By the Rev. Canon Mark Harris
“We in the Episcopal Church in Delaware are refocusing our prayers, our actions, and our faith on expressing the Love of God in Jesus Christ. It is a time of renewal and more. It is a time of expansive hope. It is a time to re-energize and engage the broken world with acts of love, care, and respect, for only love can conquer hate.” — Mark Harris
Marvin Gaye asked that question in 1971. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry was 18 years old, and the Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown was two. Now, 47 years later the words still resonate. Many of you know the melody and can sing along, which makes you
older and maybe wiser:
We don’t need to escalate
War is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some loving here today.
The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in Delaware are working to respond anew to the broken and fractured world
in ways that are expressive of God’s love, known in Jesus Christ.
We’ve been doing this all along, of course — trying to read the signs of the times and respond to them with the full power of God’s loving embrace. What is new is the clarity with which the Episcopal Church is addressing what’s going on in congregational, diocesan, and national contexts. Curry calls this effort the actions of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. We are challenged by the current times to live out Micah’s prophetic words, “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Mic. 6:8b). And we meet the challenge by being Jesus people, people who offer ourselves to the effort to love well and effectively.
Here in Delaware we are stretching and flexing our joints, limbs, sinews, grey cells, spiritual lives — our whole incarnate selves— to continue and strengthen the community of the Episcopal Church, a community devoted to carrying the message of God’s loving kindness in Jesus Christ to everyone.
It’s the work we are always doing, and it’s work that is always new, because the forces of hate are always taking new forms. So now is a ripe time, with a new bishop on hand, to do the exercises which will prepare us to continue the struggle for the love
that conquers hate and builds the beloved community.
In Delaware we are working to develop and use skills in evangelism, church growth, Christian formation, and service. Here are
present and upcoming tools and events that are part of this work:
Invite Welcome Connect: This conference, sponsored by the Episcopal Church in Delaware and held at Christ Church,
Christiana Hundred, is the core of our new focus on evangelism, church growth, Christian formation, and service. Beginning on October 19 for clergy and continuing on the 20th for clergy and lay, the conference teaches about a ministry of relational evangelism and congregational empowerment. Churches learn about becoming places of genuine connection for inviting the faith journeys and stories of everyone, enabling deeper journeys of Christian discipleship and enabling the Spirit of Christ to be at the heart of each church’s hospitable mission of spreading the Good News.
The Way of Love: Developed by Curry for the General Convention held this summer, The Way of Love has become a teaching tool, available as a means to reflect on the process of mission and ministry as followers of Jesus Christ.
The Way of Love spells out the continuing need for renewal in everything we do as Christians. It will become a reference point for how we are doing as inviting, welcoming, and connecting agents for Christ in Delaware. It is accompanied by a graphic that will be used widely in our formation work. We can expect to see this tool used as a reference in future parish and diocesan ministry.
The College of Clergy: For years the Episcopal Church in Delaware has had a program of clergy training, collegiality, and spiritual renewal. This has been reconfigured to reflect the hope that diocesan clergy might see themselves as a community of mutual support. All clergy – priests, deacons, and bishop – are part of this college. This image of a college with clergy of all orders mirrors the greater image of the ministry of all people in the diocese as messengers of God’s Good News. The events this year will emphasize our common concerns around evangelism, growth, formation, and service. Upcoming major events include: the Invite Welcome Connect conference, two regional Christmas gatherings; an expanded renewal of vows event, April 15 – 16, 2019; and a clergy retreat. The clergy will be gathering regularly throughout the year.
Deacons: The decision under the Rt. Rev. Wayne Wright to develop a cadre of deacons has come to fruition, and continues to draw people into this expression of ordained ministry. The question is how best to use their efforts in this time of renewed focus on evangelism and as people of the Jesus Movement. Deacons provide a flexibility in ministry that can be a great tool in expanding our missionary work.
Safe Church Training: This now includes online training with two classroom training sessions scheduled in the fall. The Episcopal Church in Delaware has been clear that in its invitation, welcome, connection, and continuing ministry within the communities we serve, everyone must be able to experience the church as a place of safety and respect. Safe Church Training is a continuing training event that provides a basic framework on which to build a community of trust and hope. This new form of a well-known tool will continue to inform us in evangelism, church growth, formation, and service that is truly inviting, welcoming, and connecting.
What’s going on? We in the Episcopal Church in Delaware are refocusing our prayers, our actions, and our faith on expressing the Love of God in Jesus Christ. It is a time of renewal and more. It is a time of expansive hope. It is a time to re-energize and engage the broken world with acts of love, care, and respect, for only love can conquer hate.
The Rev. Canon Mark Harris is a regular contributor to the Delaware Communion magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org