Friday, August 5, 2016

Remembering a giant



When Elie Wiesel died recently at age 87, humankind lost a moral giant. Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, liberated from Buchenwald death camp by American soldiers in April 1945. After studying literature, philosophy and psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris, he became a journalist. He wrote dozens of books, including his first novel, Night, which came out of his death camp experiences. It was translated into 30 languages. He helped establish the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. A scholar and gifted teacher, he taught at Boston University, among other institutions.

Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Nobel Commission describing him as “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.”

Many years ago, I met Elie Wiesel, which is one of the blessings of my life. Night and his other work had moved me. I dreamed of meeting the author. After his speech at Southwest Missouri State University, we met at a reception and talked. For ten minutes or more, I monopolized him. We discussed the nature of good and evil.

As a teenager, he had experienced the monstrous evil of Auschwitz and then Buchenwald, his parents and a younger sister dying in the camps. He had known colossal evil, but it had not overcome him. He had overcome it. And he was overcoming it with good through his writing and political activism. He championed human rights. He condemned apartheid in South Africa and genocide in the former Yugoslavia.

Talking with him, I knew that I was in the presence of a gentle, humble and even holy man. God was in him.

Reared in Judaism, Wiesel struggled to reconcile the God of love with the existence of evil. He abandoned his faith in God in the camps, feeling abandoned by God there, only later in life to make peace with God. He and God must be having some deep conversations now. Surely, Eli Wiesel sees all existence, including history’s catalogue of atrocities, with clarity.

Today, evil is ascendant. ISIS and its sympathizers commit mass murders here and abroad.  Politicians rouse and rally their followers with hateful rhetoric. Neo-Nazi parties are gaining power in France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. A sniper kills five police officers in Dallas. Gun violence threatens us all, and there is no political will to stop it. Killing continues.

Humankind has lost a moral giant in Elie Wiesel. Inspired by him, and in keeping my baptismal vow to “resist evil,” I hope I will have the courage to confront evil and do all in my power to overcome it. I also hope that multitudes of others will do the same. To do nothing about evil or to be indifferent to it, is, according to Wiesel, “the epitome of evil.”

Monday, March 14, 2016

Preaching from the heart

Before I preach, I pray that God's Word will spring from my heart. I hope that my God-filled heart will speak to other hearts.


But before I talk about the heart, I must talk about the stomach. My stomach. The subject might be an indelicate one, perhaps too personal to discuss here. But I will, nevertheless.


This weekend, I suffered from stomach flu. 

By Sunday morning, I thought I was well enough to go to church for worship. I need weekly worship. And yesterday I was eager to preach a sermon that I felt strongly about, a message that I thought the Holy Spirit wanted me to deliver.


Early yesterday, I was preparing a simple outline. Outlining is one way I further internalize my research, study, prayer and reflection on the Scripture readings for Sunday. I need 12 to 15 hours a week to prepare, or over prepare, for preaching a Sunday sermon.

About seven, my wife Penny returned home from a walk and came into the bedroom, where I was working on my lap desk. How was I feeling? she wondered. So, so, I responded.


She urged me to stay home from church and not expose people to the virus. And I should rest and drink plenty of fluids. She spoke to me in love.


What shall I do about the sermon? I asked myself.


I did not want to ask my assistant, Father Jonathan, to deliver an impromptu sermon, although he would have done so and done so ably.


So, I decided to send him something to read to the congregation. 

I scrambled, with only a short time left before the first service. I gathered my notes, called up from my head and heart thoughts and feelings related to the texts and typed up the sermon.


The result was less a sermon, more a bare outline.


(Before I preach on Sundays, I get up at 4.50am and pray; think; sometimes, fret; and then write a short outline on a card. Later, I place the card in the breast pocket of my clerical shirt. I never take the card out and read from it. The card simply reminds me that I am to speak for God from my heart, that deepest part of my being.)


I titled yesterday's outline, or sermon sketch, “God makes a way out of no way.”


The words of that title are not original to me but come from a preacher who always spoke from his heart, a man who was and still is my homiletical exemplar and inspiration, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The words are from his sermon, “God is able.” 

This sermon is worth reading, as are all of Dr. King's sermons, although I believe sermons are far more compelling when they are heard. The difference between reading a sermon and listening to one is the the difference between reading Shakespeare's Hamlet and hearing and seeing it come to life on stage.


