van DeWeyer’s book Celtic Parables: a book of Celtic courage, hospitality, humor, and holiness.

 
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A 21st century Missionary Society

28 Feb

Dr Livingstone I presumeAs The Episcopal Church seeks to reclaim its original name of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, what does that mean in today’s context? Sure all the cool kids in the late 18th to late 19th century wanted to band together to form missionary societies, but you ask, “Didn’t that come with the baggage of culture attached to the Gospel?” Right you are! Blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus was trotted around the globe without a thought toward context. But before we throw the Gospel baby out with the colonial bathwater, we would do well to ponder why happening guys and gals like David Livingstone (who helped wipe out slavery in East Africa, yet still looks sad in the picture of him posted here) and Lillian Trasher (who founded an orphanage in Egypt) would work with the help of missionary societies.

It turns out that Christianity is inherently a team sport, as community is hard wired into “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” God does not give any single person, no matter how talented, all of the answers and everything she or he needs to succeed. We need one another. Missionary societies are formed when we need mutual support to accomplish our missionary goals. The missionary then has the support of other Christians and many churches. God routinely gives people a vision so big that they need other people to help them accomplish it. Hence the need for missionary societies to support the work.

As a church planter who went to Kingsland, Georgia to work with my wife and daughter, and others we met along the way, in founding a new Episcopal Church, I know that we could never have even begun that work without the support of the other churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. They were our missionary society supporting the work of sharing the love of God as found in Jesus Christ with the people of Camden County.

We were 21st century missionaries working close to home. But looking to local inspiration we had the words of the Rt. Rev. Frederick F. Reese who shepherded our Diocese from 1907 to 1936. In his 1929 address to this convention he said,

“Christianity is either a missionary religion or it is nothing,
and every Christian is a missionary
or he denies the faith in his life, if not in his words.”

And if we wanted someone to put it even more starkly, in 1956, Bishop Albert Rhett Stuart told our Diocese,

“It is high time the Episcopal Church rose from her dignified posture
of waiting to be discovered and appreciated and went out into the byways and hedges
seeking the souls for whom her Lord died.”

These inspiring words come from the context in which I work. You can fund similar examples from the past on which you can build which are unique to your plot in the much larger vineyard. Once we look at the world through Gospel eyes, we see that there are plenty of folks lost and hurting all around us. We may have come to take the Gospel for granted. Our neighbors may be convinced the healing and wholeness they need can be found anywhere but in Jesus’ judgmental and hypocritical fan club. Yet, the world still needs the Gospel and while the 21st century may need new ways of sharing the old, old story, whatever shape our efforts at sharing the Good News of God’s love, we’ll still need mutual support. This is where a missionary society comes in to play.

The only difference in a 21st century missionary society is that we need to let go of recent inventions like buildings dedicated to Christian worship called churches, or seats in those buildings called pews, or instruments in those buildings called pipe organs, and anything else that gets in the way of sharing the Good News. Those are the baggage that we have packaged with the Gospel for so long that we can forget that Jesus never needed any of these later inventions to share the love of God and challenge his followers to greater faithfulness. We might also need to jettison structures within the denomination itself—CCABs, I am looking at you  (if you don’t know what they are, don’t worry as they are not Gospel, but they can serve it at times).

Basil's Kitchen, a Dinner Party LiturgyWe just have to remember what the goal is and begin with the end in mind—sharing God’s love—then consider what tools best get us there today. For to be a 21st century missionary society is to find ways that fit our varying contexts which are most effective at carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission to go to all the world and make disciples. In many contexts, the church of the 21st century will closely resemble the church of the 16th to 19th centuries and earlier. But as old ideas become new and house churches or dinner party liturgies serve us well, a 21st century missionary society will need to learn not to judge them as failures using old metrics like counting butts filling pews on Sunday, but use really old metrics of considering whether these new methods are transforming lives the way Jesus did in first century Palestine. To do this faithfully over the long haul will take more than individual Christians going alone. To do this faithfully will take missionary societies.

-Frank Logue

Note: the Photos show Dr. David Livingstone and Basil’s Kitchen, a dinner party liturgy meeting at Christ Church Episcopal in Savannah.


This post is a participating post in the Acts8 BLOGFORCE on

“What does it mean to be a 21st century Missionary Society?”

Other BLOGFORCE member posts on this topic

The Acts8 Moment is a missionary society whose purpose is to proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church.

