Monday, September 25, 2017

If we are a Christian Nation..." on Immigrants in America

I preached this sermon at St. James Episcopal Church in Cincinnati on February 5th, 2017 immediately following the newly announced immigrant ban announced by the President of the United States. Two weeks after that sermon, I led a discussion forum at St. James on how to best support immigrants and refugees in our local  communities. 

Preaching (on an earlier occasion) at St. James, Cincinnati
It’s been an extraordinary week for those of us in this country and around the world. We have been besieged relentlessly with the news of our new president’s ban on immigration from a number of predominantly Muslim countries, with the prospect of even more countries being added to the list (although thankfully that executive order has been put on hold for now). We have heard daily of the rampant Islamophobia in hate speech and hate action and yes, hateful public policy besetting our nation and so much of our world. We have seen in the faces of our Latin American immigrant brothers and sisters the horrific fear of families being torn apart by detention and deportation, simply because they had the gall to flee a civil war that would have taken their lives within days.

Perhaps worst of all is that so much of the disgusting actions we have seen against our Muslim, our Latnino/a, our immigrant brothers and sisters, against LGBT folks & more have been perpetrated in the name of “religious freedom”. This idea of wanting to bring this country back to its “Judeo-Christian roots” is so toxic and so baseless that we have no choice but to forcefully reject it. Friends, let me be very clear, if this is the sort of “Christianity”, the sort of “Judeo-Christian faith” that our nation is said to have been built on – I want no part of that kind of Christianity. I want no part of a Christianity that slams the door on peace-loving Syrian refugees, leaving them to brutal death at the hands of terrorism, just because of our own baseless fears.

Into this, the words of the Prophet Isaiah today could not be more perfect. Isaiah is talking to his Israelite people, who by the way, are in exile in Babylon, the area that is modern-day Syria & Iraq. Isaiah notices that the people claim to be practicing their religion and following God, but they have actually fallen into a way that is oppressive and ignores the true justice of God’s word.

Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;…
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.

Folks, these words could have been written to America in 2017. This could have been written directly to a nation, or a national political and religious framework that claims to uphold Jesus, who by the way was himself a Child refugee in Egypt fleeing the wrath of Herod with Mary and Joseph, but then delights in slamming the door on Middle-Eastern refugees! It could have been written to a government that claims to give a preferential option to “religious minorities” that is in actuality a cover for discrimination.

Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and BRING THE HOMELESS POOR INTO YOUR HOUSE;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

This is a sermon that preaches itself. This is the loving, liberating, lifegiving way of Jesus Christ! On Friday, as a sign of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, I attended Friday Du’ah at the Clifton Mosque, just a few minutes down the road from here. Du’ah is the main prayer service of the week, something akin to Sunday morning in the Christian world. Praying shoulder to shoulder alongside some 300 or 400 of our Muslim neighbors, people of every race and color, immigrants and native-born, led by Imam Ishmail (who happens to be an Irish American white guy), I remembered the one-ness of our sacred faith. I watched as they wash their hand
s before worship, much like in the Jewish tradition and in our own as the priest’s hands are washed before celebrating the Eucharist. I prayed the prayer positions with them – positions much like ours – orans, kneeling, standing reverently with folded hands.
 
Guest preacher Hassan Shibly, a civil rights lawyer from Florida, said in his sermon to the gathered assembly that in spite of it all, this country, the United States of America remains one of the freest places for Muslims and people of all faiths to practice our religion, of any country in the world. He reminded all of us not to lose heart, not to lose faith, but to lose our religion, but to hold stronger to it. He told all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim, to hold fast to the “deen” - an Arabic word that roughly means our true religion, our true faith, the way of peace and submission to God. That word “Deen” is the same as the Hebrew word meaning judgments and righteousness that we pray often in the Psalms, promising to hold to God’s “righteous judgments”

Guess what, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to do precisely the same thing! “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. What Good is our religion if it no longer leads us to the way of Justice and peace? What good is our “American Christianity” if it leads us to create injustice rather than breaking it down? You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

This is the time, perhaps now more than ever, to let our light shine. This is the time, Christians, followers and lovers of Jesus, to let our love shine for all to see. We MUST be a lighthouse to the refugee and the immigrant because we too were refugees and immigrants ourselves. We must be the lighthouse because that is what Christ not urges or suggests, but Requires us to do. I hope you will join me after church as we discuss and prepare to fulfill this sacred duty together. 

