May our grief and hope empower us to act

Bishop Stephen Lane shared the following sermon at the Service of Lament for Gun Violence at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland on March 14. The service, one of many across the Episcopal Church, marked one month since the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Channel 13-WGME-TV covered the service and interviewed Bishop Lane.

Bishop Lane’s sermon

Psalm 23; Isaiah 61:1-3; Matthew 2:16-18

[Bishop singing] – Trisagion, Archangelsky
Holy God, Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us

Thank you for coming out this evening. A Service of Lament is not an easy thing to sit through, and I thank you for your courage and your hope in coming here.

We all know the little metaphor about the frog and the pot. Put a frog in a pot, so it’s said, and turn the heat up slowly, and the poor frog slowly cooks to death without ever trying to escape. The heat rises so slowly that the frog never notices until it’s too late.

I think something like this has happened to us and to our country in relation to gun violence. For the most part, gun violence is so dispersed, so private, that it goes unnoticed. A large number of gun deaths – half – are suicides. Another large number of deaths are the result of domestic violence. We read about them here and there without putting together the reality that the number of deaths across our country now exceeds 30,000 a year, more than 38,000 in both 2016 and 2017. It takes something like the mass shooting at Parkland High School to get our attention, to tell us that the pot is at full boil.

And it is at full boil. The Las Vegas music festival shooting resulted in 58 dead and 851 injured from a single gunman… Some folks are still hospitalized. Full boil.

Yet, awareness of the boiling pot is not enough. What’s needed is time to count the cost, to feel the loss. The response to any death, to every death, must be grief.

A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and much grieving.  Rachel weeping for her children, and she did not want to be comforted, because they were no more. Or as Andrew Pollack said in testimony to the President about his daughter, Meadow, one of 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, There should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again. She’s not here. She’s not here. She’s in North Lauderdale King David cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.

A time of lament is deeply embedded in our Judeo-Christian tradition as the appropriate response to the infinite value of every human life, lives bearing the image of God, and deeply related to our own. We stop tonight to think of the lives that are here no more, that are gone from us forever.

Lament faces the reality of loss and death. Lament gives voice to grief. Lament gives human voice to the pain of God over the loss of God’s children. It is fundamental to our humanity that we take time to lament.

[Singing]
Holy God, Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us

Lament is not, however, hopeless…

In a private letter to the House of Bishops, Episcopalians Philip and April Schentrup wrote about their daughter, Carmen, and called us to action. They write: Our hearts are saddened for the loss of our beautiful little girl and the absence of her amazing presence, but we cannot be sad for Carmen. We believe that Carmen’s murder was not part of God’s plan and that God is saddened by the violence in this world more than we can know. We know that God’s promise is for us to be with him in heaven, and in faith, we believe that Carmen is in heaven, in the loving embrace of God. She awaits us, loved and cared for.

And so we believe. God is doing more for Carmen than we can ask or imagine. God has received Carmen and holds her forever. God’s love gives us hope that all is not lost and that hope compels us to action.

As Carmen’s parents went on: As our family struggles to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, we ask the Good Lord daily for the strength to fight the good fight, to finish the race. In our attempt to heal from despair and grief, we are compelled to try and make the world a better place for our two remaining children and for all children.

The time has come for those of who believe in God to say that gun violence is not of God. It is not acceptable to us as God’s people. Whoever the victims, however the death, sudden death is not what God wants. Whatever the remedies needed, and there are many, the time is passed for us to pretend we don’t know the water is boiling. The time is now to tell the truth and to act.

Isaiah proclaimed, The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.

We are the Lord’s chosen. We are the people called and baptized to carry the Good News of the coming kingdom. We are the ones called to prepare the way… and the time is now.

May our grief and our hope empower us to act. May we crawl out of the pot and speak, not only to save ourselves, but all of God’s children. May we recognize that unfettered access to guns, access that exceeds anything we would consider for cars, is blighting our lives and killing our neighbors. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, may we be voices for hope and for peace and for the infinite value of every human life.

[Singing]
Holy God, Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us

Bishop Lane revises his Litany in the Aftermath of Gun Violence

In late 2015, Bishop Stephen T. Lane, of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, wanted to share a litany for Maine congregations to use for the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath. Surprised to find that one had not been written, he composed one. It was shared in Maine and ultimately used in many services across the Episcopal Church as well as in churches in other denominations.

Today he shares an updated, expanded version titled, A Litany in the Aftermath of Gun Violence. Read it below and feel free to share it. Word and PDF versions are linked below and may be customized for local use.

It will be used at a Service of Lament for Gun Violence that will be held at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. All are invited.

Word | PDF

A Litany in the Aftermath of Gun Violence

Revised by the author, the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Maine
February 28, 2018

Permission is granted to amend or adjust as necessary

Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in peace. Surround us with your love as we face again the tragedy of gun violence.