I have attached my sermon sketch below. You can also listen to Father Jonathan delivering it, and beautifully, at: www.christepiscopalchurch.com.


As I looked over the sketch, I realize once more that words on paper are not sermons. God makes the sermon, the Word, out of the words on the page, which are spoken by the preacher. The real preacher in not the man or woman in the pulpit or on the stage or standing amid the people. The real preacher is the Holy Spirit, who turns our human words into the lively Word of God.

In the sermon, God is speaking to his beloved people not just through the head (or mouth) of the preacher but also, and most important of all, through the heart of the preacher.


Yesterday, in introducing it, Father Jonathan said that my sermon was brief. It is. It is only a skeleton. Little more than that. A skeleton of human words awaiting God’s flesh, muscle and breath of life.

God makes a way out of now way

Texts:
Isaiah 43.16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3.4b-14
John 12.1-8

There is no way. There are times when we say, “No way.” No way will I overcome this illness. No way will my spouse stop drinking. No way can I go on living after the death of my loved one.


The people of Israel thought there was no way out of slavery in Egypt; but God called Moses who led Israel out.


And then, with Pharaoh's armies chasing them and the people of God standing at the edge of the Red Sea, there was no way that they would be able to cross the sea on foot and then travel through the wilderness to the promised land. But they did.


And now, generations after the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, the prophet Isaiah reminds God's people of God’s mighty acts of salvation, and Israel is  once again is saying, “No way.”


Isaiah speaks for the Lord. “Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters…I am about to do a new thing.”


Israel is in bondage again, this time in Babylon. Earlier, the Babylonians had defeated the Israelites. They had devastated Jerusalem, and then led the defeated Israelites into exile and captivity in Babylon. Surely, they must have said, “No way will we go home again.”


But, in Babylon, the prophet speaks for God to his fellow captives.


God says, “I will do a new thing…I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert….I will give drink to my chosen people, the people I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”


And God fulfills his promise to his people. He does that “new thing.” He acts through King Cyrus of Assyria and defeats the Babylonians. God frees Israel, and God’s people return home to Jerusalem.


As God did for our forebears, Israel, so God does for us. He does that “new thing.” He sends Jesus, his own son, to save us from our Egypt and our slavery to evil, sin, and death and to lead us out of exile home to him.


Jesus, who is anointed for his death today in the gospel, confronts sin, evil, death. In this way, God shows his love for us. And Jesus overcomes our enemies, and he sets us free that we might declare God’s praise.


Dr. Martin Luther King tells the story of how one night, in the midst of his leadership of the Civil Rights movement, he received a phone call. It was yet another threat. The caller said that he would shoot and kill Dr. King and would blow up his house with his wife and children inside.


Dr. King tells how he sat in his kitchen late that night and trembled. He prayed to God. He told God he was terrified. That he was weak. That he wanted to quit the struggle for securing the constitutional rights of black people in America. And God answered his prayer.


God reminded him that “…there is a benign Power in the universe that makes a way where there is no way and transforms our dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.”


Friends, God loves us.


And when you are tempted to say, No way, remember the Good News: God will make a way out of your no way.

Thanks be to God.







Thursday, February 18, 2016

Transformed in the character of Christ, our theme for 2016
by The Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley

This is an edited version of my address to the parish on Annual Meeting Sunday, February 14, which was also Valentine’s Day. You can also listen to the address on-line at www.christepiscopalchurch.com

Today is the First Sunday in Lent. Lent is a 40-day period, inspired by our gospel today, Luke 4.1-13, which recounts Jesus’ 40 days of testing  in the wilderness. 

Lent is a time of self-examination; a time penitence or sorrow for our sins; a time of repentance, or turning from evil, sin and death to the God; a time of amendment of life and renewed resolve to follow Christ in faithfulness, living our baptismal promises.

Fundamentally, Lent is a time of transformation so Christ’s character, that of love, will be more fully revealed in us, in our church; and through us, in the world.

On this Annual Meeting Sunday, I want look at what I believe is God’s vision for us this year and beyond. God is calling us to transformation

                                                            Transformed People

God is calling us to deep, individual transformation.

In the delightful film,“June Bug,” June, the main character, says to her husband who is, well, no Valentine: “Yes, God loves you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.”

With Christ first in our lives, we will be grow, as Ephesians 4.15 says, into the full stature of Christ. His character will be formed and more fully revealed in us. 

