Do you have prophets in your circle? Sure hope so! We need the cranky things!

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 Flash thinks Ethel Ware Carter is beautiful because she is—inside and out!

This week Flash and I went down the elevator from our abode on the 28th floor. You’d be amazed at the number of dogs in our building—Flash has a Napoleonic complex and is very rude to three of the big dogs but is quite the ladies’ man with a circle of small four-pawed ladies in the building. Everybody has a circle, probably many circles. Circles matter.

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Last July 4th—Flash ADORES Bella—her fluffy tail and her outfits and her attitude.  I know – rear-end sniffing looks tacky to us but is great form in Flash’s circle!

 So on Wednesday, we  walked across the street  to Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.  Second Ponce is a cool, inclusive, and mission-minded Baptist Church, and they have made a home for Ethel Ware and her circle, the Regional Council of Atlanta Churches.

Actually Ethel Ware and the Council is in offices with another dear friend of All Saints, Peter Wallace and the crowd at Day1. 

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Peter and Ethel Ware are circle gurus. Peter’s circle is the internet and  300 radio stations across the world and Ethel Ware’s is a circle of churches across the region and get this –   18,000 people!
Ethel Ware told Flash and me that the Regional Council of Atlanta Churches started in 1878 as a mainline Protestant all male (of course) pastors’ group.  And from the very beginning,  they were passionate about meeting human need and advocacy.  For instance these guys went to bat for NO CHILD LABOR LAWS and UNIVERSAL PUBLIC EDUCATION! Those realities didn’t just hop out of the air into our city!  A circle of people had dreams for the common good and made them happen!!

And when it came time (way past time), to integrate Atlanta, the Regional Council of Atlanta Churches put together a manifesto!!  Our rector, Frank Ross, signed it and marched and marched and wrote and preached about respecting the dignity of every human being! (We still have original copies of his sermons and almost every sermon of every preacher thereafter. Really interesting! We ought to do a little study.)

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The ministers signed as individuals but as is true of all of us, those pastors  then touched the circles around them.  Within a year, 315 Atlanta pastors signed and thousands of church members affirmed. (Not all).

In 2017, it is worth reading the points of the Manifesto of 1957 and what that circle of faithful people thought was most important—to me, still most important.

  1. FREEDOM of speech must at all costs be preserved. “Truth is mighty and will prevail.” No minister, editor, teacher, state employee, business man or other citizen should be penalized for expressing himself freely, so long as he does so with regard to the rights of others. Any position which can not stand upon its own merits and which can only be maintained by silencing all who hold contrary convictions, is a position which can not permanently endure.
  2. AS AMERICANS and as Christians we have an obligation to obey the law.
  3. THE PUBLIC school system must not be destroyed. It is an institution essential to the preservation and development of our democracy. To sacrifice that system in order to avoid obedience to the decree of the Supreme Court would be to inflict tremendous loss upon multitudes of children, whose whole lives would be impoverished as a result of such action. It would also mean the economic, intellectual and cultural impoverishment of our section, and would be a blow to the welfare of our nation as a whole.
  4. HATRED and scorn for those of another race, or for those who hold a position different from our own, can never be justified.
  5. COMMUNICATION between responsible leaders (“of the races” but you could substitute of the different political parties or the nations of the world)  must be maintained. One of the tragedies of our present situation is found in the fact that there is so little real discussion of the issues except within the separate …  groups.
  6. OUR DIFFICULTIES cannot be solved in our own strength or in human wisdom. It is appropriate, therefore, that we approach our task in a spirit of humility, of penitence, and of prayer. It is necessary that we pray earnestly and consistently that God will give us wisdom to understand His will: that He will grant us the courage and faith to follow the guidance of His spirit.

All Saints’ Vestry and many other faithful groups now meet in the Ross Room.  

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Thank you Mary Helen and Bob Miller.  Through this great meeting space and also your writings, Bob, you pass on vital, warts-and-all, transformative stories of courage and faith.
Below is Frank Ross preaching – he supported and encouraged many – including Atlanta Constitution Editor, Ralph McGill, and Judge Elbert Tuttle to courageous conscience and action, and yes a few to shaking the dust off their feet and leaving the parish.  (On my husband’s Episcopal side of the family, most Sternes stayed and the branch who left were more disturbed by the rector’s divorce.)  Frank Ross was not perfect; he was a saint, like the rest of us.

