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One day

One day, I will be able to go six months without having to plan a vigil to remember some horrific act of violence. That will be a great day.

That is not this day, however.

NAU Canterbury will be holding a vigil on campus this week (most likely Wednesday, it now appears) to remember those suffering in Boston, as well as those who died in Newtown, and around the country as a result of the violence in our world.

Here’s the liturgy I’ve written for this.

(NOTE: this is the initial draft, and as such, hasn’t been approved by my ecumenical colleagues.  So please don’t hold this against them.)


Vigil for Victims of Violence 2013

April 2013


Opening: (words to this effect: admittedly, I tend to overwrite liturgy)


Leaders: (alternating) We have come here in deep emotion: grief, sorrow and shock.  We have come here in anger, frustration, and even numbness.  Again and again, in the past few months, we have seen the violence in our world, arriving on our very doorsteps, splashed across our televisions and computers.


What we have witnessed is overwhelming.


As people of faith, we know that God is with us, even now.  We know that God is with those who are suffering.

We know these things, even when it is hard to feel that they are true.


And so tonight, we bring our tears and our anguish, our frustration and our fear, and our sense of powerlessness to the God who chose to suffer with this world.


Let us pray.


Holy God, as Mary stood at the foot of the cross, we stand before you with broken hearts and tearful eyes.  Keep us mindful that you know our pain, and free us to see your resurrection power already at work in the world around us.  In your time, raise us from our grief as you have raised those we’ve lost to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Let us remember those we have lost.  As a sign of respect and remembrance, as you read the names given to you, please stand.

Students read the names, alternating.


  • For the 28 people killed in Newtown, CT at an elementary school.
  • For the many who have died at Virginia Tech, Columbine, and other schools around our country.
  • For the six people killed in Tucson, AZ at a grocery store.
  • For the thirteen people killed in Aurora, CO at a movie theater
  • For the seven people killed in Oak Creek, WI at a Sikh temple
  • For the three people killed, and hundreds wounded, at a Boston marathon
  • For the thousands who die every day on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, and all of our cities, whose names are known to God alone.
  • For hundreds of victims of accidental shootings and stray bullets.
  • For victims of domestic violence and abuse.
  • For all those left to mourn the dead, and care for the wounded.
  • For those so lost and confounded that violence appears to be the best answer.



Leader: For all these named, and for all those we’ve lost that we name now, we pray.

We name the victims we know personally here.


Everyone should be standing now.  We observe a period of silence. Then…


Reader 1: Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, or 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.


Reader 2: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


Reader 3: Jesus said to his followers:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are those who mourn; for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek; for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Leader: As people of faith, and as followers of Jesus, this is who we are called to be.  This is how we are called to live.  Even in a world of violence.  Especially in a world of violence.  We are called to bear the light of Christ’s peace and illuminate the darkened world around us.  We are called to be the helpers.

Let us pray.


Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let us sow love.  Where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.  Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.



Let us go forth, to be light for the world, salt for the earth, peacemakers in a troubled time.

And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, keep us now and forever in peace.




Prayers for Newtown

I’ve compiled some prayers for my students here, dealing with the Newtown massacre. These are taken from the BCP and from Enriching Our Worship 2, but in several places, I’ve tweaked the language a bit, for post-modernity’s sake.

If you come across others, awesome blog-readers, post in comments, won’t you?

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

O God of mercy and compassion, you have taught us in your Holy Word that you never willingly afflict or grieve the hearts of your children; look with pity, we pray, on the sorrow of your people for whom we pray. Remember them in your mercy, nourish their souls with patience, shine your face upon them and give them your peace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Oh God our strength in need, our help in trouble: stand with us in our distress, support us in our shock, bless us in our questioning, and do not leave us comfortless, but raise us up with Jesus Christ. Amen.

God, as Mary stood at the foot of the cross, we come before you with broken hearts and tearful eyes. Keep us mindful that you know our pain, and free us to see your resurrection power beyond this present darkness. In your time, raise us from our grief as you are raising these who have died to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

God our deliverer, gather up our horror and pity for the deaths of your children in Newtown, into the compass of your wisdom and strength, that through this night, we may seek and do what is right, and when the morning comes, trust ourselves to your cleansing, merciful justice, and abundant new life, through Christ our Savior. Amen.


