Thoughts & Homilies from our Rector
Rev. Eric L. Miller
Reflections on June
I want to spend a few moments reflecting back on June. June might just be my new favorite month. The frenetic pace of May is in the past, and the promise of a full summer ahead places June in a prime slot for this padre. Seriously though, the month of June is recognized as PRIDE month, and June 19, “Juneteenth,” the day commemorating the declaration of the end of slavery in the United States, in particular with Maj. Gen. Granger’s arrival with his soldiers in Galveston, Texas.
PRIDE month is a way to remember the June 28, 1969, police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a gay club in Greenwich Village. The bar patrons and staff, as well as neighborhood residents, protested out in the streets expressing their desire for places where LGBTQ Folk could gather without fear of being arrested for their sexual orientation. Today, the rainbow flag flies all over the place, especially in June, with pride parades, rallies, costumes, with commemorations and memorials too.
Juneteenth remembers the arrival of Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865. Maj. Gen. Granger arrived with the news the war had ended, and that enslaved people were now free. June 19, 1865, was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Apparently, social media wasn’t a thing back in the 1800s, and thus, word traveled much slower than today’s standards.
Today we celebrate Juneteenth in a myriad of ways. Black-owned businesses are often featured in the news. Parades and rallies occur all over. Tasty food is prepared and shared with family and community. Wyoming’s own, “Wyoming Community In Action” celebrated Juneteenth with our second annual Juneteenth Celebration with our Mayor speaking, African drumming, liturgical dancing, poetry, music, and more.
I am grateful to be part of The Episcopal Church, where we not only recognize God’s love in LGBTQ Folk but that we embrace them. I recently saw a post about why PRIDE month is necessary. The point made was that straight people aren’t murdered for being straight. There hasn’t been a time when it was illegal to be straight. As a straight person, I’ve never had to fight for my right to marry or wait on the church to finally give its approval to have my marriage blessed in a church setting. This is why we need PRIDE month. Thanks be to God that the Episcopal Church understands that God’s love extends to all creation, including our sisters and brothers of the LGBTQ community. God loves, no exceptions. Furthermore, it isn’t enough for me to merely accept that God loves all, including LGBTQ lives. I am compelled to embrace God’s love for all. My heart leaps with joy that God’s love extends to our LGBTQ community.
As hard as it is to believe, there are people who don’t believe in the necessity of Juneteenth celebrations. Our country had and still has issues of racism. My retired clergy friend, the Rev. Stephen Smith, shared the following prayer for Juneteenth:
“Almighty God, as we celebrate Juneteenth we rejoice that state-sponsored, institutional slavery has been eradicated in these United States. And we remember that freedom is your gift to us. We remember how you freed our ancestors from slavery in Egypt, and how you released captives in Babylon and sent them home. But we know that freedom itself is just a beginning. The struggle continues. For, after all, our ancestors wandered 40 years in the wilderness and then only settled the promised land through conflict and war with the Canaanites. The captives are sent home from Babylon but once they arrived, they found themselves in generational conflict with the people who remained on the land, the ones we call the Samaritans. You offered your work of healing and reconciliation through the healing of the Canaanite women’s daughter and the parable of the Good Samaritan, but conflict persisted. We celebrate our freedom, but the Holy Spirit reminds us that the struggle continues, and freedom is not without its responsibilities. Let us work for healing and reconciliation in the face of lingering problems from slavery: white supremacy, the new Jim Crow, mass incarceration, and institutional racism. Let our efforts lead us to create a world where all are whole, all are respected, and all are free. In the name of the one who sets us free, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Most of us equate the month of July to freedom. I couldn’t be more grateful for the spiritual freedom I have through knowing the life and love of Jesus, of Christ’s liberating message of hope and grace for all. Juneteenth and PRIDE month stand out to me as hardcore reminders of freedom: freedom from slavery, from exploitation and bigotry, from prejudice and sexism, freedom from hatred and cruelty. And, maybe even more importantly, Juneteenth and PRIDE remind me of our freedom for living in the truth of who and whose we are, each of us, as beloved children of God, created in God’s holy image. So, from my heart to yours, I pray you have a gorgeous July as we give thanks for the gift of our LGBTQ community and for the freedom experienced through Juneteenth. All are welcome because all belong!
