Posts Tagged ‘Episcopal Church’

The Madison Square Garden Revival Tent

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Talk has been going around the Episcopal Church that the Presiding Bishop would like to hold a revival in New York City next year, just before the 2020 election. It would take place in some large venue like Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium; one hopes the Garden, given the uncertainties of autumn weather.

I can’t say that I am filled with enthusiasm for this idea. When I was a boy, I was touched by a visit to a Billy Graham crusade in Boston. But, today, the idea seems a bit simplistic, not to say old-fashioned. I find it hard to imagine a skeptic or a non-religious person taking the opportunity to spend an evening with a bunch of church people.

On the other hand, Bishop Michael Curry is an extraordinary preacher. While some of his diocesan revivals have had mixed results, there is no doubt that the Episcopal Church could use some new life–not to mention, new blood. And there is no doubt that our nation could use all the religious energy it could get before the 2020 election.

I guess we will have to see where the Spirit leads us. —J. Douglas Ousley


Hit in the Head

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Preaching on Sunday about the Healing of the Ten Lepers and the fact that only one leper came back to thank Jesus, I speculated that one reason New Yorkers have trouble being grateful is that they are so often overwhelmed by urban life.

They are assaulted with noise, they are aggravated by uncertain transportation, they feel hit in the head (sometimes literally) by the human congestion around them. No wonder we forget to thank God for all the good things in our lives.

That said, it is curious that religion isn’t more popular. Our form of Christianity, at least, presents relief from the stress of living. We offer worship and prayer, and that worship and prayer should bring comfort and healing.

As Christians proclaiming the Gospel in the world, we need to make people feel they won’t just be preached to. They will find a place of comfort and healing, a haven of blessing and of peace. —J. Douglas Ousley


Angels, Reconsidered

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

I was talking yesterday with a colleague in another city, and he was saying how pleased he was to be able to assist recently in the ordination of his mother, a former minister in the AME Church who has become an Episcopal priest.

My friend happened to mention that his mother now serves a parish named, “the Church of the Guardian Angel.” I had never heard that name for an Episcopal church and I liked it immediately.

Although we just celebrated the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, and Incarnation’s windows are filled with angels, including some by the noted artists, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Edmund Burne-Jones, and William Morris, I don’t know that that the average Episcopalian thinks much about angels.

We might ask ourselves, why not? We believe that God watches over us–why couldn’t he give us each a spiritual protector?

We should be happy to trust in our guardian angels. Don’t we need all the help we can get? —J. Douglas Ousley


For the Little Ones

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Last Friday, I attended a reception at the home of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry.

The occasion was the launch of a new capital campaign by Episcopal Relief and Development, the major international relief organization run by the Episcopal Church. The campaign is called, “One Thousand Days of Love.” The 1000 days are the first three years of a child’s life–the period when so many decisions are made that are critical to the child’s future development.  The program will aid Anglican partners throughout the world in providing nurture, healthy diet, housing, and medical care to newborns, infants and toddlers of many nations, races, and creeds.

This strikes me as a particularly worthy project. So many children lack one or more of these necessities, and they never get a chance to grow and thrive in later childhood.

One more good program for Episcopalians to support and be proud of. —J. Douglas Ousley


Waxing and Waning

Monday, July 29th, 2019

In both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, there has been much concern about decline in membership. The Episcopal Church has lost half its members since the 1950’s, despite a growing U.S. population. A recent survey in England indicated only 1% of persons aged 16-24 attend church.

But church attendance waxes and wanes through the ages. I have been reading in the journal, Anglican and Episcopal History about a period in Maryland before the American Revolution when atheism was rampant and even churchgoers doubted that God could in any way intervene in his creation. Needless to say, there was little discussion of “spirituality” and other topics that are so popular in the church today.

One could point to other signs of hope in our contemporary church. The newer, younger clergy, for example, are much more committed to traditional Christian beliefs and a personal God than the generation of the 1960’s.

It doesn’t pay to be too pessimistic. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Joys of Camping

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Summer camp. Just the phrase seems old-fashioned. Living in tents. Splashing in the water. Singing by the campfire. Sunday in the chapel.

That’s life at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT–a camp founded by the Church of the Incarnation in 1886. No cell phones or computers, just fresh air fun pretty much like a century ago.

And yet the camp remains incredibly popular, with two overnight camps and two day camps running simultaneously and accommodating hundred of children. Spots at the teen-age camp, where the kids cook all their own meals, are filled by March.

I was just in Ivoryton for a Board of Directors meeting and I marveled at the success of the place. The oldest church camp in the country–what a great ministry of our church.–J. Douglas Ousley


Pride Universe

Monday, June 24th, 2019

As everyone in New York City knows, the annual Gay Pride March takes place this coming Sunday, at the end of what has been called, Pride Month.

The Episcopal Church has been on the winning side of this issue for quite a while, and we might be tempted to ask why Episcopalians and LGBT people need to bother to march in this day and age. They have virtually all the rights of straight people. Isn’t the battle over?

But we need to remember that homosexual behavior is still against the law in many, many countries throughout the world–and it is often proscribed in the name of religion. Even in this country, the largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church terms gay sex sinful.

Unfortunately, there is still much to march for. —J. Douglas Ousley


Expecting to Dance

Monday, June 10th, 2019

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, there are many churches, particularly in Africa, where Anglicans come to worship on Sunday expecting to dance.

This is not the case in most American Episcopal parishes. Yet that doesn’t mean that our faith has to be, in the old phrase, “high and dry.” We can still look for an emotional element in our religion; in fact, we need to find such an element. We need at least on some occasions to feel the Spirit within us.

These experiences can range from enjoyment of a favorite hymn to a walk on a sunny day to a dinner out with friends. In the season of Pentecost, we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit is always reaching out to us. In that Spirit, we can, as the Twelve Step movement says, let go and let God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Sinking or Swimming

Monday, April 8th, 2019

At his meeting with our Vestry yesterday, the Bishop of New York was asked what his personal priorities were in his work in the diocese. He replied that he was particularly concerned about churches that were in serious decline.

Bishop Andrew Dietsche told a hopeful story of a parish upstate that was down to 12 members and weren’t able to support a full-time rector. He warned the remaining parishioners that they were at the point where they could either sink or swim. They decided to swim.

That meant that each of the members gave sacrificially of their time and money. They found a new part-time rector, and following a fortuitous influx of weekend residents from Manhattan, the church now has a full-time rector and plenty of members.

Most Episcopal parishes need to make this choice at one time or another. May we resolve to swim! —J. Douglas Ousley


Confirming the Faith

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

As our latest Confirmation/Inquirers’ Class draws to a conclusion, I happily notice that once again we have a highly diverse group of adults eager to be confirmed at Episcopalians, to be received from the Roman Catholic Church, or to reaffirm their baptismal vows.

They range in age from the thirties to near-seventy. We have a psychiatrist and an architect and a martial arts instructor among other occupations. They come from very different religious backgrounds and from unique spiritual journeys.

But it is the latter quality that they have in common. For their spiritual journeys have led them to the Church of the Incarnation. They have all come to profess their decision to follow the same Savior.

Together, by the grace of God, they are taking their first steps on a new journey in Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley