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11.18.20 Faithful Conflict

A Message By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

So far, I have spent 20 hours on Zoom this week doing the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center's Mediation Skills Training Institute. Twenty hours down, 20 hours to go. I've been joined by seven other clergy from our diocese as we learn the LMPC process for working through conflict between individuals, congregations, and clergy.

The goal of mediation is transformative: it can transform relationships and bring about actual healing.

 

When you read the Acts of the Apostles or most of Paul's epistles, it is clear that conflict has been a part of the Church for as long as there have been followers of Jesus. Setting aside the conflicts that Jesus had with people who were not following him, during Jesus' earthly ministry, you see conflict between Jesus and Peter; between Jesus as the mother of James and John; between Thomas and other disciples.

 

We disagree. And when acting faithfully, we seek understanding, we seek healing, we offer forgiveness, and we change our behavior and repent when we have harmed others. Sometimes that seems like an impossible task.

 

What conflicts have you seen during your church life? How were they resolved--or not?

 

In my life and ministry, I have experienced forgiveness, reconciliation, and the holy balm of healing in conflicts at church. I've also experienced hard hearts, breaking of relationships, and cycles of ever-greater hurt and wounding. My prayer is that by having more leaders in our diocese with the skills to move from conflict to reconciliation we will more often succeed in following Jesus faithfully.



11.12.20 COVID Updates

A Message By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

My heart sank when I saw the new cases of COVID-19 in Arizona on Tuesday morning. 3,434 cases in a single day. One more notch in making the curve of new cases increase. Looking at the epi-curve of case counts in Arizona, we are now in the same place we were in mid-June.

 

AZDHS COVID-19_Cases_by_Day

 

Our churches are in a different place than they were in mid-June. We were firmly in Phase I then, and our public worship was all online. Now many of our congregations are gathering for in-person worship under the Phase II guidelines. Some congregations, noting the rise in cases, are choosing to transition back to online worship. Others are continuing in person under the Phase II guidelines.

 

It is not my intention to pull us back to Phase I as a diocese unless the State of Arizona restricts public gatherings again, or we begin to see that our churches are sites for virus transmission. If either of those occur, it is possible we might move back to Phase I. I want to remind you, however, that because Phase I now includes outdoor worship, even if we were forced to move back to Phase I, our congregations could still continue to worship together outdoors.

 

It is not necessarily safe to continue as we are. I encourage all of our congregations to move their worship outdoors if at all possible. That is the safest option for worship.

 

If that is not possible, abbreviate your services indoors. Limit the amount of time the congregation spends inside, and ventilate your space as much as possible.

 

And pay attention to the case counts in your county. Right now, Graham, Coconino, and Gila counties have much higher rates of the virus than most other counties. Congregations in those counties in particular may find it wise to move outdoors or online again.

 

Wear a mask. Love your neighbor. Limit your activities. Pray for an effective vaccine that is available to all as soon as possible. This will end, but it will not be soon, and we value the lives of our members and our communities, our health care workers, and those who are most vulnerable to this virus.


11.4.20 Standing on the Threshold

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona


Shortly before my ordination to the priesthood, the Diocese of Los Angeles held a pre-ordination retreat for the eight ordinands, led by the Rev. Malcom Boyd of Are You Running With Me, Jesus? fame.

He began by identifying our present moment as a liminal time; we were at the doorway, ready to step forward into a new identity of priest. What was it like to be able to look forward and back from the doorway? We could see our prior lives, and we could, in some sense, see our future life, but we had not yet taken that final step over the threshold.

 

For seven of us that weekend, the threshold of priesthood was our most consequential journey.

 

But the eighth was dying of cancer. Malcom hadn't known that prior to the retreat, and I remember the ordinand gently explaining, "I am also in a liminal time. But the doorway I am in is not the same doorway that you're talking about. The doorway to priesthood isn't nearly as dominant for me as the doorway to death."

 

At this moment, we Americans are in a liminal space. We are on a threshold--but we do not yet know what path lies on the other side of the doorway.

 

And like my retreat with the ordinands, I recognize that there may be multiple thresholds. What is dominant and urgent for some may be the opposite for others.

 

What do you see across the threshold upon which you stand?

 

So we wait. Liminal spaces are rarely comfortable; I know that I had to be very deliberate last night and this morning about taking care of my body and soul. I ate (mostly) healthily; I got up this morning and walked while the sun rose; I said Morning Prayer and listened for God's voice in the biblical readings.

 

There is a reason that spiritual practices are like athletic training: we practice and practice during normal times, so that when we encounter obstacles we have the stamina to persevere and be resilient. I pray that whatever your spiritual practices and grounding are, you may draw strength from them in the coming days and weeks.

 

National liminal spaces are important, but they are not THE liminal space for Christians: "I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." (John 10:9) Jesus is our ultimate threshold; the one who ushers us into eternal life; the one in whom earth and heaven meet; the one who unifies, saves, protects, purifies, absolves, and heals.

 

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)




10.28.20 Gethsemane

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

 

"Then he said to them, 'I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.'" --Matthew 26:38

 

--Siento en mi alma una tristeza de muerte. Quédense ustedes aquí, y permanezcan despiertos conmigo. (San Mateo 26:38)

 

Content Warning: Suicide


 

At Gethsemane, Jesus prays but does not hear the comforting voice of God in response. Then he finds his friends asleep, he is about to be betrayed and sees no path forward but the cup of crucifixion that will meet him in the morning. It is truly a dark night of the soul, and an image that comes back to me again and again when I think about what it means to feel hopeless.

 

Resurrection will triumph over death; God will redeem humanity through this sacrificial act on the cross. But that night at Gethsemane it is impossible to see a hopeful path forward.

 

This week's House of Bishops call focused on the increased rates of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide that are occurring during the pandemic. There is a substantial list of mental health resources on the Episcopal Church's website, which I invite you to explore.

 

They offered suicide prevention training to bishops and are expanding the training to other clergy and lay leaders. I will be working to ensure our clergy have access to the training they recommend.

 

Arizona has the 16th highest suicide rate of the 50 states. The leaders of the call particularly highlighted that right now those whose rates for suicide seem to be increasing most are two groups that include many members of our Arizona churches: residents of rural communities and people of color.

 

There is help available. We are not a people without hope. But also: there is no shame in feeling hopeless. There is no shame in depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness. There is no shame in being overwhelmed by the combined stress of the pandemic, the election, racism, work, or financial insecurity.

 

If you are finding yourself in a Gethsemane of your own, call a friend, a clergyperson, or a family member. The Arizona Crisis Line through Crisis Response Network is available 24/7 at 602-222-9444 in English and Spanish; their "warm line," which offers peer-to-peer conversation is 602-347-1100. If you observe a friend or someone you know acting like they are at rock bottom, don't wait for them to reach out to you--reach out to them. Speak honestly about your love and concern for them. God will supply the words if you don't know what to say.

 

I pray for comfort and healing for all who are suffering right now.


 

10.7.20 Prayers for an Election

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, page 822, "For an Election.")