 
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I Am Belize

12 Feb

I made these two videos working with Standard V (7th grade) students at St. Mary’s Anglican School in Belize City, Belize, while working on a documentary on a short-term dental mission trip with Project Smile:

 
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Ordination Sermon

03 Jan

 The Narrative Arc of Creation
A sermon for the Ordination of Michael Jackson Chaney, Jr.
Isaiah 6:1-8 and Ephesians 4:7,11-16 

Professor Chaney. Just one question. Didn’t you have enough to do already? At one level, I get it. Jesus has worked in the movies for a long time. From Pathé’s 1902 hand-colored Life and Passion of Jesus to Passolini’s gay, marxist interpretation in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew or from the agnostic Jesus Christ Superstar to the challenging Jesus of Montreal and the Last Temptation of Christ, the Gospels and film, any of us can understand, but Chaney, honestly, why priesthood? Is Chaney time—driven by breathlessly running to get to the next thing—not challenging enough for you? Do you really want to take the teetering jumble of sometimes conflicting demands of your life and add the sacramental role of priest to the mix?

My dear congregation, I have gotten ahead of myself. I have tried to jump to the end of the second act. What am I thinking? How can we possibly appreciate the rising action that has our hero dealing with one plot twist after another as obstacle after obstacle rises to prevent him from achieving his dramatic need? We have yet to dive into the first act? We haven’t had near enough exposition to set up the character arc. Let us begin again.

Michael Jackson Chaney, Jr. hit the jackpot in the lottery at birth by being born white, heterosexual and male in the Deep South. To complete the picture of social privilege, he was initiated into the Christian faith before he even knew what it was or what it could mean for him—baptized in the Episcopal church in a small Mississippi town. Michael grew up in the center of the known universe. His social location rested securely at the top of the heap.

Like most all children, Michael saw readily the interconnectedness of all things. Through his eyes of innocence, he remained in “in constant amazement of nonstop encounters with new stimuli” as he connected, empathized and shared “in the wonder, love and tragedy” he encountered. The very first inklings of a calling as artist emerged as he drew on the back of church bulletins on Sunday mornings.

Once in Junior High, Michael attended youth retreats at the Episcopal camp and there he found “girls who were interested in creative and iconoclastic boys” like him. That was enough to galvanize his interest, but fortunately for our story, he also discovered what he would “later come to recognize as God’s grace” and “felt accepted for who [he] was becoming as a person and [he] felt encouraged to grow and foster his artistic talents as an expression of the spirit.”

This sermon continues here: The Narrative Arc of Creation

 

 
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Thanksgiving and Hanukkah share more than common date

27 Nov

The otherwise minor Jewish festival of lights known as Hanukkah finds itself once more out shown by another holiday. The not to be repeated for nearly 80,000 year calendar mash up of Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah has given rise to the cultural phenomenon of Thanksgivukkah. Yet, in landing on the national holiday which has long offered a time of preparation for the shopping frenzy to follow, Hanukkah has found a more natural pairing than it appears on the surface. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah share a blood-soaked history and a hopeful ideal of God’s faithfulness.

Hanukkah_Jewish_holidayThe Jewish Festival of Lights
Hanukkah has always been misplaced in American culture. While the celebration’s proximity to the Christian celebration of Christmas has made Hanukkah a Jewish way to take part in the year-end holiday season, that connection was not as fruitful as this once in a lifetime event.

The story of Hanukkah comes from the time between that recorded in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. The story is found in the apocryphal text of the Maccabees. Hanukkah is the story of the rededication of the temple following a successful revolt against the Syrian-Greeks who had captured Jerusalem in 168 B.C.E. and dedicated the Jewish holiest place to the worship of the god Zeus. The Maccabees revolted and by force took back Israel. With the blood of successful revolution still fresh, they turned to God in prayer. With only a single day’s oil to light the candles for the eight days required for the Temple dedication, the priests lit the lights and trusted God. The lights remained miraculously lit until new oil was made.

The record of the Jewish teachers known as the Talmud says, “the Sages established these eight days of Hanukkah as permanent holidays with the recital of Hallel [psalms of praise] and Thanksgiving.” An emphasis on thanksgiving has always been part of Hanukkah. It is thanksgiving not for human triumph, for the Talmud celebrates the dedication of the Temple, not the revolutionaries military might. Instead, Hanukkah celebrates God’s ongoing faithfulness to respond with mercy to our prayers when we rededicate ourselves to God’s purposes.