For the past month, Northern Arizona University has held a series of New Student Orientations: two a week, all through June.  Incoming students flood Flagstaff’s pretty little town (and tiny, overstressed roads) and make shopping at the sole Target near-impossible.  Along with their parents, guardians, and/or siblings, they tour the dorms, sign up for classes, and attend the ORIENTATION EXPO!

The ORIENTATION EXPO! occurs at 7:30 AM (yes.  AM.) outside along one of the walkways on NAU’s campus.  Each student activity signs up for a table, and the right to stand at said table, hawking their services.  Everyone from Parking Services, to the Bookstore, to Campus Crusade for Christ shows up, and hands out pamphlets and swag.

Basically, it’s running the gauntlet of brochures, overwhelming information, and candy, at an hour that no seventeen year old is functioning.  (And there’s no coffee. Did I mention that?)

NAU Canterbury has been present for the past 3 summers.  We have colorful brochures, colorful business cards, and a bobble head Jesus.  Here is our table.  (And yes, I set this up for a month, and JUST NOW realized that Canterbury is misspelled.  See what happens when I am asked to do things without benefit of caffeine?!)

Our table.

These expos are instructive.  For as much as we have been talking recently about getting out of the church building and mixing with Actual Unchurched People, this is a way to do it.

Things I have Learned:

  • Few know what ‘Episcopal’ means.
    I mean, like no one.  Almost no one has heard of it before.  But those who have, think it’s great.  The people who know what the big, scary, Greek word on the banner is, generally have positive associations with it.
  • So this is mainly about education.  Education that we, at least, aren’t frightening or abusive (and I’m using those terms intentionally.)  Education that we aren’t those ‘Christian’ voices who picket funerals, and bomb clinics, and advocate killing groups of people in the name of God.
  • This is, obviously, tough to do in 45 seconds.  So mainly, I talk about how we have meals with all our activities, we’re welcoming, and affirming, and give them our brochure.

I can’t overcome all preconceived notions about what Christianity is or is not in a 30 second conversation.  And this results sometimes in events like the young man who told me flat out that he couldn’t attend my ministry because he didn’t believe that women should speak in church.  Alrighty then.  And it becomes harder still when the majority of Christian voices on campus reinforce these ideas.

What I can do is be a friendly, nonthreatening and welcoming presence that hopefully, causes curiosity.  Maybe the new student will remember that this one time, there was this odd priest-lady who seemed nice, and it might not be so scary to take a friend along to go check that group out, one day, when everything seems awful, and hope seems really distant.  That’s worth being awake at 7:30 am.

Kids these days.

Last Sunday, I supplied for a little church in Clarksdale, AZ. (Picture a desert small town out of the 1950s. Tada! Clarksdale.)
Before he left on a well-deserved vacation, the rector called me, and asked if I would be willing to preach on “young adults and the church.” Like the rest of AZ, Clarksdale is largely retiree-centric, and these aren’t issues that are on the parish’s radar.

Believe it or not, I had never been asked this before. It had been talked about around me, or implied at, or whispered about, but me, the 20-something college chaplain, had not been asked directly to comment on the state of young adults in the church.

I was ecstatic. And somewhat nervous. Here’s what I said.

May 13, 2012
Easter 6, Year B
Acts 10, John 15

Ever since I was first ordained, people have approached me as if I hold the secret to all life. In quiet tones, they pull me aside, they whisper to me, “You, you are a young person! Tell us of the young people we have heard so much about!”. This comes out in the tone of voice normally reserved for Loch Ness monster sightings. Tell us of the wondrous and strange creature lurking in the deep!

This has accelerated since I became a college chaplain, someone working in the mission field of the 21st century. Because it is a mission field. Adults between the ages of 18-25 arent in our ballpark. The Episcopal Church, as a whole, is..more experienced at life than the population as a whole. The average age of Episcopalians is around 60. And according to most sources, the generation gap between “kids these days” and their parents and grandparents is the largest it has ever been– spurred on by rapidly development of technology, a tumultuous economy, and a constant, and never ending stream of information that we’ve never had to deal with before.

So let this be my report from the field, as it were. In Acts today, Peter returns to the council at Jerusalem full of what he’s heard and seen in unexpected places where the Spirit wasn’t expected to show herself, and it changes the church forever. so here is what I have seen of the Spirit’s movement in this new world.