 

The last ten days have been exhausting. As a friend commented, this year there is "Not just an October surprise but an Advent calendar of October surprises where a new door opens every day."

When I am overwhelmed, I turn to prayer.

 

I pray for our nation; I pray for our President; I pray for candidates at every level of office; I pray for all who have suffered and died from COVID-19, both the mighty and the lowly; I pray for every citizen to be able to freely cast their ballot as an expression of their values and hopes for the future of our nation.

 

I also pray for myself: that in my own heart I may consistently follow the way of Jesus. That I may continue to listen to others with curiosity and respect. That I may not give in to the temptation to be silent to avoid conflict. That I may demonstrate, both inwardly and outwardly, that I believe that every human being is a child of God, even those with whom I disagree, and even those who wish me harm.

 

I pray that just as I desire our nation to examine our history and our practices to seek out imperfection so that we may correct what is wrong and move forward in justice and reconciliation, so I will be willing to do that work in my own soul. Where I am in error may I correct the error and move forward with humility.

 

A few weeks ago I invited you to join me in reading, studying, and praying with Romans 12. I continue to do so: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:9-10)

May St. Paul's words guide us in the weeks and months ahead.

 

9.30.20 Indigenous People's Day

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

Last year, our Diocesan Convention passed Resolution 2019-4 authorizing the observance of Indigenous People's Day on the second Monday of October. You can find the appointed readings for that observance, as well as additional liturgical resources from our Council for Native American Ministry, on the ministry webpage.

 

I am also grateful to Governor Doug Ducey for his similar proclamation last week.

Listening intentionally to indigenous stories and indigenous voices is something we have often failed to do as a culture and a church, even in our anti-racism work. Those of us who are not Native American may find that our beliefs about Native culture are shaped more by elementary history textbooks and old Western movies than by actual Native Americans.

 

So in addition to your prayers on October 12, I invite clergy and lay members of our diocese to join me for a second round of the Bishop's Book Club on Thursdays from 5:00-6:00 p.m., October 22-November 12. We will be reading Kaitlin B. Curtice's Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God. The book is a memoir of Curtice's experience of reclaiming her heritage as a citizen of the Potawatomi nation and a Christian. Her poetry and use of Potawatomi flood stories make the book sing, and encourages us to reflect upon our own origin stories. Visit the event registration page to join the Book Club.

 

I will close with a prayer from the resources gathered by our Council for Native American Ministry:

Jesus Christ, our leader, you are the Son of the Creator. Today we became your children today we became your grandchildren. We will live as you have taught us. We will follow your commandments. Watch over us. Speak to us from the trees, from the grass and herbs, from the breeze, from the passing rain, from the passing thunder and the deep waters. Before us there is beauty, behind us there is beauty. Allow us to walk a long life in happiness completed in beauty. Amen. (From the Liturgy of St. John's, Red Lake, MN).

 

9.29.20

 

9.23.20 Stuff To Read

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

Part of the role of the theologian is to point to other theologians who are smarter, more astute, more experienced, or more articulate than we are ourselves. To that end, here are a few resources that have been sustaining and provoking me this week, all on topics surrounding the church's role in issues of the day. I invite you to join me in reflecting on them.

 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave a "Word to the Church" last week that brought with it links to several "Election Season Resources" for inspiring courageous and healing conversations around issues that divide some of our congregations. You can watch the video and connect to the resources. Bishop Curry preaches, in part, "I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, because I believe he has shown us that better way. I believe that the way of unselfish sacrificial love can show us the way of repentance, the way to repair the breach. The way of reconciliation that ultimately can lead us to the beloved community, but it's not easy. And this is long distance work. There are no quick fixes because the wounds are so deep, but we need not feel enslaved by fate. We are not people of fate. We are people of faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing can defeat God or stop God's cause of love. The way will not be easy, but we can do this."

 

Another resource I found helpful this week was a 2019 blog post by the Rev. Fleming Rutledge ruminating on her theology around abortion. Mother Rutledge is a widely recognized preacher and author who often comes from a more conservative position than I find myself in--but from whom I always receive grace and learning and challenge.

 

Finally, a third resource is a reflection on "The Episcopal Church's Lost Causism" by the "Crusty Old Dean," aka the Rev. Dr. Tom Ferguson. His well-researched blog on the history of the Episcopal Church during and after the Civil War helped correct some of the misinformation I have absorbed during my time in the church.

 

9.16.20 The Three Best Gifts You Can Leave Behind

By The Rev. Canon Timothy M. Dombek, Canon for Stewardship and Planned Giving

 

In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, there is a rubric sometimes humorously referred to as "the invisible rubric." How so?

First, the rubric from page 445 in the BCP:

The Minister of the Congregation is directed to instruct the people, from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well-being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.

The label "invisible rubric" comes from the fact that it appears at the end of a little-used service in the prayer book: A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child. I do not recall ever having done this liturgy in a church--or a private home, for that matter. Furthermore, I doubt few, if any, clergy know of this rubric's existence because of its unexpected location. Regardless of how the rubric got there, this vital directive should not be considered "invisible" nor ignored. It offers such wise and sage advice that no one should dismiss or take lightly

.

Everyone Needs a Will

Why? For several reasons, depending on your situation, with family, etc. Deborah Fowler of The Balance personal finance website, asks:

"...do you have a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your property after your death? ... The answer is a resounding "yes" if you answer "yes" to any of the questions below:

Do you care who gets your property if you die?

Do you care who gets your money if you die?

Do you care who is appointed the guardian of your minor children if you die?

Fowler continues, "Wills are not just for the rich and wealthy. Regardless of how much or how little money you have, a will ensures your wishes are heard. It states that whatever personal belongings and assets you have will go to family or the beneficiaries you name or designate." You can read the whole article.

 

Planning Your Funeral or Memorial Service

Some people do not like to think about such things as one's death or planning one's funeral or memorial service, yet as people of faith--as Easter people who believe in the resurrection--we have nothing to fear about death. Plus, we must think about these things when we are in good health, sound mind, and in a prayerful spirit.

 

Recognizing that we don't have all the time in the world to do all the things on our "bucket list," it is vital to recall that life is short. So, "choose wisely" how to spend your days. Part of making a wise choice is to decide these matters now, and not leave them unattended to for those who follow us. You cannot imagine the things that could happen if you don't state what you want to happen.

When I was rector of a parish in Upper South Carolina, I once had four siblings in my office to plan their mother's funeral--she had died the day before. Some heated bickering started over what hymns each one wanted and whether to have communion or not--I thought punches were about to be thrown--so I said, "Stop!" Holding up their mother's pre-planned service that she put on file in the parish office, I said, "This is what your mother planned and wants; she's done it all in advance." The tension in the room vanished--"Well, if that's what Mom wants, then..." "Yeah," I said, "and what's on this form is what we're going to do for her and for you. What she wanted." And that is what we did, much to their relief.

 

Planning your funeral service is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your children, your heirs, or whomever you chose as a personal representative for your final plans. Do not leave your funeral for your children or other designees to plan. You plan it for them (and yourself) and let them know where a copy of it is--the original, preferably in the church office--and tell them this is what you want to happen. They will be relieved to hear that you have done this. Seriously.

