Dear Sister or Brother,
Richard Rohr, a spiritual-writer giant, has words for us and FCM. He writes below of the critical importance of us in FCM and FCM itself, at this, a watershed moment in the life of the world.
Rohr: “I believe that what some refer to as the ‘emerging church’ is a movement of the Holy Spirit. Movements are the energy-building stages of things, before they become monuments, museums, or machines. In the last sixty years, several significant events have taken place, both within and alongside the various Christian churches, to foster this movement. Spiritual globalization is allowing churches worldwide to profit from these breakthroughs at approximately the same time, which of itself is a new kind of reformation! No one is directing, controlling, or limiting this movement. We are all just trying to listen together. It is happening almost in spite of all of us—which tells me the Spirit must be guiding it.
I will identify briefly some of the historical developments that I see propelling this movement:
This is the time of year we decide to renew our FCM membership. I claim Rohr as an ally in urging your renewal. We need you, the world needs you, indescribably more than your money. So please renew. To those of you who have renewed, thank you so very much for your support of FCM as the most vital organization we are. Your reward is truly great now and will be greater in heaven. For those of you who haven’t yet renewed, don’t let the cost stop you for an instant. I will work with you, so happily, to arrange payments over 2018 or waive your fee entirely. As Northeast VP, I can do this! (How cool is that!!).
So thank you, thank you so very much. On behalf of the world!
North East Vice President
A Thanksgiving Prayer Given by Tom Cusack, President of FCM At Annam Brahma Vegetarian Restaurant, Jamaica, Queens, NY A Diversity Celebration of Thanksgiving
Our friend and teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, we have come to this place of sharing food and community to reflect on thanksgiving. Help us to enter into your consciousness as we remember your giving thanks.
When you fed the 5,000 you first gave thanks to our Creator and yours. You thanked God for using you as an instrument to show others the power of sharing physical food so that each could have the strength to continue the divine quest.
When you cured ten lepers, remember only one came back to give thanks. You were disappointed in the other nine. Help us to always give thanks to you and our God, who lights our way and provides the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us.
Finally, when you celebrated your last Passover meal with your closest friends, you took bread and wine and gave thanks. You offer these to us now holding the same force and presence of the Creator as seen in your very body and blood when you walked the earth.
Jesus, help us to thank you for showing us a way of life lived showing others the divine presence. Help us to be grateful in saying Thy Will Be Done. And we accept with gratitude your prayer, “Peace Be with You.”
All now please say together “Amen.”
500 years ago today, 10/31/1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses. He had seen rot in the system and called it out. From that moment history changed. A single dedicated person changed the course of European and Christian history in that moment.
His effects continue to this day. The following piece describes a parallel with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is worth the read.
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In his June 21st column, Cal Thomas addresses the political and social rage that exists in our society today, and lays much of the blame on "the left." Thomas epitomizes, rather succinctly, the heart of the problem as he sees it: "It never occurs to them that their policies, forged in the era of Franklin Roosevelt, have exceeded their 'sell by' date, and so they lash out, trying to undermine the duly elected president by focusing on things that have nothing to do with average people." I think you will seldom find a quote that is so historically, politically and socially shallow as that.
When FDR provided jobs for millions of Americans through the CCC and WPA, there was no "sell by" date for that. When he stopped child labor and provided disability coverage for all Americans, there was no "sell by" date for that nor was there a date to cease social security for unnumbered Americans since then. And continuing FDR's work, Lyndon Baines Johnson introduced Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights for all Americans. Is all this now subject to a "sell by" date?
And as for all this having nothing to with average Americans, does health care or voting rights or clean water have nothing to do with average Americans? It has nothing to do with wealthy Americans, but then they are not average. Does Mr. Thomas not know that many crucial agencies of government are ridding themselves of advocates for health care, voting rights, civil rights and the environment, clean water and air? Are we all on our own now?
When we heard as youngsters that all Americans have a right to life, that had to include health care. Without health care, people die. Average Americans die. And when Lincoln told us our government was "for the people" he meant all the people. Government shouldn't choose who gets health care and who does not. We all have a right to life.