Our transformation will come about as we pray and study the Holy Scripture daily; as we gather weekly for the Holy Eucharist; as we learn more about Christ through educational programs; as we serve others; and as we give our time, energy and money to support this, Christ’s church.

In Deuteronomy 26.1, God calls upon his people, Israel, to remember his many blessings. And they are to show their thanksgiving by offering God on the altar the “firstfruits,” a tithe or 10 percent of the harvest.

As we give God our firstfruits freely, generously, and unconditionally, God transforms us; our character reflects that of Christ.

In addition, transformation comes about when we sit quietly in God’s presence, listening for his voice. Twice a month, our Contemplative Prayer Group meets. This is an opportunity to listen to God.  This year, I  will encourage the the Christian Formation Team to plan and offer more opportunities for spiritual growth, such as quiet mornings, perhaps even a retreat. Please let me know if you are interested.
Transformation occurs when we participate in adult classes on Sunday mornings; in Wednesday evening Lent Madness, a survey of the lives of the saints; and in the Restoration Project small groups, which are being formed.

This spring, I will lead two Sunday morning discussions of David Brooks’s best-selling book, “Road to Character,” which maps the way we can become people of good or better character. His book inspired this year’s theme of transformation in the character of Christ.

Spiritual direction or guidance furthers transformation. We clergy regularly provide spiritual direction to people seeking Christ. A trained lay spiritual director is also available to you. Please call on us. And grow.

Transformed Church

As we are transformed individually, Christ Church will be transformed by our very presence and participation. This year, I will work for transformation here in many ways, including through improved internal communication. 

Communication and community contain within them the word, “unity.”

We will be transformed as we learn how to talk to one another, especially when problems arise among us. And problems will arise because we are human and imperfect. 

When we experience differences, disappointments, hurt feelings, we must not succumb to the temptation to withdraw, to change churches, to quit church altogether; to stop giving or to reduce our giving. Instead, we must resolve our problems, together. We must talk to one another, not about one another.

Not to alarm you but to inform you: I have asked Bishop Field for mediation. Some church members were offended by my sermons on justice and by a newspaper column on the same topic. Conversation with these members has not resolved the matter. I hope a trained, outside mediator will bring healing.  

Other communication improvements proposed

I have decided to take other action to foster healthy communication and promote unity.  I will work with others to review how we are communicating and how we can better communicate internally and interpersonally. 

We are making a start today. I have included on the Annual Meeting agenda a time for conversation. We need to deal with problems when they arise, not let them accumulate, harm relationships, and impede the work of the church. Let us talk through any differences, in a spirit of Christian love. 

I am exploring the formation of a Clergy/Parish Relations Committee to aid conversation, not to create more triangulation, which is that unproductive approach where people avoid talking with one another and instead talk about one another to others.
             
Transforming the community

As transformed people, Christ calls us to transform the larger community, inspired and empowered by God the Holy Spirit.

Episcopal Bishop C. Andrew Doyle of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and author of a new book, “Church: a Generous Community Amplified for the Future,”was recently interviewed by the Alban Institute about the future of the church.

Bishop Doyle said, “A lot of the way we serve our neighbor is through charity models that are outdated 1930s food pantry models. ... The church is going to have to (be) at the forefront of work in poverty and health and education…(It) has to step into that.”

The bishop is not discounting charity; at Christ Church, we do great charitable work, which blesses many lives. But he is saying that charity must be matched by something else, and that is  change, the transformation of systems, structures, and institutions that perpetuate poverty, oppression and human misery.

Why should Christians want to engage in change? Because the Holy Scriptures, church teaching, the Prayer Book, and our Baptismal Covenant call us to resist evil, just as Jesus does in the wilderness in the gospel today. And in our Baptismal Covenant Christ also calls us to respect the dignity of every human being and to work for justice, which theologian Dr. Cornell West  says is“love gone public.”  Love, agape in the language of the Greek New Testament, is the relentless pursuit of the very best for all God's children. Agape is making abundant life in Christ available to all, regardless.

To that end, many Christians today, and I am one of them, are responding to God’s call and working for a living wage so people can support their families on their earnings; for sheltering the homeless, for laws that cap the interest on payday and title loans at 36 percent and creating alternatives to these predatory loans. The average interest rate on such loans in Missouri exceeds 500 percent and, in some instances, reaches 1500 percent.