For the children and adults who were killed _____ , (the brave ones who died protecting others), the many who were wounded and hospitalized, the traumatized, grieving survivors, and those known to you alone, Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Righteousness, you have granted our leaders, especially Donald, our President, and _________, our Governor, the members of Congress and of our courts and legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us, and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Strengthen their devotion to our common life and give them clarity of purpose.

For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces, Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders: police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the schools, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place every day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.

For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and serenity as they rush to our aid,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.

For all whose lives are forever changed and broken by the scourge of gun violence,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

*[God of Repentance and Forgiveness, we hold before you ____ (the one who fired the weapon) and seek your grace for transformation. We cannot forgive – not yet – but we trust in your power to make all things new.

For those who from malice or illness are the instruments of violence and death, Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.]

God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died, more than 37,000 in the past year, in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care.

For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow, Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

*[God of Tender Mercy, be with those who are overwhelmed, enraged, frustrated and demoralized by the plague of gun violence. Give them a sense of your presence and plant in them the seed of hope.

For those whose hope for life in this world is shattered and broken, Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.]

God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Turn us from the worship of power. Give us courage to confront our false gods and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Help us rise above our dread that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change.

For your dream of a world where children are safe and all of us live together without fear, Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

*optional

Dive deep this Lent

“In this season of school shootings, opioid deaths, immigrants struggling to make their way, environmental degradation, and all the rest, religious observance pales compared to God’s call to compassion and love.

May this season be a time for us to recall whose we are, and to seek God’s help in loving our neighbor as ourselves.”

— Bishop Stephen Lane

Read Bishop Lane’s message here.

Bishop Lane’s Christmas message

Text version below

In Advent we wait in the dark for the light we trust is coming.

I think that this year, many of us are feeling alone and isolated in our lives and concerns. We worry for our families and our country and for the the future of this fragile earth, our island home.

I suspect it was very much this way when Jesus was born. A small, poor, rural country, occupied by a foreign power, held in contempt for its strange and unsophisticated belief in one God. Who was there to notice or to care about the people of Israel?

But then came the angels and the shepherds. Christmas tells us that God cares and, in fact, cares so much that God has come to live our lives as one with us. Jesus is the human face of God and is right here, right now.

An ancient prayer of praise from the Celtic tradition captures the intimacy of God’s presence with us.

You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from harm
You are the light that shines in dark
You are the heart’s eternal spark
You are the door that’s open wide
You are the guest who waits inside
You are the stranger at the door
You are the calling of the poor
You are my Lord and with me still
You are my love, keep me from ill
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Saviour this very day.

Jesus is with us, right here, right now. May you rejoice in this good news and may you share his light with everyone you meet.

Merry Christmas.

Joy, we win!

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane visited St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland on the second Sunday of Advent. In his sermon he had this, in part, to say:

I invite you to look at this troubled, old world from the standpoint of victory. I’d like you to consider your lives from the standpoint of one who knows that God has already overcome sin and death. I’d like you to think how you can live according to the standard of the world that is coming; how you can be kinder, more hospital, more compassionate, more just.

Read it all here.

Bishop Lane’s letter to Senator Susan Collins on the tax plan

Bishop Stephen Lane sent the letter posted below to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) on Wednesday, December 7.

December 6, 2017

Dear Senator Collins:

Thank you again for your willingness to meet with me and Maine’s faith leaders in October. During that conversation you’ll recall that we shared our reservations about any tax plan that would eliminate the individual mandate and our concerns that it would make it harder for low- and middle-income families to keep body and soul together and result in higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs for us all.

Today, I write to express my concern that the promises secured from President Trump and Republican leadership will not be honored as a revised bill emerges from a Conference Committee. And, even if the amendments make it through and the bipartisan fixes you support pass, I fear that the provisions you fought for would not do enough to mitigate the damage done by eliminating the individual mandate.

My additional concerns about the tax plan include:

– It will add an unconscionable amount of money to our national debt, placing an incredible burden on our children, grandchildren, and future generations of Americans.

 – Cuts to Medicare and Social Security triggered by the deficit circuit breaker would have harsh and unpredictable impacts on the aging population in Maine and across the U.S and would put our rural hospitals at great risk.

– The repeal of the Johnson Amendment would further muddy the crucial line between church and state.

– The lack of time allotted for public hearings, testimony, and thoughtful consideration of all the provisions included in such a comprehensive bill does not reflect the values of our democratic process.

As the conferenced bill comes to a vote, I urge you, Senator Collins, to stand up against and vote “no” for any tax bill that would adversely affect the long-term well being of millions of American families. You have repeatedly demonstrated your courage in taking positions unpopular with your party in order to serve the people of Maine. I hope you will do so again.

