Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Souper Bowl of Caring

On Sunday February 3rd, 2013 140 million Americans will tune in to the Super Bowl football game.  There will be parties with abundant food, friendship and fellowship. At the same time, there will be people worrying about staying warm, finding shelter and a warm meal.  Please join St. Thomas' youth and young people around the country as they demonstrate God’s love by loving their neighbors through the Souper Bowl of Caring.  It’s a simple, yet significant act of caring for others.  Drop $1 (or more) in the soup pot as you leave church this Sunday! Our young people will be in the narthex will big soup pots following the Eucharist to accept your donations.

All the moneys collected will be given to the Refuge of Hope and be reported to the national Souper Bowl of Caring website to be included in the 2013 total. For more information on the Souper Bowl, visit the website at www.souperbowl.org

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thoughts from Bishop Jake

Dear Sisters and Brothers,                                      

At one time or another we have said, or at least have heard it said, "I am a creature of habit."

When we take the habitual route to work instead of heading for the grocery store as we intended, we may be admitting that we are distracted or absorbed in our own thoughts.

If we have trouble acquiring a new way of accomplishing old tasks or find ourselves resisting an innovation, we say it to admit that we have trouble adjusting to change.

We frequently speak of our eating habits, our exercise habits, or our television habits as something we want to change, since the habits we have accumulated are diminishing our sense of vitality.

Given our usage of the word "habit" you might think that habits are bad. While some habits do in fact decrease our enjoyment of life, habits themselves are not bad. Habits are an essential element of happiness. We are indeed creatures of habit, precisely because God created us this way. God created us to accumulate the habits that draw us close to him and close to one another.

What makes great batters or golfers great? They have practiced their swing so much that, in the midst of play, they never have to think about it. It's second nature. Their swing has become habitual.

God created us to accumulate the habits of love. That's right. The habits of love. God does not want us to live a life enslaved to the whims of the moments. Today I may feel a bit grumpy or on edge.   I might be a little distracted or overwhelmed. If my love for God and for neighbor depended upon how I happen to feel at any moment, my love would be episodic and unreliable.

By contrast, our loving behavior arises from long-accumulated habit, we share our love no matter how we happen to feel about God, our neighbor, or even ourselves that day. Love, after all, is not merely a particular set of affections or passions. For love of God we give our lives to him even on the most ordinary days. We love our neighbors by seeking their good even when they wish we would eat rat poison.

How do we accumulate the habits of love? Like batters and golfers, we have to practice. Each day we have to exercise our hearts and minds and bodies to prepare for the big game, in other words, for ordinary life at home, work, and school. That exercise consists of having a Rule of Life.

A Rule of Life is a pattern for living. It includes devotional practices and acts mercy. Our personal devotions and community worship shape our love for God. Giving our time to serve the poor, visit the sick, defend the weak, and welcome the stranger shapes our love of neighbor. A rule of life shapes our spiritual habits.

The essence of happiness is love. Yes, we need to be loved to be happy. But we also need to give love freely to be happy. Giving our love regardless of our external circumstances is a matter of habit. That is why God has made us creatures of habit: that we might know his joy and that our joy might be complete. (John 15:11)

In Christ's Love, 
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

E.Y.C. Hoop Fun

The E.Y.C. - Episcopal Youth Community - had a great game day today at Grace Episcopal School's Gym. We played basket ball and had a great lesson on getting along with one another by Ms. Dee. Daniel brought delicious cake and and drinks for everyone.

Will and Halley's teams battled to 6-6 tie in our half-court b-ball game - at least according to Fr. Whit's count...No cheating was allowed.

Photo by Ms. Dee...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thoughts from Bishop Jake

Dear Sisters and Brothers,                         

How can I help? We have had more occasion to ask that question recently than we would wish.

As last year was winding down, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the northeast, especially parts of New Jersey and New York. The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened as we were preparing to celebrate Christmas.

There are many worthy ways to provide aid and comfort. Among them is Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Nearly 90% of each donation goes directly to the intended recipients. Costs for administration and for fund raising take up the rest. This is a remarkable ratio in the world of charitable giving.