The First Thanksgiving
This rededication following revolution is the perfect companion to Thanksgiving, which shares a similar history. President George Washington issued a proclamation naming November 26, 1789 as a national day for giving thanks and said the nation was to be devoted “to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” This was the new nation’s first Thanksgiving. Washington had seen the dead scattered across the battlefields. He knew the high price of the newly found freedom and so called the nation to both repentance and thankfulness. That day was to “beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

The start of Thanksgiving as a national holiday also came through the blood of revolution. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the national holiday inaugurating the holiday we still celebrate each November. That proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward and signed by Lincoln, called for prayers for forgiveness as well as thanks.

Seward cited the better-than-usual harvest of 1863 and the continued progress of mines and the expansion of cleared territory to the west all to be signs of God’s providence even in the midst of war. He asked that those gathered for the feast “do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”

The Mash Up of Thanksgivukkah
This once in a lifetime combination holds something unique. Thanksgiving began as our nation’s way to turn in thankfulness to God for faithfulness even in the midst of “national perverseness and disobedience.” The Talmud points to Hanukkah celebrating not military might, but God’s faithfulness to those who wish to dedicate themselves anew to worship, praise and thanksgiving.

The unique mash up of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving offer the opportunity to look beyond Pilgrims dining with Native Americans to see the ubiquity of the human struggle against oppression. We routinely find ourselves fighting one another for freedom. But both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah place the emphasis in the struggle for freedom over oppression not on human might or military power, but on God’s mercy and faithfulness. That is something for which all of us can join hands in gratefulness this Thanksgivukkah.

-Frank Logue

 
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Diocesan Convention Videos

16 Nov

The following are videos I created for the special session of the 192nd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia:

 
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My Photos

03 Nov

A website of my photography can be found at Flickr.com:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/103748247@N03/sets

 
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Why be an Episcopal nun?

12 Jul

A short video I created with the sisters of the Order of Saint Helena in August, Georgia, in which they reflect candidly about life as nuns within The Episcopal Church.

 
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Long Leaf Pines and the Body of Christ

18 Jun


“We need to attract families with young children.” This statement is the top vote getter in survey after survey of church members asked to identify what their congregation needs. This is, of course, true, and yet the statement hides as much as it reveals about what we actually need in our churches.

Roots to endure the flames
Last week, Victoria and I spent hours in the long leaf pine forests like those that long covered the coastal plain from southeast Virginia to east Texas. I couldn’t help but noticing the similarity to a healthy long leaf pine forest and the Body of Christ. The trees put down deep tap roots which allow them to survive fires which cleanse the forest floor of undergrowth. Lightning strike fires commonly burned large swaths of land before fire suppression efforts changed that. As Christians, we each need to form deep tap roots where we can find nourishment in worship, prayer and reading scripture so that we too can not only endure but thrive in the chances and changes of this life.

Growth that spans generations
Long leaf pine forests also have a mix of ages as young trees grow in gaps created when older trees die. Trees of all ages grow alongside one another. Looking at the healthy forest made up of trees of varying ages and sizes, I was struck by how our children need to be surrounded by the giants of the faith who are the older members of our churches. I was struck by how a healthy congregation wouldn’t be filled with young families, but would also have a mix of ages and experience.

I know that when congregations say they want to attract young families, it is because the over 60 set is already present. But I highlight this realization born of viewing a healthy forest as it reminds me how much we need and should value all ages. Certainly, the financial pressures on young families make it difficult for them to support the church to the degree older members can, but beyond this financial need for older members there are other ways we need one another.

Inter-generational Programs
Each of us learns and grows best in that healthy mix of diverse ages. The old need the young and the young need the old. This should impact church programs as we need a steady procession of events in the church year that break down age divisions and bring the whole church community together beyond worship so that the young saplings get to better know the giants in whose shade their faith is being nourished.

Trees Whose Shade We’ll Never Know
Our guides, John and Phyllis Hiers of Christ Church, Valdosta, also took us to see a stand of the slow growing pines that John planted 13 years ago. The teenagers are well over head height, but they remain quite immature. That stand of trees was planted for their grandchildren and great grandchildren. That same foresight is needed in the stewardship of our churches. Most of us worship in buildings provided for us by previous generations. All of us need to support our churches so that they will still be building up the body of Christ when our great grandchildren are the elders in the congregation.

The Rev. Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

PS: Thanks to Judy & Nate and John & Phyllis for making our ramble possible.

 
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Welcoming Guests into Their Own Home

11 Jun

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
-Robert Frost

Though church life winds down in some ways each summer, the dog days are a common time for a family to go church shopping, especially someone newly moved to your community. At the Spring Clergy Conference, our presenter, the Rev. George Martin, talked about changing our language about greeting to replace words like visitor and newcomer with “guest.” This was significant for George as he knows we are welcoming guests into God’s house. As such, we should put our best foot forward and be at our most welcoming, not to grow the church, but to be the Body of Christ.

