Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone." (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

“The mission of the Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande is to connect and support all women in their diverse ministries. We do this by offering opportunities to gather for studying, re-creating, and celebrating who we are as women of Faith, Hope and Love.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Books and Illustrations

How many of us have been moved to tears or joy or fear or any of a myriad other emotions because of a book? Pictures, be they photos, drawings, oil paint, sketches, etc., can evoke the same sorts of emotional response.
I know that women in the Diocese of the Rio Grande include authors and artists. Around the diocese there are opportunities for these talented women to showcase their work. One of these is coming up next week at the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque.
While this is rather short notice (because I didn't think of posting the information here), you can still enter. The show is focusing on Illustrators, which is a kind of broad category. If your illustrations are in a book, the author can show that books for sale, too. There will be a Reception for the artists on Friday, September 7 at 5PM and a Book Fair on Nov. 4.
Contact the Cathedral for more info. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday School

As the school year starts and children head back to classes, churches begin their fall program year, too. This nearly always includes "Sunday School." Many women in the Diocese of the Rio Grande are or have been involved in what is now called Christian Education, more commonly known as Sunday School throughout the years. 
As an institution, Sunday School has only been around since the late 1700’s as a way to provide children who worked in the factories a day off and the opportunity to learn “the 3 R’s” along with Bible stories. Samuel Slater is credited with starting the first American Sunday School for children working at his textile mill in Pawtucket, RI.
As churches moved west, they took this idea of Sunday School education with them. Originally Sunday Schools were an afternoon activity led by volunteers from a variety of denominations. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that Sunday School became a Sunday morning standard either in conjunction with or between Sunday morning worship services.
Often, Sunday school classes were held in areas of the church that were also used for other activities. At the Cathedral of St. John, for instance, the gymnasium of the new Parish House was used in the 1930’s and 40’s. Members who attended then remember, “A blue canvas was rolled out over the basketball court floor so that the students would not scratch it, and folding chairs were set up” There was not any curriculum and one student recalled her sixth grade teacher spending three weeks trying to teach virtue based on the Ten Commandments.
Sunday School was also seen as a missionary effort and many churches made special efforts to bring the Gospel to children in their neighborhoods through Vacation Bible School and special programs. Churches had sports teams that competed with other parishes and denominations. This did attract some new children to the church, but often their parents simply dropped them off and went on about their business until Sunday School was done.
By the 1950’s the National Episcopal Church was developing curriculum. It was a series that would cover “The Church Teaches Holy Scripture; Chapters in Church History; The Worship of the Church; The Church’s Faith; Christian Living; and The Church at Work.” This was developed by a team of “more than 50 men and women, recruited from all of the United States and all sorts of situations.” This curriculum was slow in arriving, so teachers used curriculum from other denominations and publishers like Closely Graded Press, Westminster Press, and the Pilgrim Press.
In the 1960’s a move started that allowed students to use “hymns and lessons and prayers in language that the children can understand”. Slowly Sunday School became more child-friendly. Songs and puppet plays, flannel boards and dance were some of the ways the Gospel was taught. More and more curriculum was developed over the years, including, as many remember “The St. John’s Curriculum” written by Canon Ken Clark at the Cathedral in the 1980’s. 
Over the years, the understanding has grown that children and young people do need their own area and curriculum, but they also must know that they are part of the total life of the church. Like this youngster helping bless a new nursery area, they long to be and love to feel included. 
Sunday Schools now benefit from all the work of the generations of Sunday School teachers who labored with just a love of children and the Gospel to ‘train up the child in the way he should go.(Proverbs 22:6) Each year new innovative curriculum are released for Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Schools. In this important area of ministry, we should remember to say thank you to those volunteers among us who still lovingly take on the task of showing young minds the ‘love of God in Christ’. (Romans 8:39)
If you are a Sunday School teacher or have been in the past, thank you for your dedication. If you have stories about Sunday School growth in your parish, please share it with us.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What is an "Order" in the Church

The last post was about the Daughters of the King, an ORDER in the church. Just what exactly IS an Order? I think we often think of monks and nuns as belonging to a religious order-say the Benedictines or the Franciscans or Jesuits. Often we don't think of monks and nuns in relation to the Episcopal Church at all.
There are indeed monks and nuns in the Episcopal Church and there are lay orders for men and for women. Members of any Order have a Rule of Life that they follow. Often this is imposed on them by the Order itself, but members also write their own personal Rule of Life to outline how they will live out the Rule of the Order.
A list of Orders, both lay and monastic can be found on the National Episcopal Church website. "The Episcopal Church canonically recognizes 16 traditional orders and 11 Christian communities for men, women, or both. Religious Orders and Communities serve the greater church in several ways. Many offer retreat houses and individual spiritual direction. Each community has a rule of life and is committed to prayer, life in community, and hospitality."
A definition of an Order is: "a community under a religious rule; especially one requiring members to take solemn vows. People don’t just enroll as members and attend meetings; they take life-long vows to follow the Rule of the Order."
Some Orders that women (and men) in the Episcopal Church and in the Diocese of the Rio Grande participate in are: The Third Order of St. Francis, (works for social justice, among other things-see below) the Daughters of the King, (follow the Rule of Prayer and Service) Order of St. Luke, (focuses on the healing ministry) Brotherhood of St. Andrew (for men only). The Guild of St. Benedict is not technically an Order, but members do follow part of the Benedictine rule of life by saying Morning and/or Evening Prayer every day. I am sure that there are other women around the Diocese who participate in other orders and I'd be delighted to hear about them.