Please be assured that you, and your colleagues, remain in my prayers as you engage in the important work of leading our nation. May you be graced with wisdom and strength.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

The love of God is never exhausted

Bishop Stephen T. Lane offered his annual address and Convention sermon to the people of the Diocese of Maine on Saturday, October 28, during the 198th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Maine at the Cross Center in Bangor.

Read his address, his sermon, or watch them below.

In his sermon Bishop Lane had this, in part, to say:

“[We are] to testify to the Good News of God in Christ.

“I love that word testify. It means to stand up and tell the truth. To testify means we have to be among the people. We cannot testify in our closets. We cannot testify in our homes. We have to be in our communities…We have to be voices for the love of God. Followers of the way of Jesus. That’s the work God is inviting us into. It may seem like a lost cause but, my friends, the love of God is never exhausted. It is here. Right here. Right now.”

Bishop Lane shares his trip to the Diocese of Alaska

Bishops of the Episcopal Church gathered for a week in the Diocese of Alaska earlier this month.

Bishop Lane’s video offers a glimpse into their visit, including a blessing of the landscape of a former gold mine, a visit to St. Jude’s, North Pole, and singing in a huge pot of moose head soup where bishops and spouses were welcomed by the local community.

At the close of the meeting, Bishops offered a word to the Church. They wrote, in part, “God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.” Read it all here.

Check out additional coverage from Episcopal News Service.

Bishops of Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia write to senators about the Graham-Cassidy bill

September 24, 2017

The Hon. Lisa Murkowski and the Hon. Dan Sullivan, Senators for Alaska
The Hon. John McCain and the Hon. Jeff Flake, Senators for Arizona
The Hon. Susan Collins and the Hon. Angus King, Senators for Maine
The Hon. Sherrod Brown and the Hon. Rob Portman, Senators for Ohio
The Hon. Joe Manchin and the Hon. Shelley Moore Capito, Senators for West Virginia

 Dear Senators:

 We, the leaders of the Episcopal Church dioceses in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia, write to you as we gather in Fairbanks, Alaska, for one of our two annual meetings of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. We feel compelled to lift our voices together to urge you to vote against the passage of the Graham-Cassidy Bill. 

You have seen the recent report from Avalere Health on the impact this bill would have on federal healthcare spending over the next nine years. A cut of $215 billion in spending would result, across our five states alone, in a reduction of $23 billion by 2026. After 2026, when the block grants are cut, it would leave our hospitals and providers and, most importantly, the people they serve in a healthcare free fall, just as baby boomers create the largest demand for healthcare our country will have ever experienced.

The provisions of Graham-Cassidy that eliminate Medicaid expansion and reduce subsidies for lower income people give us further cause to urge you to vote against it. Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to respect the dignity of every human being. It is our responsibility to challenge you, our elected leaders, to work toward justice and equality for the welfare of all people, not only those who can afford health insurance.

The news that this bill may come to a vote as early as next week is deeply disturbing to us. A piece of legislation that, in light of its specific provisions, is likely to affect the healthcare of millions of Americans for decades to come, deserves the full consideration of the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Passage of this bill without the benefit of a full Congressional Budget Office assessment does a disservice of the highest magnitude to the American people. The provisions in Graham-Cassidy that would require each state essentially to re-invent its healthcare system are guaranteed to raise the cost of healthcare for the average consumer. Additionally, the lack of guarantees for essential health benefits such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment casts a blind eye on deeper problems that face many people in the states where we minister, particularly the challenges of rural obstetrical care and the rapidly worsening opioid crisis. 

We urge you, Senators, in the spirit of fairness and proper process, to stand up against a bill that would cause such disruption and chaos to healthcare for millions of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us. As Christians and as faith leaders in our respective states, we ask that you stand firm on the democratic process that serves us all. Access to such healthcare is crucial to maintaining the social safety net that allows our communities to flourish. 

Your votes and voices are critical in ensuring that any Senate bill has a full hearing and offers an opportunity for robust debate, to the worthy end that we improve on the Affordable Care Act and responsibly reform healthcare in this country.

Please be assured that all of you, in addition to your colleagues, remain in our prayers as you engage in the important work of leading our nation. May each of you be graced with the wisdom and strength to serve all Americans. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns.

Respectfully and gratefully,

The Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime, Bishop of Alaska
The Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Michael Klusmeyer, Bishop of West Virginia

______
The letter as a PDF

Bishop Stephen Lane calls for successor

printable version here
jump to the letter from the Standing Committee

August 24, 2017

Dear Friends in Christ,

After lengthy conversation and prayer and in consultation with the Standing Committee, I today call for the election of a Bishop Diocesan to be the Tenth Bishop of Maine. (A Bishop Diocesan succeeds the seated bishop immediately upon consecration.)

