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The Bishop's Corner
The Right Reverend Eric Vawter Menees
“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. In this manner, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need that all Christians continually have to renew our repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and alms-giving; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.
And to make a right beginning, let us now pray for grace, that we may faithfully keep this Lent.” (2019 BCP)
With these words the Ash Wednesday Liturgy begins. I pray that all of the brothers and sisters in the Diocese of San Joaquin will take these words seriously and to heart. This Lent let us practice the ancient and life-giving traditions of self-examination and penitence, fasting and prayer, confession and reconciliation along with worship and the study of God’s Word.
We are in the midst of transition. It seems we are always in the midst of transition in one way or another. That transition can either come suddenly or gradually but it is generally difficult. We like stability – we don’t like things to change – or perhaps more accurately, I like stability and I don’t like change. How-ever, whether or not I like change it is always best to prepare for its eventuality.
Recently, my mother took a nasty fall in her apartment having tripped over the cedar chest at the foot of her bed. She was badly injured, breaking two bones just above the ankle and requiring surgery. Thanks be to God my mom planned for something like this, though she would have much rather avoided it! A little over a year ago my mom finally admitted that she was getting older and that it was more and more difficult to live in the large two-story home that she’d lived in since 1968. With the help of my brothers and me she decided to move into a senior living apartment that has several security features. One of those features is that if a resident lifts the phone off the hook and doesn’t make a call within a minute then someone comes to check on the resident. That is exactly what happened when my mom fell. While dazed and in great pain she could crawl to the bed stand and knock the receiver off the cradle. Thanks be to God a few minutes later someone was there to assist her and called 911. If she had been in her old home I shudder to think what might have happened.
In the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, we have also been in the midst of change going on 12 years now. About half of the congregations that have had their buildings confiscated have moved out and the other half are on hold awaiting notification of the pending sale of their buildings. As we go through these transitions, we need to be mindful of the process and prepare as best as we can. That means our “Plan B” needs to be updated, and our people need to be in a mode of prayer and fasting in preparation for the transition, which, at some point, is sure to come.
Most importantly though, we prepare for transition by keeping our eyes firmly fixed on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ trusting in the fact that he is sovereign – He is the King – He is Lord and we are all in his hands.
Please join me in a prayer for the diocese:
Eternal God and Heavenly Father, bless the Diocese of San Joaquin. Inspire us and strengthen our bonds to you and one another. Help us to witness to the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that with Godly love, patience, and zeal we may win many hearts to the Truth once delivered. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Clergy Openings in the Diocese
The following congregations are looking for clergy:
Trinity, Bakersfield is looking for a full-time Associate Priest.
St. Paul’s, Visalia is looking for a Rector.
St. Michael & All Angels, Sonora, is looking for a part-time Rector.
The yoked congregations of Grace, Turlock and Jesus Our Savior, Modesto are looking for a three-quarter time Rector.
St. Mark’s, Loomis is beginning the search for a new Rector beginning next fall.
Please be in prayer for these congregations and if you’d like to nominate someone for the position please contact the diocesan office.
Being a disciple
by The Rev. Deacon Anna Hearn
In the early 1970's I met the man who lived in the next-door apartment. He was a friendly guy, and we had a cordial but not close relationship. We would not hear from each other for long time spans, years, sometimes, but I somewhat kept up with him, mostly through a mutual friend. After one of those long lapses, I learned he had been arrested and was in the Fresno County jail.
In the course of my Deacon experience, I had visited several inmates at the Jail, so I wrote to my friend to ask him to put me on his Visitation List and I started visiting him. It was the interference of my visits with his out-of-town family visitors that inspired me to join the Jail Inmate Chaplaincy. Now I could visit inmates more freely. I saw my friend almost every week for about four months, then, to my shock, I learned he had been murdered by his cellmate.
For a long time, I could find no answers to my many questions, or even see how to seek the answers. Who was his cellmate? Why did he do it? How did he do it? How could this happen in the monitored confines of the Jail? Etc. There was nothing in the newspaper and no one to ask. Eventually, with the help of Father Derek Thomason, who had been a Police Chaplain, and who knew more than I about finding information at the jail, I dis-covered the name of the man who had killed my friend.
Now I had to decide what to do with this information. I prayed, pondered, prayed, consulted trusted friends and prayed some more. I questioned myself; Why do I want to meet this man? What is my motivation? Will I be able to see through my outrage to his humanity? What do I want from him? What could he want from me? Will he even agree to meet me? (Inmates can refuse any visitor). One of my friends suggested I should visit him to be eye to eye with an actual murderer... I told her I could do that with a mirror—the Lord said if you've hated, you've killed. I even considered not telling him I knew the man he had killed, but I realized that when (not if) he figured it out, my credibility would be zero. These questions eventually resolved to - it was not about me at all, I was to go to this man to bring him Christ, period.