There is no "sell by" date for common human decency, nor for the gracious decisions of our forebears who worked so hard to bring us where we are today.
Congressional committees are moving forward with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The alternative plan has now been reviewed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Their analysis shows a result of millions of people losing their health care coverage in the near term (14 million) and in the longer term (24 million). This is unacceptable.
Health care in 21st century America should be seen as a right and a duty. It should be a right that our entire population be granted health care. On any day any one of us could be stricken by a dread disease or a terrible accident. At that moment health insurance allows for quick and effective action to save a life, a family and a family’s economic survival.
This is a duty also. In health insurance the danger is adverse selection. That is, those who are healthy today try to opt out of coverage in order to save premium dollars. Those who are older and more ill do not opt out, so their coverage is paid for by a smaller population. This causes their costs to rise, driving them out of the market due to inability to pay. They lose their coverage. The duty is to join the ranks of the insureds so that the risk is spread across the entire population. This enables all to afford coverage.
The Federation of Christian Ministries urges its members to reach out to each representative who represents you: your congressperson, your two senators. Demand that they protect us all by providing health care to save our lives and our economic future. Allow those at the top of the economic scale to pay a greater burden of cost, so that those with little might have the protection good insurance provides. Disallow the tax break for the top earning 450,000 households.
For many health care becomes a matter of life and death. Our Christ-inspired convention of churches stands for life giving insurance coverage now and into the future.
Tom Cusack, President
Tom Stricker, Chairperson
Carolyn Horvath, Chair, Peace and Justice Committee
Suggestion: Copy and paste the following statement and send it to your representatives via email or mail.
Dear (Representative), the American Care Act is unacceptable to me. It takes insurance coverage from the poor and the older by the millions.
Please support expanded care for all. As well as continued support to Planned Parenthood.
This Trinity Icon is given very special meaning by Richard Rohr in his book, The Divine Dance and Your Transformation. It was transformative for me, and so I would like to share it with you.
Rohr starts the book: “The Blessed Trinity is supposed to be a central – or the paramount – foundational doctrine of our entire Christian belief system. And yet we’re told, at least I was told as a young boy in Kansas, that we shouldn’t try to understand it.” It’s a mystery, we were told. But he adds: “Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand – it is something that you can endlessly understand.”
He continues: “Whatever is going on in God, is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love."
“And God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself.”
Rohr then spends time with this icon called “The Trinity.” It depicts the three at a table, loving each other and sharing a meal. But at the table there is a space for a fourth, and it’s believed the artist put a small mirror there, so the gazer could see that he/she was meant to be the fourth at the table, with the hand of the Spirit pointing toward the open and fourth place at the table, inviting, offering, and clearing space. For you – the Observer! The icon captures all the following life-giving, blessing, and energizing thought.
“At the heart of Christian revelation, God is not seen as a distant, static monarch, but – as we will explore together – a divine circle dance.... My fondest hope would be that these pages would reposition you in the mirror of divine fellowship, with a place at the table.... All creation is invited in, and this is the liberation God intended from the very beginning...."
“Are you ready to take your place at this wondrous table? Can you imagine that you are already a part of the dance?"
“Then let’s begin to explore both how and why!”
Rohr calls for a paradigm shift: a major conversion, a genuine transformation of worldview. Rohr sees history as operating with a static and imperial image of God – as a Supreme Monarch who is mostly living in splendid isolation from the world – and God is always and exclusively envisioned as male in this model – he created. This God is seen largely as a Critical Spectator (and his followers do their level best to imitate their Creator in this regard).
Rohr sees God: “Instead of God being the Eternal Threatener, we have God as the Ultimate Participant – in everything – both the good and the painful."
“How about God being the Life Force of everything?.... How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?”
“Theologically, of course, this revolution repositions grace as inherent to creation, not as an occasional additive that some people occasionally merit...."
“This God is the very one who we have named ‘Trinity’ – the flow who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning."