My wife, Gretchen, and I have been gathering information about Episcopal transition since late last fall. With that knowledge and with the advice of the Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development, I have decided to retire from my position as Bishop in June of 2019. I will then be 70 years old. The 22 months between now and then give us ample time to discern, elect, and transition to the next bishop.

Accompanying this announcement is a letter from the Standing Committee outlining the discernment and transition process. The Standing Committee met with Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development late in May and has been preparing a transition plan ever since. At our upcoming 2017 Diocesan Convention, the Standing Committee will present a resolution concerning discernment and transition, and the proposed Diocesan Council budget will include monies for discernment and transition. Details will be found in the pre-Convention materials that will be circulated in September.

Serving as your bishop is the greatest joy of my life in the Church, and I look forward to continuing that service for the next two years. The work of following Jesus goes on even as we make preparations for our diocesan future, and I will remain fully engaged as your bishop until the moment I pass the crozier to my successor. There will be time for farewells as part of the transition process.

This announcement* initiates a long and careful process. I invite all Maine Episcopalians to take part, through prayer and discernment, and by continuing the faithful work and worship that are going on all over the diocese.  I ask your prayers, and promise you mine, as we make this journey together.

Faithfully,

Bishop Steve

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

*Each congregation will receive a copy of both letters by mail.

 

From the Standing Committee

printable version here

Dear Ones:   

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)   

As the old Byrds’ song goes, we are turning to a new season of collaborative ministry in the Diocese of Maine. While we look ahead to the future, our daily work with Bishop Lane continues as we follow Christ in our communities.

What’s Next:
With Bishop Lane’s call for the election of a diocesan bishop, your Standing Committee has already begun planning for the election of the Tenth Bishop of Maine in 2019. Under the guidance of the Office for Pastoral Development of the Episcopal Church, we have called the Rev. Canon Rick Callaway as our search consultant to shepherd us throughout the entire process, using best practices that are well-established throughout the Episcopal Church. Diocesan leaders are committed to listening and responding to diverse voices across Maine and to making this a prayerful process. We invite each of you to participate in this process through prayer, listening, and conversation. As we move along, we promise to communicate regularly, within the bounds of confidentiality, all that unfolds by the grace of God.

Here’s a draft timeline of what will happen:

September-October 2017
The Standing Committee will publish a resolution, also known as the enabling legislation, in the Convention booklet and present it to the 2017 Convention. This will establish the canonical authority needed to conduct a bishop search and election.

Late October-November 2017
The Standing Committee will seek nominations, appoint, and announce members of two Committees:

  • The Discernment Committee will survey the diocese, create a diocesan online profile, receive nominations, screen/interview nominees, and present a slate of qualified bishop candidates to the Standing Committee by November 2018.
  • The Transition Committee will manage the details of the candidates’ walkabouts, the bishop election, and the ordination/consecration in 2019. They will also actively support Bishop Lane, the bishop-elect, and their families with their transitions.
  • The Standing Committee will also call a Transition Chaplain to act as a spiritual guide to the process, committees, and diocesan staff. Bishop Lane and Gretchen will have their own chaplain.

December 1-2, 2017
Members of the Discernment, Transition, and Standing Committees will meet with our consultant and chaplain for an overnight retreat to begin the planning and collaboration process.

January-April 2018
The Discernment Committee surveys the diocese. Diocesan profile/website completed and shared widely.

May-Sept 2018
The Discernment Committee conducts formal search process. Nominees are screened and interviewed.

October 2018
The Bishop nominees participate in a retreat in Maine with the Discernment Committee and consultant.

November 2018
A slate of bishop nominees is presented to the Standing Committee, accepted, and announced. Nominations by petition are sought by a process defined in the enabling legislation.

December 2018
The petition nominees are added to the slate upon successful completion of background checks.

January 2019
Walkabouts and interviews in Maine with all nominees.

February 2019
A Special Convention to elect the Tenth Bishop of Maine (with a planned snow date).

Spring 2019
A time of transition for Bishop-elect and family. Diocesan leadership solidify letter of agreement. Farewell celebration with Bishop Steve and Gretchen.

Early Summer 2019
The Ordination and Consecration of the Tenth Bishop of Maine (date determined by the Presiding Bishop).

Canonically, the Standing Committee is entrusted with overseeing an orderly election and transition. As followers of Jesus, we believe that all orders of ministry: the laity, deacons, priests, and bishops are one within the Body of Christ by virtue of our baptism. Through the variety of our prayers and experience across the Diocese, we trust that the Holy Spirit will guide and inspire us through these seasons of endings and beginnings.

Meanwhile, we continue to share our diverse gifts created by God’s abundant love. Your Standing Committee invites you to keep our Diocese, Bishop Lane and Gretchen, and our next bishop in your daily prayers as we enter this season of growing in our life together.

All shall be well.

Maria+

The Rev. Maria J. Hoecker, President
The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine