“I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.” Matthew 25:42-45
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the unwelcomed stranger!
I am writing to remind us of our moral responsibility, as Disciples of Jesus, to welcome the stranger. In light of the recent Executive Action taken by President Trump, it is especially important to remember that our sisters and brothers seeking asylum from violence and persecution, not of their making, look to us for protection and safety. The crisis in Syria and the surrounding region is horrific and complicated.
However, in the midst of this legal and global complexity, our responsibility to care for the innocent, especially the most vulnerable children, abides!
This is an invitation to take some kind of intentional action on behalf of these refugees and the scores of others who are affected by our country’s action. Gather with others in your town or city during a time of public witness. Reach out to a neighbor you don’t know and engage in a respectful conversation. Visit a mosque or Islamic Center near you. Write or call your representative or senator. Talk with the children and be a good witness. They are watching.
In concluding, I ask you to intercede with unceasing prayer.
- Pray for any unwelcomed stranger.
- Pray for those in authority in our nation: the President, the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court, as well as all state and local leaders whom we put our trust in to make fair and equitable decisions for the good of our nation and the world.
- Pray for those individuals in nations deemed a threat to us.
- Pray for every citizen in our nation during these troubled times.
When you pray, remember the last two questions in the Baptismal Covenant. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Be assured of my prayer for each of you,
Serving as 8th Bishop of Northern Indiana
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Grace and peace be with you in the Christ whose coming we await!
As promised, I've had Vestry Conversations with 28 of our 36 Faith Communities since June. I've listened to you share what God is up to in your neighborhoods. You've shared your gifts, challenges, and possibilities. You've provided me a glimpse into your lives as Disciples of Jesus, the Risen Christ.
One of the common themes that has surfaced in our conversations is summarized by the following question (or some variation of) "How do we get more members?" At our Annual Diocesan Convention, you were invited to adopt the Five Marks of Mission as a framework to engage God's mission.
The Five Marks of Mission are:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
In my commitment to find resources that assist in implementing and living into each one of these Marks of Mission, I'd like to share the following. Let's start with resources for Mark 1...to proclaim the Good News of God's Kingdom. This is the work of evangelism, sharing one's faith story in such a way that it is received by another as a gift, an invitation. Please consider and review the following two resources.
In November, the Episcopal Church sponsored a gathering in Texas entitled EVANGELISM
MATTERS. On the website are videos of several keynote presentations, including one from
our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, along with all the panel discussions and workshops. The URL link is www.evangelismmatters.org. It is a valuable resource for your use in ongoing formation and commitment to Evangelism.
INVITE / WELCOME / CONNECT
Recently Bishop Duncan Gray, who has agreed to serve as my coach for my first three years in ministry as your bishop, introduced me to another resource. It is called INVITE / WELCOME / CONNECT. I've spent several days reviewing the resources on their website. The URL link is www.invitewelcomeconnect.com. It is a process of training and instruction to prepare each of us to be more intentional in the work of Evangelism. If there is an interest, I would be happy to follow up with Mary Parmer, who developed this process, by inviting her to offer a series of workshops here in Northern Indiana.
If any of you are aware of additional useful resources in the work of Evangelism, please forward them to me so they may be shared it with others.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks
Serving as the 8th Bishop of Northern Indiana