What was it like? Episcopal Service Corps in Cincinnati

My year as a Brendan’s Crossing fellow was incredibly formational and important for my personal and ministerial formation as a lay and now clergy leader in the church. From September 2016 to June 2017, I had the honor of serving three unique ministries while living as a member of the Brendan’s Crossing community on a non-residential basis.  Primarily I was based at Christ Church Cathedral, serving as host of the Cathedral Café and as a worship leader of the Tuesday Evening Prayer services and dinners. Both of these roles were directed especially toward engaging the local homeless community while being open and available to all. I also served as a tutor for the Ministerio Latino (Latino Ministry) program in Price Hill on the West Side of Cincinnati. In this role I engaged my Spanish proficiency to help teach a range of elementary and middle school subjects to children of primarily undocumented immigrants. In these diverse roles I was undoubtedly able to both experience and grow in my relationship to God and also to help others to experience God’s love by serving those most in need.

At the altar of Christ Church Cathedral
At the Cathedral, my two roles as café host and worship leader were a wonderful match for my growing ministerial skills and as preparation for my vocation in ordained ministry. Far more than merely serving free coffee to those who were unable to pay, my café became a pastoral space for those with few people to listen and pray for them. Twice during my year there, homeless men remarked to me that they had gone into treatment and become sober because of the pastoral conversations we had at the Cathedral Café. Another woman moved beyond serious suicidal intentions to find a stable job and seek mental health treatment following a series of conversations we had at the Café. Many of these same guests would also worship with us regularly on Tuesdays before dinner at the 5,000 Club. There I preached, led worship and held pastoral conversation & prayer with congregants each week, building up a steady core of worshippers and a congregation of about 50 each week. Working with three other liturgical ministers, we were able to build a choir of ten that went from shyness at publicly singing at all to belting the Nunc Dimittis in Latin and joyfully offering solos by the end of the year. I was blessed to preach or lead worship on most weeks, including sometimes offering prayer in Spanish when we had Spanish-speaking guests and making intersession with them through a wide range of extraordinary struggles.

This wonderful ministry at the Cathedral led naturally to my work with the Latino community in Price Hill. More than merely tutoring in various subjects, this work took on new importance, especially after the increased governmental scrutiny of undocumented immigrants beginning in January 2017. Working with this population allowed me to also help teach classes on what to do if parents were detained by authorities, and to assist in getting passports for American-born children of immigrants so that the children could prove their legal status if needed. So significant was this ministry to me that I became a member of the Diocesan Latino Ministry Commission and a member of the Cincinnati Sanctuary Coalition to continue this critical ministry beyond my year in Brendan’s Crossing.
"The House" is this extraordinary home of Brendan's Crossing

All of these remarkable opportunities to serve local disenfranchised communities were highly formative in my Brendan’s Crossing year, but the intensity if that year may have been overwhelming if I did not have the remarkable support system of the Riddle House family. Simply having these four house residents, along with Aaron Wright with whom to share one another’s joys, burdens, stresses, questions, meals, activities and extraordinary hospitality was the keystone of my year in this program. That bond, forged through days, evenings and nights of many kinds of formation, held together not only our community but also our spiritual and mental health during the course of that year. One night in November, our souls were heavy and our spirits were feeling crushed on the brink of despair. Aaron called together an open Safe Space dinner where we could be free and safe to share, sit, laugh, cry, process and support one another anyway we could. That day was the darkest and most vulnerable of that year for me, but that evening gave me exactly the space I needed to begin to move beyond the state of anxiety I was experiencing through those days.

Without question, the greatest day of my year in Brendan’s Crossing was the day of my ordination to the diaconate on June 3rd. The entire Brendan’s Crossing community had been so supportive of me during the course of the year, including agreeing to host my ordination party that Saturday afternoon in the large Riddle House backyard. Being able to share such an incredible life-changing moment with my dear friends, supporters and family was an incomparable emotion-filled experience that I will never forget. Having all of them present with me on that day helped to make it a nearly perfect start to my vocation in ordained ministry.