Until COVID-19, we regularly held Memorial Service planning sessions at Advent Episcopal Church (Sun City West) for our members, and never failed to have ten to twelve persons come. We looked at the lessons together, played music from YouTube to help pick people's favorite hymns--you can find nearly all hymn tunes on YouTube--and we made a fun afternoon of it. It is a pastoral thing to offer, and people took it that way.

 

Leaving a Bequest to Your Church

 

Lastly, the rubric admonishes members of the congregation to consider generosity outside their immediate family by "...not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses." Most clergy hesitate to say this, so I will: Please consider leaving a bequest to your church's bequest fund or its endowment. A friend of mine in the fundraising profession likes to say:

"When your will is read, what will your children and grandchildren learn about your faith and your values?"

 

In your last Will and Testament, you have the power to speak and act from beyond the grave. Therefore, some people include a brief faith statement at the beginning of their wills and then demonstrate to their heirs that the first gift of their worldly goods goes to their church, in thanksgiving to God who provided the means to acquire their material possessions. What a beautiful example to set for our children and grandchildren.

 

While any financial gift to one's parish is much appreciated, and sometimes desperately needed, a gift designated to the parish endowment ensures the donation itself will never be spent, only its earnings. And with proper management, that money will grow by appreciation, or by reinvestment of earnings if those earnings go unneeded in a given year.

 

Parish endowments are a wonderful thing. Endowments and bequest funds can keep a church in tip-top shape through careful distribution of resources for the upkeep of the facilities, thereby at times relieving an often-unexpected crushing budgetary expense. Ask your priest or treasurer how to title a gift for your parish's endowment appropriately.

 

In Summary

 

Once again, the three best gifts you can leave behind:

 

Everyone needs a will; regardless of how much or how little money you have, a will ensures your wishes are heard. Get a will drawn up and witnessed by a disinterested person.

Do not leave your funeral for your children or other designees to plan--you plan it for them, and yourself. Leave it on file at the church office.

Consider leaving a bequest to your church's bequest fund or its endowment:

"When your will is read, what will your children and grandchildren learn about your faith and your values?"

And one last time, the rubric:

 

The Minister of the Congregation is directed to instruct the people, from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well-being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.

BCP, p. 445.

May this be not the only time you hear this from a clergy person, but for now, consider yourselves "instructed."

 

Let us pray.

Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"For the Right Use of God's Gifts," BCP, p. 827.

 

9.9.20 School Day

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

This morning, I dropped my son off at school for the first time since March.

I'm not too nervous. We are privileged to have all the advantages of a great Episcopal School with small classes, abundant space, and a clear and public plan for how they are keeping students and staff safe from COVID-19. There is an option for online learning for those who feel more comfortable staying home, and the technology to make that learning possible.

 

But my nerves aren't totally steady. We are participating in an experiment, along with many other families, in finding the right balance between the dual goods of safety and face-to-face learning. There is no single right answer, no single right solution for every individual; and there are so many limitations on capacity, finances, and technology.

 

So, I pray. For parents, students, and teachers. I pray that the precautions schools are taking for face-to-face learning are sufficient to keep everyone safe. I pray for greater charity and support between those who make different choices for their children's learning. I pray especially for those who do not have access to the resources they need to teach or learn safely.

 

Please pray with me.

Loving God, we commend those who teach and those who learn to your loving care. Grant school administrators wisdom to guard the safety of all who work and learn in their schools. Bless teachers and students and parents with patience for one another and for themselves; let them find moments of flourishing in the midst of struggle and technology. And may we all come to see you as the source of all truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

September 2, 2020, Finding Hope in History

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

Last Sunday, I visited St. John's (Bisbee) and St. Stephen's (Douglas). Knowing that these congregations are both over 100 years old, I asked the current Vicar, the Rev. John Caleb Collins, to get out whatever parish record books the congregations had from 1917-18.

I wanted to see what stories those record books would tell about the Spanish Flu epidemic. In Bisbee, he found the baptismal record book. Baptisms appear to have stopped for about two years beginning in early 1918. Perhaps there was a change of vicars? Perhaps the person who was good at keeping records moved on?

Epistle 090220-1

 

St. Stephen's told a clearer story. The Vicar found the burial register for the congregations, which notes the first death from "Spanish Influenza" on October 25, 1917. And then deaths accelerated until between November 22 and December 13 when there were 13 deaths, only one of which was from something other than the flu. Once again, the record-keeping stops in 1918 and doesn't pick up again until 1919.

Epistle 090220-2

 

It was both heartbreaking and hope-giving to see these records. Heartbreaking to see how the flu pandemic of 1917-18 must-have decimated these mining towns. I wish they had written in a note about why they stopped keeping records: did the churches close completely? Did the clergy die?

 

But it also gave me hope. St. John's and St. Stephen's (and a few of our other congregations) endured through that pandemic, and are still with us over 100 years later.

 

What will your parish record books say about 2020? We aren't counting worship attendance by clicks and views, but do make sure to record something in those books to indicate what is going on in your congregation. "Moved to online worship March 22, resumed limited in-person worship September 13" or whatever is applicable. This is a (hopefully) unique year that future generations will want to see through our eyes.

 

In another form of storytelling, a reminder that we are asking every congregation to submit 2-4 minutes of raw video for #AZEpiscopal2020. We are going to make a unified, 20-minute video of what life has looked like around our diocese this year to share the story with one another and with those who come after us. The deadline for submissions is next Monday, September 7.


August 26, 2020, Scripture In trying Times

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

While I was writing this Sunday's sermon for my visitation to St. John's (Bisbee) and St. Stephen's (Douglas), I found myself writing the sentence, "If I could encourage every member of our Diocese to read a single passage of scripture every day from now until November 3 -- and beyond -- it would be this week's passage from Paul's Epistle to the Romans."

 

And then it occurred to me that I could actually invite you to join me in this.

 

Romans 12:9-21 is a guide to living in the community in trying times of division, persecution, and political instability. Paul preaches that we are to ground ourselves in love, love for one another and love for God. He instructs us to sacrifice, to hospitality, and to prayer. We are to live peaceably with all when it is possible, but Paul acknowledges that it is not always within our control to live peaceably. Paul does not accept that evil, injustice, or wrong are to be tolerated; but nor does he instruct us to match evil with evil.

 

I invite you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest with me. Perhaps you might use the passage for lectio divina, or more study.

 

Where do you see yourself in this passage? Where do you see those with whom you disagree? What in this passage challenges you? What will bring you closer to Jesus, in thought, word, and deed?

 

With whom are you called to weep today? With whom are you called to rejoice?

 

What is noble in the sight of all?

 

Against whom do you desire vengeance? What would it look like to leave vengeance to God? Where might you meet an enemy with kindness as a means not of capitulating to evil but of overcoming it?

 

The holy scripture is going to keep speaking to us through the lectionary in this election cycle, and it does not speak into a void. It speaks, lovingly, into a world in need of truth, of courage, and of justice.