I had never experienced visiting a prisoner in the highest risk category. I met him in a Bond Room, meaning separated by dual-paned glass with screen in it; we talked through a speaker in the wall, or on a phone handset. He arrived with his ankles in shackles, both of his hands cuffed to a waist chain. I learned it requires two CO's to take an inmate of his category any place in the facility.
The first meeting was astounding for both of us. I introduced myself, and in answer to his questions of 'Who are you? Why did you want to see me?' I told him I knew the man he was accused of killing. As I write this, almost two and a half years later, it seems almost surreal. For his part, the inmate was astonished I had known his former cellmate, and even more amazed that I wanted to meet him. Of course, he was suspicious of my motive, cautious, and self-protective. Remember all inmate visits may be recorded: the sign in every visitation room re-minds you…in three languages!
I pause in this narrative to say I am a bi-vocational Deacon; my other work is as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. My specialty is women coming out of addiction and often, incarceration. I understand some-thing of the unhealthy mindset of those who were abused as children, prostitutes, people who have lived on the streets, used drugs, used people and been used themselves by others. The depth of sin which street survival often, almost usually, requires is profound. I was aware that much of what the inmate said would likely be colored by his past, many years of surviving repeated incarcerations and drug use. Manipulating, partial truths and black/white thinking are to be expected; healthy boundaries on my part are a necessity—this is not a casual friendship.
An important aspect for me as I met with the man was to consider his obvious high intelligence; he was a prodigious reader of the Bible, fiction and history, and his long stays in jails and prisons (more than half of his adult life) had given him a great deal of time to ponder and speculate on what he had read. He appeared to seriously consider the Word of God and ask how he could be changed by the Lord. I realized his gifts could make dealing with him more dangerous, as he would be able to feign progressing in his spiritual growth while actually pursuing other purposes. This is when the prison visitor depends on God and learns to trust the Holy Spirit...prayer before and after each visit and thoughtful, careful attention to every communication is needed.
I attended as much of the trial as I could around my work schedule, often sitting with one of the murdered man's cousins. It was profoundly difficult to get through the trial—hours of mind-numbing details, punctuated with grisly photos of my friend lying on the floor of the cell. It took the jury only an hour to conclude a guilty verdict.
The discipleship continues, now by mail, with the dozens of bureaucratic rules that prisons have regarding what can and cannot be sent.
Reflections from the former archdeacon
By The Ven. Donald A. Seeks
Sowing and Reaping
When I first wrote this, Dr. Chuck Nichols was the Chairman of Christian Ministries at a seminary in Manitoba. He noted something I had never noticed before in St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
Paul was telling them about the witness of the Macedonian Christians who, despite severe times both politically and economically had given beyond their means in order to help the Christians in Jerusalem, whom they had never seen. Dr. Nichols pointed out that after Paul reported on their liberality of giving, Paul provides an important principle which always stands behind Christian giving. According to the literal Greek, the next phrase says, “But first they gave themselves to the Lord…”
Dr. Nichols maintains that all gifts, giving with liberality is a product of God’s grace and “the nucleus of God’s gift of giving is that we first give ourselves. All other activities stem from this act,” he says. “By placing ourselves in the position of self-offering, we open ourselves up to become like Christ Himself, Who gave all that we might flee from the bondage of sin and death.” It is suggested we can picture self-giving as the nucleus of several concentric circles. Surrounding self-giving is faith. It required a mature faith on the part of the Macedonians to give over and beyond their normal ability.
In times of economic difficulty, it requires faith in God to reach a tithe, because we must then trust Him and rely on Him for many of our needs. When times become tough, it is our natural tendency to hold back, to keep some-thing in reserve, to protect what we have. But this means we are trusting ourselves more than we trust God and His ability to help us with what we really need.
We should take Paul seriously when he writes, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need (emphasis mine), you will abound in every good work.”
“Circling faith,” says Dr. Nicholas, “are the attitudes of joy and liberality.” Again, Paul writes, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he had decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” There is a law of bounty which God has initiated for this world.
There’s a story of two Stanford students who many years ago arranged for the world-famous concert pianist I. Jan Paderewski to come to the university to give a concert. He agreed to do so for a fee of $2,000. After the concert the boys discovered they had raised $1,600, not enough to pay the fee. They went to Paderewski, apologized and offered an I.O.U. for the balance.
Whereupon Paderewski tore up the check, expressed his regret that the boys has fallen short, then said, “You pay your expenses with that money, keep 10% for yourselves, and send me whatever is left.”