I am extraordinarily proud to have been part of the Brendan’s Crossing family. The skills I gained in that program continue to benefit me daily in my ministries in this diocese, and it has helped to change lives of people across our region. Brendan’s Crossing is an excellent program, especially for the growth of young clergy and lay leaders in our diocese. I continue to strongly recommend Episcopal Service Corps and particularly Brendan’s Crossing frequently to others, and likewise I hope that the diocese will continue to strengthen and support this program for future years to come.

The missing year: Brendan’s Crossing 2016-2017


This is my first blog entry in nearly an entire year. I never thought I’d be the type to keep a blog at all, and so it shocked me that I’d even want to write any more than I was absolutely required to do. Stranger still that I’d find myself missing it, wishing to find something worth saying, worth sharing with the certainly paltry sum of sleep-deprived narcoleptics whom I could only imagine were hoping my various ramblings would help them find their way off to dreamland at last. After I stepped off that airplane jetway in August 2016 once again on American shores, closing the book on my amazing, exotic year as a missionary in Italy, I could not imagine that whatever lay ahead for me on this side of the ocean would be nearly worth dedicating to paper (or digital media for that matter). After all, who would be waiting to read with rapt attention of my daily goings-on in Southwest Ohio with the same “ooh la la” as befits a new life in one of the world’s most famously beautiful and historic cities?
Canoeing during Brendan's Crossing orientation, September 2016

So I returned to Cincinnati after a month’s vacation – and somewhat by surprise - I leapt at my bishop’s invitation to join Brendan’s Crossing, a small community of young adult believers in ten months of service, discernment, and in my case final preparations to take on the Holy Orders that I had been seeking for years. I’d expected, honestly to find a job either in the Episcopal Church world nearby or at worst take up a secular post somewhere while staying constantly tied and involved with my churchwork nonetheless. This “intentional community” thing was pretty new to me, even though I’d been invited to join a similar group years before as I was starting to discern God’s call to ministry in the first place. I found that my year in the Collegio in Rome (the dorm-style apartments that I shared with Carter, Paola, Maiga, Julia and Margaret at St. Paul’s as we learned about God and ourselves while serving in the church) was basically an intentional community in all but name! And I’d lived a similar life as a residential seminarian for three years before, never once realizing that I could’ve well been a member of the Episcopal Service Corps with the lifestyle I was leading!


Brendan's Crossing fellows on retreat in Kentucky, April 2017
Within three quick days I learned that I would be joining the program, called Brendan’s Crossing & based out of a large white house just blocks from the University of Cincinnati, talked on the phone with their director Aaron, whom I would soon come to adore as an incredible friend and supervisor, and unexpectedly secured a service placement at Christ Church Cathedral where I had already been a member for nearly eight years. All of a sudden, my whole life would seem to revolve around the Cathedral, as it was my sponsoring parish for ordination, my ministry site, the home of my church membership, the nearest church to home, and even my polling place all at once! Soon it was arranged – I would help with the Cathedral’s Tuesday homeless ministry, take part in a “café” that I didn’t quite fully understand, and practice my Spanish skills with the Diocesan Latino ministry twice a week on the West Side of town. I didn’t know what any of that would mean, but I knew that a sacred and unusual journey was about to begin, and I had no idea what to expect next.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Roof.

I know I have seen this ledge before
and the voice of the Beloved calls out.
Does she scream out
weeping at arms length 
from the middle
 of the plane?
Or does she pull in close,
her toes aligned with mine
upon the narrow edge?
Does she wrap me in a tight embrace,
so close to whiff the busyness on my breath
and mourn warm tears upon my stammering lips?
-Charles Graves IV

The table at which I sat and prayed, writing the poem above.
I sat down, some days ago to talk, or more honestly to complain, about how I've found myself being pulled, or perhaps pulling myself, in so many different directions as of late. The kind sister from a local convent with whom I was meeting, after a long pause, quoted this line from the great poet Rumi.

 “Sit, be still, and listen,

because you're drunk
and we're at
the edge of the roof.”

That line has returned to my head frequently these last several days, and if I am honest, it's for good reason. It inspired me a few days later to write the poem at the beginning of this post. What is it to be busy-drunk? What is it to abuse the substance of ourselves - of myself - not with a bottle or a weapon but with a calendar, beyond a point that could truly be called "sobriety"? can one be drunk on serving God? Does ministry contain some toxin that causes one to stagger on the metaphorical rooftop ledge? 

