Ascension Day Service

Please Join the Episcopal and ELCA Congregations of Northern Indiana

for a Joint Eucharist in Celebration of

AscensionErspamer

The Feast of Our Lord’s

Ascension

at 6:30 pm

on Thursday, May 5

at the

Church of the Holy Trinity

915 N. Olive Street

South Bend, Indiana

Rev. Rudolph W. Mueller (ELCA) Preacher

Rev. Terri L. Bays (Episcopal) Celebrant

Reception to Follow

(parking available across Olive Street from the church)

“Where is Your Church?

Is it the one at the corner of Olive and Prast?”

The question took me by surprise, coming as it did from a staff member at the rehab. facility—way on the other side of town—where I was visiting one of our parishioners. The woman had been coming up the hallway down which Pat and I were making our slow and careful way. Fixing me with an intense stare, she crossed to our side of the hallway and presented her question. Swallowing my shock, I nodded towards Pat and stammered,

“Yes, we are at the Church of the Holy Trinity, at the corner of Olive and Prast.”

She nodded in satisfaction.

I thought so. I live just down the street from there, and I’ve seen you going around Aspergillumand blessing the neighborhood!

She then went on to tell me that the pastor of her neighborhood church was ill and asked me to pray for him. I took down his name and said I would both pray for him and put him on the parish prayer list.

From where she said she lived, I’m guessing that she saw us last September, when we went around on the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, blessing our neighbors and asking the angels to exercise God’s protection over them. In other words, even though it was seven months later and clear across town, this neighbor remembered us well enough to ask for our prayers.

Tomorrow is another opportunity to make such memories. It will be Tuesday in Rogation week, and for the third year in a row, we will be processing around, blessing the labor of our neighbors. This year’s focus will be on the corner of Bendix and Lincoln Way West. In order to preserve energy, we will meet up in the parking lot of Faith Apostolic Ministries () rather than at Holy Trinity. After blessing our fellow “laborers in the harvest,” we will cross Bendix and bless our way up the east side of the street, veering east onto Ardmore and blessing all the workplaces on the corners before heading south again on the west side of Bendix. On our way back, we will swing west to bless the LaSalle Library and the other businesses of LaSalle Square before getting in our cars to go to Holy Trinity, where we will bless the convenience store across the street and our Unity Garden before heading inside for Eucharist.

Unless it’s raining, in which case we will bless all the same businesses from inside the church!

Our blessings are another way of answering the question “where is your church?”.  Jesus calls us to be salt and light to the world, starting with that part of the world that bumps up against us. To be the church in a neighborhood is to extend God’s peace to that neighborhood.

You never know what an impression that might make.

Presiding Bishop Addresses Staff Regarding Investigation Findings

This morning, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry addressed the staff of The Episcopal Church Center (affectionately known as “815” after its street address in NYC). The occasion was the conclusion of an independent investigation into “formal complaints and allegations of potential violations of personnel policies of the DFMS” (Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society).  The investigation began on December 9, 2015 when the presiding bishop put Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Mr. Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communications on administrative leave.

I will refer you to the press release for details of the investigation’s findings and recommendations.  What particularly struck me about the address, and what I will comment on, is the connection our presiding bishop makes between the seemingly mundane topic of personnel policies and the somewhat more “spiritual” concept of mission. Curry asserts that:

Our task as staff is to serve The Episcopal Church in such a way that it can serve the world in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Our commitment to taking our place as part of the Jesus Movement in the world, our commitment to the work of evangelism, our commitment to the work of racial reconciliation is directly tied to this. And I am unswerving in my commitment to that.

This link between “infrastructure” and mission is an important one. It is easy to fall into the trap of considering our responsibilities to infrastructure—taking vestry minutes, paying bills, mowing the grass—as the collection of concerns that get in the way of mission.   What the presiding bishop is saying, however, is that the way we take care of these infrastructure concerns is a both reflects our faith and commitment to our neighbor and enables the expression of that faith and commitment.

As we at Holy Trinity strive to put our own house in order, we too are called to investigate the ways in which our infrastructure (or lack thereof) undermines our mission. Let us remember that the time, care and approach we take in examining our stewardship, keeping records, and mopping floors is as much a matter of mission as our outreach efforts are.