 

Romans 12:9-21

 

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


August 19, 2020, Our FragileEarth, Our Island Home

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

I grew up not liking Eucharistic Prayer C, colloquially known as the "Star Wars Prayer" (I think it would be better known as the "Star Trek Prayer" given its focus on the wonder of space rather than conflict in space, but that's another Epistle). Prayer C has grown on me over the years of my priesthood. I now appreciate much more its intent: set God's reign in the context not just of our planet and culture, but within our expanded knowledge of the immensity of the cosmos. And if it sounds like it was written in the 1970s... well, it was, so that is honest. Perhaps a future Eucharistic prayer will more timelessly incorporate these ideas, but for now, it is what we have.

 

Prayer C contains the memorable line: "At your command, all things came to be: the vast expanses of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile Earth, our island home." The final phrase is the theme of the Province VIII and VI Deacons Conference, which is taking place Thursday and Friday of this week. Originally planned to take place in Phoenix, it has -- along with all things these days -- moved online. Deacons and others from around the country will be gathering to hear from Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and Christian, and other leaders about how to better care for our earth; and how to better understand the theological relationships between creator and created; and between humans and the rest of creation.

 

I am so grateful to the Planning Committee, especially the Arizona members, who have put their heart and soul into planning this conference.

 

Keep our deacons and all those participating in the Conference this week in your prayers. And while you pray for them, say a prayer for our Earth. Pray for seasonable weather -- especially, here in our Diocese, for rain. Pray for those places suffering from fires and their aftermath. And pray that we may find ways of living more gently and lovingly upon the planet our God placed us upon.



July 29, 2020, Updated Gathering for Abundant Life Guidelines

By the Rt. Rev. Jennifer A Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

We promised when we published the Gathering for Abundant Life guidelines that we would update them as we received new information and learned more about COVID-19. In that spirit, with greater understanding around how being outside can help mitigate the change of contracting COVID-19, we have the following update to offer for our congregations today:

Outdoor worship services for 50 people or less can begin when:

 

Your congregation has a diocesan-approved Phase II plan and agree to follow all your Phase II procedures (masks, distancing, etc.) for outdoor worship.

 

Hospital capacity decreases so that there is 30% capacity in inpatient beds (i.e., 70-% of beds are full). Currently, there is 19% capacity in inpatient beds; we will notify the diocese when the threshold is reached. You can look up these statistics at www.azdhs.gov.

 

For indoor services, we will still plan to enter Phase II county by county looking for a decline in both case counts and per capita rates, along with the other measures recommended by the CDC. Due to the current high rates of infection, it is possible that there will be a two-week decline in infection rates in a particular county, but that we will still not be prepared to enter Phase II. The task force is working on establishing fair and consistent measures and will notify all congregations by county once there is a sufficient decline to indicate that it is safe to gather indoors.


July 22, 2020, Hope and Grief 

By the Rt. Rev. Jennifer A Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

One of the unexpected hopes I've discovered in the last few months arising from the renewed national attention on racial justice has been a broad ecumenical coalition of churches standing up to take action to end racism. This Saturday, I will join with other bishops and clergy from evangelical/megachurches, Black churches, Roman Catholics, and mainline Protestants for "From Chaos and Crisis to Community in Christ: The Church addresses systemic racism through Confession, Repentance, Reconciliation, Restoration, and Commitment."

 

Pastor Warren Stewart of the First Institutional Baptist Church, which is coordinating the event, refers to this as a kairos moment--a moment of time that is God's time breaking through upon our ordinary, chronos-scheduled days. In all my years of ministry, I can count on one hand (actually, I can count on one finger) the times that I have worked with evangelical/megachurches on a justice issue. We are so often at odds with one another over real and fundamental differences in understanding what it means to follow Jesus faithfully, and what God's justice on earth looks like.

 

But this moment, this kairos moment, is bringing us together, shoulder to shoulder, to testify to our participation in and complicity with the sin of racism, and our intention to work in a unified way to bring about racial justice. I find it hopeful. And maybe this one hope will lead to other hopes for justice.

 

Tune in online on Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. to pray, witness, and commit with me and other Christians to dismantling racial injustice.

From Chaos_and_Crisis_to_Community_in_Christ_Flyer

 

One of the greatest griefs of the last few months has been our inability to gather for funerals. Whether a loved one has died of COVID-19, or from any other cause, we have been unable to gather to grieve and pray, except in very small groups, and without the usual music and ritual that help us find solace and comfort.

 

We will be hosting an online diocesan memorial service for all those who have died during the pandemic in mid to late August. Music will be provided by "virtual choirs" from around the diocese, including two pieces that are open to all Arizona Episcopalians.

 

If you would like to submit a name of a loved one who has died during the pandemic to be read during the service, you can do so to our receptionist, Serrena Addal.

 

I am grateful to the organists and choirmasters from around the diocese who are contributing their gifts and skills to this, especially Joey Ripka from All Saints' (Phoenix) and Erik Goldstrom from Trinity Cathedral (Phoenix). More information on how to participate as a musician will be sent out soon.

 

This is not a substitute for that in-person gathering that will help family and friends grieve. But it is a way to gather and focus our prayers, and encounter our sure and certain hope in the resurrection. Grief and hope together, once more.


 

July 8, 2020 Treasure

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A Reddall, Bishop of Arizona


Every so often, as your bishop, I am given an historic treasure. The most recent was at the Rev. Adrian Tubb's ordination in Holbrook 10 days ago, when the Rev. Norm Burke asked me to come out to his truck because he had something for me.

 

A sturdy black metal suitcase--it's a much larger and more substantial version of the portable communion kit that many clergy use today.

Epistle 070820-3

 

The letter accompanying it stated:

"Originally owned by Navy Chaplain Captain Don Shannon who died in action in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. His family received it and gave it to the Rev. B. Norman Burke in the Diocese of Chicago upon whose death it passed on the Rev. Norman C. Burke who used it in the development and ministry at All Saints Church, Sun City; Church of the Advent, Sun City West; St. John the Baptist, Glendale; St. Anthony's, Scottsdale; St. James, Tempe; Church of the Transfiguration, Apache Junction; St. Paul's, Payson; St. Augustine's, Tempe; Chapel Rock Conference Center, Prescott."

This is a treasure. A quick google search for the chaplain's name turned up part two of the U.S. Navy History of the Chaplain Corps, which indicates that the chaplain who originally owned this kit was Eugene R. Shannon, an Episcopal priest, who was killed in action on February 21, 1945. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

For 75 years since, this kit has been in the service of our Lord, working with two dioceses, eight Arizona congregations and our summer camp. It belongs to all of us, and has touched the lives of many, bringing Jesus to the people of God, wherever they are.

Epistle 070820-1

I am so grateful to Norm for this gift. It is a treasure. But like all gifts, this one needs to be used to be fruitful. What congregation--what possible church plant--what dislocated community needs it now? Who hopes to be worshiping in a park or outdoors and needs a little altar and cross?

