Address to the
Twenty-eighth Annual Diocesan Convention
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Rt. Rev’d D. Bruce MacPherson, D.D.
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana
Holiday Inn Convention Centre Hotel
“DISCIPLES MAKING DISCIPLES”
restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ
The Lord be with you.
“O Risen Christ, Lord of the harvest, as farmers patiently wait over the barren soil, so you have sown in hope to reap a harvest of love. We thank you, God, for your faith in us and your labour to increase our faithfulness. O Lord Jesus, even as the seed that must fall to the earth in order to yield new life, you were buried and now are risen. We find that unfailing hope in you resurrects us each day. Branches severed from the root die and bear no fruit. Only connected to each other and united through Christ do we yield a rich harvest. We thank you, Lord, that as branches bound to the root, we need each other and you to flourish. Give us that sense of gratitude in which each person is cherished as indispensable to the life and happiness of all others. Lord of the harvest you have blessed us. Hear us as we thank you for your abundance and reconciling peace as we seek to be faithful disciples making disciples in this portion of your vineyard. In gratitude let us count and savour our blessings … (silent prayer). God, it is by your hand that we exist and through your mercy that we live. For your bounty which crowns our lives, we thank you with joy!” Amen. [drawn and adapted from All the Seasons of Mercy 1987]
In keeping with the theme of this year’s convention, “Disciples Making Disciples: restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ,” I was drawn to the opening verses of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. Beginning with the third verse of this first chapter, we find Paul offering thanksgiving for blessings and prayer for spiritual wisdom as he writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” [Ephesians 1:3-10]
Four years ago this month we gathered at Grace Parish, Monroe for what was my first convention as your Bishop. Looking back today, it seems in a way like it was so very long ago, and yet, in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday. Much has taken place in our lives during this period of time – both personally and corporately. There have been three hurricanes since my arrival, and some have questioned the possible correlation in this. During a visitation some time back, I commented at the adult forum that I couldn’t believe all that has happened since Susan and I came to the diocese. One dear soul responded quite quickly, “Well Bishop, we can’t believe what has happened since you arrived here either.”
Not lamenting this, but together we have experienced much in our time with one another, and at the same time we have accomplished good things. My message has been one of calling us over and over again to be about the mission of God’s Church; to be committed to the discipleship to which we have been called; and to faithfully proclaim the Gospel message that has been handed down to us and entrusted to our care. In other words, while disturbed about that which is going on around us, we cannot let it derail the mission and ministry of this diocese and that which we have before us.
If we are going to take seriously our call to discipleship, we must be about God’s business in proclaiming the Gospel, not beating up one another over issues of the Church at the expense of ministry. My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we do not stand firm and in concert with one another and do the work of Jesus in this place, then we have succumbed to the will of the devil!
As your Bishop, and I have said this before and am going to say it again, I will not permit the ministry that God has called us to share in this place to be derailed and run off the track. I stand here before you this day very mindful of the examination and oath that I took eight years ago this past Tuesday in the context of my ordination and consecration as Bishop within the Church Catholic.
Permit me to share those words with you:
“My brother, the people have chosen you and have affirmed their trust in you by acclaiming your election. A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.
You are called to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.
With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
These words, offered on October 9, 1999 are indelible upon my heart and remained such as I came into the ministry of this diocese. They bear the same depth of commitment this day, and as I shared in my Pastoral Letter of September 27, 2007, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” [Joshua 24:15]
I stand before you with the continued commitment to lead us in a path of faithful fulfillment of the Gospel. The mandate for this is undergirded by the expressed position of this diocese through the action of the past few conventions, and the response made through the five Reconciliation and Healing gatherings held in the convocations this past summer.
Over and over again the people of the diocese, and representing a wide spectrum, have voiced the desire to be an integral part of the Anglican Communion in keeping with the constituent membership of The Episcopal Church. Many have expressed the importance of this, and the concern about wanting to remain in Communion with the Anglican Communion and See of Canterbury.
I realize some would like to see us affiliated with this group or that group, but when you truly look at other groups, and other options at this time, you will find the direction they feel called to follow is no more definitive than that which is before us. At this moment they do not have anything specific to identify with, and we do not have anything specific that we can act on, other than being called to be about the ministry of being “disciples making disciples.”
It may be my Benedictine contemplative spirituality, or that of a faithful stubborn Scotsman, but in keeping with my responsibility as Bishop for all the people of this diocese, I cannot act precipitously and won’t. From the beginning the process has rested in the reaction of the Primates to the response of the American church. We must, and I will repeat, we must see where the fulfillment of the process we have been engaged in leads us. We went forward with the Primates date of September 30 to the House of Bishops, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Primates to respond to the response made by the Bishops of The Episcopal Church no later than October 31, 2007. In conversations with others, and what I have heard, I am confident the answer will be clear.