You may certainly give to ERD as individuals, but let me suggest that you help lead your congregation to become a contributor to ERD. Whether you do this as need arises or you sustain the ongoing work of ERD in our nation and around the world, giving to ERD is a highly effective way to put the Gospel into action.

To learn more about ERD, please click this link: ERD.

Consider designating loose offering, providing a special giving opportunity, or apportioning part of your outreach budget to ERD. Acting as a congregation rather than as an individual is especially valuable in our Christian walk. It reinforces for us that we are parts of a body, the Body of Christ.

Following Jesus is not a solo performance, it is a group project. Christian life is life in community.

I encourage you to make as one of your resolutions this year to ask what we can do: we as a Christ following community. In addition to the tragedies and disasters that grab media attention, consider the ongoing challenges of your town and our state.

For instance, a shocking number of children did not want to take the Christmas break. They would not be fed regularly without the school nutrition program. Those same children need basic school supplies but also everyday things we take for granted like socks and underwear. Consider contacting a school in your town with economically struggling parents and children.

Your congregation can provide support for the poor, the handicapped, and the dying. Contact the St. Luke's Mobile Medical Ministry, Solomon House, the Shepherd Center, or your local hospice to see how your congregation can support the good work being done.

The Gospel is not merely something we think or even believe. The Gospel is something we do. Something we do as the beloved community of Jesus followers.

As I finish writing this reflection, palpable joy is welling up in my heart, and there is a smile on my face, as I think of all of you. The Lord has filled me with love for you all and with enthusiasm for the work he is doing in, through, and among us. What a privilege it is to be your bishop!

In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D 


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thoughts from Bishop Jake

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Happy New Year!

Some of us have made resolutions for the coming year, many of which aim at self-improvement. We intend to eat less and to exercise more. Replace watching TV with reading. Learn a foreign language or be more patient.

We all need to make life-adjustments from time to time, and resolutions can play a worthy role in that process. But I find that resolutions often focus merely on the periphery of our lives. They rarely dig into the deep core of our values.

Before we get too far along in this year, let's take a little time to reflect on what we make the center of our universe. Think about these questions, or something like them:

What am I really about in this life? On what do I depend for my sense of significance? Where do I seek security?

Now, let's remember what Jesus taught us:

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"   (Matthew 22:37-39)

Jesus urges us to nurture our relationships. Our relationship with God is our starting point, and that relationship expresses itself in our relationships with other people.

But it would be a mistake to consider the Summary of the Law as a goal to achieve, something that we can accomplish. Too many religious people fall into this error of thinking. They figure that being good enough and being spiritual enough will make God love them. And so they miss the point entirely.

God already loves us. He forsook all his infinite glory to be born for us in a manger and to die for us on a cross. He did this for us precisely because we cannot fulfill the Summary of the Law on our own.   As Anne Lamott put it, "If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little." (from Help, Thanks, Wow)

The life devoted to and inscribed by love is the life that God gives us through Christ, not the achievement that God will grade in the end as if life were a great exam. It is the destination to which Jesus will lead us if we follow him, even if we often follow by shuffling or dragging our feet or stumbling headlong in a daze.

Blessings to you all in this New Year! It is so exciting to imagine what Jesus has in store for us!

In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D.
The Diocese of Western Louisiana

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Final New Year Message


The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams pays tribute to the silent and often invisible church volunteers who make a difference to other peoples' lives. In his final final New Year message before stepping down he says religion should not be seen as an "old-fashioned embarrassment" but instead a "wellspring of energy."

The 62-year-old Williams has now officially departed as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury or leader of the Church of England and spiritual head of the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion world-wide. Williams left on December 31, 2012 following a 10-year tenure.
He will go on to take up the posts of master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and chairman of the board of trustees of Christian Aid, the international development agency.
Williams will be replaced by 56-year-old former oil executive the Rt Rev Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, who will be consecrated in March at Canterbury Cathedral as the new archbishop of Canterbury.