The Third Order of St. Francis follows the Franciscan rule of life in their everyday life. Tertiaries write their own Rule, which is reviewed annually and rededicate themselves once a year also. Monthly meetings are held to build community.
There are estimated to be over a half-million Franciscans worldwide in the various denominations of the Christian family. Anglican Franciscans are divided among five provinces worldwide. The Province of the Americas stretches from Canada to Chile to the Caribbean. It currently includes the First Order Brothers and Sisters - who live a celibate life in their respective communities - and the Third Order. The Third Order consists of men and women, single or in committed relationships, who, though following ordinary professions, are called to a dedicated life of service to our Lord through prayer, study, and work. Like the First Order, Tertiaries make a lifetime commitment to live a Rule of Life in company with the sisters and brothers in their Order.
If you are a member of an order or other community, please be in touch, so we can highlight your ministry and calling and inform other women around the Diocese of the opportunity. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Daughters in Assembly

Daughters of the King are an order for women and girls. Daughters follow a Rule of Life with the vows of Prayer, Service and Evangelism. You can learn more in this blog from June 3.
The Cathedral of St. John was the location for the annual Diocesan Assembly of Daughters of the King on August 2-4. About 50 ladies from around the Diocese gathered for a time of fellowship, worship, business, and retreat led by Diocesan President Sandy Martin from the St. Mary and Martha Chapter, Mesilla Park. The St. Agnes Chapter at the Cathedral hosted the event with help from the Light in the Desert, Catherine of Sienna, and St. Chad’s Chapters in Albuquerque. Here are the Daughters from St. Chad's in the kitchen preparing lunch.
Blankets collected by the Shepherd’s Daughter Chapter (thanks to Evelyn Yates) for the BethanyKids Ministry in Kenya were blessed by the Very Rev. Mark Goodman during the Eucharist on Friday. Even the Jr. Daughters participated with Darcy Robinson of the St. Brigid Chapter reading the Old Testament lesson.

A teaching by the Rev. Dan Tuton of Hope+in+the+Desert, Albuquerque about the Sevenfold Gift of the Holy Spirit and a workshop led by incoming Diocesan President Cindy Davis rounded out the Assembly. Cindy’s Saturday morning workshop was based on her novels about women in the Bible. She shared how these Biblical women learned that God’s Spirit works to heal as we listen to each other and turn to God. Cindy challenged each Daughter to be part of “an empowered cadre of prayer warriors who lead, support, and minister within and outside our congregations…who are willing to heal divisions by listening and building unity in the Diocese as we live into our vows of Prayer, Service, and Evangelism.”

New officers for 2012 are: Cindy Davis, President; Peggy Way, 1st VP; Anna Marie Dugan, 2nd VP; Carol Ast-Milchen, Secretary; and Brenda Restivo, Treasurer and the Rev. Jeanne Lutz will be Diocesan Chaplain for the Daughters. Read more abouit Daughters of the King in the Diocese on their blog.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Interruptions [from God]

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve looked at blogs and retreats as ways to get away and find God. For just a few minutes pause to consider whether God isn’t present even when you are NOT looking for God.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning says, “Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.” (Aurora Leigh)
All life is alive/afire with God, even and maybe esp. the seemingly mundane. God takes the everyday stuff of life and turns it holy. The bush aflame, the voice on the phone, the call to prayer, the bird in flight are all bits of God present around us. Each is the opportunity to see the fire of God and let God break in!
Think about how often God interrupts a person’s life throughout the Bible.
Noah-happily with his way of life-then God interrupts with the command to ‘build an ark’.
Esther-understanding that the interruption of her life as Mordecai’s ward was to save her people.
Paul-certain in his own righteousness, until God interrupted by knocking him off his donkey.
Amos-peacefully tending the sycamore trees until God calls him to prophecy.
Mary-contentedly betrothed to Joseph until Gabriel announced, ‘you will bear a son.’
A shepherd’s staff, bread and wine, a fist full of rocks, empty jars, a scarlet cord, were other things that were instruments of the Holy to break in and interrupt someone’s life.
In this communication filled world we have so many interruptions from technology that we have lots of opportunities to pause and see if maybe God is present in the interruption of a text from a friend or an email or call from a colleague.
What if a ringing telephone, an unexpected meeting, a red light, or other daily interruptions were viewed as God breaking in and interrupting us with the opportunity to respond? What if these were times when the ‘bush [is] afire with God’? What if we are oblivious to the burning bushes in our path because we are so set on getting to our destination that we miss seeing the miracle right in front of us?  
I’ve been considering this for the past week or so and I am challenging myself to try and see God in the minute-to-minute interruptions as well as at church and other places where I make plans to meet God. I wonder if becoming aware of God in the interruptions, might just make a difference. If you try it, let me know what you discover. Maybe next time I'm stopped at a red light, instead of fuming, I'll look around and see that burning bush or perhaps just a butterfly or 2.
It’s good to seek out God, and it’s true that God seeks us when we are least expecting it, too. I pray that I can be open to seeing God’s face in the interruptions around me (and to remember to look for God's face).