What difference will the next eighteen days make? Most important, we will know the decision of the wider Communion with respect to our place within. And it is important to know, that since my return from the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans, I have personally communicated with the Archbishop of Canterbury about my concern for the continued recognition of us as a Windsor- compliant diocese, and have reiterated that which I shared with him and the Primates in Dar es Salaam about remaining in full communion with the Anglican Communion and See of Canterbury.
In keeping with this, some have expressed concern about having to wait until our Diocesan Convention next year should there be action the diocese would want to take. Please know, if action on the part of this diocese is needed on this matter or anything else, the Diocesan Constitution and Canons [Article IX, Section 1] provide for the Bishop to call a special meeting, and I will do so.
If something like this arose, please bear in mind that while we would be able to form a direction forward at this time, changes to the Articles of Incorporation and Constitution can only take place in an annual meeting of Convention, and require adoption by a two-thirds vote at two consecutive annual conventions. [Article XIII, Section 1 Diocesan Constitution and Canons]
Looking at the recent meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans, the reports on the reception of the House of Bishops’ response to the Primates Communique have been mixed thus far. You already know that I feel the response was inadequate and did not clearly answer the three basic questions that were asked of us. You also are well aware from my Pastoral Letter of September 27 of my action. As shared, much effort was made in the closed sessions, but not to any avail.
A small number of people have sought a further explanation from me about my confessed “silence.” To this I will simply state, the critical explanation about my position came as I stood before the Primates of the entire Anglican Communion in Tanzania and made my statement which in turn reverberated across the wider Church.
Further, if my demonstrated position and the things that I have said and done for the past eight years do not suffice, I am sorry, but as for now I must, in the words of Jesus, “be about my Father’s business.” [Luke 2:49]
One writer in the diocese likened me to Peter and his denial of Jesus in the courtyard, but quickly pointed out that Jesus still loved him. While that analogy was painful for me, I could not help but be mindful of Jesus’ later words to Peter at the time of his confession, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18]
Brothers and sisters, the ministry of this diocese that we share, is built upon this rock, and in keeping with Jesus’ words, no power shall prevail against it. I am reminded of this on many Sunday visitations as we sing those powerful words of “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” [Hymn 525 Hymnal 1982]
If we are going to build upon the foundation that has been placed before us, we must be people of vision, for as the Book of Proverbs declares, “Where there is no vision, the people perish …” [Proverbs 29:18]
God is calling us to a continued faithful ministry, and although we don’t know the shape of this today, we must trust in that which he will place before us. As we heard in our reading from Habakkuk this past Sunday, “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain upon the tablets: so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” [Habakkuk 2:2-4]
This vision began to unfold last year as we were called to a year of reconciliation and healing. I didn’t know how this would be lived out when I shared this with you in my convention address, but I did know that if we were going to be a part of building up the kingdom of God in this place, we needed each other, and we needed to know each other.
Out of that vision a training event involving 45 people emerged, and after three days of intense work, we embarked upon the convocational gatherings. I am pleased to say that more than 650 people participated in these events, and out of this came positive energy for our Lord’s ministry in this diocese. My thanks go out especially to Judge Dee Drell for chairing this work, and for all those who gave so very much of their time and treasure to bring this to be.
Much insight has been gained out of this work, along with a greater sense of how the people of this diocese want to share in ministry, and this will be something we will build upon for some time. The challenge however, is going to be in truly sharing in ministry and not just talking about it in small groups. I say this as several of the participants raised the question of us having more conferences and small groups in the future, and yet, several attempts in doing this in the past couple of years have received a negligible response. I will speak to the vision that I have for the new year momentarily.
For the moment I would like to pause and give thanks to you for all of the prayers, notes and expressions of care since the surgery on my knee this past July. I will confess the past two years have provided for periods of great frustration as I wrestled with my leg following the accident in Lake Charles. Thanks to the fine work of Dr. Bill Webb of our Cathedral congregation, my leg is wonderful and you don’t know how freeing it is to be able to walk without crutches nor pain.
As to the healing of the diocese with respect to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, there are still areas out there with the familiar blue roofs and boarded windows that Susan and I encounter as we travel the diocese. But each day brings about a more fully recovered environment as is evidenced with The Open Door ministry in Lake Charles which is housed at this time at the former Church of Our Saviour site. This property which was severely damaged, and has been fully repaired and now operational. As was announced yesterday, they were the recipients of the offering at our opening Eucharist.
