The holidays are not so easy for everyone. It seems all around you, others are having fun, enjoying family and friends, and celebrating. For many, this pressure to have fun and enjoy the holidays only compounds their sense of isolation and loneliness. As a church, it is critically important that while we celebrate this Advent season, we also minister to those for whom this is a difficult time of year.
Many families are marking the passing of a beloved family member or lamenting the rupture of a lost relationship. The Christmas season is marked by ritual. While these rituals bring us comfort, losses experienced many months or even years ago take on new significance when viewed through these changed rituals. How do we recognize these losses and provide a safe way to mourn in this time of Christmas cheer?
This is an important service for our church, both in the sense of a liturgical happening and a ministry. If you would like to offer a service, here are a few resources to get started:
- The Episcopal Cafe posted an article on Blue Christmas that continues to provide conversation each year at this time.
- Our Resources section includes several orders of service for Dark/Blue Christmas.
- Episcopal Church Foundation: Blue Christmas
- Blue Christmas Service, Grace Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC
- Blue Christmas Worship Service, St. Alban's Episcopal Church
- Blue Christmas Service, All Saints', Atlanta, GA
Please let us know in the comments below how your parish is supporting those who grieve during the holidays.
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever
of life is over, and our work is done. In your mercy, grant us a safe
lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.
Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence Renews Call for Background Checks for All Gun Sales
Washington, DC — A year after the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, national religious leaders sent a letter today to Congress, calling for urgent action to respond to the gun violence crisis in our country. The letter, signed by 54 national religious leaders** representing over 80 million Americans, includes an enormous breadth of faith traditions including United Methodists, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, Sojourners, the Islamic Society of North America, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and dozens more.
“Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence strongly urges Congress to act today on reasonable measures to save lives,” said Very Rev. Dean Gary Hall, Chair of Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence and Dean of Washington National Cathedral. “Our organization brings together over 50 prominent national faith denominations and organizations committed to reducing gun violence. America’s faith community firmly believes that background checks on all guns sales is a common-sense, proven measure that will help save lives.”
Vincent DeMarco, National Coordinator of Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence, went into further detail as to why background checks on all guns sales will have an immediate impact. “Individuals can currently buy guns at gun shows or on the Internet without background checks. In states that require background checks on all sales, gun trafficking is 48 percent lower and the rate at which women are killed with a gun by an intimate partner is 38 percent lower. ”
“We need this policy nationwide, and you can see that the faith community – which represents tens of millions of members across the country – wants real policy change.”
The letter encourages Members of Congress to support the bipartisan background checks legislation that a majority of the Senate voted for this past April sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey that would have helped keep guns out of the wrong hands by extending background checks to cover private gun sales in commercial settings. Currently, corresponding legislation in the U.S. House, sponsored by Congressmen Peter King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), has more than 185 co-sponsors and the letter encourages House members to join their colleagues’ leadership and sign on as co-sponsors.
Last March many of these same faith leaders joined together and spoke out against gun violence, demanding action from Congress. You can see the video here:
**Episcopal representatives signing the letter:
- Bishop Mark Beckwith of The Episcopal Diocese of Newark
- Matthew Ellis of National Episcopal Health Ministries
- Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral
- The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings - President of the House of Deputies
About Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence
On Martin Luther King Day, January 17, 2011, 24 national faith groups announced the formation of “Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence,” a diverse coalition of denominations and faith-based organizations united by the call of our faiths to confront America’s gun violence epidemic and to rally support for policies that reduce death and injury from gunfire. Three years later, we have grown to over 50 groups representing tens of millions of Americans in faith communities across the nation – and our call to confront this epidemic has grown ever more urgent and imperative. Learn more at: www.faithsagainstgunviolence.org.
Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:
15 Ways To Simplify Your Morning Routine And Have A Great Morning via Lifehack
Have distraction-free breakfast. Create a weather-ready area in your hallway.
Teens Who Feel Supported At Home And School Sleep Better via NPR
A teen's relationship — or lack of good relationship — with parents, pals, or teachers may have a lot to do with why most kids aren't getting the 9 to 10 hours of sleep that doctors recommend.
Three live Advent services offered by Episcopal Church via Episcopal Digital Network
Three beloved Advent services will be presented live by the Episcopal Church Office of Communication. The live webcasts can be accessed on the website of the Episcopal Church.
These Days, School Lunch Hours Are More Like 15 Minutes via NPR
The school lunch hour in America is a long-gone relic. At many public schools today, kids are lucky to get more than 15 minutes to eat. Some get even less time. And parents and administrators are concerned that a lack of time to eat is unhealthful, especially given that about one-third of American kids are overweight or obese.
Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!
This week I had the opportunity to make a presentation encouraging community development professionals to consider new ways of including churches in their community planning. Outside of the obvious suggestions to hold community meetings, support groups, etc. in church facilities, we had an interesting discussion about 'collision spaces'.
What are 'collision spaces'?
Collision spaces as defined by Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, involves “forcing more collaboration through collisions [seemingly random interactions].” Hsieh believes that "it's really important for people from all different backgrounds and industries to collide and talk to each other. That's where a lot of the great ideas come from."
In the context of an intersection of faith and community development, we talked about using collision centers as a way to build empathy. Why might a community developer wish to build empathy? For example, in an automobile-based city like Indianapolis, many people might not have a need for a robust public transportation system. However, if they regularly come into contact with those who do, they might be more likely to put themselves in others' shoes and recognize the community's need, even if it doesn't seem to be personally important.
Faith communities have an obvious interest in promoting empathy for each other. If community developers are building empathy directly or indirectly by encouraging these 'collision centers' (whether they are coffee shops, benches, or reclaimed lots), then faith communities will have new opportunities to take part in the life of their community.
Of course, these collision spaces already exist; we do not have to wait for new ones to be developed. Where are the collision spaces in your community? Are you present there? How might you rethink your involvement in these spaces to minister to others effectively?
Ever wonder about the history of Thanksgiving and how exactly those candied yams became included on the annual menu? LiveScience has an interesting article on the evolution of the Thanksgiving menu. It's an interesting read in general as we prepare for this Thanksgiving holiday.
As for the candied yams? LiveScience tells us more:
"Sweet potatoes were one of the many root crops that were a staple in the West Indies," where enslaved Africans were pressed into service on sugarcane plantations, Twitty told LiveScience.
Slaves were given small plots of land unfit for sugarcane production on which to grow food to feed themselves, Twitty said. Some of these slaves worked as sugar-boiling men, who took harvested sugarcane and boiled it down into molasses to make rum. These men would take a cast-iron dish of sweet potatoes to the boiling house and spoon ladles of the molten sugar over the dish. The boiling sugar was so hot it cooked the potatoes as it cooled.
"If you think about one of our favorite dishes at Thanksgiving — candied yams — that started out as food for slaves," Twitty said. (Sweet potatoes are often called yams, but they're actually different plants.)