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Who are your prophets?  I thank God for Dr. J. Moody McDill of Fondren Presbyterian Church and also Governor William Winter, also of Fondren.
Frank Ross always started his letters to the parish with the words, “Dearly Beloved,” and when I became the rector of St. Andrew’s, Maryville, I copy-catted him. Because dearly beloved, that is who we are to one another.  In Christ, we are all over this world, dearly beloved.  That’s what every true prophet is teaching, writing, preaching, spreading around-the universal love of God for God’s world.

 

 

And here, on the very day Flash and I  visited, is Bishop Rob Wright, yes a prophet for our day, recording right down the hall  in the Day1 studios!

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Rob Wright is blessed to be a blessing, a circle maker and shaper. Watch him with students sometime. Always pointing toward God’s future of hope and inclusion.
After all, our diocesan motto is:

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For we are circles within circles upon circles of the One who stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross, encircling God’s whole, holy and broken world.

Martha +

 

 

Three Generations of Friendship and the tale of a good car named Puffy Cloud

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Spencer Pope, Mike Pope, Wilma Pope, Aida Karamesic, Fred Pope and Penny Pope has got to be behind the camera!

Here’s a gorgeous story from Louisa Merchant.

“It’s unusual enough for a ministry to be befriended by parents and  their grown children, but when a grandchild of the family starts helping too, well that’s a story to be told.

Penny and Mike Pope got involved in Refugee Ministries two decades ago when Barbara Thompson learned about child survivors of war and became involved with families from Bosnia. Barbara put out the call to All Saints’ families to help, and boy, did they. In 1997 Penny and Mike invited Aida Karamesic, a high school senior who came here as a refugee from Bosnia, to live with them.

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Spencer Pope and Aida Karamesic

Aida needed help learning English, and the Pope family supported her educational goals in every way.   At family gatherings, Aida practiced her English with all three generations of the Popes, including the grandparents, Wilma and Frederick, who was an Episcopal priest and Spencer, who was also a high school senior like Aida.

It was just a short time later that Frederick Pope bought his prize automobile, a white 1998 Mercury Sable, nicknamed “Puffy Cloud”. He bought it for its speed and beauty, and his younger grandson, Spencer said, “He never let me drive it, but Grandma did, and man, she drove it FAST!

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A Puffy Cloud Chariot disguised as a Mercury Sable! Yes!

A few years later in 2001, another refugee family arrived, this time from Syria, and they were befriended by the Daugherty family as well as by other members of All Saints’. They also had a teenager in the family whose name was Heval Kelli. The Daughertys hosted a welcome party for the Kellis and the Muhumuza family in their home.

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Dr. Heval Kelli is disguised as a teenaged refugee in this picture at the Daughertys along with our refugee/now beloved receptionist at All Saints, Marie Louise Muhumuza!  Yay All Saints! Heval will be teaching in Ellis Hall on Sunday!  

After that party, Martha Daugherty drove Heval to Georgia State and changed the course of his life.

Where are Aida and Heval now?

Aida is is a graduate of Ga Tech with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, and owns her own business, Income Tax Atlanta. Aida’s business helps her fellow Bosnian Americans to achieve financial success through helping them with their taxes.

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Penny, Wilma, Aida – beloved to one another for so many years! 

Heval is now an Emory Cardiology Fellow, and spends a lot of time giving back to his community. Don’t miss his talk on THIS SUNDAY Jan 22nd at 10:20 in Ellis Hall about his experience being welcomed by All Saints’ and how this helped him to become a doctor.

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Heval volunteers on the weekends at a free clinic in Clarkston for people without Medicaid.

As a part of Heval’s community support, he asked All Saints’ Refugee Ministries to help a newly arrived Syrian family with transportation to medical appointments for their 14 year old son who has cerebral palsy.

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Two friends. Yes!

We agreed and provided transportation for several months. Around the time when it became clear that the family would benefit from a vehicle, who should show up with one, but Spencer Pope, son of Penny and grandson of Wilma and Frederick?

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Spencer and Puffy Cloud!! Two Champs!!

And what is that vehicle? It’s Puffy Cloud!   Still going strong after 20 years of loving labor and grandma’s heavy footedness on the accelerator!