First some context: the people we are talking about are young adults. They are between 18-34 years old. According to a recent survey, 94% of them have cell phones, 70% of them have laptops. They average 319 friends via social network sites like Facebook. They text, and instant message far more than they email.
They have little memory of the world before cell phones, and almost no memory of a world without computers. There has always been television, and it has always been targeted to them, no matter what age.
Information, in other words, comes constantly, and instantaneously. And from many, many disparate sources.
There has never been, for this generation, one, single, trusted voice telling you what to believe. There has never been Walter Cronkite. There has always been many, discordant, shrieking voices trying to get you to do something, buy something, believe something. All different.

Which leads me to:
In a survey taken recently by the independent Barna group, according to young adults, the most common word used to describe Christianity was: anti homosexual. 91% of those surveyed, churchgoers and non churchgoers, thought that this was the major word that described our religion. Judgmental came in second, and hypocritical was third. All over 80%.
Nothing about helping the less fortunate. Nothing about community. Nothing about Jesus, or God, or loving your neighbor as yourself. Nothing about what we are for, just a lot about what we are against. Or what a vocal portion of us are against, rather.

The take away the vast majority of young adults have gotten about Christianity right now is that we really hate a whole bunch of people. And they don’t really want anything to do with that.

And this isn’t about what you should think regarding same-sex marriage– that’s another sermon. No matter where you are on that issue, hatred shouldn’t be what Christianity is known for. Hypocrisy, Judgmentalism, shouldn’t be what we’re known for.

There are a lot of reasons why we ended up here– but the important thing is: if we want to get out? If we want to get the young people back, if we want to be church in the new milliennium, and all that stuff?

We have to actually love our neighbor.

We can’t just talk about it, we can’t just plan for it, we can’t just come up with distracting rules, to try to cheat our way around it.

We have to actually love people.

This was always our calling– Jesus’ command to us to love one another as he loved us has never changed. But it has never been more urgent, or more clear.
We can’t assume that people know that this is what we are about, we can’t take for granted that people know that we do this, that we intend to do this, and only occasionally fall short. They don’t. We don’t have the benefit of the doubt anymore– there’s too much ready information for anyone to get the benefit of a trusting public.

We actually have to start from the ground up again. In this new world, We have to live the way Jesus calls us to live, we have to walk the walk, and not just do the talking.

We have to abide in Christ’s love. We have to love our neighbor, no matter who they are. We have to do it actively, concretely, and without fear or judgment.

And the good news is, that sort of all inclusive gospel of love, that transforms the world and makes us better, more caring people– That way of life that we preach and try to live– that is what the world is hungry for. That is precisely what so many people are so desperate for, that they roam from church to church, seeking it. They want an authentic gospel of Jesus. They want an authentic gospel of love. They want us to give it to them, and they won’t rest until we do.

That story from Acts– that story of Cornelius, the Roman gentile, who wanted to become a Christian, despite the protests, and confusion of Peter and the rest of the Jewish Christian community. The Holy Spirit got to him before anyone else had. And it was through his faith, and the Spirit’s power that the whole church eventually caught up, and entered a new world.

The Spirit won’t rest until someone does the job. The Spirit of God won’t stop moving over the waters of chaos until someone preaches the gospel. The Spirit won’t give up until someone pays attention, so It might well be us.


Going to the Beach for Jesus, Part 2: FIX. IT.

Going to the Beach for Jesus, Part 2: FIX. IT.

I have now returned from Hawaii, and I understand now why everyone’s nuts about tropical islands.  (I had never been to one before.  I had been to San Matteo in Belize, but that’s an island largely constructed like Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach, plus gated resorts, and desperate poverty mixed in.  The ambiance is odd, is what I’m saying.)

But seriously!  Tropical islands!  Quite amazing!

View from Pali Lookout

This would be why people like Hawaii. This would also be why King Kamehameha conquered the islands and defeated the first wave of English explorers: Pali Lookout (History!)

But all was not going to the beach, drinking boba tea, and quoting ‘Arrested Development’.