In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+
July 2021 Connections
How are you spending your summer? I’m doing my best to work hard, play hard. At the time of writing this article, I’m preparing to head out for four nights away at the beach with my wife while our boys attend Senior High Camp at Procter Camp and Conference Center. The Miller boys are excited to attend church camp again this summer. They missed their Procter time in a big way during the pandemic. I know they enjoy the outdoor activities, getting to have a clergy chaplain who isn’t their father/dad, singing all of the fun church camp songs, camp food, sunsets around the campfire, and probably best of all, making lasting friendships. I enjoy all of the above about church camp life, too; however, our summer travel schedule is a bit wonky this year, and we’re disappointed we can’t make it to one of the several family camp offerings. I suppose there’s always next year. I encourage you to attend camp at Procter and experience God’s love through the counselors, the rest of the staff, and the great outdoors. The Diocese of Southern Ohio is blessed with such a fabulous camp and conference center.
This summer our family gets to experience about a week in Nashville, Tennessee. We’ve wanted to visit Nashville for quite a while, but other things have taken priority until this summer. Where would you recommend visiting in Nashville? A major bit of excitement is that my younger son and I get to attend one of the Boy Scout backpacking treks at Philmont in New Mexico in mid-July. The weather should be plenty warm, and thankfully, my hiking boots are broken in. I’m ready for some bonding time backpacking with my son and plenty of New Mexico scenery.
Other than the above journeys, I may get in a few rounds of golf and get the Holy Roller (our popup camper) out for a couple of overnighters at nearby state parks. It is crucial for me to spend time away with family and to practice true sabbath rest during the summer. While the church doesn’t have quite as many offerings during the summer as the rest of the year, we still have offerings we’d love for you to participate in. For instance, each Wednesday evening we have Simple Summer Supper out on the Gathering Space (the brick patio off of Worthington Ave. entrance). You bring a side dish, a beverage, and come and enjoy the company gathered. These evenings are a lovely way to get to know parishioners and enjoy connecting with one another outside our usual worship setting.
New this summer is our Thursday night choir rehearsals. You read that correctly. With all of the havoc wreaked upon our music ministries during the pandemic, our Minister of Music, Sara Tobe, compassionately decided to invite any and all of us to rehearse with her on Thursday nights from 7:00-8:00. Now is a marvelous time to give our music ministries a try. Sara is a more than capable music minister and enjoys teaching, too. You won’t be disappointed in giving our music ministries an opportunity.
Did you remember that we have our outdoor 8:30 worship on the Gathering Space during the summer months? I enjoy the 8:30 service with its laid-back feel and conversation style homily. I love hearing the birdsong, the dimming of the cicada cacophony as they prepare for another seventeen-year nap, and the occasional dog bark reminding their owner they still want to be petted and loved on, even though they’re in a worship setting. And, what a beautiful worship setting the great outdoors is!
Plus, Colleen, our parish Scriptural scholar, is teaching and facilitating her Gospel of Mark offering at 9:15 in the Parish Library and online, even in the summer months. Anyone who’s ever attended one of Colleen’s classes knows how beautifully she creates meaningful community engaged in understanding Scriptural nuances. Be certain to give Colleen’s class a try.
And, our Youth Minister is holding monthly events throughout the summer. June 19th, we toured The Fringe Coffee House to learn about their ministries and see ways we could get involved. Remember too, we offer Children’s Chapel during the summer in the Assembly Room from 10:00 until the Peace. Our nursery is reopened, as well.
See what I mean? A&HT has plenty of opportunities for us to connect with God through connecting with one another and the surrounding communities. What are you waiting for? Take advantage of a vaccine, and come on out to share in the abundance of God’s love through one of the many A&HT ministries! All are welcome because all belong.
In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+