Volume 26, February 25, 2021
The Bishop’s Institute for Ministry and Leadership was established in 2015 in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida to provide opportunities to develop lay and clergy leadership in the Diocese; to prepare candidates for ordination to the vocational diaconate and the local priesthood; to prepare candidates for licensed lay ministries and to be a focus for the continuing education for laity and clergy alike.
Over the last month in one of our churches I have enjoyed teaching with other clergy an adult class on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Sir William Ramsay, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, called the Letter to the Galatians ‘the most remarkable letter that was ever written’. You could say it started the Reformation. Martin Luther claimed the Letter as the foundation of his faith and of it he said: ‘The Epistle to the Galatians is my Epistle; I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife’.
My favorite verse in Galatians must be 5.1: ‘For freedom Christ has set us free’. Close on its heels has to be the little credo Paul espouses in 4.4-7:
‘God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law . . . in order that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts . . . So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.’
Through the gift of His Spirit, St Paul says, we have arrived at the stage of full maturity as sons of God and heirs of His promise to us. The Jew is no longer under the tutelage of the Law, nor the Gentile under bondage to the rudimentary ‘elements’ of materialistic beliefs and worship.
Religion may start out at a rudimentary level as a list of Commandments. If you want to do good and go to heaven: ‘do this, and don’t do that.’ But if it stops there it atrophies: it swiftly turns into an impossible burden, something ‘heavy laden’.
God sent forth his Son
That we might receive adoption as Sons.
Translated, Paul is telling us that with the coming of Christ you are offered a new criterion for religion: a religion tailored for you as an adult, and not as a child. Your religion is no longer the ‘do this, don’t do that’ of a child---not that old burden: but rather, free to live as an adult, as a Son with the promise of his inheritance, and the responsibility to “love, as the Father has loved’.
By extension, I think Galatians tells us how we might best live with and love others. Before Epiphany had finished and Lent started, I read these words by the theologian Jane Williams, in her little Epiphany book of meditations that speaks to our freedom to love others and live with them in Christ. She writes:
Jesus comes to break down the dividing walls between different stories of the world—Jewish and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. Jesus brings us all into a new humanity, defined not by separation but by invitation, into God’s family . . . Epiphany means ‘showing,’ ‘revelation’, and this is the vital moment of clarity for us as men and women – in Christ we have a common humanity. From that certainty, we can explore difference as a gift, drawing us closer, not driving us apart.
I pray everyone reading this Newsletter a happy and holy Lent 2021.
IS this a fast, to keep
The larder lean ?
From fat of veals and sheep ?
Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
The platter high with fish ?
Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
A downcast look and sour ?
No ; ‘tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
Unto the hungry soul.
It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief-rent ;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin ;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Florida Baptist Academy, Jacksonville
Black History Month is a good time to give thanks for the life and ministry of the north Florida born Christian pastor, theologian, spiritual writer and civil rights leader Howard Thurman. Howard Thurman was a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr and very influential in King’s dedication to non-violent protest.
Howard Thurman grew up in Daytona Beach and was brought up by his mother and grandmother. His mother worked long hours as a domestic servant and so his grandmother was very influential in his youth.
Howard’s grandmother, Nancy Ambrose, was born a slave on a plantation in Madison County, Florida. She could neither read nor write but insisted that Howard excel at his education. Nancy Ambrose taught her grandson to be inquisitive about Scripture by sitting with him and asking him to read passages from the Bible to her.
Of his grandmother he wrote:
I learned more, for instance, about the genius of the religion of Jesus from my grandmother than from all the men who taught me all . . . the Greek and all the rest of it. Because she moved inside the experience [of the religion of Jesus] and lived out of that kind of center.
In his first and most enduring book, Jesus and the Disinherited, he recounted a very significant moment with his grandmother:
When I was older and was half through college, I chanced to be spending a few days at home near the end of summer vacation. With a feeling of great temerity I asked her one day why it was that she would not let me read any of the Pauline letters. What she told me I shall never forget.
“During the days of slavery,” she said, “the master’s minister would occasionally hold services for the slaves. Old man McGhee was so mean that he would not let a Negro minister preach to his slaves. Always the white minister used as his text something from Paul. At least three or four times a year he used as a text: ‘Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters …, as unto Christ.’ Then he would go on to show how it was God’s will that we were slaves and how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible.