“Thus, everything is holy, for those who have learned how to see.”
This Trinitarian life and loves flows in and through us: “Whether we know it or not! This is not an invitation that you can agree with or disagree with. It is a description of what is already happening in God and in everything created in God’s image and likeness.”
“St. Bonaventure would later call such a God a “fountain fullness” of love. Any talk of anger in God, “wrath” in God, unforgiveness in God, or any kind of holding back whatsoever, the Cappadocian mystics would see as theologically impossible and forever undone in a Trinitarian notion of God. Nothing human can stop the flow of divine love; we cannot undo the eternal pattern even by our worst sin. God is always winning, and God’s love will win. Love does not lose, nor does God lose. You can’t stop the relentless outpouring force that is the divine dance.”
So Jesus-taught “Christianity” is one of relatedness, love, and unlimited forgiveness. This is in stark contrast to the typical Christian “basic relating to [that other] God out of fear and that religion is, by and large, fire insurance just in case the whole thing turns out to be real.”
A Major Shift
Rohr next makes a major point. This is a significant part of this view, and the paradigm shift he sees as needed and happening. He goes back to Aristotle. Aristotle taught there were ten different qualities to all things. Rohr deals with two: “substance” and “relation.” “What defined substance was that it was independent of all else – so a tree is a substance, whereas “father” is a relationship. Do you understand the distinction Jesus is drawing?
“’Son’ is also a relationship, whereas stone is a substance. Now, Aristotle ranked substance the highest. This is typical of Greek thinking. Substance is that which is ‘independent’ of all else and can stand on its own. It isn’t an adjective; it’s a noun. Nouns are higher than adjectives.”
Rohr says Christianity built itself on this Greek thinking, that substance is higher than relationship. So it made God foremost a substance. “Yet, when this Jesus is revealed to us Christians by calling himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship.”
But now, “we are prepared to say that God is not, nor does God need to be, ‘substance,’ in that historic Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else, but, in fact, God is relationship itself.”
He concludes this section of thought:
“As long as you show up, the Spirit will keep working. That’s why Jesus shows up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one -- a defenseless baby. Talk about utter relationship!"
“... When you don’t give other people any power in your life, when you block them, I think you’re spiritually dead. And not far from evil.
“We – not you, but we – are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness."
“We call this love. We really were made for love.”
And For Dessert
I could end there, but there are some other fine passages from Rohr in this book that I’d like to share in the hope you will like them.
“But it gets even better: we know and accept ourselves in the very same movement in which we’re knowing and accepting God; in surrendering to God, we simultaneously accept our best and fullest self. What a payoff!”
“What, then, is the path to holiness? It’s the same as the path to wholeness. And we are never “there” yet. We are always just in the river."
“Don’t try to push the river or make the river happen; it is already happening, and you cannot stop it. All you can do is recognize it, enjoy it, and ever more fully allow it to carry you."
“This is the great surprise, and for some a disappointment: this divine flow has very little to do with you"
“The flow doesn’t have to flow with you being perfect. It doesn’t have to do with you being right. Nor is it ever about belonging to the right group. You do not even have to understand it. How could you? You have surely noticed that Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals anybody. He just says, as it were, ‘Are you going to allow yourself to be touched? If so, let’s go!’”
“The touchable ones are the healed ones; it’s pretty much that simple. There’s no doctrinal test. There’s no moral test. There is no checking out if they are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage. There’s only the one question:
“Do you want to be healed?"
“If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting, or confident one, the flow always happens, and the person is healed. Try to disprove me on that!”
“The foundational good news is that creation and humanity have been drawn into this flow! We are not outsiders or spectators but inherently part of the divine dance.
“Some mystics who were on real journeys of prayer took this message to its consistent conclusion: creation is thus ‘the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity.’ Once more, the divine dance isn’t a closed circle – we’re all invited!”
“Just like the Trinity, we are not a substance, but a relationship. Always in the process of being loved and passing along love.”
“God as Trinity makes competitive religious thinking largely a waste of time.”
