Friday, October 21, 2011
October 2011 "From Time to Time" e-mail newsletter
Thursday, September 15, 2011
September 2011 "ON Time to Time"
Sunday, August 21, 2011
"Stormy Outside, Mostly Sunny Inside"
Friday, August 05, 2011
At the White House with the Hindu American Seva Charities, July 29 & 30, 2011
My work with Odyssey Networks has given me two opportunities to attend conferences at the White House. Some months ago I attended the first of these with the Interfaith Youth Core, http://www.ifyc.org/. Last weekend, I was privileged to attend and speak at the first-ever Hindu conference at the White House, sponsored by the Hindu American Seva Charities – http://www.hinduamericanseva.org/. Both the Interfaith Youth Core and the Hindu American Seva Charities are members of Odyssey Networks.
Meeting under the theme “Impacting Change in America and Abroad,” the Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) event was a "family gathering" for Hindu Americans. It was a great privilege to be one of the few non-Hindus in attendance.
The first day of the event, Friday, July 29, 2011, was held at the White House in the auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The theme for this day was “The Whole World is One Family” and it really felt like a Hindu American family gathering!
A major part of the morning was spent with Hindu American military leaders, American heroes really, from several branches of the US military. The US flag was waved proudly. Our National Anthem was sung. US Hindu pride abounded. The first Hindu US military chaplain, a young woman named Pratim Dharm, was introduced. It was all very sweet.
Then the winners of HASC’s essay contest were announced and honored – high school and college aged youth and even older adults were brought on stage to accept their awards. The contest theme was the role the Hindu faith plays in service in their communities and we heard many examples of the work Hindu temples and other local groups are playing in their communities, serving the needs of the poor and much more.
Faith, family, service, America – I could have been anywhere in the USA but I was at the White House with Hindus, Indian Americans – a rare privilege for me.
But a rarer privilege came to me the next morning when the conference continued at nearby George Washington University on Saturday, July 30, 2011. This day’s theme was “Strengthening Local Communities, Impacting Poverty and Advancing Global Development.” I helped open the day on a panel with three others speaking to the theme of the “Pluralistic Landscape of America.”
The other three panelists were Hindus – I was the only non-Hindu and, as far as I could see, one of only three non- Hindus in the auditorium this day. I asked to speak last. The others gave eloquent talks on this theme, outlining the history of interfaith relations in the USA and the Hindu contribution to these relationships.
Two of the speakers before me referenced documents that their relatives had received in years past from the time when the United Kingdom ruled India. Both of these documents stated something like “Despite being a Hindu, so-and-so is a good person.” This example was stated without rancor, just part of life for Hindus in India in those days.
I wanted to share some basic information on faith in the USA in 2011, statistics that I love to share from the recent book, American Grace by Putnam and Campbell. But, I felt it best to begin by saying something like this:
“With the poor history of Christian treatment of Hindus and other American religious minorities, I feel I should begin by saying something like I hope someone would say to you of me, “Despite being a Christian, Eric is a good person.”"
That statement drew the first of several moments of sustained applause from the group. I have never had this sort of experience, having my remarks so wonderfully received with applause interruptions! When I shared Putnam and Campbell’s statistic that 89% of all Americans now believe that more than Christians can go the heaven, including 81% of evangelical Christians, I was again interrupted by applause as I was when I said that I recently shared in a sermon that I could not believe that Jesus Christ would deny the afterlife to 2/3 of the world’s population! (They also loved it when I noted that I was once criticized by name by Jerry Falwell, but that’s for another blog post!)
During the brief question and answer time, one young woman asked how to respond to Christians who feel obligated to try to change her from her Hindu faith to Christianity. Other panelists suggested that she remember that this was a basic tenant of their evangelical faith and that they should not be offended by these efforts, but use them as a teaching time to tell them about the Hindu faith. I asked for their understanding and prayer for these people.
By this time we were far over our time slot (we had begun nearly an hour late – "India time" I was told) and I had to leave to catch my train back to Manhattan. As I tried to leave I was followed by a crowd – people who wanted my business card and a copy of Odyssey’s new brochure, people who wanted to share their faith story and even the sad treatment they had received from Christians. It was all very moving and sobering. I left honored to have had a small chance to say that most Christians would honor their Hindu faith and celebrate that they/we were all people of faith.
What a privilege it is to work for Odyssey Networks and have the chance as a Christian to witness to the commonalities among people of faith – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, AND Hindus!