As I consider this further, I can think of the many stories I have heard as priest of people returning to church, or even of going to a church for the first time. There is a strong gravitation pull away from the church for many and crossing your threshold is not as easy as it would seem. Add to that that if a visitor shows up with children in tow all dressed for church that this was no easy feat.

But in coming to your church, the guests may be strangers to you, but they are well known to our Lord, who makes his home in your church home. These are guests you are welcoming in their own home, even if they do not know it yet. The guests come with wounds and baggage and we do not have to know what all that is in order to welcome them as we would welcome Christ. But it can help to just be reminded that we don’t know what battles others are facing and we don’t know what deep solace they may find in a gracious welcome at our churches.

This was brought home for me through a video on empathy created by the Cleveland Clinic. This short video offers a wonderful glimpse at what others might be facing. Imagine the context as a hallway in your church:

The Rev. Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Three Recent Sermons

10 Jun

Click here for the June 9th 2013 sermon for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Douglas, Georgia
A Demonstration Garden for the Kingdom of God
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Click here for the June 2nd 2013 sermon for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Douglas, Georgia
Only Speak the Word
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Click here for the May 26th 2013 sermon for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Douglas, Georgia 
Math, The Trinity and Communion
.

 
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Bearing Witness Using “Like” and “Share”

28 May

Now that the preponderance of adults on Facebook is chasing away teens, while Twitter doubles with that demographic, perhaps we’ll see a shift in the social media landscape. Those in my age range (I turned 50 last week and so might be as qualified to write about leaving Facebook as the demographic ages as my colleague Rudy is able to write about 80s New Wave Music) will hang on much longer as we now have the CB radio of the new millineum at our disposal and this time you can share photos of the grandkids and cute cat videos. I’ve also been talking with priests about how we are seeing people sharing their faith on Facebook in a form of evangelism as natural as recommending a book or a restaurant.

Here is how it works. You post a status update, a photo, or video from a church event on Facebook. Then members of the congregation begin to  select “like” or they make a comment or even better they select “share” and add the photo to their own timeline. In the process, friends near and far who never knew that this member of your church is an Episcopalian see what is going on in your congregation. (at left, St. George’s Savannah shares a photo of their youngest lay reader)

I know this works because I follow with interest the life of (among others) a Primitive Baptist congregation whose elder I know, two Presbyterian churches where I know the pastors, and First Baptist in Statesboro as a friend and former co-worker takes pictures for them. I enjoy the glimpse into another way of being a follower of Jesus here in south Georgia and because of the “likes” and comments I get on my own photos, I know that friends of mine who may never attend an Episcopal Church also enjoy this peak at what goes on in our churches.

Here are few key things to know:

Create a Page or Group for your Church
 There is a difference to how pages and groups function on the social media site and each can work well. Facebook pages are always visible to all on the internet, while groups offer privacy options. As a group is created, the administrator sets where approval is requited to join, whether it is invitation only or whether the group is publicly available to all who wish to join. With either pages or groups, new posts on the page or by the group will be added to the news feeds of members. Most churches will want a page, while groups within the church, such as the choir or Daughter’s of the King, may be better served by forming a group. (Above, St. Paul’s Albany shares the news of Deacon Jim Purks being honored for his service to Phoebe Putney Hospital)

Post as the church & comment as yourself
Facebook permits anyone with administrator privileges (a task that can and should be shared among a trusted few) can post statuses and photos as the group. Then the administrator can select whether to comment, like or share as the church or as an individual. In general, as no one person should be allowed to speak for the church (that is something the rectors, wardens and vestry can do), commenting as yourself when serving as an administrator keeps things personal.

Practical Concerns
Vestries should select who will be the gatekeepers, posting on behalf of the church. Vestries should also set workable policies, such as not listing whole names for children and not tagging people in photos, but letting them elect to do this if desired. (at left, a butterfly release at Christ Church, Valdosta)

But don’t let fear of what could go wrong keep you from giving your members an easy way to bear witness to the faith that is in them and to share their love of your church. For if your congregation does not have and regularly update a Facebook page, you are missing out on this low impact way to bear witness to how God is manifest in the midst of your church’s common life.

