Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

Prayer List

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Incarnation maintains a list of names of persons to pray for; we ask God to heal them of physical, mental, or other problems.

There are always twenty or thirty names on the list. Some names are removed when the persons feel better; others are removed when the persons die. Some people with chronic conditions are on the list for years; others only for a week or two.

While the majority of persons whom we pray for are not parishioners but relatives or friends of parishioners, we all feel a relationship with the names we hear. They make our prayers personal; we are reminded that our faith has a tangible effect in the world we live in. We sometimes silently add names of persons known to us in need of healing.

Whatever the affliction, prayer comforts. As Jesus said, by our faith, we are healed.–J. Douglas Ousley


The Gathering Storm

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Hurricanes are bad enough. Imagine them arriving before all the modern ways of forecasting the weather were available.

A hundred years ago, people might have had at best a few hours warning that a powerful storm was on the way. They couldn’t board up their windows, much less evacuate. I remember my grandfather talking about the arrival of the Hurricane of 1938 and how it came without warning to his orchard in Massachusetts.

Yet with all our technology, we still can’t control the weather. As Jesus remarked, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” So the theological lesson is clear: we don’t have ultimate control over our lives. Only God has that control, and his own influence over the world remains mysterious (he doesn’t save everyone from storms, for example.)

No wonder then that religion requires a lot of effort on our part to discern the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And no wonder that much of the labor of religion is prayer. —J. Douglas Ousley

Homeless in Murray Hill–III

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

My first boss in the church would often say, if you complimented him on one of his sermons, “I always preach to myself.”

I certainly do the same. And I find the topics of my sermons regularly hit home in unexpected ways.

As it happens, I preached last Sunday on the problem of the homeless in our neighborhood. Lo and behold, two days later, I found myself arguing with a gentleman who has been sleeping regularly on our property. I suggested as I have many times that he find some other place to sleep, since the neighbors have complained. Although the man is young and apparently healthy, he appears to have significant mental issues. He certainly gets very angry at me.

What should I do? I can’t let the church become a campground. This man needs far more help with his life than I can give him. He is also potentially a danger to passers-by. I have contacted a friend in the local police precinct, but I know the police have little authority over the homeless.

What should I do? Nothing in my sermon answered that question. Suggestions welcome!–J. Douglas Ousley

Homeless in Murray Hill–II

Monday, June 5th, 2017

I’m preaching an old sermon this Sunday; it’s entitled, “Street People.” The sermon is about the Good Samaritan parable and how it might be applied to daily life. This message got a fair amount of feedback at the time, and a version was eventually published in the Christian Century magazine.

I rarely repeat sermons, as the context of sermons changes so rapidly that God’s message to a given moment may not apply to a different moment, even a few years later.

But I am curious to see how my early-90’s thoughts stand the test of time today, when we in Manhattan are facing a new flood of street people. Pope Francis recently had some noble words about always engaging in some way with beggars on the street. Many of us (who spend a lot more time navigating popular thoroughfares than the Pope does) may find his advice inadequate.

That said, I am still thinking about the proper Christian response to people on the street. —J. Douglas Ousley


Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Recently, I was surprised to notice one of our most senior members enjoying a new smart phone. She hadn’t struck me as being particularly tech-savvy, so I asked her how she was making out with the device. She said she was doing OK, thanks to instruction that she had received from one of our younger members during a Senior Resource Day.

This is one of many examples of how our ministry reaches out to people and improves their lives. Often, we can’t measure what we’ve accomplished. It’s impossible to track how many victims of trafficking are discovered and helped as a result of our advocacy of training of staff in hotels. We can’t know how many people have been cheered by flowers blooming in our church garden.

But whether or not we can take credit for our ministry, we can be thankful that we are given occasions to serve in God’s name. —J. Douglas Ousley


Incarnation in the News

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Twice in two days. What a great Easter week for Incarnation.

On Easter Monday, The NY Times published a fine article that mentioned our outreach ministry to combat human trafficking. Our Associate Rector, the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser was quoted in the piece.

On Easter Tuesday, The Times published a wonderful op-ed piece by columnist David Brooks. He discusses how Incarnation Camp was and is for him a “thick” institution. Brooks is a strong supporter of the camp, which was founded by the Church of the Incarnation in 1886, and he sits on our Board (of which I am Vice-President.)

So, as the Easter music is still ringing in our ears, we are reminded of how much of the Church’s work goes on outside the church. —J. Douglas Ousley

New Signs of Incarnation on 35th Street

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

In the pre-Christmas rush, it’s easy to overlook events that aren’t directly related to the holiday. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the uptick in attendance at some of our groups, and at the number of new people showing up repeatedly at services and events.

Particularly gratifying have been some very generous gifts to our outreach ministries from people who have given little or nothing in the past. We are so blessed at Incarnation–not only with the faithful who keep the doors open and the candles lit, but also with folks on the fringes of our parish who look to us for inspiration and who do what they can to support our work.

Happy Feast of the Incarnation! —J. Douglas Ousley

The Homeless We Have With Us

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

A recent meeting of local clergy organized by Community Board 6 discussed homelessness in our area. I am sorry to report that there were no new ideas–only a general agreement that the problem is getting worse.

The manager of the community board did say that Mayor DiBlasio has assembled an task force of officials from different city agencies to try to come up with new solutions to the problem. The issue is complicated on the avenues in Midtown by the presence of young tourist “homeless” with varying degrees of credibility. Many of the saddest cases have mental illness or chemically-addled brains, and they aren’t able to find prime spots to beg or write clever signs.

Meanwhile, the cold weather is coming. —J. Douglas Ousley

All’s Fair

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The 72nd Annual Incarnation Christmas Fair will be held this Saturday from 11 AM to 6 PM.

Seventy-two years of Fair is a lot. This event attracts more visitors and phone calls, not to mention money, than any other non-liturgical happening at Incarnation. Admittedly, it’s a sop to consumerism. It also produces much-needed revenue.

But the Fair has other advantages for our church. It gives us a chance to meet and greet many people we wouldn’t otherwise encounter because they don’t share our faith. It demonstrates to the surrounding world that we aren’t just a pile of expensively-repaired stones.

Above all, the gifts on sale are unsubtle reminders of the reason for the season: the Incarnation of the Son of God. The greatest gift of our God.

Which is why this isn’t a a holiday fair. It’s a Christmas Fair. —J. Douglas Ousley

Moving Beyond Band-aids?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

The latest talk in high Episcopal circles is about “new mission direction.”

A colleague of mine told an anecdote that illustrated the problems with old mission direction. He was visiting a Navaho reservation this summer as part of his own outreach work (he is part Native American himself), and a truck drove up to the house where he was staying and delivered two huge boxes. One contained a vast quantity of Reese’s Pieces, the other held stuffed animals.

The delivery turned out to be the product of an Eagle Scout’s project to help the Indians–though they had not been consulted, and though some 65% of that tribe was diabetic! The truck had driven past two large No Trespassing signs. The person with whom my friend was staying remarked, “See what we have to put up with?”

The trend now seems to be to involve the people to be helped directly and to hold them accountable for the decisions they have made on their own behalf. That would be sweeter than Reese’s Pieces. —J. Douglas Ousley