Note – my dear friend, Josh Stanton, another of the non-Hindus at this event, wrote a wonderful blog on the Huffington Post about this event, “Hindu Community Makes Its White House Debut.” I recommend it to you – see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joshua-stanton/hindu-community-white-house_b_910474.html?view=screen. More details of the conference are online on the Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) website at http://www.hinduamericanseva.org/events/seva-conference.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
From "Time to Time" (T2T) for June 29, 2011
I like to write to you from “Time to Time” (T2T):
· Will you be in the New York City area on Thursday, July 28th? If so, you are invited to a 7:00 pm private screening of Odyssey’s new documentary for the Oprah channel, Serving Life, which debuts on the channel later that evening. RSVP to Jocelyn – email@example.com .
· Serving Life, our new Oprah channel documentary, debuts on that cable channel (OWN) on Thursday, July 28th at 9:00 pm eastern and pacific times. There has been some confusion about this air date – it definitely is July 28th! More at http://bit.ly/k2HY8U . Please spread the word! Thank you.
· 100 Strong! When the Odyssey Board of Trustees meets in July they will consider membership applications from six new members, five faith-related organizations and one individual. Assuming these applications are accepted, Odyssey will then have 100 members an increase of nearly 100% since January of 2010 (when we had 52 members)! Thus, we are focusing our Monday, September 26th member gathering here in New York City on the theme “100 Strong!” In celebration of members, we will offer several occasions to network, find out collaboration opportunities, and hear short presentations from all members. Many of you have already heard from Deb Mathews about our gathering which precedes the NCC Communication Commission meetings also here in New York City that week. Many more details coming but please hold the date – Monday, September 26, with activities beginning here at the InterChurch Center at 2:00 pm.
· Recently, thanks to member Josh Stanton, Odyssey was featured in the newsletter of the Parliament of the World Religions. You can see that article online at http://bit.ly/k1oSFK .
· Odyssey’s video, No Future for Terrorism, available at http://bit.ly/kp8A4o, was featured in the June 26th broadcast of the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries program “Sanctuary” on ABC channel 7 in Chicago. More at http://www.gcbm.org.
· Odyssey has won six awards for our video productions from 2010:
o The Scroll of Esther, a video for Call on Faith won two awards –
§ Award of Excellence, the Communicator Awards
§ Silver Award, the Telly Awards
o Beyond Mumbai: Hope and Healing won three awards –
§ Award of Excellence, Videographer Awards
§ Official Honoree, the Webby Awards
§ “Forgiveness” Award, the Interfaith Film Festival
o Dialogue over Threatened Quran Burning won an Award of Excellence from the DeRose Hinkhouse Awards, presented by the Religion Communicators Council.
· Many of you know Odyssey’s Bill Reilly. After many years, Bill is leaving us on June 30th, and is excited about the upcoming challenges and opportunities facing him. Bill would love to hear from his Odyssey friends – you can write him at Wm.SpencerReilly@gmail.com .
· I am pleased to report that 100% of Odyssey’s Board of Trustees has made a financial contribution to support our work! This is a first for us and compliments the strong staff giving this year. Foundations support is crucial for us now, and they look for support from within first – from trustees, staff and members. So, we count on you, our members to help us, too. You can send your donation, checks payable to “Odyssey Networks,” to me at our offices or use the “Support Us” link on our website, http://www.odysseynetworks.org, for a credit card donation. Thank you!
· We recently produced three video news stories for the web on the issue of gay and lesbian clergy that have had strong viewership and wide distribution – Huffington Post, CNN and more. Here are the links:
o My Journey as a Lesbian Pastor – http://bit.ly/kKBbRv
o Living with Differences: Two Congregations, Two Viewpoints on Gay Clergy – http://bit.ly/iVB5Kb
o Living with Differences: PC(USA)’s Struggle Over Gay Clergy – http://bit.ly/jAStsb
Intersections International’s CEO (and Odyssey Board of Trustee’s member) Bob Chase wrote about these videos: “Just wanted you to know that I believe this video, Living With Differences…, is one of the most helpful videos I have ever seen on the subject of LGBT inclusion … It portrays both sides of the equation without bias – GREAT journalism, so rare in this world … And GREAT job by your producers, editors, etc. to create this piece.”
