Behind and Before: LDI’s Annual Report and New Job Announcement

Hello All,

One of my good friends, Tricia DeBeer, once told me that finding balance is an illusive goal. Instead, she said, balance is an ongoing movement between moving targets. I likened her words to an active Twister mat in which you’re readjusting to make sure your hands and feet stay on the colored circles. Whatever the visual that comes to mind for you, I’ve been in a constant state of finding and refinding balance over the pasts few months as LDI has simultaneously wrapped up a very active program year and completed our merge with Episcopal City Mission (ECM).

Our decision to merge with ECM was driven by the belief that LDI’s work will benefit from ECM’s clear commitment to issues of immigrant, racial and economic justice. Similarly, ECM will be stronger through the addition of LDI’s well developed leadership programs that prepare people of faith to actively seek justice. Ella Auchincloss, Co-Founder and Chair of our Leadership Team shares more about this decision in our Annual Report:

 Today, when people of faith urgently need to embody love that brings about justice LDI is again listening deeply. Over the past year, under Natalie Finstad’s guidance, we have carefully discerned where our work can best meet our community’s need, and have assessed which organizational structure can best accommodate our growing ministry in the diocese of Massachusetts and beyond.

Alongside this process, our fiscal agent, collaborator and long-time funder, ECM, has also been discerning their response to this urgent moment. It has become clear to both the LDI Leadership Team and ECM’s Executive Committee that our work is deeply integrated. LDI is drawn to ECM’s emerging mission of deepening the church’s response to immigration, racial justice and economic justice, and ECM intends to feature LDI’s formation tools and practices as a critical centerpiece of their new strategic plan. As a result LDI will become part of ECM and we will be dropping our distinct public identity

​Alongside LDI’s discernment as an organization, I have been doing my own professional discernment. At the close of LDI came an opportunity for me to apply for the Director of Programs and Engagement with Episcopal City Mission. This position would not only allow me to continue leading LDI’s formation programs but expand my work so that I am able to adapt our current program models so they strategically support grassroots movements that are building relationships of power which bring about more just communities.

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Love in God’s Country – A Reflection on St. Paul’s Richmond’s Parish Retreat

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting “God’s Country.” Those are the words that Dick, a member of the St. Paul’s Richmond community used to describe Shrine Mont, the location of their. I have to say, Dick was completely accurate, even prophetic, in his description of our time at Shrine Mont which ended up being a time of growth, challenge, retreat and beauty as we community experienced how to build Beloved Community together.

Part of my work with the Katallasso Movement is facilitating workshops that build the capacity of leaders to build Beloved Community. St. Paul’s invited me to facilitate the workshop Katallasso: Radical Love during their adult formation sessions. Katallasso: Radical Love is a workshop that exposes the need to pattern our lives after the example of Christ’s radical love and the workshop was broken up into four sessions

Preparing the serve Holy Communion with the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley

One: Why Beloved Community

The first session’s plenary teaching provided a theological grounding for the claim that the Church is called to build Beloved Community by looking at scripture, the Episcopal Church’s teachings and my personal experiences in the Church and/or Beloved Community. The audio link to this session is below.

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Be Bold – A Sermon on Our Identity as the Church

Six months ago I moved from Kenya to the U.S. The move has been challenging on many levels, primarily because I’ve been exploring questions of identity: Who am I in this context? & How can I best serve God in this place? These questions that had such clear answers in Kenya.

I believe we as the Church are asking a similar question. How do we be the people of God here, in this place? It is clear that the Church’s role in society has changed – we no longer hold the moral authority we once had – in response to that change we must discern what it means to be God’s people now, what do we have to offer the world besides a stamp of good character? My sermon this week calls the Church to answer this question with boldness and confidence. So often we water ourselves down to being a group of “nice people” or another “social service” rather than offering one another a place of meaning and significance rooted in Christ’s love.

The sermon reflects on how in the texts for this past week – linked here – God’s people are asking this same question in Egypt, Corinth and Jerusalem. In Egypt Moses challenged the people to ask the question, “How do we live our lives as God’s people in the wilderness?” Again, Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Corinthians that we are called, as the people of God, to see life through the lens of Christ. Christ who, in John’s gospel, is infuriated by the loss of holy identity that happens when the temple becomes a place of business.

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We are the Powerful – Race and Power in the Church

It is in many ways unfair for me to speak about issues of race and power. I have a college degree. I practice Christianity. I have a thin body. I have white skin. In our culture, I am a woman of power. Power is a complicated and loaded word. Today I will define power in terms of personal privilege: I can assume that in most situations I will enter into a room knowing I will receive attention, respect, assistance, and to a varying degree, I can get what I want, because of the qualities I possess.

That said, I feel I must speak. The recent deaths of Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, John Crawford III and Tamir Rice have reminded our country of the lingering presence of racial inequality and I am challenged with how to respond. I am saddened by the loss of life, the perpetuation of racism, and I feel powerless. Especially because I practice a way of life modeled after Christ who proclaimed that love always conquers death.

I suppose I could join a protest, grab a microphone and speak out against the murders. I see many churches acting this way and I applaud their desire to speak out against violence and be witness to compassion. However, I worry that these actions risk missing the root of the problem in the way that they are addressing these flashpoints of violence rather than the underlying power dynamic that perpetuates this problem. Some may argue that something is better than nothing but in this case, I am not sure. I believe that the paltry “somethings” the church has done for years has actually allowed people of faith to perpetuate existing power structures.  The current violence cannot be addressed in isolation but must be a call to align our way of addressing power and race through the example of Christ.