We need to continue to hold our sister dioceses – Louisiana and Mississippi in our prayers as they have much work yet before them. You may have read where the bishops were asked to bring a special offering of $10,000 per diocese to the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans for the benefit of these two dioceses. The ingathering of this offering amounted to more than $931,000! It is important to note that I did not take an offering as we, the people of Western Louisiana, had contributed $26,500 to each of the dioceses earlier in the year.
Closer to home, I am saddened to report the Mount Olivet Chapel restoration work is moving quite slowly. As reported in the September issue of ALIVE!, the windows have all been removed and are presently being restored by Stan Gall Company in Crowley, but the beginning of the foundation work is still on the drawing board. The architect promises that we are on the horizon, and apologizes for the delays that have come about due to larger projects for which he was committed. With the exception of the boarded up windows, signs of visible progress are minimal. His word is that the endeavour will be completed within the year, and I look forward to a rededication of this historic holy space in keeping with next year’s convention.
Visible signs of ministry are being witnessed in the diocese in viable and exciting ways – the Episcopal Church Women continue to grow in their ministry across the diocese. The Time for Joy weekend was an enriching time for many this year, and the Celebration of Women’s Ministries had a record attendance of participants this past month. Susan and I are included in a tangible way in each of these events, and for all of this we are grateful to Sandra Edwards, member of Holy Trinity, Sulphur and president of the women for her leadership, and those who share in this ministry with her.
The Commission on Spiritual Formation, chaired by the Rev’d Paula Claire Hall of Grace, Lake Providence, has completed its first year with the offering of their second retreat since formation, and the Commission on Addiction and Recovery held another successful retreat, and once again it was a privilege to participate as one of the speakers. I am grateful to Reece Middleton, Holy Cross, Shreveport, for his commitment to this important ministry.
Under the leadership of Dr. Cheryl White of St. Paul’s, Shreveport, the Commission on Christian Education is working on a curriculum on Confirmation preparation that will be available for use across the diocese. I feel this document will prove to be most helpful to many of our congregations, and especially some of the smaller ones. The Commission on Evangelism continues to provide programs to congregations on an individual basis, and I am thankful for Judge Dee Drell of St. James, Alexandria, and the Rev’d Paul Martin of St. Paul’s, Shreveport, for their work with the congregations in the diocese.
The Diocesan School of Theology has experienced an increase in enrollment this year, and included in this number are two of our Postulants for Holy Orders. My thanks to the Rev’d Dr. Bill McBride of St. Matthias, Shreveport, and the faculty for their commitment to this program. The Institute for Lay Ministry has been engaged in the work of preparing for the Convocational training that will be offered for Eucharistic Ministers, Eucharistic Visitors, and Worship Leaders. This ministry is under the leadership of Dr. Jim Boyd of St. Paul’s, Shreveport, and I know he would be pleased to discuss these opportunities with you.
Not to be overlooked as we focus on ministries of the diocese is the ministry of Hardtner Camp and Conference Center. Pat Higgins, executive director, Deacon Boo Kay, headmaster at Bishop Noland School, Lake Charles, chair of the Board, and the members of the Board have provided tremendous direction this past year. Included in this was our Summer Camping program headed by the Rev’d Skully Knight, formerly of our Cathedral. There is much more to be shared about Camp Hardtner, and you will hear from Pat a little later today. I know he is excited to share with you some of the things taking place, and you can also get a first-hand view by visiting the Camp Hardtner booth in the exhibit area.
Our ministry to youth and young adults continues under the leadership of Monet Brashear of Holy Trinity, Sulphur and prayerfully the recent appointment of several people to the newly formed Commission on Youth and Young Adult Ministry will help strengthen this important ministry.
The college work in the diocese is growing with Canterbury ministries now being exercised on six campuses. I must say this makes my heart glad as the ministry to the students, as with our youth and young adult ministry, is a priority for me. In keeping with this in the new year will be the work involved in reestablishing a Canterbury ministry on the campus of Grambling University. This new work will be headquartered out of St. Luke’s Mission, and approval has been given for the funding of an African-American priest to take up this ministry. One of the major accomplishments this year was the completion of the work involved in making Canterbury House at Centenary College disability accessible. My thanks to Fr. Ben Songy for seeing this brought to fruition.
