Planting Congregations
Strengthening
Churches
Raising Up
Leaders
Editor's Note
Welcome to the Gulf Atlantic Diocesan Communique for November 2020. This edition comes to you the week of Thanksgiving. No doubt your holiday traditions are altered this year, as mine certainly are. But our Lord is not altered. Our purpose is not altered.

Our diocesan Synod was held just a few weeks ago and this Communique provides links to the materials. You will see the many ways the Lord is sustaining us and restoring us. Additionally, this edition looks toward Advent and restoring our recognition of the Lord’s coming and our hope for his return. This edition also provides a call to radical hospitality, a perfect way to enter into this holiday season, even within a pandemic.

Perhaps this year, more than ever, take time to reflect on the many ways God has been with us and on the things for which we are thankful. As always, we remember you in our prayers, and are thankful for your witness of God’s love.

Prayer for Thanksgiving Day, BCP 2019:
Most merciful Father, we humbly thank you for all your gifts so freely bestowed upon us: for life and health and safety, for strength to work and leisure to rest, for all that is beautiful in creation and in human life; but above all we thank you for our spiritual mercies in Christ Jesus our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From the Bishop
Dear brother and sisters,
Truly by the grace of God we held our first online Synod this month. I am so grateful for all of you who were able to attend. 

I want to thank the workshop leaders, the technical team, the worship leaders and our staff for all of their preparation and good work. I also want to thank those diocesan leaders who are rotating off and all those who offered themselves for election for future diocesan service. I ask you to pray for the those newly elected and those still serving.

In one sense the Synod itself was an answer to the prayer embodied in the Synod theme, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation,” from Psalm 85. We must continue to grow deeper in our dependence on the Holy Spirit so that the Lord can restore us. I believe the Lord himself used the Synod to help us in “Reorienting in the New Normal,” our theme title. 

If you missed the Synod, its recorded videos, along with the pre-Synod presentation videos, are online opportunities to catch up and to be encouraged. They help show us some of the ways we will need to grow in order to be more fruitful for the Kingdom of God.

I have just spent some time in re-reading the beginning of the book entitled Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, a book we focused on years ago now. Little could we have foreseen, then, the uncharted territory of a pandemic on top of the cultural changes we were already experiencing. I strongly recommend re-reading it. It is a book about reorientation and missional restoration.

Let me close by saying that it was a privilege to be a part of Synod with you all and I pray for a happy time of thanksgiving for each of you this week. May the Lord bless you in the days that lie ahead.

In Jesus the Messiah,

+Neil
Planting Congregations
(Evangelism)
Next week begins Advent, the start of a new liturgical year, and the celebration of what is to come. Most of you are probably eagerly anticipating a new year following 2020 with more hope than ever before. Advent this year has me considering the juxtaposition of the vital role physical presence played in the first Christmas, with the role physical presence is playing as we enter Advent 2020. This year, when physical presence has been somewhat impossible for so many of us, has seemed to renew the importance of being in the flesh.

Perhaps this is why this year has been so difficult. We are made in God’s image, made for relationship. In redeeming the world, God sent his Son incarnate, to be made flesh. Living in relationship is what we are made for and how we dwell. This year hasn’t only been a loss of events, but a hindrance to our natural need for incarnational relationship.
 
But our hope is not lost. We are living in the now and the not yet. We recognize this current reality is not the way things will always be. We await, we hope, and we draw near. Even in the midst of this pandemic, we are learning how to be present, and to represent Jesus. Our churches are reaching out in tangible ways and relationship continues– this is the heart of the Gospel.

As we near, hopefully, the end of this pandemic, consider how we might live incarnationally with those around us­– how might your witness, or your caring word or text, still embody Jesus’ presence in your life?

This Advent is an opportunity to focus on the hope of what is to come. Advent 2020 is most likely going to be slower than previous years due to canceled events, but take the opportunity to sit with the Lord, to dwell on his story of incarnation, to welcome him in to closed spaces in your life, and to then reach out to others through the Spirit. Let them know Jesus came here for them, for you, and God is still in control; there is always hope.
 
