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St. Mark's Stories
Presiding Bishop Curry, the Rev. Jim Wallis join with faith leaders to issue letter on Reclaiming Jesus: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Action
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners have joined with faith leaders to issue the following letter:
A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Action
As the elders who wrote the declaration “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis,” to which 5 million people responded, we now issue “A Call to Prayer and Fasting.” We urge Christians to remain steadfast in their faith and engage with the deepening challenges our nation faces.
In 1863, at the height of the Civil War—the most divided time in American history—Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national “day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer.” Today, we also believe our national crisis calls for prayer, fasting, humility, and repentance. With the season of Lent before us, we ask how we can apply Lenten spiritual practices to our lives and to the dangers facing our democracy.
We pray with those who suffered during the unconscionable government shutdown and with those who face poverty and hunger every day. We pray for those who live in fear of deportation and family separation. We pray for those who face violence—especially parents who fear for their children of color—and those who endure language of racial divisiveness. We pray for the soul of the nation and the resilience of our government’s processes. We pray for those who have lost hope.
Above all, we pray for God to take away our fear and stir within us certainty in the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord. We pray that all will come to know that Jesus is love and that this knowledge will permeate our lives. We pray that we may have wisdom to discern and speak truth, and courage to stand for it in our public squares. We pray that we may be bridges that bring God’s love to our angry national discourse. We pray for pure hearts.
Therefore, we are calling for national prayer and fasting beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 6, and continuing through the season of Lent. We call upon church leaders, pastors, and local congregations to respond to the ongoing devastation that so many people face. We also call upon church leaders to stand up to the misuse and abuse of political power, in protection of the constitutional checks and balances of government and the common good.
We announce this “Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Action” to local cathedrals and churches, for Ash Wednesday services around the country. We call on clergy to pray and preach the gospel message and lead their churches to serve as the conscience of the nation. We call on clergy to foster dialogue that builds unity. We call on clergy to offer prayers that our political leaders will make decisions not for their self-interest but for what is right for our nation and those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”
Let us assemble for prayer in national and local worship spaces across denominational lines. Prayer turns us to God and fasting focuses our attention on repentance. Gathering to pray will anchor us for the days ahead. Our Lenten prayers in our homes and our churches can be weekly and daily, individual and corporate, personal and public. As we pray, let us also discern what our best responses should be in such a time as this. It is time to reclaim Jesus—and have Jesus lay his claim on us.
We must pray and ask God to take us deeper and prepare us to give a response that comes not from the Left or the Right, but because we are, first and foremost, followers of Jesus. Lent is traditionally characterized by prayer, penitence, and almsgiving—which is defined broadly as solidarity with the most vulnerable. Prayer and fasting will help us find the spiritual vigilance and availability that are necessary for action.
May God bless and keep us, guide and direct us, and prepare us to reclaim Jesus.
Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Network
Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
Dr. Tony Campolo, Cofounder, Red Letter Christians
Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing of the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, Ga.
Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Ray Rivera, President and Founder, Latino Pastoral Action Center
Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network, and President, Skinner Leadership Institute
Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, and Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School
Love your neighbor as yourself." -
"Do to others what you would have them do to you." - Matthew 7:12
Allah says in the Qur'an as translated: "Fulfill the measure and weight and do not deprive people of their due and cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation." - Al-A`raf 7:85
"God's grace and love can be experienced when one cares for the poor and the destitute." - Guru Nanak, Sikh scriptures
"The entire humanity is one family."
- Hindu Rig Veda - Vasudaiva Kutumbakam
Dear President Trump, Senator McConnell, and Speaker Pelosi,
As the partial federal government shutdown enters its third week, we, the undersigned interfaith leaders of Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, grieve the disproportionate burden the shutdown has placed on federal employees and contract workers. We are deeply concerned for all those whose lives have been thrust into economic uncertainty due to the halt in government services and agencies.
While the effects are felt nationwide, our region is especially impacted. Many in our faith communities are struggling, as are their co-workers and neighbors, and we are concerned for them and their families. Moreover, we are all vulnerable when those whose services we depend upon are under such duress. The long-term consequences of the shutdown are mounting, and we respectfully add our voices to those calling for it to end.