Other ministries include the Commission on Stewardship, and Education for Ministry, both under the care of Brenda Milam of St. James, Alexandria; Daughters of the King with leadership provided by Anita Luff of St. Andrew’s, Moss Bluff; the Cursillo movement under the present leadership of Dale Dimos of Grace, Monroe; the Altar Guild headed by Kathy Dungan, St. James, Alexandria; our participation in the Louisiana Interchurch Conference and the work of the Rev’d Dr. Wayne E. Carter, rector at St. John’s, Minden, and ecumenical officer; our Disaster Relief work and Episcopal Relief and Development provided by the Rev’d Elizabeth Ratcliff of Calvary, Bunkie; the important discernment work done by the Commission on Ministry under the care of Herschel Richard of St. Mark’s Cathedral; the care of children through the Commission on Schools, and chaired by the Rev’d Deacon Boo Kay; the Commission on Anti-Racism, chaired by the Very Rev’d John Clark of Trinity, Crowley; and the Commission on International Mission which is headed by Tom Dalton of St. Paul’s, Shreveport, and from whom we will hear a report later this day; and not to be overlooked is the important work of the Kairos ministry that draws upon many from across the diocese.
Reflecting upon these things, I must pause and give thanks to all those whose generosity, care and love brought about the fulfillment of an endeavour that began more than two years ago. There were so many angels that were a part of this, I would error in attempting to acknowledge them, but I must express thanks to Clare Nelson and Drs. Bill and Rhonda Webb of St. Mark’s Cathedral, and Dr. Richard Campbell from St. John’s, Minden, for they truly provided the needed leadership. The event to which I refer, and I trust all are aware, was the life saving and life-giving surgery for Lusila, the young woman from the Dominican Republic. Through the effort of many, many people, and especially Dr. Ghali Ghali and Christus Schumpert Hospital in Shreveport, what began as a commitment on the part of our medical mission team in the summer of 2005, was accomplished in the summer of 2007 and her life touched and changed.
As Susan and I travel the diocese visiting congregations and participating in various events, we encounter with great regularity people who share the story of their lives being touched … being changed by the ministry of the people of this fine diocese.
We may fret about much, but these things of which I speak are the mission of the Church, and this is the will of God. All of the things I have shared that are taking place, which are a part of the fabric of the diocese, are the things that happen when people are willing to move beyond their differences in order to focus on that which the Gospel calls us to be about. When we share a vision of being “disciples making disciples,” and we are personally reconciled to God and through him to one another, we will do as Jesus promised, “the things he has done, and even greater things.” [John 4:12] We can and must focus on the Gospel imperative that we share.
Pausing to reflect at this moment causes me to fear that I have overlooked one of the many important ministries in the diocese, but in thinking about the above, I realize that many other signs of health are being experienced, but in many ways go unnoticed. But then, as Paul wrote to the people of Corinth, “… look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” [2 Corinthians 4:18]
Not overlooked, but held until now is acknowledgment of an important part of our ministry, and this is ALIVE!, our diocesan newspaper. An enhanced publication was promised to you in my address of last year, and Bob and Maryse Harwell have indeed provided this. Not only has this monthly publication taken on a new look, but the appointment of the advisory board took place this past year and is in place. In addition to his work on the newspaper, Bob provides important work in the capacity as communications officer, and for this I am indeed grateful.
Looking ahead, I am calling upon Dean John Clark and the Commission on Anti-Racism to begin making plans for our participation on a wider scale in the area of awareness training. We can easily feel that issues of racism do not affect us, but we must be mindful that what took place in Jena these past months can happen anywhere across our diocese and state.
While much was taking place in the form of public demonstrations in Jena, Susan and I were in Jena participating in a meeting with local leaders and members of the district attorney’s staff. The only difference is that our meeting, arranged by Father Dan Krutz of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, was not in the limelight, but rather, was held in a quiet spot within the community. The reason for the nature in which this took place was that I was one of four judicatory leaders in the state that was asked to meet with the group in order to begin looking toward a “post Jena” period with the hope of helping bring about reconciliation to this divided community within our diocese. I share this with you this day as we have been asked to return for a follow-up meeting.
And speaking of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, the action that I raised last year with respect to issues of violence within our communities and school settings, was lost in the continued disaster relief work that consumed many across the state and continues to do so in some areas, but the issue of violence is not forgotten.
In the course of this address to you, the gathered convention, we have looked at where we have been, what we have done, and where we are. Now, let me segue from this into where the work of this past year will lead us in the next year. I want to share with you a vision that will embrace every congregation in this diocese, and this is with disregard to size.
