“MY” Pew Or God’s Pew?

I wish I could say this is a made-up story, but unfortunately it is not.

We recently had a couple visit Saint John’s while looking for a new church home. They were warmly greeted by the ushers and told to sit anywhere they wished. So, they picked a pew about midway up the aisle. The people around them were cordial and offered to help them maneuver through the service (they were not cradle Episcopalians and hadn’t been in an Episcopal church for a long time).

Two parishioners came to assume ‘their’ seats, where the couple happened to be sitting. They noisily sat in the pew behind this couple, noting that ‘someone was in their seats’ in a less than quiet voice. People around the visitors were appalled at the audacity of these two women. Then, throughout the entire service, these two women make snide remarks about the couple, their appearance, and unfamiliarity with our service. And at the Passing of the Peace, they blatantly chose not to welcome these visitors. At the dismissal, they further remarked that they hoped these people got the point and found themselves other seats; those were ‘their’ seats!

When this was related to me, I was appalled that someone in OUR congregation would be so catty and unwelcoming to visitors. Haven’t we heard in Hebrews 12:13

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,

And doesn’t Jesus remind us:

I was a stranger and you invited me in (Matthew 25:35)?

Fortunately, in spite of the nastiness of these two long-time parishioners, the couple found the church to be a welcoming place and has since become active and contributing members of Saint John’s. This had to be the work of the Holy Spirit and those members who did extend a hand of friendship and Jesus’ love.

Just as the Eucharistic table is not our table, but God’s table, the pews do not belong to any one person (purchasing pews went out a long, long time ago!) Some of us seem to have forgotten that.

We want people to feel comfortable in church (except maybe during the sermon), but maybe it is time to shake some things up. We have become too complacent; doing the same thing, in the same place, over and over again can desensitize us to the wonders of our faith journey. If we don’t expect God to do anything different, we get what we expect – nothing new and exciting.

I suggest that for the remaining weeks of Lent and during Eastertide, we all do something different – change where we sit in church. Even if you know everyone in the congregation, this gives you the opportunity to get to know others at a deeper level. If you are new, you can begin to meet other people in the congregation, and they can get to know you.

Complacency of the same seat causes you to expect and perceive the service in the same way every Sunday. You never know what you will experience if you sit in another pew: you will hear the choir with a different ear, see the preacher for a different vantage point, and might even notice something about the church that you have never noticed before. You may even listen to the sermon differently, simply because everything feels new.

As in the manner of most Episcopalians, we all tend to sit in the back pews. This forces latecomers or newcomers to have to walk all the way to the front. Think about how unwelcome that would make you feel, especially if you were a visitor. We want to welcome new people, rather than creating an environment which suggests that they are not welcome, or draw a spotlight on them. Remember, you were a newcomer once.

Most people do not like change, that is a human trait. We are trying new things at Saint John’s, such as the Formation Eucharist, and have plans for expanding our worship and outreach in the future. A church which does not grow becomes stagnant and does not expand the Kingdom of God or our individual faith. We want to be a vibrant congregation that shows the community the love and faith we have in God.

By changing your seat every week, we open ourselves to experiencing new and exciting things, and we will be more prepared for the changes as we move into the future. If you will not consider changing your seat, maybe you need to look at your heart. Pure stubbornness closes off the mind and heart and soul so that the teachings of Jesus cannot break through your outer shell. And isn’t that why we are at Saint John’s? – to grow in our faith and testimony to the world of the Kingdom of God.

Let’s try ALL of God’s pews!

Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 March 2018

Technology – A Blessing or a Curse

The world today operates on technology, whether we like it or not. . . communications, information, and knowledge all ride on the world wide web. In our digital era of smartphones and social media, it seems nearly everyone is suffering from communication overload. Less than 15 years ago, most netizens had just one or two email accounts, texting was tedious and costly, and mobile phones were primarily used to make, well, . . . phone calls!

However, today, it’s common for people to manage numerous social media accounts and email addresses. One recent estimate is that the average internet user has seven social media accounts — excluding email. Chunky mobile phones have been replaced by pocket touchscreen computers that constantly jingle and buzz, pulling their owners away from face-to-face encounters with other human beings into a social networking vortex.

Reality Check!!! almost no one under the age of 40-ish uses their cell phone to make person-to-person calls, or even email. It is indeed handy to have your phone in your pocket, but for many, the cell phone now has many another uses. Messaging is the means of communication, and if we are uncomfortable texting, we will miss a lot of communications. Messaging software allows pages and pages of information to be displayed on the cell phone screen. Moreover, the 140-character limit of Twitter not only uses a series of abbreviations that most people don’t understand, but also, by use of those abbreviations, offer the probability of misunderstanding by the recipient. One important thing to remember, is that even when you delete the message/tweet, it still exists out there in the cyberspace.

