Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
The Very Rev. Paul J. Lebens-Englund, Dean
Epiphanytide: Friday, January 15, 2021

Dear Saint Markans,
If the events of this past week have told us anything, it’s that the turning of the calendar by no means assures the turning of our hearts. The divided discourse and deadly dynamics at play among us in 2020 remain, so we have no reason to assume a better 2021, except to the degree we’re prepared to roll up our sleeves and make it so.
But, let’s be honest, the work ahead is daunting and the way forward unclear. Yet, while we cannot see all things, nor do we have power over all things, we can improve our vision and exercise our power over many things – particularly ourselves and the contributions we make, both large and small, to the future God has promised – the future people of good faith desire.
The Light of God’s Truth, which we celebrate during Epiphanytide, is given to improve our vision – to improve our capacity to see ourselves and our world rightly – in order to properly diagnose the dis-order and prescribe the cure. Our present moment, and particularly the January 6th coup attempt in our nation’s Capital, demands a clear-eyed confession, unequivocally spoken, that This IS America – this IS who we are, an aspiring democracy sorely hindered by the deep, undeniable sin of white supremacy, a sin that is both personal and collective, both situational and systemic.
Our Reconstruction is incomplete, based as it is in compromise for the sake of togetherness, maintaining unity by sacrificing integrity, implying the dignity of all while withholding it from many. The same racist underpinnings to the first Civil War now have us on the verge of a second. This is to be expected when sin goes untended. It may lay fallow for a season, but will sprout in due time. We know there’s danger in allowing this weed to leaf and flower, for wind-swept seed is not far behind. We must, therefore, remain diligent in mitigating the damage we can see and relentless in our commitment to unearth the damage we cannot. Denial is no longer an option. There will be no healing or health that does not begin with a fundamental commitment to deep and profound honesty in this regard.
Toward that end, multiple initiatives are underway here at Saint Mark’s to guide our thoughtful, thorough engagement with the hard work of becoming an anti-racist community and a community of anti-racist individuals, committed to meaningfully and sustainably engaging the work of racial justice. This is NOT a quick fix. This is NOT a seasonal program. This is merely the beginning of a decades-long commitment to our total transformation in the bright Light of God’s Truth for us and about us.
  • During the 4th quarter of 2020, Deacon Rena worked closely with the Rev. Katie Capurso Ernst, serving in her Mission Institute capacity, to implement a member survey and organizational review in order to develop a list of recommendations for concrete action in the months and years ahead. Deacon Rena and Reverend Katie will meet with the Dean and the Senior Warden on Tuesday, January 19th to discuss the findings, to review the recommendations, and to begin prioritizing actions;
  • Beginning in the 4th quarter of 2020, Deacon Rena formed a learning and working group of 30+ Saint Markans to participate in The ACTION Project, a collaborative initiative among multiple Twin Cities faith communities, which assists individuals to increase their self-awareness and strengthen their capacity to engage the work of anti-racism and racial justice. This 12-month project aims, in part, to form the core congregational team who will lead the long-term work here at Saint Mark’s; and lastly
  • The Dean remains in fruitful conversation with Bishop Loya regarding Saint Mark’s potential role and responsibility in relation to a newly-emerging faith community here in Minneapolis, details about which will be forthcoming.
For those seeking book recommendations for Lent and beyond, here’s a start:
  •  Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin Diangelo
The immediate days and weeks ahead are apt to be hard, scary, and even dangerous, as the evil forces committed to the maintenance of white supremacy continue to rise up in resistance to the nascent signs of a new, unfolding, multi-racial future in which not only is the franchise of all voters defended, but so, too, their human dignity. As Christians, we have reason to believe these are both death pangs and birth pangs intermingled, with groans too deep to deny any longer. We can no longer prioritize a fragile sense of peace over a firm commitment to justice, nor allow ourselves to embrace the lazy, false equivalency between the fight for justice and the fight against justice. We’re given an inquiring and discerning heart for a reason. Use it.
As at all times, both good and bad, we maintain our spiritual, emotional, and functional resilience by way of prayer, study, and service. Saint Mark’s provides opportunities for each, which can be found here and here and here.  Additionally, I strongly encourage you to read the Gospel of Mark in its entirety, perhaps many times during the course of this liturgical year, and to consider signing up for some daily manna to arrive in your inbox from here or here. Epiphanytide is also a good time to identify specific spiritual practices you might want to commit to during Lent (and beyond). So, if you’re looking for some options, check here. And, lastly, because it’s never too soon or out-of-season to take a thorough-going inventory of our moral lives, let’s all be encouraged to spend some personal time with The Great Litany (Book of Common Prayer, p.148 or here) before the First Sunday of Lent (2.21), when we’ll pray it together as we journey, hand-in-hand, into the wilds of repentance and renewal.
As we head into Inauguration week, two prayers:
Lord of our Lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy. These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that external vigilance continues to be freedom’s price. Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image. You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign. Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty. Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God Bless America. We pray in your sovereign Name. Amen.
The Rev. Barry Black, Senate Chaplain, U.S. Senate
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.
                       Book of Common Prayer, 821-822

Ever-grateful to be walking the Way of Love with you!

Grace & Peace,

My Lord God, we have no idea where we are going.
We do not see the road ahead of us.
We cannot know for certain where it will end. 
Nor do we really know ourselves, and the fact 
that we think we are following your will does not mean 
that we are actually doing so.
But we believe that the desire to please you 
does in fact please you. 
And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing.
We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire.
And we know that if we do this you will lead us 
by the right road though we may know nothing about it.
Therefore we will trust you always though we may seem 
to be lost and in the shadow of death.
We will not fear, for you are ever with us, and you will never
leave us to face our perils alone. Amen.
                                                                       -Thomas Merton