Well, the dad of the Youssef family, Taha, just couldn’t express his gratitude enough for the opportunity to take his children to medical appointments, visit their schools, and take his wife and himself to English classes which they attend every day (not to mention how important it is to have a car for grocery store trips and everything else).

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Taha and Spencer and great big smiles!!

There’s so much to have a good, happy cry over in this story. You can really just take your pick. The way two (and many more) All Saints’ families have been giving love to our new American friends for two decades and have taught their children and their grandchildren to do the same. The fact that two (and more) teens who came here as refugees are now living the American dream thanks to our help. Or the fact that those same teens spend copious amounts of time giving back to their own communities in ways that will undoubtedly continue to help for generations to come.”

(THANK YOU  Louisa Merchant for offering this heartwarming, soul-filling story and THANK YOU all the Saints through the years who have SO THOROUGHLY AND WILLINGLY AND DEEPLY welcomed refugees.)  

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13.1

Martha +

 

“Why Did You Cry in Church?”

One of our darling littlest cherubs came up to me after the Nine O’clock service on Sunday and whispered, “Why’d you cry in church?” She had on a fabulous purple dress, much more fabulous than this one but you get the idea:

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Everybody needs a purple dress!

I said something like, “Because (as happens at All Saints’  every year on this MLK Sunday) the ladies of the Singing Sisters of Ebenezer sang songs I love and it made me cry.”  And it is true, I love spirituals, and this past Sunday I loved the old songs and the power and  beauty and dignity in the faces of the singers. Here are the Sisters leading the congregation in” Blessed Assurance”

 

At my ordination almost 28 years ago, the very same Laura English Robinson who directs the Singing Sisters sang “This Little Light of Mine”.  , and here she was—same holy space, beloved people, same hopeful song—all these years later!

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Laura dwells in the deep soul of All Saints’ Church. Beautiful woman, voice, soul.

I was overwhelmed by the pain and joy of history—my own history, All Saints’ history, Ebenezer’s history,  Martin Luther King’s history, our country’s history—and tears started sliding down my face and never stopped. I re-membered  (put back together) a lot, which is what Jesus asks us to do  in every eucharist—”Do this in re-membrance of me.” Re-membering is huge. And sometimes grievous.

People who are grieving have sometimes told me “O I can’t come back to church yet because I am afraid I’ll cry like a baby.” May I gently question this reasoning? Is crying in church a bad thing? What are you supposed to do in church? Put on a happy face? I don’t think so.  Now I must admit, weeping in church when you are trying to offer communion is a little over the top!  And also very human and around this block we are very human—all sorts and conditions! This fully human-ness is the gift in Jesus Christ we have to give one another and to the world.

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For instance, “MLK In the Name of Love” Retreat this Weekend.  Fully human and fun!

Everybody has to find their way to have more abundant life. About two months ago, my husband talked me into trying TWITTER. Not to tweet! But to get a sense of how news and experiences and emotions of all kinds move around this world in 140 character waves which can gather and become combative or healing (sometimes both) forces of nature in and of themselves.  I tried if for a little while and realized, nope, this tweeting thing doesn’t work for me.  I jump to conclusions or I dismiss something someone says just because that person tweets it or I get mad or sad (more often than glad) in ways that are not lifegiving. Basically tweeting is too often a snarky medium.  Instead give me just plain old conversation.  Give me that little girl coming up to me and saying “Why’d you cry?”  Our questions, our very differences, when gently offered help us connect. It’s true! So no more twitter for me.

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Less tweeting, More talking! We have so much in common with everybody else on the planet including the very ones we think we don’t!

Back to crying in church …  yes I cry in church. Not all the time though, come to think of it, I cried solid in church for about six weeks after my father died in the fall of 1996.

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Here is my impossibly young father in New Orleans-probably his intern year at Tulane.  He trained at Charity Hospital which drowned in Katrina which made me cry, too.  I believe our being fully human  is tied to our capacities to relate to the pain and joy stories woven into the fabric of the world.   Scripture teaches this; so does All Saints’!

As I grieved for my father so many years ago, my fellow priests took on all the public roles in the liturgies and I hid in the choir loft amongst all those red-robed cherubim who just kept on singing  gorgeous music.  I cried for my beloved father who had in fact peacefully lived out the length of his days and surely I also cried for the accumulated trauma of all the deaths I had known and of course I cried (though I didn’t sense it) for my own death to come.  For every mourning is also a mourning  for oneself. I cried week after week. And then eventually, cried out, I healed and in time stood and took up my life and my work again.

