Focus On Jesus

We Have Lift-off!

By Linda Buskirk

Welcome to the re-launch of By Word and Example!  We pray we will be a blessing of a blog site for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, and anyone else who wants to take a peek. 

We apologize that we seemingly abandoned our original flight plan so abruptly.  We hit a technical wall.  Fortunately, when Jon Adamson at the diocesan office changed the platform for the diocesan website, he included this section for our BW&E blog.  Thank you, Jon!

The purpose of By Word and Example is:  To inspire congregations to act on the Five Imperatives of Ministry for our diocese, offering words from the lessons of the Diocesan Congregational Development Institute (DCDI) and other resources, and examples from our parishes and diocesan initiatives.

The Five Imperatives are:  Focus on Jesus; Think Biblically; Proclaim the Good News; Feed the Hungry; Mentor the Young.  You will find them in a row across the banner section of the blog page.  As you click on each one, you will find articles of “word” or “example” that exemplify resources or actions that relate to that Imperative.  We’ll add two new articles each month for one (1) of the Imperatives.  The “featured Imperative” will be the one that shows up first when you arrive at the blog page. 

The Five Imperatives are Bishop Little’s vision of what he prays the Diocese of Northern Indiana of today “will bequeath to future generations of Christians.”   To learn more, visit this link for the Bishop’s address to the 2013 Diocesan Convention:

Bishop's Address

We encourage you to sign up for monthly emails alerting you to By Word and Example updates.  We would also love to include news from around the Diocese of these Imperatives being lived out.  So, if you have an example to share, or would like to provide a word article about a lesson learned, or a book review, please contact me via email. 

In His service,

Linda Buskirk

Linda Buskirk, Editor, By Word and Example


Contributing Editors

Jon Adamson

Kelley Renz

The Rev. Canon SuzeAnne Silla

Rev. Jim Stanley

The Gift of Stability

By Kelley Renz

We know the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fleeting; it comes and goes with circumstance, with physical feeling, with state of mind. But joy, joy is a constant, or an almost constant that comes with a certain connection with God. It is an abiding lightness of being, a positive outlook that is unshaken by exterior or even interior unrest.


So it is with what I will call belief and stability. Belief, too, is fleeting. I can believe when all is well, when evidence gives way to a firm hold, or even perhaps when small obstacles are met, measured, and deemed conquerable. Belief rests on me and my perceptions of my own strength. I choose whether or not to empower belief, just as I choose happiness. Not so with stability.


Stability is gift. Stability rests with God and my perception of God’s strength. Therefore, stability is not fleeting, nor is it based on circumstance. It transcends what is. I do not choose stability any more than I choose joy. However, I can prepare for the gift. I can nurture a place in myself for it to reside. Through prayer, through reflection on God’s faithfulness, through focus, I contribute to my hold on this great gift from God.


Stability is the reason we remain – even in the face of doubt, boredom, chaos, fear – just because a still small voice urges us to do so.




I vow to stand firm! I laugh,

 O God of iron feet:

 Tis not my strength with which I stand

 And yet You accept this vow from me.


I say, "I love"; I say, "I give,"

 But I do nothing of the kind.

 Tis You who love and You who give

 Borrowing body, soul, and mind.


Fear's below when great winds blow

 When rafters come falling down

 I marvel as "I" stand among

 And balance on shaking ground.


For You touch my self and make me firm

 I need only speak Your Name

 And amid shifting sands and chaos

 My God -- look!-- You and I remain!

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

By Jim Stanley

     I have collected authentic Civil War artifacts since I was 12.   I haven’t just read about muskets, bayonets, haversacks and wool kepis. I have handled them. I have felt their heft, admired their workmanship, and wondered at their scratchy, woolen texture. I have been to the places where they were used. There is something almost unspeakably moving about standing in the searing July heat in Gettysburg and marveling at how men did such a thing. Do that; drink it all in; and you will find it impossible not to feel a sense of awe, wonder and gratitude for those who lived and died at that time.

     So what has this to do with the spiritual development of individual Christians and congregations? As Canon SuzeAnne Silla puts it, “It’s vital to each Christian in the Diocese of Northern Indiana to nurture their individual faith through reading the Bible, prayer, receiving communion and going deeper with Jesus. But when we do these things as a community, our own personal faith and experience become a part of and inform the whole.” Diocesan trips to the Holy Land in 2011 and 2013 have proven to be among the most effective tools in accomplishing this mission. 34 members of the diocese went on the first trip and 32 participated in the second.

    Canon Silla suggests, “When you walk where Jesus walked or pray in a garden very much akin to what Gethsemane would have been like you find a deeper texture and connectedness to the Gospel.” One of the most powerful and transformative experiences for pilgrims was walking the way of the cross. Canon Silla says participants have the opportunity to carry a heavy cross – it takes three people to bear it – on part of the walk. There, and at most other places during the 10 day pilgrimage, Scripture is read. “The words of the Bible come to life in surprising, powerful new ways”, Canon Silla says. “We’re no longer reading about events of long ago. In a quite palpable way, we are experiencing those events and wondering together about what it must have been like.”