If I'm honest with myself - If I am honest with God - the answer on some days is clear. I am blessed overwhelmingly, immeasurably, to love so many things. I have a workplace and a position that I truly enjoy, that brims with opportunities to serve God in the world around me. And I am blessed with great flexibility, with incredible friends with whom to relax, with a marvelous loving family, with the care of a brilliant spiritual director, and countless resources to keep me wisely on an even keel. All told, the state of my spiritual union is very strong.

But in the boundless world of ministry, there is always the siren call of just one more thing. One more activity, one more meeting, one more project, one more hour, one more day. Likewise for clergy and lay, for ministers and for ministers. "Boundaries" we say time and again "are essential". The saying is true, but it's much more than simple boundaries. It's the art of slowing down, of learning to "be" rather than always to "do". It's the anonymous prayer that hangs on my wall since my first year of seminary:
Slow me down Lord,
Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace
with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day,
the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical
restoring power of sleep. 

Teach me the art 
of taking minute vacations - 
of slowing down to look at a flower
to chat with a friend
to pat a dog
to read a few lines from a good book.

Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me 
to send my roots deep into the soil
of life's enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars



of my greater destiny. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Year in Review - Sneak Preview


In the six weeks since my return to the United States, dozens of people have asked about my experiences as a missionary in the Eternal City. So I've decided to write up one more magazine, based on the Letters from St. Paul's magazine that I helped to edit while in Rome, to share some of the most remarkable stories and changes of that incredible year abroad. Within a few weeks and with a few edits, it will be published for distribution. But in the meantime, take a look at this sneak preview here, and enjoy!




Dear Charles... One Year Later

Leaving New York for Rome!
September 15, 2015
After a roughly six-week hiatus for a bit of late-summer vacation and readjustment, this blog, Cornelius the Roman proudly continues! At the beginning of August I quietly returned to the United States to spend a few weeks of rest with my dear friends and loved ones in Maryland. Toward the end of the month, I joyfully returned to Cincinnati where I expect to live year-round, at least for the next few years. Upon returning, I proudly accepted a new position as the Brendan’s Crossing Fellow at Christ Church Cathedral for a term of one year. In this role I will coordinate and serve many of the Cathedral’s outreach efforts among diverse constituencies including downtown corporate employees, homeless persons, Latino/Hispanic immigrants and other communities.

On the day of this writing I also celebrate another very special occasion – the one year anniversary of my arrival as a missionary in Rome! What follows are my reflections from that day, including my response to the letter I wrote to my future self at the beginning of that great  adventure.



September 15, 2016

One year ago today, at 4:10pm I boarded a plane bound for another life. Standing with my fellow missionary and traveling partner Paola Sanchez by my side, not to mention a probably obscene amount of luggage and our tickets & passports in hand, off we decamped for an adventure like no other.

Very early the next morning, we landed in Rome, carrying boundless excitement, healthy amount of anxiety and probably just the right amount of abject terror for whatever might lay ahead. I had only a vague idea what might happen in the day ahead. There we met the inimitable Rev. Austin Rios, who would be our boss, advisor and friend over the coming year. Having shared our first official Italian coffee in the airport together, we happily rode with Fr. Austin to St. Paul’s Within the Walls – our new home, workplace and the center of our universe for the next small chapter of our lives.

Soon after arriving to be greeted joyfully by our new co-workers and housemates, I sat down at my new desk with a lovely scenic view of the Irish Pub across the street and penned this letter to myself. As you might know, it stems from a personal tradition of mine at every major transition point in life (which seems to be almost every year now) that is also commonplace at several schools and institutions I’ve taken part in along the way. This is, I think, my fourth letter to myself, following up those I scribbled at the beginnings of high school, undergrad and seminary.

09/18/2015
Dear Charles,
When you read this letter around this time next year, you will have experienced things you could not have imagined when you wrote it today. God Willing, you will have learned a new language (or two or three!!) and will be comfortably walking the streets & making conversation in Italian, and maybe Spanish too! Even more important, I pray that the people you have known here will have inspired you deeply. May those experiences and relationships, joys and pains challenge you to be a stronger and more loving minister of the Gospel. You will return, God Willing, with new stories more than you can count. May they make you a wiser, more humble, and more mature servant of God & God’s People. May you look back and remember the day you wrote this letter and may it cause you to smile from ear to ear. This year that now seems so long, will have flown by in your memory like a thief in the night. I pray that you have treasured every moment. May every single memory be more valuable than gold to you. And may you never forget all that you have learned here, nor neglect all that others have learned –and are learning – from you.

