Eighth Annual Say Something Nice Sunday – June 1, 2014

            The Eighth Annual Say Something Nice Sunday is June 01, 2014. It is a day to celebrate the people who bring joy to our lives. The goal is to turn down the harsh rhetoric and to replace it with speech that is affirming, uplifting and more Christ-like.  This year the Baptist World Alliance will help promote the celebration. The movement started at First Baptist Church of Charleston, the oldest Baptist congregation in the South, and has spread to most denominations including the Catholic Diocese of Charleston.

This year the steering committee is presenting two civility challenges. These are voluntary and self-monitoring. Civility Challenge One: I pledge that during the next 30 days I will refrain from saying anything ugly, demeaning or derogatory to anyone in my workplace and/or daily activities. If I need to offer correction, I will do it in a respectful manner. I will keep a record for each day that notes whether or not I kept the pledge and any reactions directly related to the exercise.

Civility Challenge Two: For the next 30 days I will say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to at least one person every day. I understand that comments that involve physical appearance are off limits for this exercise. I will keep a record for each day that notes whether or not I kept the pledge and of any specific reactions directed related to the exercise.

There is nothing to buy or join. Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the home page and then click Say Something Nice Sunday on the right side of the page. Others are encouraged to develop and share their own materials.

 

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Christian Respect 1791

FBC Church Covenant 1791

“We will be careful to conduct ourselves with uprightness and integrity, and in a peaceful and friendly manner, toward mankind in general, and toward Christians of all descriptions, in particular.”

First Baptist Church of Charleston

Originally adopted by the church August 21, 1791

Last revised May 26, 1996

“God as Sister,” by Martin Marty

God as Sister, God and Sister

Martin Marty (The Martin Marty Center: Sightings)
Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:33 am

God as Sister, God and Sister | Martin Marty, The Martin Marty Center, Sightings, Compassion, Sister Rosemary Connelly, Misericordia

Adults with mild to moderate disabilities live in The Brian and Sue Shannon Apartment Building (opened in 1991), and each day they handle many tasks such as cleaning, cooking and laundry. (Photo: Misericordia.org)

Put “God” in a headline and we can’t help sighting it. Neil Steinberg, columnist in the Chicago Sun-Times did so: “‘Who’s God but us?’ Sister tells it like it is.”

My wife, Harriet, the monitor of syntax and scorner of clichés, who reads the papers over coffee across the table from this “Sighter” might well have questioned the syntax in line one and the cliché in line two.

But she and I would quickly have gotten over any uneasiness as we eased into Steinberg’s column.

He was celebrating Sister Rosemary Connelly, whom he heard speaking at a fundraising lunch. There she said something he’d “never heard spoken before, never mind by a nun.” We’ll talk about her words in a moment.

Steinberg reminded Sun-Times readers that Sister, 45 years ago, was the founder of Misericordia, “the city’s pre-eminent home for those with Down Syndrome and other cognitive disabilities.”

Originally, she was to care for foundlings left by their mothers on church doorsteps but, against the will of the Archdiocese of the time, she transformed Misericordia’s mission and its site.

Steinberg told of Sister’s tale of a heart-breaking moment when she had to turn away a 15-year-old whose desperate mother could no longer lift or care for him. The problem: Misericordia’s beds were full, and the two-year waiting list was 600-people long.

Yet somehow, without violating her self-imposed rules against showing favoritism, Sister was able to help. How is less important than why.

Steinberg and the luncheoners gasped when Sister asked, and then answered her own question: “Who’s God but us? If we don’t do it, it’s not going to happen.”

Jews, Muslims and Christians alike assert that there is no God but God. So Steinberg recoiled: “Who’s God but us? Who’s God but us?”

He did not divulge whether her words were at the edge or the center of blasphemy or idolatry. Instead he contrasted them with all the ways others use “God” to justify their indifference or evil acts.

Then Steinberg imagined what went through Sister’s mind: “OK then, Mr. Lord of the Universe, if you’re going to fail this boy, I guess we’ll have to do the job for you.”

It took two years but Sister raised the money, and the boy has now been at Misericordia for 15 years.

Steinberg: “‘Who’s God but us?’ That’s edgy stuff, Sister, practically sacrilege.” But not over the edge, if you think about what Sister Rosemary Connelly knows and does about priorities in worship and expressions of faith.

I suppose there are more nearly acceptable orthodox ways of approaching what Sister was saying and doing.

My own church body has the motto: “God’s work – our hands.” Every other church body has analogues to it.

But most of us are not much moved by these more cautious ways of expressing the matter while risk-taking Sister takes risks here, ready to face her Maker.

A little theological overreach can be forgiven in a world where indifference usually keeps believers from making a difference.

And I can’t resist adding a word about how “we in the media” often distort the world of religion or religious people by the decisions we make about what makes news and what readers’ or listeners’ or bloggers’ appetites we want to feed.

Conflicts, controversies, stories of abuse deserve to be told and need to be told. But the world of faith and of the faiths also has countless participants who may be less eloquent or capable or dogged than Sister Rosemary.

They are there, quietly working and singing and praying and fundraising and doing and saying “edgy” things that merit attention.

Martin E. Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. This article first appeared on Sightings, a publication of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and is used with permission.