As Thurman approached the eighth grade his school principal became concerned as to where the intelligent young man might go to high school for a good education preparing him for college. In those days, segregation dictated that education for African Americans in Daytona Beach stopped at the eighth grade. The principal was determined that this young man’s future education would not be lost. He gave him private tuition and prepared him for the next big step: to leave his family in Daytona for a private high school in Jacksonville, Florida where he would be a boarder.
Thurman attended the Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville from 1915 to 1919. In 1923 he graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta. While there he had purportedly read every book in the college’s library. Nearing the end of his undergraduate education in economics at Morehouse, he spent the summer of 1922 in residence at Columbia University, where he attended classes with white students for the first time.
In 1943, Thurman became pastor of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples (Fellowship Church) in San Francisco—the first major interracial, interfaith church in the United States. After ten years at Fellowship Church, by which time it became internationally known and respected in the Christian community, Thurman accepted a call to become the Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University. Thurman was the first African American to hold such a position at a majority-white university.
As part of his lasting legacy, Thurman’s first book Jesus and the Disinherited (1949) and the Ghandian ideas he developed and taught—these two things together--- had a deep influence on the leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. As someone has written: ‘Thurman offered the vision of spiritual discipline, as against resentment, that later informed the moral basis of the black freedom movement in the South.’ During the years that marked the Civil Rights movement, Thurman served on the boards of FOR and CORE and regularly advised leaders of these organizations including Martin Luther King.
If you have not read Thurman, I would encourage you to start with Jesus and the Disinherited. It is easily obtainable in paperback and while it is dense in thought, it is not too many pages. I think you will come to know and admire this Christian spirit that north Florida is proud to proclaim as one of her own.
‘No one ever wins a fight’
“NO one ever wins a fight”—thoughtfully, and with eyes searching the depths of me, my grandmother repeated the words. I was something to behold. One eye was swollen, my jacket was ripped with all the buttons torn from their places, and there was a large tear in the right knee of my trousers. It was a hard and bitter fight. I had stood all I could, until at last I threw discretion to the winds and the fight was on. The fact that he was larger and older and had brothers did not matter. For four blocks we had fought and there was none to separate us. At last I began to gain in power; with one tremendous effort I got him to the ground and, as the saying went, “made him eat dirt.” “Then I had come home to face my grandmother. “No one ever wins a fight,” were her only words as she looked at me. “But I beat him,” I said. “Yes, but look at you. You beat him, but you will learn someday that nobody ever wins a fight”.
Many years have come and gone since that afternoon in early summer. I have seen many fights, big and little. I have lived through two world wars. The wisdom of these telling words becomes clearer as the days unfold. There is something seductive about the quickening sense of power that comes when the fight is on. There is a bewitching something men call honor, in behalf of which they often do and become the dishonorable thing. It is all very strange. How often honor is sacrificed in defense of honor. Honor is often a strange mixture of many things—pride, fear, hate, shame, courage, truth, cowardice—many things.
The mind takes many curious twistings and turnings as it runs the interference for one’s survival. And yet the term survival alone is not quite what is meant. Men want to survive, yes, but on their own terms. And this is most often what is meant by honor. “No one ever wins a fight.” This suggests that there is always some other way; or does it mean that man can always choose the weapons he shall use? Not to fight at all is to choose a weapon by which one fights. Perhaps the authentic moral stature of a man is determined by his choice of weapons which he uses in his fight against the adversary. Of all weapons, love is the most deadly and devastating, and few there be who dare trust their fate in its hands.
From Howard Thurman, Deep is the Hunger, 1951
This month’s column features as our guest the Rector of Trinity Parish, St. Augustine, Fr. Matt Marino. Fr. Matt has been at Trinity since Spring of 2018 and joined us after ministering as an associate at St. John the Divine, Houston, and before that as Canon for Youth and Young Adults in the Diocese of Arizona and planting a church. Prior to the priesthood, Matt spent 17 years on staff with Young Life. He likes to sail and read history, which will be obvious when you read this week’s quiz.
QUESTIONS FROM FR MATT MARINO
How did the Episcopal Church come to Florida?
How did Trinity Parish end up on the plaza across from the Catholic Basilica?