Our very first photo after arriving in Rome & meeting Fr. Austin!
September 16th, 2016!
Remember, Charles, what it was like when you first arrived in this beautiful City. Recall the heady mix – equal parts steely confidence and abject trepidation in anticipation of the road ahead. Recall that constantly vacillating sensation, drifting minute-for-minute between “yeah, I can totally do this” and “what the heck am I doing here!?!?”. Remember what it was like when everything – every single thing – was new and alive with mystery. Hold onto those sensations day by day. Tie them to yourself like a string around your finger or a belt around your waist. Keep it before you or it will vanish like a vapor from your sight. Be open, as you were then, and hopefully even more so, to whatever God has in store.

And finally, fair self, hopefully feeling as poetic and self –satisfied as you were when you wrote this letter, pray without ceasing. Be always, ALWAYS, a person of devoted and constant prayer. Pray for everyone and everything as if the whole world depends on it. It does. Honor those whose sacrifices sent you here. They are like the angels of heaven. Honor God in all that you do, and let your every act be prayer.

By the way, When you read this, the nominees for president & vice president will be **___/__ ** and ** ___/__ **. When it happens, feel free to say “I told you so” 

With love from your not too distant past
Charles Cornelius Graves IV

P.s. (For those reading this letter other than yours truly, the presidential nominee thing is a running joke. I wrote a letter to myself when I started high school in 2004 that I read in 2008, where I said I hoped that the older me would be ready to “re-elect President John Kerry”. If you really want to know my predictions, ask me!)


September 16, 2016
Dear Charles of September 2015,

You were more right than you could have known (and well, half-right about the political predictions!)

On your last day at St. Paul’s, the parish administrator said of you to an Italian-speaking member of the congregation Lui ha cresciuto molto – “he has grown a lot”. It really got me thinking – somehow it can be so easy to forget how much you really have been changed, in altogether positive ways, by the experiences of this marvelous year. There are uthe things you have learned and the ways in which yoi have changed, some external and others internal, making something of a whole patchwork that lies sometimes under the surface.

Some of the best co-workers a guy could ask for!
There are the more obvious matters of course – although certainly not insignificant. You have learned a thing or two about living abroad, absorbing new cultures while holding onto intersecting cultures of your own. Yet your American ex-pat privilege could never compare to the stateless and often oppressed refugees whom you met each day. They taught you most about what it means to be an American, and an ex-pat, and a citizen of the world. Likewise living in community, inside the church building among several young adults growing in our varied ministries in the Church, your introverted tendencies were challenged by the broadness of the community. As you depart, increased is your attention to the needs of others, but to the importance of community and interdependence for all of us inside and outside the Christian world. God calls us not to be an inward-looking society, but to always look outwards, beyond the isolating boundaries we may sometimes desire.

And your language skills improved by far, in both Spanish and Italian (perhaps English as well)! But it was not merely the languages you learned, but what you learned about language that matters. You saw God’s love working across, between, through, and beyond languages of all kinds. You were – and remain – moved by the spirit of Pentecost in the living world, not only in the pages of Scripture. You are changed, not merely in the words and languages with which you can now listen and communicate, but in being better able to listen to all the ways in which God speaks to and through us. You have become conversant, and you are working my way toward fluency in the varied structures of society, not simply grammatical or syntactical structures that make up the cultures of our world.

You learned scores about a congregation that you have come to know and love. And you have learned about this title of “missionary”, that it doesn’t always mean what one might expect. Far from just the liturgy or history, the membership or various eccentricities of the congregation, you got to know the soul of this church. In one of the greatest cities in Christendom and around the continent, you came to understand far more deeply the identity of the “one, holy catholic and apostolic church” and as Bishop Curry says, our “Anglican/Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement”. While last year you tepidly accepted the title of “missionary”, always apologizing for the colonial history so often tied to that term, you now claim the missionary calling – to spread the love of God near and far, accomplishing that which God calls all of us to do. And you continue forward with even greater missionary zeal, so to speak, to go out confidently as a leader, working together to be the church, serving the “loving, liberating and life-giving God” whom we love.

