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June 22, 2018

As I hope you know, both Rev. Kelly and I try to avoid falling into the trap of "chasing headlines" in our preaching and writing.

But like many of you, I've watched and listened in horror this past week as more and more details emerge about our government's family-separation policy. And I feel an obligation to address this.

Frankly -- and at risk of sounding selfish -- with this Sunday being my last Sunday before starting a three-month sabbatical, I'd have preferred to think and write about something else this week. 

  • I would prefer to be writing one of my normal previews of Sunday'supcoming lessons -- especially since coincidentally, the David and Goliath story, which I wrote a whole book about, happens to be the Old Testament lesson!

  • I would rather write about how inspiring last week's Glennon Doyle event was and thank, in detail, all our volunteers.

  • I'd rather be writing a reflection on how wonderful last Sunday's Children and Youth Sunday was, and how say more about how touched Nina was at the thoughtful farewell gifts.

But. But there is government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded child abuse taking place at the borders of our country -- child abuse which our United States Attorney General -- the head of our United States Department of Justice and the chief lawyer of the United States Government -- tried to justify by quoting the Bible.According to The Wall Street Journal,

"Mr. Sessions, a devout Methodist, later quoted the Bible to defend the move, saying, 'I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.' It was a passage critics said had been used to defend immoral policies throughout history."

I do realize it's difficult to say anything new or different about this. I assume you've already been following the story closely, have read a lot already, and already know plenty of ways to act. But if you don't -- if you're looking for strong stances taken by fellow Episcopalians and other faith leaders, or if you're looking for concrete suggestions on how to act, I would draw your attention to:

  • This statement from Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church;

  • This statement from Randy Hollerith, the Dean of the Washington Cathedral, titled, "Scripture does not justify separating undocumented families;"

  • This message from my friend and clergy colleague Chuck Treadwell, the Rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, who recommends taking action in three ways: 1) contact leaders, 2) pray unceasingly, and 3) live the Christian life. Chuck's article contains, in turn, several links to the Presiding Bishop's statement, statements of other Christian leaders, and to the Episcopal Public Policy Network's Take Action Page.

  • And finally, here is a thought-provoking article about how the language being used to justify these policies is classic language of domestic violence.

What I want to add today are these three points:  

ONE: this matter is NOT over. This government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded, theologically-rationalized child abuse still continues, despite Wednesday'schaotic, political panic-attack attempt at an Executive-Order reversal.

It's not over because there has not been a change in heart at the White House.There will not be such a change of heart as long as the likely architect of these policies, Steve Miller -- as in Steve "the powers of the President to protect our Country are very substantial and will not be questioned" Miller -- remains in his taxpayer-funded position. (For more on him and that, see this Wall Street Journal video.

TWO: this is NOT a partisan issue. It is NOT a conservative or liberal issue. This is a moral issue. (e.g., "Trump officials are defending the policy as a deterrent to illegal entry, but surely they understand that separating parents from children is morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable." (Wall Street Journal Editorial, June 18th, 2018). 

It's a moral issue because there's a frightening tendency of this administration to engage in demagoguery, and to dehumanize the "other" -- especially refugees and immigrants. 

The President's choice of words matter. When he uses phrases like immigrants will "infest our Country," I don't know what's worse: that he is unaware of the "Germany's Third Reich" echo those words have -- or that he's aware, and saying those things anyway

THREE: precisely because words do matter -- we should take heart. 

There is plenty we can say, and more importantly, do. Perhaps serendipitously, I'm spending part of my sabbatical picking up where I left off in 2005 during my last sabbatical, and that's writing a work of historical fiction on four martyrs, one of whom is the Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  As I've written before, Bonhoeffer outlines three ways Christians ought to respond to state-sponsored evil. (You can read more about that here.) 

Please know that both Kelly and I will continue to write, teach, and yes, preach about our Gospel imperative to welcome the stranger. That's because it is impossible to keep our Baptismal Covenant promises and also stand silently by in the face of thinly disguised xenophobia and the scapegoating and cruel treatment of immigrants. 

As Elie Wiesel said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize,  

"And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."