Why the name Trinity Parish Church?
Has anything significant happened at Trinity or is it another one of those “In 1821 on this spot nothing happened” places?
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE REV. DR. JON DAVIS,
Vicar of Christ Church, Cedar Key
This is the first of a two- part interview with Dr Jon Davis of Cedar Key. Dr Davis comes to our Diocese bringing with him the experience of working towards the renewal of the Canterbury Conference Center for the Diocese of Central Florida.
Dr Davis has been involved also with a Christian organization called Fresh Expressions. The second part of this interview (to be featured next month) explores his work with Fresh Expressions.
Fresh Expressions describes itself as “an international movement cultivating new kinds of church alongside existing congregations to more effectively engage with post-Christian society. Begun in 2004 in the UK, the movement has resulted in scores of new communities of faith and has brought renewal to established churches. Fresh Expressions has spread to nearly a dozen countries around the world. In 2012, the movement began taking shape in the US. Today, we work with nearly 70 denominational partners across the church in both the US and Canada.”
But for now, this introduction to one of the newest members of our Diocesan clergy family:
Jon, would you tell us about yourself and your call to the ministry? Having enjoyed meeting you, I feel you bring a lot of experience to share in the Diocese of Florida.
I’ve had joyful journey in mission and ministry. I am a cradle Episcopalian, as a newborn I was sick and not expected to live so within hours of being born my mother an RN, a faithful Episcopalian and a church musician had me baptized. My initial ministry in the church as a lay person was as a musician and working in youth ministry. I served as the youth pastor at St. Andrew’s by the Sea Episcopal Church in Destin Florida and later became the Canon for Youth in the Diocese of Central Florida. I was ordained to the priesthood in 2001. In 2006 I led a successful Episcopal church plant in Oviedo, Florida starting with 6 people and going to 130 ASA in 2 years. In 2009 Canterbury, the diocesan conference center was in serious trouble and about to close. With all consenting I became the Executive Director of Canterbury and continued as the vicar at Incarnation eventually moving the congregation to the Canterbury campus. In 2013 I successfully defended my dissertation and was awarded a PhD from Graduate Theological Foundation. The focus of my work and studies was in worship and liturgy. In January of 2014 I left Incarnation to lead Canterbury alone and in 2018 I left Canterbury to enter an astonishing vocation with Fresh Expressions.
I am particularly interested in the work you did recently in the renewal of an Episcopal camp and conference center. Would you share with us your work in this area?
When I got to Canterbury, it was quite broken. The economy had crashed and Canterbury was hemorrhaging money running deficit years from 2006 – 2010. I have said, If I knew how bad it was, I would not have taken this call. I think God gave me blinders. We began to rebuild the mission and ministry of Canterbury taking it from what had focused on business to a focus on ministry. In Orlando where the world comes to play, where resorts and hotels abound, Canterbury’s one unique amenity was that it was a sacred space. Over the years, we prayed Canterbury back to a unique space, to be as Celtic Spirituality would call it a Thin Place where you encounter the presence of Almighty God. We also had to work to make the operation sustainable. In its hay-day Canterbury had been a $1.4 million. My first year we did less the $400k. When I began there were 13 full-time staff members. After 3 weeks, painfully, I let 7 of them go, it was necessary. Within a year all the full-time staff were gone and we were running Canterbury with part-time staff, people who worked as needed and volunteers.
Canterbury as a mission began to heal. We began attracting clients that valued what Canterbury was and the ministry of hospitality we offered. From 2011 to 2018 the budget grew from $400k to nearly $900k and full-time staff grew from 0 -4. (this in a challenging time of a down economy) There were hard times, difficult days where I thought we would not make it but by God’s grace, the dedication of the Canterbury Board and Bishop Brewer’s support we began to prosper. Canterbury was reinvented to be a place where people came for retreats and spiritual growth and for conferences to be trained and equipped for ministry.
Click here for the conclusion of the first part of our interview with Jon Davis.