On the issues of border security and our immigration policy, we agree with President Trump that we face a crisis of heart and soul, though we differ dramatically in our understanding of it. Differences aside, we are clear that inventing a new crisis by closing the government and adversely affecting so many innocent people does not help to address border security.
The humanitarian crisis at the border is real. The reasons for this crisis are many and complex, and they require a multi-faceted response not only at the border itself, but with comprehensive immigration reform, and an approach to foreign policy that addresses the rampant corruption, gang violence, and economic desperation that is causing so many to flee their countries.
In the meantime, people are suffering and we cannot turn away. Our faith traditions call us to treat one another as we would want to be treated, to respond with compassion, for God's compassion knows no borders. Justice requires that we act for the welfare of all. Today we speak with one voice urging our public leaders to meet the obligations of their office and reopen the federal government as they continue to seek just and merciful solutions to those seeking refuge in our land.
Rev. Dr. David A. Anderson
Founding & Senior Pastor, Bridgeway Community Church
Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness
Senior Pastor, Christ Our Redeemer AME Church (DC)
Imam Johari Abdulmalik
Muslim Society of Washington
Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling
Washington Episcopal Area United Methodist Church
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop
Metropolitan Washington, D. C., Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Reverend Dr. Susan T. Henry-Crowe,
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church
The Very Rev. Randy Hollerith
Dean, Washington National Cathedral
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis
Richmond Episcopal Area, The United Methodist Church
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig
Sr. Rabbi, Washington Hebrew Congregation
Rabbi Gerald Serotta
Executive Director, Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington
Imam Dr. Talib M. Shareef, USAF-Retired
President, Masjid Muhammad, The Nation's Mosque
Dr. Siva Subramanian
United Hindu Jain Temples Association and Sri Siva Vishnu Temple
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
The Rev. Ed White
National Capital Presbytery
Rev. Dr. Christopher L. Zacharias
John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church, The National Church of Zion Methodism
The Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones
Bishop Suffragan of Virginia, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, Retired
XIII Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, Bishop Associate
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick,
Visiting Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Cathedral of the Working Class - “There is considerable freedom, but greater responsibility, that comes with being the cathedral of the working class.”
The most recently built span across the Thames River in London is the Millennium Bridge, a slender, elegant steel suspension bridge—for pedestrians. There are Anglican cathedrals near both ends of the bridge, St. Paul’s at the north end and Southwark at the south. A show of hands, please: how many of you have heard of St. Paul’s Cathedral? [Many hands] And how many of you have heard of Southwark Cathedral? [Few hands] There are good reasons for that.
St. Paul’s was built by Christopher Wren, England’s pre-eminent architect; the English Baroque cathedral is his masterpiece, sited majestically on Ludgate Hill. Famous people are buried in the cathedral, and members of the royal family have been married in and buried from St. Paul’s.
Southwark, on the other hand, finds itself surrounded by large nineteenth century warehouses; a railroad trestle passes within yards of the structure, and a farmer’s market sprawls just outside the main entrance. Members of the royal family are not married in or buried from Southwark. There are two areas, however, in which Southwark holds its own or eclipses St. Paul’s: age, and its commitment to radical inclusion. In 1006, the Priory Church of St. Marie was founded by the Bishop of Winchester on the Saxon foundations of a church built in 886. In various incarnations, Southwark has existed on the south bank of the Thames River for over a thousand years.
When Tommy and I visit London, we sometimes attend services at St. Paul’s, especially evensong, which is achingly beautiful. But we always make our way to Southwark. Why? Why Southwark?
At the extreme east end of the vast interior of Southwark, beyond the chancel, beyond the retro-choir, are three chapels. The most appealing, to my eye, is the Chapel of St. Andrews. More than a decade ago the decision was made to rename, though not rededicate, the chapel. For those hearty souls in fundraising, a naming opportunity quickens the pulse—and makes the palms itch. I know exactly for whom I would have named the chapel. A short distance from the cathedral is the reconstructed Globe Theatre. Shakespeare was parishioner at Southwark, as was his brother, who is buried in the cathedral: I would have had a Shakespeare chapel. I mean, hello, think of the tourist dollars! But no, the chapel is not named for him or indeed for any other luminary in the cathedral’s long history. The chapel is now a memorial to those who died from AIDS: the AIDS chapel. Tommy and I both lost people we were close to during the height of the health crisis; we return to Southwark to remember and pray.