Rohr wrote about a teaching of a man known as Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173). “For God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two, because love is always a relationship, right? But for God to ‘share excellent joy’ and ‘delight’ – and this is where Richard’s real breakthrough is – God has to be three because supreme happiness is when two persons share their common delight in a third something – together. All you need to do is witness a couple at the birth of their new baby, and you know this is supremely true.”
This inspired view is changing my life. It’s a process because I find myself resisting the eureka!, the Halleluia! the union! in it. I’m working on it. I hope you find love and eureka and Halleluia and union in it.
Twenty seven years ago today, on November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated in El Salvador. The soldiers who killed them – for speaking out for the poor, for using their intellectual gifts on behalf of the disenfranchised – or for being witnesses to the killing – also took the time to shoot up their possessions. They machine-gunned books, papers, telephones, computers, and a photograph of Oscar Romero. The remains of the objects they shot up that night can be seen at the Romero Center at the University of Central America in San Salvador, where the terrible killings of the six Jesuits and Elba and Celina occurred.
The soldiers who shot up those inanimate objects were unwittingly giving us a roadmap that we can still use, today. The darkness that takes over nations can take many forms. In my city neighborhood, rainbow flags were burned last week, right where they were hanging on people’s houses. Muslims, African-Americans, gay people, women, Jews, and 11 million undocumented people have been threatened, in various ways, sometimes on a small scale and sometimes large. Some people have responded with depression, others by marching in the streets.
Here’s what we learned from the soldiers that shot up books, telephones, computers and a photograph. They shot those things because they have power. There is power in our memories. There is power in our communication. There is power in our connections with each other. That was true in El Salvador in 1989 and it is true today.
I do not know what will happen in the coming months, but there are two things that seem crucial as we respond to the realities around us. One is that each of us needs to practice self-care. That means, get your exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep. Stay close to God in prayer. And find your tribe and stay connected. This is no time to isolate. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. Showing up at protests can be a form of self-care, as well, because they give us hope and the oomph to keep on going, as well as connecting with like-minded people. In my neighborhood last Saturday there was a rally in response to the burning of the pride flags. It was great! I bought a pride flag to hang – imagine if the city were full of them, everybody flying rainbow flags in solidarity. At the rally I talked to a woman who said she used to go to Spiritus, and was thinking this would be a good time to go back. I encouraged her, and encourage you – if you don’t have a community, find one. Stay connected, and don’t lose heart. The world needs your oomph! .. your energy, your spirit. We need each other.
The other thing is that we need to stay aware enough of what is going on, to know who needs us to stand with them, to know what people are doing – for example, the movement going on right now on college campuses to get schools to be sanctuaries for undocumented people. Or if the threat to make Muslims register happens, we should all register. Notice who is getting picked on, and be in solidarity. And get to know the people you are being in solidarity with! Be in relationship.
There is a balance to be found, between staying alert and aware, and not getting overwhelmed. Community, self-care, awareness – important at all times, crucial now.
As a hospital chaplain, I often pray with patients that they will have the “oomph” to do what they need to do to participate in their own recovery. That is my prayer for all of us right now – that we will have the oomph to keep caring, to not lose heart, to believe that, as Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, BUT IT BENDS TOWARDS JUSTICE.”
We’re in the long part of the arc, right now. Keep on going. Adelante! Hang on to God, hang onto each other, stand up for whoever needs standing up for. We follow a crucified King who promised us persecutions for following him. It’s going to be hard – so eat your vegetables, and keep on going.
Love to all, Chava
PS This would be a great time to read Walter Wink – Engaging the Powers is one of his books --- or Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
Also useful to be aware of some groups that are working for hope and justice --- Cosecha is one – SOA Watch is another – and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Find them on the internet, find out what they’re doing – lots of good work happening already
Oscar Romero Church: An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in Catholic Tradition Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620
A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries
In this South Jersey rite, the priest saying Mass is a Catholic woman..featuring FCM Circle Member, Eileen DiFranco, RCWP
Eileen DiFranco welcomes the members of St. Mary Magdalene Community to communion along with her husband, Larry DiFranco, and Jackie Casper Agostini in Palmyra, New Jersey on Sunday, November 6, 2016.