In Romans, St. Paul says that those who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord will be saved. We, the redeemed, confess Christ in word and in deed. Jesus is Lord, master of everything in this world, including you and me, the church, even politics.

It is appropriate and indeed essential for Christians to be involved in politics. I believe that we must do so, however, in a way that unites people. Whatever our party, we must work for the greater good of all. That means: Registering to vote, Studying the issues, Writing letters to the editor and columns when we feel strongly about issues. Calling, visiting, writing elected officials--all in the pursuit of biblical justice. Justice is loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This year, I hope we will not only do those Gospel-mandated acts of charity, but also those Gospel-mandated acts of advocacy and action for justice and for the transformation of the world.

To help prepare for this work, I will lead an adult class in the coming months on a new book 
by retired US Senator and Episcopal priest John Danforth. It is called “The Relevance of Religion.” In his book, Father Danforth condemns today’s American political culture, which emphasizes division over unity, the pursuit of power and domination over service to neighbor and work for the common good. He explores ways that Christians can come together, regardless of political affiliation--our most important affiliation is our faith in Christ--and can work together for change. 

And that change, transformation, will come about, I believe, when we reject the extremes of Left and Right and find that Anglican via media, the middle way, for the common good. I hope you will join the discussion. Together, we can and must learn to be a church of charity and change.

People of Christ Church: you are my Valentine. I have loved and served you for more than 20 years. I shall go on loving you, as together we are transformed into the character of Christ, which is love; as this church is transformed into his character; and as we, the church, transform the world for the glory of God. God bless you.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Singing the song of connection




Melanie has a song on her lips. She is a musician—she spent 18 years playing in a band—and is a conductor. She is a different kind of conductor. She likes to work with diverse groups, even prisoners, bringing them together in song. She just returned from four days on the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia, where she led a music camp as part of a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Melanie is an African American. I think Dr. King is smiling on her from heaven, maybe even singing along with this woman whose God-given vocation is to bring people together in song.

I met Melanie this morning at breakfast. She is here in New York City for the Trinity Institute, whose theme is bringing people together, especially blacks and whites. She will lead our music tonight at the Eucharist and before the start of our sessions over the next two days. She will have us on our feet singing. We will be together, even in our differences, singing the same song.

Melanie's song on her lips is overcoming divisions and forging connections, and it is a song that is especially important today in this country, where African-Americans are increasingly in peril simply because of the color of their skin. We talked about the tragedy of Ferguson, MO, which alas is repeated nearly every day. She told me about a 24-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a gang recruit as part of his demonic initiation ritual. "He was the one chosen to be killed," she said.

With music, Melanie is doing the work of Jesus. In the Gospel reading this morning from John, Jesus takes a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. In doing so, he breaks down a wall between a man and a woman and between a religious outsider and a devout Jew. She asks him for "living water," and he gives it to her. That water is connection between the two of them and connection between the woman of Sychar and God himself in Jesus.

Melanie’s music is filling people with living water. And they are singing.

https://goo.gl/photos/u1WQ3yBERZkK46fn9

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Making poverty unwelcome in the Ozarks

Recently, I made a presentation at the Impacting Poverty Commission Community Summit, which was held at the Springfield Art Museum. More than 400 leaders from business, labor, government, service agencies and education filled the auditorium.

With the release of the Commission's report that day, we learned how significant a problem poverty is in our city, county and region. Springfield is the "most economically distressed urban area in Missouri," according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Poverty has increased from 10 percent of the population in 2009 to 28 percent of the population in 2015. More than half of Springfield public school students receive free or reduced-cost lunches. Eight-hundred public school students are homeless.

City Manager Greg Burris, one of the Summit speakers, urged everyone to "tell the story"of poverty in our community. He said that many citizens never see poverty. We do not sit beside poor people in our churches. We do not work with poor people.We do not socialize with poor people. We do not live in poor neighborhoods or even drive through them on the way to work or school.

Not seeing poverty, we assume that it does not exist. And sometimes, if we do see it, we might distance ourselves from it, as I have at times, with judgmentalism and stereotypes: The poor are lazy, dependent, takers.

As an "action item," Burris urged us to sign up before we left to participate in a Poverty Simulation, if we had not been involved in one before. I have. We are organizing one for Christ Episcopal Church members. The simulation helps people experience poverty for themselves, enabling them to discover that for the majority of poor people, poverty is not a life they choose, but a life, an existence, that is .forced upon them by circumstances, including divorce and family disintegration, major illness, debt to predatory lenders.