For those of you looking to enter into Advent more intentionally, consider these resources:
  • To enter into household rhythms and traditions during Advent: A Thrill of Hope by Ashley Wallace;
  • To understand the liturgical calendar: Ancient Future Time by Robert Webber;
  • To continue the study of holiness and the fullness of God, and an Advent read recommended by Bishop Neil: Rediscovering Holiness, by J.I. Packer;
  • As always, we encourage you to complete Morning Prayer and/or Compline as you are able (see the Book of Common Prayer), using the assigned readings for the day;
  • Consider reading one chapter of Luke per day in December (there are 24) together as a household or online with friends, discussing what you notice, why it matters, and how it affects your life today in how you are present with others (what/ so what/ now what).
Strengthening Churches
(Discipleship)
Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s virtual Synod! Our diocesan website’s Synod page has all the videos from our time together including recordings of Friday night’s worship and keynote address, as well as Saturday’s business meeting and reports.

Additionally, the workshops will remain online and we have added the corresponding breakout session’s video as well. The ministry partner video that was shown during our breaks is also posted. Be sure to connect with the ministries partnering with our diocese.

Lastly, every year at Synod we recognize our outgoing leaders and welcome newly elected leadership. For a complete list of those elected during Synod 2020, please click here:
Thank you to everyone who helped make Synod a success including the technology team, the music teams, the diocesan staff, the committees and business presenters, Rev. Jon Hall, and Rev. Geoff Chapman.
Raising Up Leaders
Neil likes to say that for many people, their living and dining rooms are designed solely for when the president stops by unexpectedly for dinner. Our western notion of hospitality is drawn more from gourmet columns than it is from any biblical notion of hospitality.

Biblical hospitality is entirely different. It requires vulnerability and it can inconvenience, even hurt you. It can break your heart, but it shapes disciples.
 
For Neil and for me, the hospitality of saints was our first experience of the Gospel. We were far from home in boarding schools, and Christians welcomed us into their homes, feeding and caring for us. As they opened their doors, they opened the door of Life to us. Their hospitality drew us into the Kingdom and shaped us as disciples.

Our earliest experiences of ministry as a couple were in community. The summer of our engagement we shared a house in a beach community outreach with a team of six. That house became a place where visiting students could process their questions about the faith, a place where the Scriptures were both studied and practiced, and a place where people were fed. A year later, within a few weeks of our wedding and with a team of ten young adults who all lived together in the Sunday school wing of a church, we ran a summer coffeehouse in another beach town, welcoming high school seekers night by night. That was an unusual newlywed experience! Our lives as new adult disciples were shaped by radical, biblical hospitality.

Similarly, biblical hospitality shapes the generation that follows us. When our kids were small, Neil was on the staff of a large and lively church. We saw later how much the steady stream of visiting saints at our table had demonstrated discipleship to our kids. Our guests shared remarkable and varied stories. One visiting speaker was snowed in at our house for several days. Parked in our rocking chair this cathedral dean engaged our girls for hours with accounts of his life in fellowship with Jesus, and his passion to see unborn lives protected. African bishops were frequent enough guests that when it came time for Neil to serve on a diocesan committee to nominate a new bishop in Virginia, one daughter was sure that being Black must be a requirement for candidacy. The lively faith of our African guests was a profound influence on our children.

Hospitality is a ministry that’s easy to share with children. One simple ‘trick’ we had was to teach the kids to ask good questions of our guests. That’s one strategy that became a life principle.


Looking Ahead
Anglicans for Life
Every year Anglicans for Life (AFL) hosts an annual Summit, called “Mobilizing the Church for Life,” held in Falls Church, Virginia. This year, Anglicans for Life will host the Summit virtually on two Saturdays in January, 2021. This means that our people in churches coast-to-coast can be equipped to uphold the sanctity of life!
The goal for SUMMIT 2021: Mobilizing the Church for Life is to provide practical ideas, inspiration, and education for every person and every church, so that we can make a difference in our local community and the wider culture. We want our people to be effective in sharing the truth that God is the loving Creator of every human being, who has a purpose for every life.

AFL envisions both individuals at their computers and watch parties gathered at our churches on two Saturdays in January, with all of us learning and growing together. 

Week One, Saturday, January 16th will feature keynote presentations, along with discussion time for the watch parties and for individuals in chat rooms to share daily action ideas and plan pastoral care, advocacy, or educational ministry to impact their community for life throughout the year.

Week Two, Saturday, January 23rd will feature topical workshop tracks that will allow folks to dig deeper into specific life issues that interest them. We will also have a Youth Program available as part of the virtual conference on both Saturdays.

The times for both Saturdays will be 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST/8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PST. 

For more information, or to host a watch party, visit anglicansforlife.org/summit-2021
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Rev. Dr. Jessica H. Jones Editor-in-Chief, Communique
Canon for Next Generation Discipleship
Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the ACNA
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