If your congregation would make good use of this--especially if you're a congregation that has not yet used it--please let me know, and I will loan it out to you so that it can continue to serve the people of God.

 

July 1, 2020 Being the Body of Christ When We Cannot Receive the Body of Christ

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the bread and wine. I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

 

Celebrant: While we long to receive the sacrament of Christ's Body,

People: We become the sacrament of Christ's Body.

Celebrant: Let your lives be manna to feed our hunger for communion.

People: The love we share becomes bread for the world.

--Taken from worship services at All Saints, Frederick, MD

 

On July 1, it will be exactly four months since the last time I celebrated the Eucharist. It will be three and a half months since the last time I received the Eucharist.

There's never been such a period of sacramental absence in my life since I was admitted to receive communion when I was eleven years old. We used to have communion once a month--I think it was the third Sunday of the month--but then it became a weekly--if not daily--discipline.

I miss people, I miss worship, I miss singing, I miss face-to-face contact that is not mediated by a screen. I'm sure you do, too. I miss the taste of bread and wine, and the look in each person's eyes as I say, "The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven," while giving them that visible sign of Christ's love for us. I had underappreciated how profound I find those momentary connections, and how much I miss them.

 

This period of fasting from Eucharist has not been one--so far--of deep spiritual renewal for me. But it does call me into more creative places, and I do feel Jesus in my heart. Jesus is with me in my joys and in my prayers of sorry; my prayers for healing for so many; my prayers of grief for those who have died, and their families who must mourn without our usual rituals and traditions in community.

 

I am conscious that clergy are stretched and exhausted with the nonstop challenges of ministry during COVID-19. They didn't sign up to be videographers and film editors, and yet many of them have bravely and faithfully done so. They are on the phone a lot. Many of the moments of ministry that provide joyous rewards, like baptisms and deep conversations and delighted children in worship have dried up. They continue out of love. There is something sacramental about that kind of sacrifice on behalf of their people. But it is also unsustainable without lay support, changing roles, and periodic opportunities for Sabbath rest.

 

On July 12, the Diocese of Arizona will offer a bilingual worship service, including the prayer above, for all our congregations in order to give our clergy a Sunday off. Join us at 9:00 a.m. on our YouTube channel for worship. Information about how to access a diocesan coffee hour at 10:00 a.m. has been distributed through our congregations.

 

This is not a solution to clergy exhaustion, or to the need for vacation time and Sabbath rest. But hopefully it is one piece of a puzzle moving towards that.

And let us be the Body of Christ. Let our love for one another, for our neighbor, and for God be food for the hungry world


June 19, 2020 Juneteenth

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

"For freedom Christ has set us free." -- Galatians 5:1

 

I'm not sure when I learned about Juneteenth, except that I'm sure it was far later than it ought to be. Possibly there was some little highlighted box in a high school U.S. History textbook, describing June 19, 1865 when the news finally came to slaves in Texas that two and a half years before they had technically been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. But if so, it was not taught as an event that was central to a common understanding of United States History, and it didn't stick.

 

As a holiday dedicated to the belated (and possibly deliberate) delay of freedom and good news, it's fitting to consider what other stories and histories we are hearing belatedly. The movie Hidden Figures opened a window into the contributions of African American women to the space race that many of us had never known. My first trip to the Heard Museum opened my eyes to the prevalence of Indian Boarding Schools on a scale I had never realized. Stories of women, stories of LGBTQ+ leaders, stories of immigrants...each story learned is, its own way, a step towards the freedom of Christ, because it is a step towards wholeness, a step towards valuing all stories, and not just those of the dominant culture. No one can be free until we are all free.

 

I remember fairly clearly my first encounter in 1998 of Lift Every Voice and Sing, the "Black National Anthem" by James Weldon Johnson and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson. I was an aspiring seminarian doing a Ministry Study Year at St. Philip's in South Central Los Angeles, the historic African American church in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

 

There's a whole additional national anthem that I don't know? But isn't The Star Spangled Banner a national anthem for all Americans? I was confused. Bless that congregation for their patience with me, as they answered my questions, and as I listened to their stories of serving as Tuskegee Airmen, and living through migrations around the U.S. and Los Angeles.

I didn't know Lift Every Voice then. But I do now. Every word.

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,

'Til earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the list'ning skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on 'til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat,

Have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,

'Til now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who has by Thy might

Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,

May we forever stand,

True to our God,

True to our native land

 

Good Lord, Deliver Us

June 12, 2020

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

"From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred and malice; and from all want of charity, Good Lord, deliver us...

"From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine, Good Lord, deliver us." (Great Litany, BCP page 149)

The fires in the Catalina Mountains (started by a lightning strike) have provided this week's new crisis for many of our people. We pray for those who have been forced to evacuate and for those fighting the fires; that all may be kept safe.

 

The Great Litany is a catalogue of all that can harm us; and all the ways in which we can sin. In just these two petitions, I see our present moment: immediate concerns of lightning and fire; continued plague and pestilence with the increasing cases of COVID-19 in Arizona; and the blindness of heart, hypocrisy, hatred, and want of charity that are the hallmarks of racism.

I believe with all crises, we are called to start with prayer, and then move to action. The Litany is a good prayer to begin with.

For an update on our actions around COVID-19, so far, 11 congregations have had their Phase II plans approved, and another 15 congregations have submitted initial plans and are in the process of revising them. However, due to the increase in COVID-19 infections statewide, none of our congregations have actually been able to enter Phase II. It is good to be prepared, and I pray that we will see a sustained decrease in infections primarily for the well-being and health of citizens of our state; but also so that our congregations can begin to regather safely face-to-face. In the meantime, I urge you to be safe: to wear a mask when in public; to keep a safe distance from others; and to stay home as much as possible.

Our gathering of masks, supplies, and funds for our Native American communities has been incredibly successful and appreciated; over 2,000 masks were donated; over $14,000 in contributions is being distributed; and 12 flights of supplies were delivered last week to the Hualapai tribe through the support of several congregations. Thank you.

Our Anti-Racism Committee has been hosting Listening Sessions all week, helping people process their anger, their grief, and their uncertainty about how to help bring about the systemic changes that would end racism in our nation. There is much more work to be done, at every level. By this fall, the revised Anti-Racism training that is mandated by General Convention for all clergy and lay leaders will be available in our diocese. We are called to examine our history as a church, and as individuals, and act as both church and citizens to effect change.

We are called to this work by the Gospel. For a fuller, reflection, I encourage you to read the words of Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis.

I've heard from many of our congregations that they are recommitting to this work within their communities: starting Sacred Ground, opening conversations over Zoom. A list of resources can be found at on our website for opening conversations within your own congregation.

Personally, as a white woman who is the bishop of a diocese that is predominately white, I believe I have a particular call to encourage our white members to examine our privilege, and learn how better to work to end racism. To that end, I am starting a Bishop's Book Club (BBC) to read White Fragility by Robin D'angelo. More information on how to join the BBC is below. This is a first step, not a whole action, but it is an important one, and I hope to see many of you there.