Lenten Reflection: The Cross as a Measure
There is a beautiful collect composed by Eric Milner-White, found in his little book A Procession of Passion Prayers. There Milner-White speaks of the cross of Christ as a measure by which Christian discipleship may take shape. It sets me thinking this Lent, not simply about Christian formation in general, but almost ‘in extremis’ or ‘in the farthest depths’ as in the lives of certain saints who replicate very closely in spirit and even physically the suffering and sacrifice of the Lord’s life. The collect reads:
O MOST MERCIFUL FATHER, whose pure and spotless Son presented himself to suffer for all the evils we have done, as if the doing were his own: Grant us humbly to kneel before his Cross, to behold the measure both of his love and of our guilt; that it may become the measure also of our repentance and thy pardon; to the praise of the glory of thy grace, now and for ever. [itallics mine]
The Apostle Paul ends his Letter to the Galatians by telling us, in 6.17:
From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.
Paul sustained many wounds for Christ’s sake having suffered so many hardships, e.g. shipwreck, near lynching by a mob and imprisonment--- the rough and tumble of his apostleship left marks and scars on his body.
The stigmata certainly puts us in mind of St Francis of Assisi and the story that is told of him that once as he fasted on a lonely mountain top he seemed to see the love of God crucified on a Cross that stretched across the whole horizon and as he saw it a sword of grief and pity pierced his heart. Slowly the vision faded and Francis relaxed; and then, he looked down and the marks of the nails were in his hands and he bore them to the end of his days.
The Cross ‘as a measure’ is certainly emblematic of the life and witness of the Peruvian St Martin de Porres (1579-1639). He is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony.
Martin de Porres was born and died in Lima, Peru. His father was a Spanish nobleman who later became governor of Panama. His mother was a free black woman named Anna. Martin took after his mother in appearance. He trained to be a barber, which in those days also involved learning medical and surgical skills but felt a call to join the monastery.
Rather than enter as a lay brother, he applied for the lowliest position as a donado or lay helper, responsible for such menial tasks as sweeping the cloister and cleaning the latrines. Martin’s medical skills and abilities to heal were too strong and too valuable to be subsumed and he was put in charge of the monastery infirmary.
His healing gifts were not confined to the monastery and this sometimes, at first at least, put him in conflict with his superiors. As Robert Ellsberg relates in his book All Saints:
He cared for the sick and injured wherever he found them, especially the wretched poor who lived in the streets of Lima with no one to care for them. Martin was apt to carry them back to his cell and lay them in his own bed. At one point his superior ordered him to desist from this practice. When he was found to have transgressed the command, he was severely upbraided, but meekly answered: “Forgive my mistake, and please be kind enough to instruct me. I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.”
In time, the monastic authorities allowed Martin liberty to live according to his gifts and temperament and his determination to literally model his life by the humbling and self-effacing example of Christ. On occasion, his holy simplicity would go too far. As Ellsberg records:
Once when the monastery was in debt he offered himself to be sold as a slave. The prior was deeply moved. “Go back to the monastery,” he told Martin. “You are not for sale”.
What really moves my heart by the witness of Martin of Porres is the explanation he gives for some of his ascetical practices, certainly too extreme by our standards and even by those of his own day.
Of this, Ellsberg writes:
On both the natural and moral planes, Martin seemed in so many ways to exceed the limits of the possible. His piety was fueled by an equally extreme asceticism. He subsisted almost entirely on bread and water. He slept on the ground, wore a hair-shirt . . .
When questioned about such practices, which were considered wildly excessive even by the prevailing standards of a sixteenth-century monastery, Martin could only mumble something about the immensity of sins to be atoned for. What sins could afflict the conscience of this holy brother? Slavery, the scorn heaped on the poor and the Indians, the existence of so much injustice in a supposedly Christian society. . . . Martin did not set himself apart from the sins of his age, and he punished himself accordingly.
Each in his way—Paul, Francis, Martin--- started life with many advantages. Yet each chose a radically different path: taking their formation from God’s only Son, who, although ‘pure and spotless . . . presented himself to suffer for all the evils we have done, as if the doing were his own’.
Absalom Jones (1746-1818)
A Panel Discussion by Zoom
Saturday, March 13, 2021, 11 a.m.
Will take place in honor of Absalom Jones, first African American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.
Zoom Meeting ID and Password will follow prior to the event by special email to everyone on the Bishop’s Institute List
The Panel will consist of clergy and laity from the Diocese of Florida. The meeting will last one hour.
The event is sponsored by the Sidney B. Parker Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Bishop’s Institute for Ministry and Leadership