Commission on Racial Understanding Leadership Team in the Diocese of Ohio - A Group Seeking to Address the Root Causes of Racism
Commission on Racial Understanding Leadership Team in the Diocese of Ohio – A Group Seeking to Address the Root Causes of Racism

Church’s Current Relationship with Race and Power

For years the Christian faith has promoted half-solutions that keep us, the (white) people of power, in power. We provide just enough food so black kids are fed but we don’t fully address the hunger problem by arguing for living wages. We take time to tutor one child that “had it rough” rather than using our collective voices to promote policies that develop healthy and vibrant schools in all neighborhoods. We donate old clothes to the poor, never stopping to ask ourselves why we need to make such a large income that allows us to accumulate extra but others to scrape by on with not enough. We, through our paltry attempts at charity, create a world in which we have power in the dominant systems.

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Let’s Party – A Sermon on Matthew 22

Today begins a week with my friends at St. Martin’s of the Field in Severna Park, Maryland. I was originally invited to come here for two weeks while their rector was on sabbatical and meet with current leaders to envision how they could  develop their individual ministry areas (youth, children, music etc) in a way that  builds a transformational community. However, between then and now the church entered into a difficult transition and time of uncertainty  concerning their current leadership – welcome to church!

Meet Rev. Kathy Shanihan, the deacon at St. Martin’s. Kathy has abounding compassion and welcome – I stayed with her last night and within one day she was calling me ‘dear’ and ‘love’ – that’s my kind of woman!

This was a challenging sermon to write, I’m usually clear on what I want to say by Tuesday but by Friday morning I was still struggling. The gospel from Matthew was complex, in fact, some of my friend’s sermons offered quite different interpretations about where they saw Jesus – check out Kris’s powerful message here. It was also challenging because I kept thinking about a wedding in Kenya that I attended (photos below). I couldn’t figure out WHY  but the wedding kept coming back every morning as I sought out what needed to be shared. Thankfully my brother and companion in the way of justice, Jim Hamilton – who is building an awesome community in Canton – helped me piece through it and on Friday it all clicked.

This passage reminded me that God is inviting us to accept an invitation to live in a world where we search out the ever present Spirit, in all our circumstances, and we join in her activity – regardless if we know the dance steps. Despite being a challenging sermon to write it was a very fun one to deliver – I even got my first ‘amen’ shout out from the congregation. A huge thank you to my dear friend Zach for the perfect sermon material and to all the members of St. Martin’s who remained so present during the sermon.

Sermon Link: 

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Abundance in the Wilderness – A Sermon on Exodus 16

Last Sunday I was visiting St. Christopher’s Chatham and prepared to preach on the need to act on matters of climate change when I found out we were going to be celebrating the baptist of baby Henry. I made a game-time decision to preach instead on God’s abundance, as exhibited in Exodus 16, and how the sacrament of Baptism is a witness to the abundance of God, not a pledge to be a perfect parenting. I also managed to talk about the challenges to trust in God’s abundance in the wilderness of dating as a thirty year old. It was my first sermon on Baptism, which was fun, and absolutely wonderful to be back with my family at St. Christopher’s. 

Sermon Audio: 

If I could do this again I would put more emphasis on how Christ, in his life, lived in the realm of abundance and how his life offers us an example of what is possible when we are in communion with God. I’d also talk a little more about how the Baptismal vows are focused on God’s help, God’s abundance, more than our individual ability to achieve.

PS: In case you are wondering how I found two very different lessons from one text, the original sermon was using the Epistle text from Philippians and perhaps it will be offered sometime in the future.

Called to Forgive – A Sermon on a Christian Response to ISIS

Today I gave a sermon suggesting a faithful response to President Obama’s announcement of his strategy to protect Americans from the actions of ISIS. The sermon was inspired by two of the readings for today: the story in Exodus of the death of the Egyptian army and Jesus’s call to abundant forgiveness. As I prepared for the sermon I was struck by the seeming contradiction presented by the readings – in one account God smites an entire nation for their sin and in another Jesus calls us to forgive those who have wronged us. The sermon suggests attitudes and actions that can help walk the middle way, in which we acknowledge evil while choosing to love those who have harmed us. Note that this is not the only way faithful people can respond in love, if this response doesn’t work for you I invite you to discern your own way of following God in this situation.

You can watch the video from the blog or on St. Marks Burlington’s youtube site. Also, a quick “thumbs up” to the work of the Rev. John Debeer, rector at St. Marks and the leadership team at St. Marks who continue to build their church community – every time I am with St. Marks I see/meet new people!

Finally, a quick note, in the sermon I mention that my father’s unemployment lasted from when I was three-years-old to the present, this is not true and I apologize for misspeaking. My father held multiple jobs within that time frame but they were often short lived – please forgive me for stumbling through the story, it’s a difficult and sensitive topic for me.

In the Blessing,


Life Celebration – I’m an Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow!

Today is a wonderful day, I am caught up in a combination of great joy, awe and excitement. I have recently received some incredible news and I’m finally able to share it publicly. The Episcopal Church Foundation, leaders in developing transformative ministry, have awarded me a fellowship to work alongside other leaders in the church to identify and unite transformational ministries for the purpose of building a more “effective” church.

I put effective in quotes because one might ask: how do you define “effective” church? I am defining it as the following. (1) Individuals have encounters of God that redefine how they understand themselves/see their role in the world (2) Transformed individuals work alongside their community to build a just world that reflect’s Christ’s values.

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