Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We opened Synod this year by inviting the Holy Spirit to be present as we gathered and the omnipotent Father of mercy and grace was there. Our people came from all over, from as far away as Hawaii and Florida, to worship and study Scripture in English and Spanish and Karen, and to be encouraged as a Diocese, together. It was a Spirit-filled time of peace and with joy as we, with Archbishop Beach, ordained Fr. Ah Sa Ree and Fr. Kay George and Deacon Ta Kwah, for our Karen congregations in Tennessee and Nebraska.
Our theme this year is following Jesus and I want to share some thoughts about this, especially for those of you who were not able to attend Synod this year.
As I said in my opening address, we are not a group of independent congregational churches. We are a Diocese, all different and yet all part of the same body, all upholding the received, catholic teaching of the Church. We need each other and only together we are the body of Christ, a symbol of Christian unity and peace.
We talked about kingdom building, but not the kind where we are building large facilities and drawing people into those buildings. I do not believe that God is interested in big buildings. He cannot be contained in any building, no matter how beautiful the stained glass or the music or the liturgy.
He is interested, instead, in living in the hearts of people; in birthing people into the new life of His kingdom. When we focus on buildings, we lose His focus. He told us to go out into the world and make disciples, followers of Jesus, building His kingdom. This kingdom building demands that we prepare, every day. We must equip ourselves as His disciples, praying and inviting the Holy Spirit in, just like we did at Synod, every day. Reading the Holy Scriptures and studying them, every day.
Because we cannot follow Jesus and be kingdom builders if we do not know Him. We can follow our impressions of Him, but if those impressions are not rooted in Scripture, we will not be following Jesus. During Synod Bible study, we heard that we are people who are saved by the grace and mercy of God and if we are to be His followers, we must be like Him, showing mercy and grace, too.
So how do we do this? We follow Jesus’ example as we see it in the Gospels. We eat with, talk with, and pray for tax collectors and sinners. People who the Pharisees would tell us not to be seen with. People who are lost in cycles of poverty and those whose lives are outwardly, obviously sinful. Those people who the world has forsaken in its apathy. We are to step out, relying on His promise to provide, giving sacrificially to people who need Him and who will see Him through us.
Over the last few months, I have asked you to do the work of the kingdom by giving…we took collections at Synod for Anglican Charities and for Puerto Rico and you gave generously! I am asking for you to increase this giving to the people who are in need. You will be hearing about opportunities to “adopt” Karen orphans from Cn. Fosdick, and you will hear of efforts to bring Karen bibles to the people of our Diocese, you’ll be hearing about ongoing needs in Puerto Rico, and of the poor in our own neighborhoods.
As your Bishop, I have spent time with you in many places. In storefronts, houses, and church buildings, some rented and some owned for a long time. I have shared meals with you, prayed with you, and worked with you. It is a great privilege to be your Bishop. And I want to encourage you to keep working for the kingdom because we are a Diocese and because we have decided to follow Jesus. There is no one else to turn to, only He has the words of life, and there is no turning back.
It is my hope that I will see even more of you at Synod next year. Not because you have to come, but because you want to worship and learn and grow together as a Diocese, following Jesus and building His kingdom.
In Christ Jesus,
Bp. J. A. Morales, OSB, DD