 

Bishop's Book Club

White Fragility: Why it's so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin D'Angelo

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, June 30-July 21 (four sessions)

Episcopalians in the Diocese of Arizona are invited to join Bishop Reddall in a discussion of White Fragility over four Tuesdays in June and July. The book explores the obstacles to discussion of racism and action to end racism among white people. The Book Club will be an opportunity for personal and theological reflection. All are welcome, but the Bishop particularly encourages people to join who are new to anti-racism work, or who do not currently believe that racism is systemic and active.

Visit the registration page to sign up. The Book Club will be held over Zoom. Please have a copy of the book before the first meeting.

 

Statement of the Anti-Racism Committee

June 05, 2020

By The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

This week's epistle is the statement below from our Diocesan Anti-Racism Committee. As part of my work as your new bishop, they have been working on revising and renewing our Anti-Racism training, which will soon be available across the diocese. In the meantime, they are offering online listening sessions immediately to share and to inspire action.

 

I also invite you to join me tonight at our online Vigil for the Dignity of Black Lives at 6:00 p.m.

 

"...from prophet to priest,

everyone deals falsely.

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,

saying, 'Peace, peace,'

when there is no peace." -- Jeremiah 6:13b-14

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

The words of the prophet Jeremiah can be jarring to those of us who seek to follow the Prince of Peace. St. Paul tells the Galatians that peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And it is surely true that in the perfect and peaceful kingdom of God, no sword will be drawn but the sword of righteousness and no strength known but the strength of love.

However, as Christians we serve a God who also said "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword," and "I came to cast fire upon the earth. How I wish that it was already ablaze!" Our own Book of Common Prayer contains a collect in which we ask God to "grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression" - and our condemnation of evil and oppression in our time must include condemnation of police brutality and the unaccountable killing of Black Americans. The demonstrations we see in streets across the country are not a response to the murder of George Floyd alone, but to a consistent nationwide pattern of sinful and deadly disregard for the value of Black life on the part of government and law enforcement officials.

We are dismayed by the reports, photographs, and videos we have seen of chemical weapons and extreme physical violence being used against protesters across the country, and in our own state. We give thanks for congregations, organizations, and individuals who have risked their own safety in order to care for the needs of others by providing free food, water, shelter, and medical attention to their communities. We remember that Jesus has told us that whenever we provide for the material needs of "the least of these," we are caring directly for him.

As the Diocese of Arizona, we have work to do. We must work to ensure that Arizona Episcopalians who are white are able to listen and learn about the history and present realities of white supremacy and especially anti-Black racism in our nation and in our denomination, and to repent of complicity in racism. We must work to ensure that Arizona Episcopalians of color are able to speak about and mourn the ways that they have suffered under the sin of racism in our society and in our churches. We must all prepare to commit ourselves to establishing the justice that paves the way for peace - not only with our lips, but in our lives.

The Diocese of Arizona is committed to the work of anti-racism and racial reconciliation, not only in the midst of this present crisis, but in the weeks and months and years to come. This work will not always be easy, especially when it requires us to acknowledge the ways that Episcopalians, individually and collectively, have historically benefited from the oppression and exclusion of people who are Black, Latina/o, Native, Asian, and Pacific Islander. Even when repentance is difficult, it is still a manifestation of God's grace. If we want to follow Christ and see the work of reconciliation that Christ's Spirit can do among us and within our communities, the only way forward is through -- inaction is not an option for God's people.

The Anti-Racism Committee is working hard, in conversation with Bishop Reddall, to create resources and opportunities for the people and parishes of our diocese to pray, to speak and listen together, and to "contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression." In all this, we remember that the crucified Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, has conquered sin and death by his resurrection, and, in sending us the Holy Spirit, has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. To him be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

There will be more work, action, and reflection on the death of George Floyd, and the protests against racism that are surging in our nation in the coming days.

The Diocese of Arizona will be livestreaming a prayer vigil this Friday night, and we encourage all our members to join us in prayer on our YouTube account via the link below.

 

Vigil for the Dignity of Black Lives

Friday, June 5

6:00 p.m.

https://www.youtube.com/user/azdiocese1

Episcopal Diocese of AZ - YouTube

 

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www.youtube.com

 

Clergy are also invited to join a protest tonight in Phoenix between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. at 6th Avenue and Adams Street organized by Pastor Redeem Robinson of Ebenezer Church, Phoenix.

Yours in Christ,

+Jennifer

 

 

Breathe on Me, Breath of God

May 29,2020

 

This Sunday in our churches, we will hear the story from the Gospel of John describing Jesus' appearance to the disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday, when he says to them, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And then he breathes on them, and says "Receive the Holy Spirit."

 

He breathed on them . . . The Spirit is given to us by Jesus as breath.

 

And now we hear -- once again -- those chilling words "I can't breathe" from a black man as he is asphyxiated, slowly, by a police officer. The Spirit of Life extinguished from George Floyd in an act of violence that mirrors so many other murders of our African American siblings: Eric Garner, whose dying words were also "I can't breathe" as he was put in an unapproved choke hold by a NYPD officer. Philando Castile in Minneapolis a few years ago. Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor more recently. And so many countless others through the decades.

 

The work of giving breath is the work of the Spirit. It is the foundational work of the Spirit and of the Church. Wherever breath is stolen through injustice, Jesus cries out for change. And Jesus cries out for the church to have courage. Jesus does not breathe on us and say "keep this to yourselves." Jesus breathes on us and sends us out to do the work of the Spirit in the world. To give breath.

 

And speaking from Arizona, I would be remiss if I did not note that breath is being stolen through a virus particularly in our Native American communities, exacerbated by a similar strain of injustice and historic racism that has left so many people on tribal lands so vulnerable.

 

If I was asked to speak about racism 20 or 30 years ago, I would have said very different things than what I say now. Decades of listening to people of color and observing and witnessing their stories, reading books, has transformed my own thinking and convinced me of the reality of systemic racism and injustice, and of the need for continued broad action to combat them, in ways that I might not have imagined 20 or 30 years ago, when I would have said that racism was bad, but I would not have been able to identify how I had benefited from being born white, or have believed that police, judges, store clerks-- and even church leaders -- treat people differently, even when they do not consciously want to, based upon the color of their skin.

 

And that gives me the little sliver of hope today, to accompany my mourning and grief and anger. It is possible for someone who is white to be converted; to see racism differently; to believe the stories of people of color; to learn our history; and to act against racism. It is not easy, and it is not nearly as frequent as Jesus would like it to be.

 

The story of Pentecost in the book of Acts is about a diverse group of people -- who do not get along or admire the disciples particularly -- gathering together and having the Word of God cut through their divisions and speak in words they could hear. Words that they understood. Words that changed them.

 

I invite everyone who is hearing this homily to pray this Sunday for George Floyd and his family and all those who are mourning him. Say his name. And I invite those who are hearing this homily and who are white to read one of the books listed below. Commit yourself, through the power of the Spirit, to opening your ears, and upholding the breath of our siblings who are suffering. God bless you. And God bless the work ahead of us. May the Spirit blow powerfully through our streets and our institutions, and shatter the forces that keep us in this endless cycle of violence and hatred. Amen.