Each year, Prov conference is a powerful experience for me.  Each year, when we do our closing group discussion, at least a couple students say something along the lines of “This is the first time I’ve been in church with people my own age.”  “This is the first time I can talk to people my own age about my faith.”  “Campus ministry is the first time I’ve felt welcomed and accepted by the church.”  Every.  Year.

This year, however, it took on a different cast.  Because this year, we also had to talk about what we were facing as the province west of the Rockies.

So there was the possibility that this would be the last Prov conference, as it is incarnated currently.  We’ve promised ourselves that this won’t be the case, but we’ve already lost all of our provincial funding, due to budget cuts there.  (And remember folks, this is the local level that’s supposed to be picking up the slack of the church wide budget cuts.)  And for ministry budgets already strained to the breaking point, more-expensive conferences are going to be difficult to swallow.

But we will make it happen.  Because that’s what we do.

So after a fairly heartening weekend of earnest, dedicated college students, worshipping, learning, and planning together, I was less than thrilled to receive this memo from the heads of PB&F regarding the draft budget.

::deep breath::

On the one hand, hooray, this is much of what Susan Snook+ has been saying for the past few weeks, and now someone with budgetary power has admitted it.

On the other hand….

Look, Executive Council, I understand that this was a new process, but can we all now get around the fact that this process failed?  This is not a process that we can trust.  Because the end result of said process is a budget that contains such grievous errors that it doesn’t balance in several places  and accidentally defunded almost the entirety of Christian formation across the Episcopal Church.  


Aside from my basic questions (did no one have a calculator!?) which, I realize, are not the helpful at this point, what strikes me is the assertion in the memo that the de-funding was a mistake, but no one remembers quite how much they wanted to put there, and besides, to re-fund Formation would take equal cuts elsewhere.

So while this appears to be an accident, it still amounts to de-funding Christian Formation.   Unless PB&F can magically produce the money.

Some of the questions that constantly get asked of me, and others in ministry with young adults, are “What do young adults want from the church?  How can we do more/better young adult ministry?  How do we get young adults in church?”  It happened in Hawaii as well.  The dean of the cathedral in Honolulu asked that we hold the Dean’s Forum on this very topic.

There are many ways to answer this question.  Many different visions.

I can tell you where to start though.



It is a powerful kind of disheartening when you attempt to do ministry, and over and over again, you are told it is the most important ministry in the church, and yet….the budget gets slashed again and again.

And here, it’s worse.  The budget (evidently) didn’t get slashed because they agonized over it, faced a revenue shortfall, and triaged what mission items were most important.  They slashed our budget because no one was paying close enough attention.  It wasn’t a low priority; it wasn’t even on the radar.  They passed a budget that, for whatever reason, hadn’t been checked.

So, here we go, Church.  Here’s what I need, as a certified Young Person.  (I’m 28 years old–I count, despite being a priest.)

Here is what I need from you, My Church. Here’s the answer to that question you keep asking me.

You need to say that you are sorry, that you realize this budget thing didn’t go well this year.  You need to say you’re sorry that you overlooked the crucial part of administration that is budgeting. Part of the leadership you were elected to is owning up when things fall apart, and they just did.  You need to admit it.

And then, you need to Fix It.

Write a letter to PB&F (which looks like it’s happening), outline a better budget that takes into account the actual mission priorities this Church has espoused, and FIX. IT.

And, look, I’ll help you.  I will sit in meetings, I will voice my opinion, I will help write budgets, I will help pass them.  I will even explain the point of Twitter for the ten thousandth time.  I will pull my own weight and then some.  I will help you come up with a better way to make budgets, since this one fell flat.  I fell in love with this church when I was a kid, and I’m not going anywhere.  We’ll work together; it will be great.

But you need to fix this.

Because the secret to getting young people in the church (or anyone into church) is that you actually have to care about them.  Not in a lip-service way, or in a non-committal way, but in a dedicated, flesh in the game, asking what they think and feel, sort of way.   You actually have to honestly care about them.  (Jesus said something along these lines, I do believe.  Smart guy, that Jesus.)

So help me believe that the Church actually cares enough about young people to give us money, and not just lots of anxiety.  Help me convince my students that the Church wants them for their voices and opinions, and not just their life expectancy and wallets.

Please, Fix It.

Hawaii Double Rainbow

Now, to make us feel better, a double rainbow from Honolulu.