It is with glad heart that I share with you that in the early new year a diocesan-wide conference will be offered under the leadership of the Commission on Evangelism. This event is being designed to reach out to every congregation in the diocese and will feature a noted international evangelism leader. The conference will not be unto itself as the participants will not only be challenged to discipleship, but will go home with materials to share with their congregation. It is our prayer that in the following six months each congregation, utilizing the materials from the conference, will explore how each of you “proclaim the Gospel … proclaim your faith” in your respective settings.
It is not enough to just talk about what is needed, we must provide it, and this begins with each of us personally allowing Jesus to be seen in our lives. Through this, each of our congregations can more fully live into being a beacon for Christ in your communities. Or as heard in the sermon on the mount, “… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:16]
In addition to the materials, members of the Commission on Evangelism will be available to assist you in this endeavour. The work accomplished will be shared as we all gather for diocesan convention next year, and continue to build upon this work through the much desired small group settings with one another. I urge you to be mindful that this conference is part of that which many of you requested be offered and in turn make a commitment to participate. If we are truly serious about wanting to build up the “Body of Christ,” we will be mindful of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, and wherein we read that “the body does not consist of one member but many.” [1 Corinthians 12:14]
My prayer is that we will not only draw upon the reconciliation and healing work of this past year, but will build upon it. To allow this to be a bridge into a greater ministry of being “disciples making disciples.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if the mission of discipleship to which God calls us to in Western Louisiana is going to be not just talked about, but done, we must go forward together in faith. As we are reminded through the words found in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, “… faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” [Hebrew 11:1]
May we, in faith, be mindful of the further words in the Letter to the Hebrews, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:1-2]
Now, before closing, permit me to say a word about the convention dinner last evening and the wonderful experience of having the Ugandan Children’s Orphanage Choir with us. The witness of these children truly makes clear Jesus’ words “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” [Mark 10:14] Thanks be to God for this ministry to these young people.
A regular part of our dinners for the past couple of years has been the announcement of the recipient of the Bishop’s Mount Olivet Award. This award is given to a member of the diocese that had demonstrated ministry in a faithful manner over a period of time. I am pleased to share that Mrs. June Strausser of Grace, Monroe was the recipient for this year. Mrs. Strausser actually received her award when I made my visitation to Grace Parish this past May 13th as I knew she would not be in attendance with us this weekend. This delightful soul has contributed to so many areas of the life of the church, and up until this year served as chair of the diocesan Church Periodical Club and faithful member of the Board at All Saints’ School, Vicksburg. With respect to the latter, I will state that she was one of the most regular attendees on the Board. As we give thanks to God for her ministry, may we also give thanks for her birthday on October 31 … her 94th!
Another special announcement was made last evening as it was my privilege, to recognize the extended ministry of two lay people in this diocese by making them Honourary Canons. They are both people who have done much in areas of leadership, ministry development and discipleship; people who are always willing to step up and make things happen. Through their ministry the ministries of many people have been enriched and the ministry of this diocese enhanced. Please join me in showing our appreciation to the first Honourary Lay Canons in the Diocese of Western Louisiana, Dr. James D. Boyd and the Honourable Dee D. Drell. Congratulations, Canon Boyd and Canon Drell.
Now in closing, I want to say again that it is my honour to serve as your Bishop, and to share with you for these past four plus years in the ministry that God has entrusted to us. It is not our ministry, but it is our Lord’s and I truly feel we are blessed to be here together.
An important part of this ministry are those who labour with me at Diocesan House each day, and for whom I am truly thankful, and they are Dianne White, Kathy Richey, and Canon Larry Wilkes. I must add, Dianne celebrated her 25th anniversary at Diocesan House two weeks ago, and is now on her third bishop!
The last person to be recognized is the person that God has blessed me with, my beloved wife of 49 years and supporting helpmate in the ministry to which God has called us, please join me in giving thanks to Susan for all she does on behalf of us all.
Let us pray.
“O Christ, it is no wonder that in every age men and women catch a glimpse of your splendour and become your followers. Though we are among the least of all people, common folk bearing no great distinction, you stand at the threshold of our lives with the promise that our barren lives can yield unexpected grace. Even though we have laboured through long and fruitless hours, though we claim no talent and feel unworthy to bear your love into the world, you still call, pouring the fullness of divine care into such unwitting vessels as we are. As you directed the disciples to a great catch of fish, you can wrest forth a surprising harvest from our lives as well. O Christ, may your gracious promise to us not be in vain. Grant us openness and eagerness to follow you and to show forth God’s glory to the world. Send us out now as “disciples making disciples: restoring all people to unity with you and each other in Christ.” Amen. [drawn and adapted from All the Seasons of Mercy 1987]