|January 12, 2021|
Dear Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania,
Since the attack on the U.S. Capitol building last Wednesday, I have been holding our country, her leaders, her people and her ideals of democracy, freedom and justice close in my prayers. The letter I sent to you on Wednesday evening –January 6th— was an immediate call to prayer and a commendation of the Presiding Bishop’s address in which he, too, offered prayer and consolation.
Nearly a week later, in the aftermath of that assault, the ramifications are seen in part: five lives lost, the foundation of our democracy tested, the fissures in our country deepened and anxiety about our future amplified. The anger that fueled the attack on the Capitol was painful to watch as a raging mob smashed windows, assaulted police, trampled one another, and violated an iconic building –a place that, in its idealized vision, stands for freedom, decency, equality and democracy. As the week has worn on, we have learned that this effort was well organized and strategically directed. It was a targeted effort to halt the process of confirming the Electoral College votes of the newly elected President and Vice President and thereby to decertify the outcomes of November’s free and fair election. This spasm of violence directed at the heart of our democracy has wounded all of us deeply. As a Christian, sealed through my baptismal vows to promote justice and peace, and to renounce evil, I decry the actions of those seeking to undermine our country’s most fundamental and cherished precepts.
I fear that there is more ahead of us. The violence that we witnessed is a symptom of much deeper problems in our country. We allow great injustices in nearly every corner of our society which influence who has reliable access to education, healthcare, food, shelter, clean water and even clean air. We continue to degrade our brothers and sisters of color in all aspects of our common life, we fail to care for our environment to the fullest of our ability, and our global reputation has been badly tarnished. There is much work to do in order to restore us to a nation of people who can fully, honestly embrace life, liberty and happiness.
Yet, because I am a follower of Jesus, I have hope.
In the Gospel of John (3:17) we read:
For God did not send his Son in to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
In Jesus, the work has already been accomplished. In Jesus, we have been shown a new way to live that puts love at the center, and by God’s redeeming act, death itself has been vanquished and we have received the same ultimate gift by faith. Because Christ lives, we shall also, unto all eternity. And so, it is from a place of resurrection faith, resurrection strength and resurrection power that I have hope for us today.
I respond to this gift of Jesus and eternal life by loving and living as good a life as I can here on this earth. The centerpiece of that life is prayer. It is the practice that puts me in communion with God, that transforms the challenges of the day and gives me strength and courage to work for justice. Prayer also gives me the “peace that passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)
I call us, as a diocese, to this fundamental, powerful practice of prayer. I call us together to engage with this life-giving practice in community so that we can participate, firsthand, in God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration. This effort will neither supplant the faithful prayer practices that each of us has already nor can it overlook the steadfast, devoted work of parish communities that continue to persevere during this extraordinary era of COVID-19; I offer us a third way, for us to gather together as a diocese for transforming, loving, empowering, tender prayer.
On Tuesdays, beginning on January 19th and for the five weeks following, I will participate in a special Zoom call (also to be simulcast on Facebook) from 7-8 pm. All are welcome to join in this hour in which we will study scripture, offer prayer and share in contemplative silent prayer as the Spirit speaks to us. The first five weeks of this offering will focus on scripture stories of struggle, reconciliation and restoration. (The text for each week’s study can be found at the bottom of this letter.) This project of prayer and study is for everyone: come as you are with an open heart and please join as much or as little as you want or are able. You need not be a scholar or an expert pray-er. We will work together to transform, love, and empower one another. And then, during Lent, we will shift our gathering to Wednesday nights (7-8 pm) where we will pray and discuss the offerings in a new Lenten diocesan effort “40 Ways,” highlighting social justice ministries in our diocese.
I hope that you will join me as we pray together for restoration and peace, coming together as Christians to find hope and to draw strength from each other in these days.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
|In the Way of Love,|
The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan
|Scripture Passages for Study:|
The Garden and the Fall, Genesis Ch 2, 3
Genesis Ch 4, 25:19-28: 1a
|Feb 2 |
National Siege, Jeremiah Ch. 31, 52
Luke 15: 11-32
The New Jerusalem, Revelation Ch 18-22