These broad lessons and life-changing moments have naturally taught you about your sense of calling as a servant of God in the Church more specifically. While you would have had a difficult time considering serving the church outside of very specific and English-only contexts, you are now much more open to hearing the Lord’s call in many different ways. You are now much more open, and much more prepared, to serve in a range of ministerial contexts that you could not have dreamed just twelve months ago. This past year has made you a larger and more open vessel, which I trust God to fill with whatever is needed to serve the Gospel mission on which you are just beginning to embark.

Faithfully yours,


Charles Graves IV

Friday, August 5, 2016

♫♫…Summertime…♫♫ Part 3

In my final month as a YASC missionary in Rome, I was enormously fortunate to take part in a two-week multi-city tour around several Episcopal and Anglican parishes around Europe. Far from being a pleasure trip, each of the cities I visited is home to congregations with especially strong ministries among refugees or other ministries of import to my budding future in the church. I did, however make a brief detour to Scotland for the wedding of one of my closest friends, the Rev. Sarah Dunn to the Rev. Nathan Syer!


"Everyone deserves, not only to survive
but to LIVE"
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe hosted its annual convention in October at its cathedral in Paris, and I was blessed to be in attendance. Dozens of Episcopal/Anglican laypeople and clergy from across the continent gladly shared hours of information with me about the diverse contexts and ministries they serve in their very different countries. Likewise I was honored to tell them about the Young Adult Service Corps and about my ministry in Rome. At the convention, the sole resolution was to work together more closely an intentionally in support of the diocesan ministries among refugees.

Christ the King, Frankfurt
The most direct-reaching Episcopal ministries among refugees are through ours in Rome, Munich and Waterloo Belgium, closely followed by Frankfurt and others. In July I was fortunate to visit each of the other three cities. There I learned about how our Munich parish invites refugee families to church, not for conversion but for fellowship and community. This remarkable outreach method was recently chronicled by a wonderful report in Episcopal News Service. I have been fortunate to discuss this amazing ministry with their rector, (Fellow Yale Divinity alum) Fr. Christopher Smith on a number of occasions. 

All Saints, Waterloo Belgium
Christ the King in Frankfurt passionately donates money, supplies and volunteers to aid nearby refugee centers as well. Although their parish sits in a part of Germany that has a somewhat smaller refugee population, the parish has taken an active role to support migrants in the largest financial industry capital in Europe. I am fortunate to be a friend of their excellent rector, Fr. John Perris and several of their parishioners visited St. Paul's for our Youth Across Europe convention in May. Very special thanks to Christoph Herpel and especially the Richter family for hosting me in their home while I visited their lovely city!

Conversation & Belgian waffles with Rev. Sunny!
Parishioners in Waterloo Belgium (just outside Brussels & the site of Napoleon's Battle of Waterloo) distribute clothing, supplies and hot meals each week at the city's train station. This program, also chronicled by Episcopal News Service, announced a wonderful grant from Episcopal Relief and Development on the very Sunday when I visited! Many thanks to the Rev. Sunny Halanan and parishioner Felicity Handford for hosting me, showing me around town and telling me all about this growing ministry.

Over the years, I am fortunate to have made many friends from seminary and elsewhere who are now Anglican clergy in England. As I personally progress through the ordination process in the United States, it is fundamentally important to me to learn in depth about the Church of England, as it is essentially the “Mother Church” and the ecclesiastical center spoke of the worldwide Anglican Communion circle. 

With my friend Rev. Seb Harries
Through some of these friendship connections, I was also able to visit a number of congregations in the city, suburbs and exurbs of London, getting to know much about ministry in England, which is often very different from the United States and mainland Europe. Except in the most urban areas, ministry in England is less oriented toward direct mission among refugees and is more spread among a number of pastoral and spiritual ministries in each particular context. As young clergy, they told me all about their first years in ordained life, and in particular the challenges and surprises therein.

My friend Rev. Rebecca Lloyd's
parish in the London suburbs.
As I follow down the same path on American shores, it is a real blessing to get to form and strengthen these strong bonds with partner ministers and ministries in so many different parts of Western Europe. It is so special to see the work of God and the love of Jesus Christ embodied in so many willing hands and hearts across the vast expanse of so many cities and countries. I can’t wait to see how God will continue to manifest in all of these diverse congregations and so many others across Europe, America and across the globe.