The Rev. Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Teaching the Language of Jesus

13 May

During last week’s Clergy Conference our presenter, the Rev. George H. Martin, taught a session on “The Church as Grammar.” He was working from theologian George Lindbeck’s framework in the book, The Nature of Doctrine. Now so far all of this must seem rather esoteric, but there was an important truth of which I needed reminding and I appreciated George sharing it.

The basic idea is that like a language or a culture, our faith is a framework that gives form and substance to our thoughts and experiences and so shapes our lives. As Lindbeck puts it in writing of religious poetry, music, art and rituals, “It is through these that the basic patterns of religion are interiorized, exhibited and transmitted.”

Teaching the language of Jesus
If our presenter and this theologian are on to something important, and I my own experience in working with newcomers to church suggests that they are, then our work in welcoming people to church must include helping them learn the language of Jesus. In assisting people to understand more of how the signs and symbols of our tradition speak to deep truths, we can enrich their vocabulary and broaden their experience of worship.

Therefore, in welcoming those with little or no church background (or perhaps no liturgical church experience) to an Episcopal Church means that we provide ways for people to learn about the rich symbols which surround them.

As a church planter, I created a number of printed materials which I could share with people curious about our practices (see King of Peace’s Resources page). These included an Annotated Eucharist which surrounded the text of a Rite II Eucharist with Eucharistic Prayer A with additional notes to add to their understanding of the rite. I also created materials on infant baptism, the seasons Advent and Lent, and more. To this I added notes in the bulletin and newsletter which opened up some portion of the liturgy and gave additional background. I even used a newsletter posted in the bathrooms to help newcomers learn more about this new cultural and linguistic framework of the Church (a sample issue is online here: The Toilet Paper: Epiphany)

The best way to learn language
Yet we all know that nothing beats the more holistic approach of immersion in a culture to learn the language. No book or pamphlet on Christianity will teach us much as a living, breathing, flawed, but loving community of people putting their faith into practice.

The sad fact is that so many people have trouble discovering the grace, love, repentance, forgiveness and redemption which are at the compassionate heart of the language of Jesus, because they hear these words spoken by people who don’t seem to be saying it “not only with our lips, but in our lives.” There can be grace in this disappointment as well. For in Christian community we don’t find perfect people, but folks like us struggling to live into the love God has shown in Jesus. When the Gospel is authentically lived out by a group of people who are also working to teach something of this language and culture to newcomers, something wonderful happens–new followers come to speak that language of God’s love in word and deed. We need not be perfect for this transformation to occur, but we must seek to be faithful and then remain honest and open when we fall short (and we will).

How should we respond?
How might your congregation need to respond to this idea that newcomers don’t always share the language and culture of our faith and so need assistance to better understand? What tools might you need to help them learn the language and culture not simply of The Episcopal Church, but of the Kingdom of God?

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

 
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State of the Clergy Report – Part II

13 May

Last week, I began with Part I of a two-part look at the implications of the Episcopal Church State of the Clergy Report 2012. I noted how the we have been ordaining more priests and deacons than many dioceses and how we have also ordained younger clergy. This week, I need to turn to how the State of the Clergy Report does show a challenge we face here. That full report is online here: State of the Clergy 2012

Priest Compensation
While we have made significant progress in recent years, many priests in the Diocese of Georgia still  make less money than those in similar parishes in other dioceses, including our neighboring dioceses of Upper South Carolina and Alabama.

The challenge simply put is this: the Episcopal Church does not place priests in congregations and as priests have choice, we have to work to attract priests that congregations want to call to ministry in this Diocese. Part of this is the diocesan culture and priests decide whether they want to be in a Diocese. Part of this is the location of the church and whether this is a fit for the clergy spouse and family. And a large part of this is that our compensation has to be competitive with other options the priests have in other dioceses.

We have lost priests over the years for not have compensation that could keep them and not gained others for not having salaries that could attract them. This is not to say that priests are not interested in following where God leads them, but that answering a call begins with a search process where the compensation is known and advertised and so priests are not likely to even consider churches which will mean a cut in pay.

Comparing to the Community
To make sure that we are taking the local community into account, we also look for the salary and benefits of a teacher’s with a master’s degree and similar years of service and, depending on the complexity of the church administration, we look to assistant principle and principle salaries. These are people in the same community with similar benefits.

The Future of Calling Clergy
As The Episcopal Church is ordaining far fewer people than are retiring, we will continue to face a situation where we are seeking to call priests who have other options open to them. The picture is not bleak. We have been good at raising up great priests and we are improving the compensation of clergy in the Diocese. We need not be pessimistic, but I write this in order to be realistic about the challenges we face.

The Rev. Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

 
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