You can read the Impacting Poverty Commission's "Community Focus 2015, A Report for Springfield and Greene County" at www.springfieldcommunityfocus.org.

As a panelist at the Summit, I had only seven minutes to comment on the role of the church, including Christ Episcopal Church, in meeting the challenge of increasing poverty. Below are my comments. I answered questions posed by the Summit organizers:

What is the role of our faith-based community and what is its capacity to affect poverty? 

I speak as a Christian and pastor. Jesus calls his followers to love their neighbors as themselves. The Golden Rule is taught and is lived not only by Christians, but also by followers of the world’s other great religions. We people of faith are to love our neighbors by helping them flourish, realizing their full potential as human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God.  

And everyone is our neighbor, including those on the margins of society. In Matthew 25, Jesus says,
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren,you did it to me” (Matthew 25. 40b).  

During my 20 years in Springfield, again and again, I have seen our churches and their members faithfully do the work of Jesus. St. Teresa of Avila writes that Jesus has no hands but ours. The role of the faith community is to be the hands of Jesus--the very hands of God. Our hands might be calloused by service, but not our hearts. Sharing generously of time, talent and treasure, church members from many denominations are united in helping needy people. And so are people of other faith traditions.

 Please tell us what Christ Episcopal Church is doing to impact the quality of life for our under-resourced families?

Through our church budget and individual contributions-- amounting to tens of thousands of dollars--the people of Christ Episcopal Church support the agencies of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks.

Our members also contribute hundreds of hours annually to the work of these agencies. Several women from the church, for instance, regularly volunteer at Safe to Sleep, which provides temporary shelter to homeless women in local churches.I am proud to serve on the council’s board.

Quarterly, Christ Church hosts a community dinner, serving 150 people at each meal, sometimes more. Our guests are often homeless, disabled, or suffering from chronic illness. All the food is donated, as is the labor. Church members do the organizing, the cooking, the hosting, the cleanup. They also visit with our guests. In welcoming them, we welcome Christ himself.

We are one of founding churches of the Center City Christian Outreach, which operates the Well-of-Life food pantry. The Well is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and is staffed entirely by volunteers. We contribute $8000 annually to the budget of the pantry, and church members give hundreds of hours of service to the Well, which feeds more than 600 people monthly.

Coordinating with the Council of Churches’ Crosslines agency, the Well will  also distribute 25 Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets this year. Crosslines helps five families a month pay their utility bills. It provides bus passes and gasoline vouchers, helping people without vehicles or friends who can drive them get to doctors appointments or to job interviews. 

Christ Church staff distributes nearly 20 sack lunches each week to hungry people who come to the church door. From clergy discretionary funds, amounting to a few thousand dollars each year,  we help people pay rent and utility bills, buy their prescription medications, secure temporary lodging, and more. 

Our Next-to-New resale clothing shop is often able, free of charge, to outfit needy people with warm clothing during the winter and sometimes with dress clothes for job interviews or employment. Through store sales, we provide support to such local groups as Rare Breed and the Family Violence Center. 

We help feed homeless teens through our ministry at Rare Breed. Once a month, church members buy food for dinner, prepare it and then serve it. We feed as many as 50 young people each month. Once, we fed 100. We get to know the young people we serve. 

Annually, we participate in Friends Against Hunger, or the Pack-a-Thon. With many other volunteers from the community, we pack one million meals on a weekend. From 20 to 60 of our church members volunteer a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, assembling dry meals for hungry people here, elsewhere in the United States and abroad.We commit $1000 to $1200 to the Pack-a-Thon when we participate. 

About 10 years ago, we adopted Bissett Elementary, a Title I school. We participate in the Council of Churches' RSVP reading program there, with 10 church volunteers giving 30 or more minutes weekly to each of their students. We provide Christmas baskets to three or four Bissett families annually. We furnish personal hygiene products for the school nurse to distribute. Yearly, we take a class to a production at Springfield Little Theater.This year, we opened a store, where children can buy pencils, paper and other supplies inexpensively. Church members annually donate as much as $7500 to buy new tennis shoes for all the students.This year our 31 volunteers gave out 280 pairs of new Converse All Stars. One church member got this ministry under way and keeps it going.