Tommy had left the chapel, only a priest and I remained. We walked out together. I learned he was one of the cathedral’s cannons, a kind of senior administrator. I asked him how much resistance there had been, in the larger community of the cathedral, to the naming of the AIDS chapel, and he immediately responded, “None at all.” Frankly, I was incredulous and pressed for an explanation. He stopped walking and stared at the floor. He finally answered: “I’ll give you four reasons there was no resistance. First, we know who we are. Second, we know whose we are. Third, we know where we are. And fourth, we know what our mission is.” The good cannon veered off into his office but returned almost immediately to the hallway and added: “There is considerable freedom, but greater responsibility, that comes with being the cathedral of the working class.”
The Long-Range Planning Committee has been working very hard for over a year to create a strategic plan for this church. The plan it lays out is collectively ours: we have met with the committee in focus groups; we have spoken with, emailed, texted individual members to share our concerns, our hopes for this church. I have read the document closely. The goals are ambitious, as indeed they should be. We are a healthy, growing church with exceptionally strong leadership. Do I think the stated goals are achievable? Yes, yes I do. And I can give you four reasons why: we know who we are, whose we are, were we are, and what our mission is.
We know that we were founded soon after the Civil War to serve the working men and women of Richmond. But we know more than that, don’t we? We know there is a prophetic vein that runs through the muscle of this congregation. There is a fearlessness in in our proclamation of the Gospel, in our commitment to dismantling injustice, in our embrace of responsibility for those in need, especially the marginalized. We know who we are.
We know we are not here this morning because this is the church where our great-grandparents worshipped, or our grandparents, or, except in a few cases, where our parents worshipped. We are here because our spiritual journeys brought us through the doors of St. Mark’s, and we stayed. We know we were led here by the Holy Spirit. And if we know that, we know whose we are.
Last year Tommy and I had a friend visiting from Bristol, England. John had begun as a seminarian but ultimately became an architectural historian with the National Trust. John was attempting to come to terms with the perplexing geography of Richmond. I unfolded a flat map in front of him, identifying major arteries and points of interest, not least our house and our church. He studied the map intently, eventually laying the edge of his thumb on North Boulevard and slowly drawing his thumb southward, then on West Broad and slowly drawing his thumb eastward. He then rested his thumb at the point of intersection, on St. Mark’s. He looked up, smiled, and observed: “St. Mark’s is the body of Christ.” Yes, in fact, it is.
This church is not in the leafy suburbs, my friends. It is here, at the crossing of this city. I have long thought that if Jesus were to visit St. Mark’s, we would not find him in the sanctuary. He would be at the back door, helping us feed the homeless. Or he would be in the parish hall on Wednesday evening, exorcising the daemons of drug addiction, which begs the question: why do our parishioners volunteer to stand in the kitchen preparing food for the homeless, or volunteer to open the church for twelve-step groups? We are a compassionate, generous people; we know who and where we are.
Take the coming weeks before Pledge Sunday to consider how you give back, in time, talent, and treasure. The average pledge goal for 2019 is $2,822. For some of us this range of giving is not possible; there are others who already give five times this amount. We simply ask whether—given the remarkable potential evidenced by the strategic plan—you can increase the level of your financial support. We would very much like to increase the percentage of St. Mark’s households that pledge. We are currently at 69%. I would like to see at least 75%. If you are pledging for the first time, begin where you can. We ask no more than that.
David Jones, the former bishop suffragan, was visiting St. Mark’s. It was confirmation Sunday. He was standing in the narthex, waiting to process. I was an usher and happened to be standing next to him. Staring the length of the nave, and without turning his head, the bishop announced: “St. Mark’s is our medieval cathedral.” We are not the diocesan cathedral, and the architecture of St. Mark’s is not gothic. I said nothing, but the bishop could see from my expression I was confounded. He gently explained: “I see St. Mark’s as our cathedral because this is where the pilgrims come, and they are always warmly welcomed.”
There is considerable freedom, but greater responsibility, that comes with being the cathedral of the working class.
Homily excerpt from Sunday, October 14 by Howard Pugh, Stewardship Chair