Cry in church any old time you need to.  Or even better laugh!  Around this block just let us be ourselves before God and love ourselves and our neighbors in our full humanity and see what blessings come.

Martha +

 

 

 

Looking for the One Giant Star of Faith? In Our Day, Try the Milky Way!

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Sorry, great photographer of Wrightsville Beach! I forgot to write down your name for attribution when I found this  on Google.  And now I can’t find you, lost in the universe.

I saw the Milky Way last week while Carroll and I were resting on a dark island.  Sometimes dark places are the very best places to see the light, and what a miracle is the Milky Way, this great swirling river of stars in all stages of birth and life and death and rebirth.  Sort of like us.

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This is who we are every day—a starry swirl of ministries!

Did you know that we on “this fragile earth our island home”are part of the Milky Way? So even though the Epiphany symbol is a single giant dazzling star lighting the way for the wise seekers to the stable, I believe a whole Milky Way of stars await the seekers around this block. Just open your eyes and ears and heart and You Will See God.  That’s the Epiphany Challenge and Promise: God will be manifest for you, in you, through you.  Yes!

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Here is the just right-sized star for Epiphany supper!

I offer an Epiphany/ Milky Way story I watched  unfold from right before Christmas until, well right now!

One day I got a call from our old friend Doug Hales who was the Business Manager at All Saints’   WAY, WAY back in the day in the eighties and nineties.  He went on to get his PhD and teaches Supply Chain Management at the University of Rhode Island, and he travels ALL over the world to teach folks in other countries.  Here’s Doug in Taiwan, one of the places he’s texted me from in the last three weeks

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Even in the eighty countries where Doug teaches, he  has never forgotten the Saints.

Doug got in touch because he had heard that Marian Murphy, the Head Sexton of All Saints so many, many years ago, had had a massive heart attack.  He reached across the world and connected us to a person in trouble right down the street from the church at Emory Midtown.

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Sometimes epiphanies are not manifest in the stars but texted in our cellphones.
I saw Marian—not conscious.  Doug and I texted back and forth. We checked on her again, barely conscious.  I forgot Marian in the craziness of Christmas services.  But across the world Doug did not. He kept up with her and her family and was as  constant as the stars because he knew she needed a friend.

When I did remember Marian, I could not find her. I thought Uh-Oh, I really thought she had died as she was so long in the ICU.  I texted Doug, this time in Taiwan. He WAS RELENTLESS with the hospital tracking system and found her after three tries (!!!!) moved into a step-down cardiac room.  We had tried but given up; Doug never did.  Friendship matters so much! A friend in need is a friend in deed, and that is totally scriptural (See the Good Samaritan!)

The morning Doug found her, Rich Winters, one of our affiliated priests took the eight o’clock for me. Rich and the other priests who call All Saints’ home are the best. I cannot imagine making it through this interim time without them.

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Rich and Geoffrey are old friends, and now Rich and All Saints’ are new friends.  Epiphanies lead to more Epiphanies. Always. Thank you for your friendship and preaching, Rich!

So at the New Years’ morning 8:00, Rich took the flock of 99 (actually, I think 18 !)  and I walked over to the hospital in the cold and rain to find the lost sheep.  And here she is!
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Marian is waving to her friend Doug and to you!  She’s doing so much better!

Back in the day, Marian taught all of us at All Saints that every job matters, and that keeping All Saints’ spaces beautiful and clean is a holy ministry as much as teaching a class or playing the organ or preaching the sermon.   Marian reminds me of Brother Lawrence who taught that “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” Marian taught us to do every little thing right, and O boy, she got after us when we were careless and messed up tidy spaces for no good reason!!  For such a little lady, Marian has a big roar!! 

Here is the newest sexton at All Saints’, Earle.  Earle has a legacy of friendship and good work to live into and he has the best smile in the world!

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Welcome Earle. You join a long procession of beloved sextons.

We live in a veritable Milky Way of blessings, of God’s presence manifested in us, among us, through us.  When you are feeling like your way is dark and unclear, remember Doug and Marian and all us Saints, and let the light of compassion guide your way to the next friendship encounter.  For after all, as Rilke wrote and Jesus taught,

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Be a friend. Be an epiphany of God’s love.
We can do this by the light of Christ.

Martha +