In later years Paderewski returned to his native Poland and following World War I, Poland selected to thank the President of the United States for the massive assistance from the Americans who had provided this life-saving aid. The President was Herbert Hoover, who told Paderewski he had been one of those two Stanford student whose debt the great concert artist had forgiven so long before.
One of the laws of life is that whatever we sow we shall reap. It is easy to think of that in a negative sense but Biblically it is meant to be very positive as well. If we sow seeds of love and kindness and generosity, we will reap or receive those very same things. The Scripture says, “Whoever sows bountifully shall reap bountifully.” This is a fundamental fact of life, according to God’s holy Word. A few radical clergymen promise it would be in monetary benefit, but that’s not based on any Scripture. Earthly wealth is not promised. What is promised is that what we sow we shall reap.
St. Paul mentioned the Macedonian church, who had discovered that joy was the byproduct of their assurance that God was in control.
Their liberality in giving monetary help to the church in Jerusalem was based upon their acceptance that God would supply all the Macedonians needed. We need to examine our own giving patterns. Do they demonstrate both joy and liberality? God is not a miser. A focal point of God’s giving as an example will always be a basis for surrendering of ourselves to a faith life that is bursting with joy and liberality.
Just think for a moment about the incredible riches of this earth and the heavens which He has created. Christians are aware of the abundance that is created when we give because He is a bountiful and loving God.
Paul was trying to stimulate the Corinthian church by the witness and example of the Macedonian Christians. Giving for personal recognition is unacceptable in God’s sight but giving to encourage others is grace in action. When an outreach goal is reached, when the budget is exceeded, resulting in outside folks witnessing a caring congregation, then God will be glorified. The wise congregation will give God the credit, and it will be to His greater glory and a practical demonstration of His love.
Before we reap, we must sow. Before we can properly respond to God’s bounty, we must have faith.
Before our giving becomes joyful, we must put aside self and concentrate on the life of Jesus, Who tore up the check, gave His all, that we might be reunited with our Creator. It will glorify the Lord, “Who, though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor.” Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!!
In July of 2015, six members of St. James Anglican Church in Fresno were given the means to attend a conference in Wheaton, Illinois, offered by the Ministries of Pastoral Care. The Ministries of Pastoral Care is a school of prayer which uses principles found in the writing and healing ministry of Leanne Payne. Ms. Payne wrote several powerful books on healing prayer, among them being The Broken Image, Restoring the Christian Soul and The Healing Presence. Her work has had powerful results in aiding people who struggle with the deepest spiritual and emotional wounds to come to wholeness and maturity in Christ, including people who formerly identified themselves as homosexuals. Her ministry has also resulted in the development of other healing ministries such as Desert Stream, a recovery ministry for those struggling with unwanted same sex attraction.
Let me state that the stand our diocese has taken in response to our society’s burgeoning identity crisis is not just about preserving the biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage. It is about completely embracing the fullness of our faith in Christ and applying to our lives the transcendent truths which enable the soul to be freed from sin and healed from its effects. Having taken this stand we know it is vital that we model the grace we teach and preach to the fullest extent so others may see and believe.
It was this motivation which took six of us from St. James to Wheaton in 2015, and another group of 10 in August of 2018.
At MPC each participant is led in a series of lectures and corporate prayers aimed at identifying and removing blocks to belief. After each lecture teams of prayer intercessors are available to assist each person to receive their healing by employing the historical, sacramental tools of the church: confession, repentance and forgiveness. By removing the obstacles born of old wounds and sins, each attendee becomes freed to receive a greater flow of the Spirit, and we did. Each of us had one or more powerful encounters with Christ through his Spirit in the course of the week, and one even received a physical healing in her back!
We know that what we received has not just strengthened our walk with Christ; it has also been an investment into the life of the church as a whole. A spiritually healthy church is made of spiritually healthy individuals. As time has passed, St James has seen tremendous fruit, as faith is strengthened, burdens are released, leader-ship is developed and genuine love for one another grows. We pray that each church in the diocese will be blessed as they make a similar investment into the body. It’s for this reason we approached the board of MPC about bringing this powerful ministry to California.
On March 29 and 30, St. James will host a two-day MPC Spiritual Retreat in Fresno, CA. We invite all those who are interested to contact the registrar at email@example.com for more information. The cost for the retreat is $110 which includes lunch on both days and dinner on Friday; the deadline for reg-istration is March 15.
spring daughters gathering
diocesan youth mission trip
Diocesan Youth Mission Trip:
The Bishop's Note
The Bishop's Note is a pastoral message published weekly by Bishop Eric Menees.
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