Holy Week at Holy Trinity

Palm Sunday Procession of the Palms and Holy Eucharist

Sunday, March 20 at 10:00 AM, Terri Bays Preacher/Celebrant

 

Standing in Shadow: an Urban Tenebrae Service

Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 PM, Terri Bays Officiant

 

Maundy Thursday Foot Washing, Eucharist and Stripping of the Altar

Thursday, March 24 at 6:30 PM, Stewart Clem Preacher/Celebrant

 

Vigil at the Altar of Repose 8:00 PM on March 24 to 11:00 AM on March 25

 

Good Friday Solemn Collects, Adoration of the Cross and Mass of the Pre-Sanctified

Friday, March 25 from 12:00 – 3:00 PM, Terri Bays Preacher/Celebrant

6:00 PM Stations of the Cross

 

Great Vigil of Easter

Saturday March 26 at 8:15 PM, Terri Bays Preacher/Celebrant, Stewart Clem Cantor

 

Easter Sunday Eucharist

Sunday, March 27 at 10:00 AM, Terri Bays Preacher/Celebrant

To the white sponsors of our newly baptized black parishioners

In a follow-up conversation to last weekend’s Trinity Institute event at the Cathedral, some of us were discussing ways in which the behavior of liberal whites—white folks who consider themselves anti-racist—can unintentionally harm the black folks with whom we want to ally ourselves. The event was entitled Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations about Racial Justice, and the Cathedral was a partner site. Local participants had been chagrined that only white people had shown up—so who were we going to listen to, other than the speakers? After reading a blog post about how white folks emotions about race tend to take up all the oxygen in a mixed room, however, we were remarking that maybe that was why no black parishioners had come, and maybe that was a good thing. White folks do need to process their feelings about racism, but black folks don’t need to sit around and listen to/comfort us in that processing.

Now at Holy Trinity, our circumstances and the Holy Spirit often conspire to place us right in the middle of practice before we even suspect we need some theory. We are learning what it takes—how we ourselves need to progress—to integrate our parish into the life of our neighborhood. Then someone shared another blog post, entitled, To the White Parents of my Black Son’s Friends. Written by the white adoptive mother of a black child, the article explores the ways in which double standards play out in the trans-racial sandbox.

This got me thinking about the five black children we baptized along with their mother a few weeks ago. Almost all of their baptismal sponsors were white, and since in baptism we have adopted them as Christ’s own and thus our own, we have entered into a transracial adoption of sorts.  I suspect that we will face many situations where white sponsors make mis-steps in our efforts “to support these [black] persons in their life in Christ.” So here’s my adaptation, for us as the white sponsors (and priest) of our newly baptized black parishioners:

1. In places like the Episcopal Church, “it is easy to use words like ‘colorblind’ and feel like we’re enlightened and progressive,” but racism does persist in our society and runs deep in the history of our church. Our “colorblindness” may be blinding us to “the uniquely dangerous situations our [children] can find [themselves] in” as they navigate this confusing world.
2. The fact that “when white kids do it it’s ‘kids being kids,’ but when the kids of color are involved it’s got to be addressed by authorities shows the underlying bias of” our assumptions about who knows what about parenting. What we experience as “concern,” may feel like harassment to the already stressed neighborhood parent whose care we are interrogating. Listen first, and offer some moral support for her in her efforts, before jumping to conclusions about what looks to you like neglect.
3. We need to talk about racism. When we see these our newly adopted children “being bullied or called racist names, [we] need to stand with [them]. [We all] need to understand how threatening that is and not just something to be laughed off.” When we are together, and “the police drive by, tell [yourself] to stay. Just stay right there. Be a witness. In that situation, be extra polite, extra respectful. Don’t run and don’t leave” our children by themselves.
4. We like to pride ourselves in the Episcopal Church as people “who don’t do guilt or shame.” When we are reminiscing or talking about ethical matters with these our newly adopted children, however, “this is not the time to [condone] any risky behaviors. Whatever trouble you [may once have gotten] into, [they] will likely not be judged by the same standard you [were]. Be understanding that [they] can’t make the same mistakes you can. This means we as adults have the much more difficult job of practicing mercy rather than simply downplaying sin.
5. “Treat [our children] with respect. Don’t rub his head because you want to know what his hair feels like. Don’t speak black slang to [her] because you think it would be funny. If you’re thinking about making a joke that you feel might be slightly questionable, just don’t do it. Ever. [Our] kids are listening and learning from you even in the jokes you tell. Be conscious of what media messages [our] kids are getting about race. Engage in tough conversations about what you’re hearing in the news. Don’t shy away from this just because you can. [They] can’t. We can’t.”
6. “Be an advocate for [these] beautiful souls who [have] eaten [with you at God’s] table, sat next to [you] at church.” They are not “the exception to the rule.” They are “not protected by [your] white privilege” now, nor will they be for the rest of their lives.  They are “not inherently different from any other little black [children] and ALL their lives have value and worth and were created by God.”
Much of this advice was intended for parents to teach their children, but we adults are as much in need of the advice as kids are. May God bless you in your sponsorship of our children, even as we all stumble along the road  to justice.

