Advent Letter 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Mourning and Melancholy

In the title essay of her collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, the author, Marilynne Robinson, recounts her days growing up accompanied by the inherent loneliness of Idaho landscape and the enduring positive benefit of this kind of loneliness. She notes that for Americans of a certain era such emotions as mourning, melancholy, regret, and loneliness were “high sentiments, as they were for the psalmist and for Sophocles, for the Anglo-Saxon poets and for Shakespeare.” Being a child of the Midwest with family still scattered across her hills and hollows along with a son who with his family live in Montana, Robinson’s essay was resonant.

All of this was brought to mind with the advent of Advent and having recently returned from a week in South Dakota where I was struck again by the beautiful loneliness of the post-harvest landscape – with winter settling in – and the long wait ‘til spring.

These high sentiments of mourning and melancholy and loneliness are often my companions. I experience them in the solitude of life. Sometimes in the poetry of a Herbert or Whitman or Donne, other times listening to the “who cooks for you?” of the owls and howls of the coyotes while walking through the chilly black woods under a full November moon.

Season of Advent

This week we, the church universal, mark the beginning of our church year with the season of Advent. The season of Advent is a season of preparation as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our seasonal collects and hymns have as their backdrop the prophetic witness to the people of Israel waiting in their “lonely exile” for their Messiah. They mark as well our waiting in a lonely exile as a peculiar people for the Messiah’s second advent. The church calendar is meant to help us navigate the seasons of our lives. They can, at their best, give shape and rhythm to our spiritual life. They can, at their best, provide the opportunity to recognize and embrace aspects of our life we might wish to ignore – all within the context of the faith and our community of faith.

The season of Advent is a season of preparation as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. We live as some have said, “in between the times.” Meaning that we live between the incarnation and the final consummation of Christ’s return And in this waiting, I experience the high sentiments of which Robinson wrote. I find myself saying often with the biblical writers, “Maranatha” – “come, Lord.” I find myself waiting and wondering with the Psalmist who asks, ‘how long?’ How long until our Lord’s triumphant Advent?

Navigating the Landscape of Our Soul

So, how can Advent help us navigate the landscape of our soul?

Well, we do know something of Christ as we await the final consummation. We are not left as orphans. He has come. He has given us His Spirit. And so, our waiting is a patient waiting (we heard quite a bit of this in our study of 1 & 2 Peter). Patient because we have confidence in Christ and His promise to return. Patient because of His promise that He will set all things right. Patient because of His promise that there will be a day and a place where there will be no more tears, a day and a place where we will see Him face-to-face. This confident patient waiting can give us – if and as we cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our lives – the opportunity to examine and address those hindrances and obstacles in our lives: our crooked paths, our rough places.

This waiting though is suffused with inherent loneliness and longing. A loneliness and a longing that allows one to, in Robinson’s words, “experience . . . radical singularity, one’s greatest dignity and privilege.” That allows one to navigate the landscape of the heart and soul and to discover again that our high sentiments and deepest desires are pointers that point to One thing – the One man, Christ Jesus – who alone is able to satiate our longing and desire.

Come, Lord Jesus.

In Christ,

+Steve

Steve Wood

Bishop, Diocese of the Carolinas

Archbishop Foley Beach’s Appeal for Ukraine Relief

 

ARCHBISHOP FOLEY BEACH’S APPEAL FOR UKRAINE RELIEF

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Lenten Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus!  As we begin our Lenten pilgrimage, let us not ignore the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before our eyes in Europe. Our hearts are breaking at the scenes of Ukrainians under attack from Russian forces with bombs landing in neighborhoods, schools, and playgrounds. Many of us have family and friends living and working in Ukraine or serving with the local church.

As the crisis intensifies and Ukrainians fight for their lives, more and more Ukrainians are being displaced and made homeless. Others will be without basic necessities like water, shelter, and food as basic infrastructure is destroyed. The Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) has mounted a campaign to raise funds to help. We are currently partnering with those inside Ukraine and those working in bordering countries being overwhelmed with refugees.

Are you able to help? ARDF has received a $100,000 challenge gift to match dollar for dollar the first $100,000 received. This means your personal gift can be doubled. Please consider helping today by clicking here.

Beyond giving financially to these efforts, your prayers are vital. Prayer really does make a difference! Pray for the Ukrainian people and their leaders, the Russian people and their leaders, the numerous Christian leaders and missionaries in the country, and for the hundreds of thousands of refugees. Ask God to intervene.

Please join us in praying these Collects from The Book of Common Prayer 2019:

“O God, our heavenly Father, whose blessed Son has taught us to seek our daily bread from you: Behold the affliction of your people in Ukraine and send them swift aid in their time of need. Increase the fruits of the earth by your heavenly benediction; and grant that receiving your gifts with thankful hearts, they may use them to your glory, for the relief of those in need, and for their own health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

– Adapted from Collect, In Time of Scarcity and Famine, BCP2019, p.653

“Almighty God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed: Kindle, we pray, in the hearts of all people the true love of peace, and guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your kingdom may go forward, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

– Collect For The Peace of the World, BCP2019, p. 654

Yours in Christ,


The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America

 

 

A Word from Suffragan Bishop David Bryan

When God breaks in…

As we begin a new church year we do so with a sense of anticipation for the coming of Christ into our world.  We look back to incarnation of our Lord in Bethlehem and we also look forward to the end of the age when Christ will return in glory.  These two salvation events anchor our lives in the grace, love and faithfulness of our God who comes to us to accomplish for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves.