· I recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of my ordination as a Lutheran pastor and reflected upon this journey on my blog. You can read it in my previous blog post here.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
35 Years of Ordained Lutheran Ministry - June 23, 2011
I was ordained with a group of others, including the first woman ordained by the LCA NE PA Synod, at St. John's Lutheran Church in Boyertown, Pennsylvania on the evening of June 23, 1976. Bishop Wilson Touhsaent, my "spiritual father" who had baptized and confirmed me as pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, ordained me, assisted by his assistant, the Rev. Harold Weiss. (Weiss became the next synod bishop and I later served for nine years as his assistant). The preacher for the ordination service, the Rev. Elton Richards, then one of the best-known Lutheran preachers, told us about an elderly pastor friend who loved playing cards with his friends, but would only do so with all the shades of his or their home drawn so that no one would see that he was playing cards. Richards challenged us to live our lives as pastors "with the shades up," not hiding our personal and professional lives lives, but sharing them with others.
In my 35 years of ordained ministry, I have tried to live my life in ministry "with the shades up!"
I have served as pastor of congregations quite small and very large. I have been on a Lutheran synod (regional) staff and the churchwide (national) staff. Ecumenical and interfaith communication work has been a cornerstone of my professional and volunteer ministry and currently is my full time ministry at Odyssey Networks for which I am pleased to have a call from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Working for justice and feeding the hungry have been central to my life and ministry, all part of sharing God's love for this world and all of its (God's) people.
My ministry has taken me across the USA and around the world (Europe, Africa, Central and South America and the Middle East). I have met Popes, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Kings. I have led workshops across the USA and in Europe and taught in South Africa and Madagascar. I have produced weekly television and radio programs and shared in bringing back a children's television stop-motion animation icon through which I have met some of the best (and worst) people in Hollywood. (I even was once criticized by name by Jerry Falwell, something of which I am very proud!)
I have been privileged to have been supervised by some of the finest men and women - bishops, presiding bishops, communication directors, journalists, CEO's, COO's and many others.
Through it all I have been loved and supported by my wife, Kris, and blessed by wonderful friends and staff colleagues.
At worship this morning we sang the wonderful old hymn, "Blessed Assurance," which has the chorus, "This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long."
That continues to be my hope and prayer for my ordained ministry! With the shades open!
Only for the Glory of God,
Thursday, June 16, 2011
From "Time to Time" for June 1, 2011
Here is my most recent (June 1, 2011) From "Time to Time" e-mail to Odyssey members and friends:
I like to write to you from “Time to Time:”
· It was so good to see many of you at our May 9 – 11 annual member gathering which included the special event, “9/11, the Conversation We Never Had.” More than 135 members and friends attended at least part of this gathering. Thanks to all who participated, especially to those who were willing to take part in the leadership of these days together!
· Speaking of member gatherings, we next gather on Monday, September 26th for an evening to “celebrate our members” here at the InterChurch Center in Manhattan. We chose this time and date to hook onto Pat Pattillo’s NCC Communication Commission annual meetings which begins the next morning. Mark your calendars and plan to join us if you can!
· The afternoon before our September 26th member dinner, we will have a face-to-face meeting of all Call on Faith channel heads beginning at 2:00 pm. More details later, but please plan your travel accordingly.
· Actually, Call on Faith channel heads now plan to meet regularly via telephone and the web – the first of these regular meetings will happen later this month. More details coming.
· Serving Life, our new documentary for the new Oprah television channel (OWN) debuts on Thursday evening, July 28th, at 9:00 pm, eastern and pacific times.
· We’ve begun to plan a series of gatherings across the country to raise funds and friends for Odyssey! The first of these will be held on Tuesday, June 28th in Fort Washington (Montgomery County), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia suburbs). Want more details? Contact my assistant, Jocelyn Dupre, here at Odyssey, firstname.lastname@example.org .
· Mary Dickey, Call on Faith executive editor, notes that two new channels will begin later this month, one for “Mediation” and one new member channel for Day1. Later this summer a new 9/11 related channel will be added.
· Another date for your futures calendar – Odyssey’s 2012 Member Town Hall Meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 beginning at 2:00 pm eastern time.
· Odyssey underwrote four new awards for the Gabriel Awards for 2011. You can see all of their 2011 winners online at http://home.catholicweb.com/GabrielAwards/index.cfm/NewsItem?ID=314220&From=Home. If you plan to attend the Gabriels in Pittsburgh in June, look for Nick Stuart, Mat Tombers and me there!
· Did you read our new monthly member update – ON members? Do you like the new format? This is Deb Mathews’ and Jocelyn Dupre’s fine work and they are eager to hear your comments. Take a look – http://bit.ly/lBBgUl.
· Speaking of new resources, I hope you are subscribing to our newly revised weekday e-mail newsletter, now called ON today. If not, please check it out at http://bit.ly/iA29yn.
It is already summer-like in temperature here in New York City! Hope YOUR summer is full of like!