 

America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis

 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

 

The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, and Religious Diversity in America by Jeannine Hill Fletcher



Gathering for Abundant Life: Arizona Church and Worship in the time of COVID-19

May 11, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

"Are we there yet?"

Anyone who has travelled with children—or anyone who travelled as a child—knows that

plaintive cry from the back seat. We are tired of the journey; we are tired of waiting. We are tired

of the limits that sitting in a car imposes. We are ready to be there—wherever "there" may be.

The people of Israel felt that impatience on their 40-year journey from Egypt to the Promised

Land. They got angry at each other, they missed the way things were, and they strayed. They also experienced the radical benevolence of God in sustaining them with unexpected heavenly food and guiding them, eventually, to their new home. A home that was different from the home

they had left, but all the more precious for their time in the desert.

Our Arizona churches are still in the early stages of our journey with COVID-19. We are not "there" yet—and we are not going to be getting "there" any time soon. This journey is not going to be a matter of weeks, but months or years. We will experience—we are experiencing—the

impatience and frustration of a child in a car or the people of Israel during the Exodus. We are also experiencing the radical benevolence of God in sustaining our communities through online worship, generous financial giving, and renewed pastoral bonds and connections. We are heading into a future that is uncertain except for the knowledge that it will be different from the way it was.

So, we are not "there" yet. But we are "here." We are here in the present moment, in our present

circumstances. And Jesus is here with us. Our Task Force has followed the lead of the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control, American Enterprise Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Episcopal Relief and Development, and other experts to create the document "Gathering for Abundant Life: Arizona Church and

Worship in the time of COVID-19." This document will provide guidance for congregations in

the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona to regather during Phase II for some in-person worship and ministry. It will also provide a roadmap and some markers for when we will be able to enter Phase III, which will enable larger gatherings and more face to face ministry.

This may not be a linear journey. A congregation—or the entire diocese—may enter Phase II,

but discover that we need to return to Phase I due to a second wave outbreak of the virus, or a

church member who tests positive for COVID-19.

Bishop Reddall Letter

May 11, 2020

Page 2

Some members of our congregations and clergy have health vulnerabilities such that they will

not be able to participate in person during Phase II, so we urge the continuation of online

offerings for both worship and formation. If the clergy in charge of a congregation are unable,due to health concerns, to lead worship during Phase II, please contact my office to receive support for your lay leaders offering Morning Prayer, or to find supply clergy who are available.

In our Diocese, I am tentatively offering May 31 as the first day that congregations may begin to

enter Phase II and gather for in-person worship, pending:

· A move to Phase II for the State of Arizona by Governor Doug Ducey

· City and local officials' lifting of stay at home restrictions

· A sustained decrease in new COVID-19 cases, and availability of testing in your congregation's county

· Compliance with the following guidelines

· Approval of your congregational plan for Phase II by me

Based on what we are seeing on the Arizona Department of Health website, it is likely that most congregations will not be able to gather in person until after May 31.

We will resist the temptation to pretend the world is the way we want it to be, rather than as it actually is. We will uphold the central command of Jesus to love our neighbors. We will learn and adapt as we journey forward.

This plan depends upon a high level of trust.

We trust that people who are ill will stay home.

We trust that those who attend worship will follow the guidelines.

We trust that those who attend worship and are subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 will immediately inform their clergy.

We trust that God is here with us, in this present moment, and will continue to love us, guide us,and sustain us.

I am incredibly grateful for the work of the Task Force in preparing these guidelines.

 

Yours in Christ,

+Jennifer

The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Arizona

AZ Diocese Coronavirus Information

 


Living on the Ark in the Time of COVID-19

April 24, 2020

 

At our Standing Committee yesterday, I began appointing a Task Force for Reopening Arizona Churches which will meet over the next two weeks to draw up a plan for how to safely reopen our churches during the COVID-19 epidemic. We are taking into account resources from the Centers for Disease Control, a paper from Johns Hopkins University directed at state governors, and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. The Task Force represents churches of all sizes, spread geographically across Arizona.

 

Part of the intense difficulty of this epidemic is that we cannot know exactly when it will be safe for churches of different places, sizes, and vulnerabilities. We are going to do our best to take into account all of those variables, and offer a plan that will give your congregation the tools necessary to regather when it is safe to do so, in a way that maintains the best chance of keeping the community safe. It is hard to live into an unknown future. But with Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I have confidence that we will do so with God's blessing and help.

 

In the meantime, I hope that you will enjoy the following theological reflection on life on the ark, and the patience that Noah and his family must have had to keep themselves safe during and after the flood.

 



Message from Bishop Reddall Regarding Coronavirus Response Updates

March 24, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

We have a number of updates about faithfully living through this season of COVID-19 in the Diocese of Arizona.

But first, I want to commend all the clergy and lay leaders in our congregations who managed to get their communities worshiping, praying, studying, and conversing online so quickly, and those who established phone trees, and made pastoral calls to members who would otherwise feel isolated and alone. Christ has been demonstrably present in the Church in Arizona this week. Amen.

WORSHIP

I commend to all our congregations the resource of a webinar hosted on Monday at Virginia Theological Seminary, "Triduum Under Quarantine." The videos are available on YouTube and the worship materials are available on their Google drive.

I have heard a number of questions from clergy about practices around Holy Communion. I will respond more fully to them at a future time when I can do so more thoroughly. But know that I hear your questions, and am in conversation with a number of colleagues about a response that reflects our Eucharistic theology and well as our pastoral concern for members of our congregations.

I am also in the process of setting up an alternative for the annual Renewal of Ordination Vows service on Holy Tuesday. Clergy, please keep that date and time open for some sort of worship with me.

We are curating a list of congregations offering online worship on Sundays and weekdays so that people across the diocese can participate as they are able. Please add your services, with links on our Google Sheet.

We had a question about whether you could count online viewers as part of your "Average Sunday Attendance." Until we receive some other guidance from The Episcopal Church about how to record online attendance, please do NOT include online views in your Service Record Book as attending worship. However, I do think this is useful and instructive data to collect-so I encourage you to keep track of your online views because it may help us shape our evangelism in the future.

FINANCIAL UPDATES

Many of you received an email from the Church Pension Group on Monday stating that dioceses are able to ask CPG for a waiver of two months of clergy pension assessments during a disaster. We are completing the application for a waiver of clergy pension assessments for April and May of this year for the entire diocese. Our position is that the Governor's emergency declaration applies to all congregations, and all congregations are experiencing a significant financial burden from the COVID-19 disaster. When we receive a determination from CPG about our application, we will notify you.

More immediately, the Standing Committee approved the creation of a Diocesan Relief Fund to allow congregations who are unable to meet their payroll obligations to obtain a quick loan in order to do so. The application is available on our Coronavirus Resources webpage (under Diocesan Resources).