What Were You Thinking? A Letter from the Bishop of Atlanta

Episcopal News Service

February 21, 2014

By THE RT. REV. ROBERT C. WRIGHT

Issued by the Diocese of Atlanta

A response to those wondering how I can welcome and affirm LGBTQ persons and recommend a book coauthored by Pastor Rick Warren.

“What were you thinking?” is a question that was put to me by a member of one of our congregations when she learned that I had recommended The Daniel Plan for reading during the season of Lent. The question and the concern it voices at my recommendation are fair. And, I am thankful for an opportunity to share my thinking on the matter.

The Daniel Plan is a book about faith, focus, fitness, friends and food, born out of Pastor Rick Warren’s repentance of being overweight and not setting a good example for his congregation. In collaboration with physicians Dr. Amen, Dr. Hyman and Dr. Oz, The Daniel Plan was born: a six-week plan to live more healthy and to recognize our bodies as the divine gift they are. The problem for some of us is that Pastor Warren has been an outspoken advocate of traditional marriage and has made remarks that I and others find objectionable about gay and lesbian persons.

For some, this is an open and shut case. Their argument being, ‘I take offense with Warren’s views on the subject of human sexuality and therefore other contributions he may make about Christian discipleship should be rendered invalid.’

While I understand the temptation to make this argument, it seems to miss the mark of Christian fellowship as exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. Is it our contention that by dining at the home of a tax collector, Jesus is endorsing the man’s financial malfeasance, collusion with Rome and abuses of the poor? And do we understand Jesus’ lengthy interaction with a Samaritan woman as an endorsement of her religious practices and promiscuity?

Remember also Jacob was a liar, Moses a murderer and Peter and Paul struggled with cowardice and arrogance to say nothing of misogyny. Are they also unable to positively contribute to our faith journey? Or, is there something more we are supposed to learn about learning from one another?

By recommending The Daniel Plan I am in no way endorsing Pastor Warren’s views on human sexuality. Having read the book, there is nothing in its content that is inconsistent with our baptismal promises. I therefore am certain his invitation to thoughtfulness about health and spiritual wholeness has merit, is commendable and is useful.

Not long ago, other members of the Diocese of Atlanta were asking me “What was I thinking,” when I made provision for the blessing of monogamous life-long, same-sex relationships. Prior to that as a Rector, my congregation asked me “What was I thinking” when I hired a partnered gay white man as the organist and choir director of a historically black church.

Further back, I had to answer that question by my then bishop in New York, as I planned to bless the relationship of two of my parishioners more than a decade before it was permissible.

No doubt more people will ask that question when I produce a video encouraging teens struggling with questions of sexuality not to consider suicide because God loves them and they are welcome in the Episcopal Church.

I confess to you, I struggle with thin, single issue-based fellowship that gets passed off as Christian fellowship. On both sides of the issue. I deeply believe that human beings are too complex and valuable to write off even when their understandings are deemed deplorable. I am afraid that I have preached and taught about a God of limitless grace, love and mercy too long to banish people to a garbage pile of contempt. Or, to teach polite indifference as an acceptable substitute for Christian fellowship.

For decades in the Episcopal Church we have debated and dialogued about the full inclusion of people. And I am proud of the gains we have made. But full inclusion must mean full inclusion even of those we vehemently disagree with, even those who cannot at present celebrate our humanity or dignity, or it is a hollow sentiment. When we say in our churches on Sunday morning, “Wherever you are on your journey you are welcome here,” do we really mean “wherever you are” or something much smaller?

As an African-American, I am well practiced at embracing those who cannot fully embrace me. I have had too many experiences of being slighted based on race and the injury to dignity that that causes. So I have great empathy with those who have these same kinds of scars and who are asked to love those who hate them. But I am sure that retreating into hermetically sealed conversations and communities is not the way forward for followers of Jesus. Fellowship that has Christ as its center is more durable and life giving than single issue-based fellowship. And, I am sure that people who we differ with on issues and biblical interpretation, still have something to teach us.

By some cosmic alignment, I would have you notice that as I write this response, the gospel lesson for the Church this coming Sunday is Jesus’ mandate for us to “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:38-48

While my positions on issues in the past and no doubt in the years to come may cause some people consternation, perhaps even grief, you have my promise that, “what I am thinking about,” constantly, is Jesus’ invitation to the church to partner with Him in the work of reconciliation.

I am thankful for this opportunity to share my heart with you. I offer this response in all humility. If I have offended you, I sincerely ask for your forgiveness. If you are unable to join me on The Daniel Plan for Lent, I invite you to read The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Please always know, my intention is simply to call myself and those souls in my care to Christian maturity.

With gratitude to God for our life together,

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright
Tenth bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta.

 

February 17, 2014 Is Random Acts of Kindness Day

We shouldn’t need a day set aside to practice acts of kindness – random or intentional. Arthur Caliandro, retired pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, said, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be. The other person needs it far more than you know.” I have seen his words spelled out in my own life. I have been the recipient of untold acts of kindness great and small. I am surrounded by friends and family.

Not everyone is so fortunate. At least during this one day let us try to be a little more thoughtful, a little kinder that we might otherwise be. Perhaps none of us set out in the morning to be unkind or thoughtless. It just happens. With a little thought we can change a bad situation into a good one. It doesn’t take much. Start by smiling at everyone you meet. Speak to her or him in an upbeat manner. I think you can take it from there.

At the end of the day take stock of your day. I’ll bet that you will feel happier more at peace.


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