Trash and Treasure

A few Saturday mornings ago, I arrived early for a meeting with a parishioner at the church. We were getting together to do setup for a special event the next day, and we really wanted things to look nice. As a result, I was particularly dismayed to see trash scattered all over the lawn on the N. Olive St. side of the building.

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Just what one expects to find now and again

 

Now a church that sits downwind of a convenience store has to expect to find a little trash here and there, snatched from folks’ fingers as they unwrap their purchases. Trash also blows out of the trash bins on occasion and snags in our bushes. When a few weeks’ snow melts off,  as it had the day before, a few weeks’ trash buildup is revealed. We try to go around and do a trash pick up now and then, but it’s an ongoing task.
But this was different. There in the middle of the lawn sat a cardboard box from a case of beer. Too heavy to have been blown from someone’s grasp, it clearly had been left there on purpose. Given the number of Swisher Sweets wrappers also lying about, I was guessing that someone had a little party in our side yard. In my annoyance I imagined them leaving the trash there as an act of defiance against the church.
IMG_1687

How’s this for product placement?

Dropping my stuff off inside, I stomped back out and began picking up the trash. By the time I got to the beer box, I had a handful, so I just stuffed the trash in the box, grabbed the box by the handle, and kept right on going. As I kept filling the box, I was almost grateful that I had the box there to put the trash in. Not quite, but almost.  Mostly I was just grumpy about having to pick up someone else’s trash, and I don’t think that was entirely about my not having had enough coffee yet.Then, as I was crawling behind a bush to grab an elusive chip bag, I spied a five-dollar bill likewise snagged in the bush’s branches. As I put the bill in my pocket for the offering plate, it occurred to me that the same folks who can’t be bothered to pick up their own trash are just as likely to let their treasure blow away as well.

Now, as I continued stuffing trash into my box (finders keepers, after all!), I began to wonder how much of what can be said about trash and treasure can be said about people as well. How often do we let our relationships with people slip from our fingers, too busy to be bothered with the effort of chasing those relationships into the crannies where they have wedged themselves, or unwilling to endure the scratches and scrapes we would have to endure? How often do we convince ourselves that a relationship isn’t our job to maintain? Who have we defined as “trash” that we can allow to blow down the street as if it had no relation to us? Where, in fact, is the break-even point, where our treasure becomes valuable enough to be worth the risk of pursuit?

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My box almost runneth over!

By this point, my box was full. I took it across the street and threw it in the convenience store’s dumptster. By this point my parishioner had arrived, and as I returned to the church I realized I had been out of his line of sight. He was no doubt getting confused about why my car and stuff was there without me.
I checked the mailbox on my way in, and there I found an envelope with another parish’s return address. Opening it up, I found a donation from our sister church for the support of our ministry at Holy Trinity. Clearly this other parish had decided we were not disposable, even if our mess is of our own making. Thanks be to God!

Post-Walkabout Letter

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus in the Diocese of Northern Indiana,

Many of you have probably heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”. After this past weekend that can definitely be amended to “It takes an entire diocese to elect a bishop”. Thanks to the help, support, and prayers of this diocese we warmly welcomed the candidates and their spouses. Over 360 people attended the three Walkabout sessions to hear them speak. All of the candidates echoed the sentiment that we are more than a diocese, we are a Christ-centered community. They were blessed by our hospitality and warmth. They extend their heartfelt appreciation to us for the welcome, care, and prayers they received. Thank you!