In the meantime, please continue to encourage your congregation to maintain their pledges and donate online. If you do not currently have online giving, and would like to set it up, FaithStreet is offering the Diocese additional accounts for those congregations.

Please contact bill@azdiocese.org" >Canon Bill Potts to learn more.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS RESPONSE DURING COVID-19

The first day I put on a clergy collar was September 11, 2001. Living through that disaster, as well as Hurricane Sandy, has made me cognizant of the importance of responding to immediate needs, but also to making decisions that support our long-term ability to respond to disasters well after the intense initial period we are in now. Information on the "Lifecycle of a Disaster" is available on our Disaster/Emergency Preparedness webpage.

Our diocese is a member of the Arizona VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) organization. The leadership of AZ VOAD has reached out to all of its members to ask if there are services that we would not be able to provide because of the COVID-19 crisis. Although I have closed our churches to in-person worship, I am authorizing our churches to be available for disaster response as shelters and/or meal preparation (for those with commercial kitchens) if the church is able to provide the volunteers. Each church would make its own decision about their ability to help.

The Red Cross, one of the members of AZ VOAD, has put out an appeal for places to hold blood drives because many of their regular locations (e.g., schools) are not available now and there is an urgent need for blood of all types. To host a blood drive, a church would only have to open and close the building where the drive would be held and make the restrooms available. No staffing would be necessary by the church. Below is the contact person for the Red Cross. Please reach out and let her know if your church can accommodate.

Christina Flores | Account Manager II

American Red Cross Blood Services

602-448-6169 (c)

PASTORAL CARE

The current practice of "social distancing" means that there should be no in-person visits, by clergy or Lay Eucharistic Visitors, to shut-ins to bring communion, with very few exceptions. There should absolutely be phone calls, letters, cards, and where possible, Zoom conversations or other means of communication.

One absolute exception to that is when a person is near death. Many hospitals in our state are now officially closed for visitors, including clergy, but we have heard from both chaplains and our clergy that it is often possible to get admitted for brief visits with the dying. If you need to make such a visit, please contact the hospital chaplain's office first, and they should be able to help you gain access.

I am, as always, conscious of the incredible privilege of serving as your bishop.

 

Faithfully,

+Jennifer

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Bishop of Arizona

 

Message from Bishop Reddall Regarding Worship and Other Gatherings

March 16, 2020

"That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation, We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord." --the Great Litany, BCP page 151.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I write to give instructions for congregations in the Diocese of Arizona in the coming weeks in light of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for gatherings of groups during this pandemic of COVID-19.

I am instructing all of our congregations to cancel all in-person, public worship through at least April 20, and I expect it will be likely to continue longer, as the CDC is recommending cancelling 8 weeks of public gatherings. I also instruct our congregations to cancel all public events involving more than 10 people during this time, including classes, rehearsals, and meetings. All in-person Diocesan events during this time are also cancelled or being moved to online platforms.

I do not take this decision lightly. But it is made out of love. In this particular season, loving our neighbors means being apart from them.

Guidance for several areas of our congregational life is contained below.

WORSHIP

Several of our congregations in Arizona experimented with offering live-streamed worship yesterday. You are all permitted and encouraged to do so; the Diocese is going to attempt to feature one specific service each week to remind us that we are all in this together, and that we can gather collectively in prayer and praise.

I note that we are not cancelling prayer -- if anything we are called to pray more, not less, during this time of trial. We will be offering additional online prayer resources as the days proceed. But at home, use your Book of Common Prayer. If you do not have one, go to your local Episcopal Church and ask to borrow one. If you do not know how to use it for Morning Prayer or other services, we will teach you. I'm planning to do a YouTube tutorial tomorrow on how to pray Morning Prayer on your own. Nothing can separate us from the love of God-and nothing can force our prayers to cease.

PASTORAL CARE and FELLOWSHIP

We are called to love one another, and we are now called to do so in more creative ways. Work with your congregation to establish a phone tree, and reach out particularly to those who are elderly or isolated. Have children write letters and draw pictures for the homebound.

I know many in our congregations will be missing coffee hour as much as worship. Tiffany Cramer (tiffany@azdiocese.org">tiffany@azdiocese.org">tiffany@azdiocese.org), our Events Coordinator, has offered to be a liaison for helping teach you how to set up an online event for your congregation so that you can see each other's faces and talk to friends. Even when you are confined to your home, you are not alone. Christ binds us to one another in life and even in death.

OUTREACH

If there is one area where we must continue to put ourselves at some risk, it is in caring for the most economically vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all congregations to see how they can maintain their food pantries, meal programs, small 12-step meetings, and other ministries that will be absolutely essential during the time when hourly employees are unable to work, and ever more people find themselves food insecure. Do so wisely: keep social distance, disinfect everything, and offer meals to go, or drive up food pantries rather than in your buildings. But do not cease serving the vulnerable. And I encourage those who are able to donate to their clergy's discretionary funds, so that our clergy have the capacity to help those who need help when they come to our doors.

CHURCH OFFICES

At this time, I do not see a need to instruct congregations to close their offices entirely. Follow CDC guidelines about keeping yourselves safe, use good judgment about which staff and volunteers are at-risk and should stay home, and work remotely if you can. But phones need to be answered if possible, and instructions given for how to connect if you are in need. An essential function of church life right now is communications: keep talking to your people through phone trees, Zoom gatherings, your website, and good old-fashioned mail. Update your signage, so that people who come to your property know how to get in touch with a human being.

FOR THOSE WHO GET SICK

It appears to me, from what I have read, that even with all these precautions, it is likely that many of us will end up acquiring COVID-19. There is no shame in doing so. Seek help, according to the recommendations of the CDC and others, and let your clergy know so that they can be helpful in making sure you receive the care you need, and have access to the supplies you need.

Canon Nicole Krug, our Diocesan Disaster Coordinator, is developing a protocol for congregations who have members with COVID-19 and are concerned that the disease may have spread within the congregations.

FINANCE

Cancelling public worship is going to have economic effects for our congregations and our diocese. As the beginning of a plan, we have three guidelines:

• I am asking all congregations to continue to pay all of their staff, even staff who may not be working because of the suspension of worship.

• I am asking all church members to maintain their pledges, as they are able.

• I am in the process of asking the Standing Committee to approve a Diocesan Relief Fund to assist congregations in maintaining their payroll, insurance payments, etc. if necessary.

WHAT WILL THE DIOCESE BE DOING?

Right now, I envision the Diocesan Office as a clearing house for questions, and a source of connection for congregations in need. Some staff members will work remotely; others will come in to the office.

We have set up a resource page on our website to include links for prayer, reliable information about COVID-19, and support for clergy and lay mental health.

BUT WHAT ABOUT EASTER?

The word "quarantine" comes from quaresima, the Italian word for Lent. Ships were "quarantined" for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this is very appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord-though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to congregational life, proclaiming "Alleluia" with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

I will be in contact with you as things change and develop; know that you are in my prayers: congregations, clergy, laypeople, and all those whom you serve.

May God's peace be with you in the coming days.

 

Yours in Christ,

+Jennifer

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Bishop of Arizona

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