     The word “together” is an incredibly important adjective where these trips are concerned. As with any tour group, there is camaraderie, laughter, fellowship and fun. But this is something more. Here, disciples of Jesus are able to almost immediately share their impressions, discoveries, hopes and experiences with other pilgrims. Two people may have very different emotions and feelings while walking in the Kidron Valley or praying at the Church of the Annunciation. When they can relate those thoughts and impressions to someone else – often someone from the same parish – there is not only a deepening of individual faith, there is a strengthening of congregational bonds.

     Canon Silla has participated in nine trips to the Holy Land, including the two with the Diocese of Northern Indiana. Each of those trips, she says, has been with diocesan groups and in every single case, the experience has helped to build and strengthen congregations. Canon Silla hopes additional Holy Land pilgrimages happen for our diocese. She would particularly recommend that congregations try to plan such events, either as their own group or by partnering with another congregation from the diocese. Mother Susan Haynes of St. Paul’s Mishawaka and Deb Miller of Trinity Logansport have both expressed an interest in coordinating future trips. Individuals or congregations interested in organizing another Holy Land journey should contact Deb Miller by calling the church:  574-753-2733.

Conversion of Life in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana

By Marie Gambetta

Interview with Jan Merkt, Senior Trainer

Jan Merkt, a senior dCDI trainer and a member of St. Matthews, Kenosha in the Diocese of Milwaukee came on board 5 years ago to help launch Northern Indiana’s CDI program.  Now that the program is considered “launched,” Jan will no longer be training with Northern Indiana and will focus primarily on dCDI in her own diocese.  As a bittersweet “exit interview” I had the privilege of talking with Jan to find out how she perceives EDNIN has changed over the past five years.


Much has changed in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana since the beginning of her tenure here, Jan contends.  In the beginning we were a group of people coming together to begin a new program (CDI) to build healthy congregations that Bishop Little and Canon Silla were excited about.  As each cadre of participants made its way through the program, it became so much more than that.  It became a conversion of life of individuals and parishes.  As groups took ownership of the program and their part in it, they transformed the program and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it transformed them and their congregations.


Jan commented that she was thrilled by the changes that were taking hold in congregations in our diocese.  As each cadre went through the program, she began to witness a common culture that was emerging in parishes and, collectively, as a diocese.  She heard examples of CDI tools and techniques being used by vestries, in stewardship campaigns, by newcomers and old timers alike who were embracing the culture and communicating in a common language.  Something very fundamental was shifting in the diocese.


This was confirmed by the number of CDI graduates who returned to go through the program again, this time joined by more colleagues from their parish.  She has seen CDI attendance grow to its current all-time high census.  In fact, she reminded me, this year’s group has participants who belong to neighboring dioceses.  Something is happening here, she insists.


One of the biggest conversions of life Jan has witnessed within Northern Indiana is a result of the Faith Sharing element of dCDI weekends.  This is the brainchild of Bishop Little who believes that we as Christians should be ready, willing, and able to share with anyone who asks why we believe that Jesus is Lord.  This began two years ago at a dCDI weekend when two participants were asked to share their faith story with one another while the rest of the group “eavesdropped.”  After sharing their stories, which were deeply moving, participants paired with one another and shared their own faith stories. 


Jan is adamant that the power of Faith Sharing is at the heart of the conversion of life that she has witnessed in Northern Indiana and that she has experienced in her own life.  As a cradle Episcopalian, Jan is well aware that talking about our faith doesn’t necessarily come easily at first.  It can take us out of our comfort zone.  Seeing people take that risk demonstrates the love and trust that they have for one another.  In fact, by sharing their faith with one another, it increases that love and trust.  She testifies that it is not only powerful to hear, but powerful to participate in.  In fact, she mentioned to me that Faith Sharing is something that is now being incorporated into the dCDI weekends in the Diocese of Milwaukee.


Jan pointed out that another area in which she has observed conversion of life in the Diocese of Northern Indiana is the number of participants who have begun the discernment process to be raised up into ministry.  She said that in her experience, the number of people entering discernment after participating in CDI is extraordinarily high.


Although so many transformations have occurred during her tenure at EDNIN, the one thing that has not changed is the commitment to the program by Bishop Little and Canon Silla.  She said that in creating change and in changing culture, leaders are the primary shapers of that change.  She credits Bishop Little and Canon Silla for never deviating from their message.  They never waivered, she maintains, from the Core Values and the Acts for Congregational Transformation which are at the heart of dCDI.  She said that this was evident in the congregations who came through the program.


Jan insists that the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana is special.  Its culture is unique and the Holy Spirit is definitely alive and working here through dCDI.  She claims she came here to teach and she left with quite an education.