See you Sunday,  John

Updated: Jun 20, 2018

June 15, 2018

Reminder, this Sunday (June 17th) is our first* combined 10:00 amservice of the summer -- to be held in the Main Sanctuary.

Sunday is not only our annual "Children & Youth Sunday" but is also the Sunday we will honor and celebrate Nina Bacas' ministry among us and bid her farewell.

All along in her years of ministry here, Nina's approach to faith formation has involved engaging the imagination of our young people, supporting their unique God-given gifts, and incorporating them into all aspects of our faith community. In her programs, children and youth are valued theologians and active agents in our parish.

Sunday's service, with children and youth taking most of the leadership/presiding roles, reflects that full engagement and involvement.

In addition to honoring those who have served as volunteers in our congregation the past program year, we will recognize our graduates. Also, special presentations and gifts will be given to Nina during announcement time.

And, there is an ice-cream social as part of our coffee hour, following the service!

See you Sunday, 


*We continue our 10:00 combined summer worship service schedule (in the Historic Church) through Labor Day weekend (September 2).

Updated: Jun 20, 2018

June 8, 2018

Dear Friend of The Falls Church Episcopal,  There's almost always "a lot going on" at The Falls Church Episcopal. But wow, even by our normal "a lot going on" year-round standards, there's so much going on now that we thought we'd provide a bit of an "executive summary" (details in links and in other blurbs below). 

  • As announced May 25th, on Monday (June 2), we welcomed Heather Starek as our new Parish Administrator and Nikki Baltatzis as our new Financial Administrator! 

  • As announced May 21st, This upcoming Wednesday AND Thursday (June 13 & 14), Glennon Doyle -- the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Love Warrior, a 2016 Oprah's Book Club selection, as well as the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior -- and her nonprofit Together Rising, will 

    • come together to celebrate Love, Freedom, Sisterhoodas 

    • Amanda Doyle, who attends The Falls Church Episcopal and is Vice President, General Counsel and a member of the Together Rising Board of Directors, will be interviewing Glennon for this very special event, which will take place in the Main Sanctuary to two sold-out events, and, 

    • we are THRILLED TO ANNOUNCE TODAY, as is their practice, Glennon and Together Rising will give back to the local community by donating $10,000 to our partner in ministry Homestretch

  • Today we are thrilled to announce that after five straight months of design and writing and development, we are launching our new website! Please take a look, and please thank parishioner Casie Disantis, who has put countless hours into this effort. 

  • Next Sunday (June 17th), as we announced March 15th, we will

    • honor and celebrate Nina Bacas' ministry among usand bid her farewell, ever-so-appropriately at our

    • Annual "Children and Youth" Sunday, at which 

    • Nina will be the preacher, and which 

    • is our first combined 10:00 service of the summer (to be held in the Main Sanctuary) and after which is 

    • an ice-cream social further honoring and thanking Nina.

  • As announced April 20th, plans are underway for a year-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of our Historic Church -- and of finding ways we can not only celebrate that occasion, but continue to be good news to the wider  Falls Church community. This effort is led by parishioners Cleve Johnson, Elizabeth Scarborough, and Tom Kearns

  • As announced May 25th, plans have fallen into place for me to be able to take sabbatical, starting in July.

  • As announced nearly every week, and updated again today BELOW, teams of parishioners, ably led by Rev. Kelly and with professional consulting help from Ministry Architects, are right on target in identifying and recruiting candidates for a Director of Children and Family Ministries and a Director of Youth Ministries.  

  • As you've been hearing from different parishioners each Sunday the last four Sundays, we're plugging our all-parish retreat at Shrine Mont early this year, We are nearly half full on registrations so please get yours in soon. 


That's a lot. In order to answer any questions you may have, or to get more information, and to address any concerns, please know that this Sunday (June 10th), our last "regular program year" Sunday, we're dedicating our Adult Forum hour (10:20 am to 11:00 am) to an informational communication session. I'll be joined by Rev. Kelly and your Junior Warden Maury Wray for this open forum Q&A communication session. I hope to see many of you there. You can also email me with any questions, comments, or concerns. 

Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine! 

Glennon and Amanda Doyle, Together Rising
Glennon Doyle & Amanda Doyle

See you Sunday,  John

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