Why is caring for those in poverty imperative for our community, and how can we join together as a community to do this.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “If God is our Father, then we are all brothers and sisters." We are family. A loving family takes care of its members.We need to care for family members who are unable to care of themselves. And for people who can care for themselves and who are seeking work,
for instance, we need provide opportunities for education, training, mentoring and other support, and then we need to ensure that they have access to jobs with living wages and benefits. Good jobs will help reduce poverty. 

And just as important, we need to work for justice. As we live the Golden Rule,“Love your neighbor as yourself," we will create a more just society in which poverty diminishes, perhaps even disappears one day. Yes, it’s a dream, but I believe we can make this dream come true when we act in partnership with one another and with God.

Borrowing from Dr. King again, I believe we need to be "drum majors" for justice—at City Council, in the General Assembly, in the U.S. Congress. We citizens need to become informed about issues of public policy. We need to know where candidates stand. And we need to work and vote for leaders who are committed to creating a just society. Government is only as good as its citizens.

,

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I implore the U.S. Congress to feed hungry children

"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"

"I will with God's help."

                    From The Renewal of  Baptismal Vows, The Book of Common Prayer, p 294

Today, I received an email message from the Episcopal Public Policy Network, a ministry of the Episcopal Church that seeks to influence public policy for the good of all human beings and all creation.  In its message today, the network called on me to contact my elected representatives in Washington, D.C., encouraging them to reauthorize legislation that will help reduce hunger among children.


Dear Senators Blunt and McCaskill and Rep. Blunt:

I see poor people almost daily. They come to my church, Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, for help.

I am especially troubled when I see hungry children. I am heart-broken when I hear true stories about children who go home from school on Friday and who have little to eat until they return to school on Monday. Famished. Springfield school teachers tell these stories.

I serve on the board of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, and I know that the Council's Crosslines feeding program is overwhelmed by need, as is the Well of Life, which my church and other downtown churches support and staff with volunteers.

Such hunger should not exist in Springfield or, indeed, in any community in America, the richest country in the world.

Surely, we can do better. And I believe we must.

As an Episcopalian, as a pastor who cares for people's souls and bodies and as your constituent, I am deeply concerned about hunger in my community. I am thankful that churches, non-profit groups and government bodies here and elsewhere are working together to reduce child hunger.

I know that each of you has a good, compassionate heart. Each of you is a person of faith. None of you wants to see children go hungry.

You can do something to help feed hungry children. You have a special opportunity to strengthen child nutrition legislation that is set to expire on September 30.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act helps millions of low-income children daily. It provides them free or reduced-price meals, which improve their health, educational achievement and advancement and physical development.

The Act encompasses several federal programs--including the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children--and my denomination, The Episcopal Church, supports these programs.

The reauthorization process grants you the opportunity to review and improve the policies contained within the Child Nutrition Act. I ask that you act swiftly to strengthen nutrition and school meal programs for our children today and for generations to come.

And as you work to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, please ensure that these nutrition programs are fully funded and that other important programs that meet human needs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are also fully funded. One program should not be cut to fund another one.

In addition, I ask you to make these feeding programs more accessible to low-income children, children in preschool and childcare and youth who are out of school on holidays.

Finally, please ensure that the services provided within each feeding program are based on strong nutrition standards that are grounded in scientifically reviewed data.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.

Because one in five children is at risk of hunger in the United States, I urge you to act now to strengthen and to reauthorize this legislation so that our children will receive the adequate and nutritious food that they need to thrive.

Grace and peace to you in Christ,

The Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley
Rector, Christ Episcopal Church
Springfield, MO

Sunday, August 30, 2015

God's arms open in welcome

"Welcome, regardless." This sign in front of Messiah Episcopal Church, Murphy, NC, expresses God's nature. God's arms are open in love to every person. Regardless.

At Holy Communion today, Penny and I listened as the Messiah choir sang "The Welcome Table," an old African-American spiritual.

And we felt God's welcome of us: in the music; in the liturgy; in the moving sermon by the Lutheran pastor who serves this small congregation; and in our Holy Communion with God and these kind people.

The service over, the pastor then dismissed us for our service to God. His words were: "Go forth and be kind."

How might we be transformed by showing God's kindness to our very own selves?

How might wounded people, including those who have wounded us, be transformed when we show them kindness?

How might the world be transformed by our simple, steady acts of kindness?

May you know God's goodness, His everlasting kindness, and share it with everyone you meet.

And watch what happens.

Deep healing and peace be with you in Christ.

Ken