Philadelphia Inquirer- November 8, 2016
by Kevin Riordan, Inquirer Columnist @Inqkriordan
A congenial group of dissidents - seven conservatively dressed, middle-class Catholics, most of them retired - recite a revised version of the Lord's Prayer.Moments later, their priest, Eileen DiFranco, officiates at the ritual consecration of the communion bread and wine on the altar of a Burlington County chapel.
Let us pray with confidence that our gifts are acceptable to God our loving parent
Welcome to Sunday services at St. Mary Magdalene, an "Intentional Eucharistic Community" where the pastors have been ordained by an international organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
"Women are following a call," says Tom Cusack, a former Catholic priest from Monmouth County, N.J., who was attending the service. "Even though it means going right into the flamethrowers."
The Vatican does not recognize the ordinations of women.Pope Francis, embraced by many for what appear to be more flexible views on a variety of issues, recently reinforced the church's stance on the matter.
"As you know, there aren't female priests in the Roman Catholic Church," Kenneth A. Gavin, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, says in a email.
"Those claimed ordinations would be invalid as would be any Eucharistic celebration over which they may have" officiated, he adds.
"The only response of the church is to show us the door," notes DiFranco, 64, a Philadelphia mother of four who was ordained in 2006. "I can't wait until the pope says yes," Jackie Casper Agostini, 74, a Sunday services regular from Hainesport, says. "By then, I'll be dead."
Every week, Agostini and perhaps a dozen other women and men gather to worship in the chapel of Epworth United Methodist Church in Palmyra. As is true of many Protestant denominations, Methodists have long ordained women.
"We are blessed to be able to [offer] the space to them," Epworth's pastor, the Rev. Charles Soper, says."They are people of God who have been forced by a disagreement to find a different way."
Services began in Palmyra in 2015 under the auspices of the St. Mary Magdalene "mother church" in Drexel Hill, which was established nine years ago and has about 40 members.
The atmosphere at the service ("It's a Mass," DiFranco says) is familial, the language is inclusive, and the liturgy, while familiar, is resolutely egalitarian. The pastor offers a homily that draws on her experiences as a mother and grandmother - not the sort of insight readily available to Catholic priests.
"To listen to someone who has been married, who has been there, give a homily - it's real life," says Marge Johnston, 63, of Bellmawr. "This is a more equal church, a less authoritarian church."
I grew up Catholic, and still respect the good works of the church. But as an adult I found the celibacy the church requires of gay people who wish to, say, receive Communion wasn't something I could abide by, much less, adhere to.
"I can't imagine Jesus as a traffic cop, standing at the altar and excluding people from [Communion]," says DiFranco - who, like any good preacher, has a way with a phrase.
The faith-filled folks I meet at Sunday's service refuse to give up on the church they love.
"The hierarchy of the church is wrong. But it would be difficult for me to go to another church," says Roberta Lynch, 63, a retired radiologist who lives in Cherry Hill. "Why should I give up my faith? I'm going to fight for my faith," says Agostini, who grew up in Voorhees and graduated from Camden Catholic High School in 1960.
"Jesus was a rebel. He stuck his neck out. And to some degree, we're sticking our necks out," says Walt Sandell, 78, a retired administrator.
"We're making a spiritual statement," the Haddon Heights resident adds. "We're saying that women and men are equal before the Lord. "What more can you say?"
St. Mary Magdalene Community holds services at 11:30 a.m. Sundays at Epworth United Methodist Church, 501 Morgan Ave., Palmyra. For more information, go to smmcommunity.org.
Published: November 7, 2016 — 4:49 PM EST | Updated: November 8, 2016 — 11:59 PM EST
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Blogs are posted by FCM and written by FCM members. The contents are the sentiments of the author of the post and not necessarily the FCM Community.