These two great events are also central to the mission Christ has given us as his church.  On the one hand, like the Apostle Paul, we preach nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).  Our proclamation is grounded in the reality that God, in Christ, entered into the human story, put on our flesh, lived among us and died for us.  In Him we see the very face of God and in him we receive the gift of life.  This message is the power of God unto salvation and the very thing our broken world yearns to know.  We are his ambassadors who bear the treasure of this very good news.

On the other hand, our Lord’s promise to return and establish his kingdom in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21), re-orients us to that which matters eternally.  The One who graciously came to our rescue on Calvary, will again return to dwell with His people forever.  The implication for us is clear:  there is more to life than this present age.  Our mission is shaped by this truth.  C.S. Lewis observes “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this” (Mere Christianity).  When we have the end in view, we live differently in the present.  The necessity and urgency of sharing Christ with our neighbors and communities is brought into light.

A new church year is a great time to reflect the initiating grace of God in Christ who breaks into our world.  However, Advent is not merely a time of personal reflection, it is a time to recommit ourselves to the mission of Christ in our world.  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  May God the Holy Spirit empower us individually, and our churches corporately, for his mission!

Yours in Christ,  Bishop David

What kind of fisherman are you?

Bishop Steve Wood

One of the men who most influenced my young Christian life was a man named John Wimber.  Wimber, as you may remember, was the founder of the Vineyard Church and he had a soft spot for us Anglicans.  I did not know him but my then rector did and so I came into contact with both his preaching and his writings. The “tell” and “show” nature of his ministry was very attractive to me – and remains so.

One of Wimber’s greatest gifts was making the gospel understandable and then helping us ordinary, every-day kind of Christians (through his teachings, encouragement and model of ministry) believe that we really had a part to play in the ongoing unfolding of God’s kingdom.  I have in my files any number of his stories and illustrations.  One particular story he told about fishing and evangelism remains a favorite. Wimber wrote:

In 1990 Larry Shaw was trying out a new outboard propeller on Ohio’s West Branch Reservoir when he saw a huge muskie just below the surface.  Shaw motored over to it, and cast toward it several times with no luck before the fish disappeared.  About a half hour later Shaw returned to the cove where he had first spotted the big muskie.  And wouldn’t you know, it was back!  Shaw turned on the trolling motor and crept closer to the big fish.  Suddenly, the muskie started swimming toward the boat.

Shaw quickly put on a leather glove and stuck his arm into the water, grabbing the monster just behind the gills.  The muskie started splashing and fighting to escape but Shaw held on.  It was quite a fight, but with the help of a nearby fisherman he was able to get the fish into his boat.

The muskie weighed in just a bit over 53 pounds.  If Larry Shaw had caught the fish with a rod and reel, it would have broken the then record for the largest muskie ever caught in Ohio.  When reporters asked him about the fish, Shaw said, “I was in the right place at the right time, and I was fool enough to grab it.”

That’s a good description of evangelism: being in the right place at the right time, and being fool enough to share the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 4 (v.19) we read of Jesus’ call to his soon-to-be disciples; an invitation to be fishers of men and women.  When Jesus used metaphors like fishing his listeners heard what he was saying in a very different way than we do in our Western world.  For most of us fishing is a hobby – a recreational diversion from the business of our everyday lives. I am a casual fisherman.  And so when I come home empty-handed (more often than not) I am still content for having spent a day on the water.

Jesus issued that first invitation to join his fishing expedition to Peter, Andrew, James and John. Fishing was not a pastime for these men. If they failed to catch fish they did not eat.  Fishing was their livelihood.  Repeated failure was not an option.  As fishermen these men would have learned how to adapt their fishing technique to variety of situations.  Was it sunny or overcast?  Calm or windy?  What was the time of year?  What kind of fish were they fishing for?  Some fish are very quick to respond.  Some fish, especially the older, larger, ones had learned the fishermen’s tricks and were more wary and elusive.  When Jesus said to them that they would be fishers of men He spoke in a language they understood.

How does this apply to you? To your church?  Well, what are the trends in your community?  What kinds of people are moving into your neighborhood?  What are the challenges they face?  What are their aspirations?  We live in the South and in many of our communities there remains a strong residual of the Christian faith within our culture. But folks who live in Asheville, Raleigh and Charlotte face unique situations that those of us in the Outer Banks, midlands, lowcountry or upstate do not face (and vice-versa). Good fishermen know how to read their environment. They know what bait the fish are hitting on.  They are aware of their presentation.

Friends, Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples.  Are you going where the “fish” are, or are you waiting for them to come to you?