Here is a link to the YouTube videos gathered this past weekend. At the Bristol and Marion locations only the random (drawn from a hat) questions were recorded. At the Griffith location their entire presentation was recorded. Enjoy.

We have five amazing candidates! Any one of them could be our next bishop and continue to build on the legacy of the fantastic bishops that preceded them. They have given themselves fully to this process and now await the election results with eager anticipation and prayer. Please know that this is a prayerful time for them, as it is us, and allow them the space to continue to listen fully to God’s direction in their lives. To that end, we implore you to give them space and not ask those follow-up questions that have come to mind. There is a wealth of information online. Soon enough we will know who the Lord has selected to lead us into the next phase of The Episcopal Church in Northern Indiana!

Grace and peace to each of you during the remainder of this Epiphany season. We’ll see you at St. Anne’s on February 6th, when the suspense will finally come to an end (or perhaps, just begin …)

Yours in Christ,
The Transition Committee

Gleaning

Looking out my living room window this morning, I spied some prairie grass sticking up out of the snow. I had planted the grass in the flower bed around the corner from my window, in a place too sheltered from summer rains to grow much of anything else.  The window angle doesn’t give me much of a view of the grass, except for some stalks that have been beaten down and broken by the snowfall. I keep thinking I should go out and remove those stalks to create a tidier clump, but the desire to wade through the snow has evaded me, so so the broken stalks remain.

wildgrass

The view from my window.

As I sat there next to the window this morning, praying the daily office, I was distracted by watching a small black and white bird hop over from my neighbor’s nearby bushes and try to eat the grass seeds. This dark-eyed junco would fly up and try to settle onto a stalk so that she could edge out towards the seed heads. Not strong enough to support her weight, the stalks kept dumping her back into the snow. After several tries, she got the idea of hopping up at the broken stalks from the ground in order to strip the seeds from underneath. Success!

This got me thinking about church. How often do we look at our congregations and see broken stalks? How often do we fantasize about shutting down ministries that cannot sustain themselves in the style to which we have become accustomed. How often are we only prevented from pruning away our brokenness by the prospect of cold feet?

Dark-eyed Junco in the snow

Dark-eyed Junco, photographed by Leora Wenger. This is a photo of a New Jersey Junco rather than of my Indiana friend, who turned out to be a bit camera shy.

And what if, instead, we looked at our situation from below? What if we asked how our brokenness might make us more accessible to folks on the ground? Not everyone can afford to live in up-and-coming neighborhoods. Not everyone can enter the church with self-confidence. Some folks may even need to be told that they are needed to help support a church that cannot support folks on its own.

In my attempt to get you a picture of my feathered friend (who flew away every time I tried to photograph her), I landed on Leora Wenger’s blog, where I found out that “junco” means “bird of bushes or reeds,” in honor of the bird’s preferred habitat. In other words, my scrappy little clump of prairie grass was the conveniently-located cafe for a bush-dweller  rather than the last resort of a frustrated gardener.

Likewise, we at Holy Trinity have been learning to stop bemoaning our location on a tough corner in a tough neighborhood. God has put us at the corner of Olive and Prast so that we can be conveniently reached by the folks in our neighborhood who don’t have cars to drive out to the suburbs and wouldn’t fit in there once they arrived. At Holy Trinity, you don’t have to look hard to find a place to sit awhile and some work to be done. Our brokenness puts us within everybody’s reach.

New Bishop Candidate Videos Available

As we gear up for the walkabouts this weekend, where we will get to meet our bishop candidates in person, check out the latest round of video greetings from the candidates. For these videos, the candidates were asked to send Epiphany greetings and speak about what they would do as the 8th Bishop of Northern Indiana.

Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

Let us join our neighbors downtown:

Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

‘‘The freedom songs are playing a strong and vital role in our struggle. They give the people new courage and a sense of unity. I think they keep alive a faith, a radiant hope, in the future, particularly in our most trying hours’’
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Come and Enjoy the Music
Saturday, Jan. 16 at 4:00 pm-5:30 pm
Main Library in downtown South Bend
304 South Main Street South Bend, IN

Sponsored by
Black Catholic Advisory Board Diocese of Ft. Wayne- South Bend