Experts recognize that while social networking has its benefits — professionally, personally, politically — it is also reshaping and “dumbing down” the ways people communicate with each other. Having so many channels of communication has overwhelmed our ability to thoughtfully interact online, encouraging cheap and easy forms of communication. Instead of taking the time to formulate a thoughtful reply to an online friend’s social media post, users tend to use an “emoji” or fire off a brief comment that conveys little more than acknowledgment, and is often misunderstood or off-putting.

Despite these negatives, we must remember, social media is a marketing tool! And faith communities and other organizations have no other choice but to get on the bandwagon. Over one billion people log into Facebook every day, and the average American is logged in for 40 minutes. We quite literally speak to more people via social media than we could ever reach otherwise. So, use social media with a purpose in mind, rather than to just pass time or “troll”. Although, there are positive aspects of technology and social media, there are also pitfalls unless we are aware of them and how to avoid them. We can learn to avoid those pitfalls and let all the ‘positives’ of these tools work for us!

When you are thinking of engaging in social media, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Are you using social media to gain approval? Posting to get responses of approval can be addictive, escalating to more and more need for approval – a vicious cycle! Is the purpose to boast about your accomplishments, or even your failures or distresses in your life? Are you using social media as an adult ‘show-and-tell’? Not all moments need to be shared (how many people, do you really think, want to know what mundane things you did in a day?).
  1. Is your post/tweet kind? Freedom of speech is fundamental to the American life, but with it comes the responsibility to consider what the impact of the post may have on other people, and not deliberately attack another. We have replaced face-to-face confrontations to hiding behind an impersonal identity that does not allow the subject of the post to defend themselves. Posts can be misinterpreted, and the sender has no responsibility for the weight of the words, and the impact of the message sent.
  1. Will the post be misunderstood? Some things will sound one way to those who know us, and another to those who don’t. There is no tone or inflection so the most mundane comment may very well be misinterpreted and taken in a way it was not intended; consider who is listening to what you’re saying. Readers are actually eavesdropping on what should be private conversations.
  1. Think carefully about controversy. The line between vigorous exchange of ideas and a kind of social war is sometimes thinner than we may think. What good is this particular controversy contributing to, or is it harmful? Will anyone be embarrassed or offended by what you’re saying?
  1. Are you posting when you should be taking action? Social media is a breeding ground for people with great intentions. But great intentions don’t change lives. Action does. Posting a comment of agreement or adding substance to a post does not remove the responsibility for taking action on social justice issues. If you have no real desire to act on it, do not post. Posting lulls you into believing that talking about an issue and acting on it are equals.

Positive Use of Social Media
With some care, churches can use social media effectively.

  1. Share the Gospel – church websites provide information about the church and its activities, and present sermons, blogs, videos, and articles of interest to the faithful. Social media tends to be dark; churches can bring light and love to this world. The purpose of posts should be to educate, not proselytize or denigrate other faith traditions.
  1. Use blogs to provide the ability for discussions of faith, prayer requests, and varied interpretations of the gospel. But be aware, that you cannot control the tone or outcome of the conversation.
  1. Keep the Facebook and web site updated, if that means hiring a professional to do it. Out-of-date social media indicates that you are not serious about outreach, and are not interested in being relevant to the social media community. In the case of blogs, a monitored site is critical; this allows the administrators to prevent negative or inappropriate posts being visible.
  1. When using videos, make sure that they are clear and of the best quality available, and that the sound is clear. Make sure the format of the video is executable by the standard media players for PC and MAC.

Internet Etiquette
There are several do’s and don’ts of internet communications:

  1. Do not post anything that you would not say face-to-face. One of the great tragedies of social media is that it has given power to a lot of cowards. And cowards with power are dangerous, and they NEVER have to deal with the ramifications! Here’s a rule for social media: If you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t post it.
  1. Negative comments are the quickest way to end a conversation and, permanently lose the reader. Negative posts have an emotional impact on the reader, creating a sense of doom or despair, and also encourage negative posts in return.
  1. Passing along other’s post with a comment such as ‘this is interesting’ is spam posting– as disliked as spam on email. If you have a relevant comment, use it; otherwise, leave it alone. ‘Share this post’ is just another type of social media spam.
  1. Do not deliberately post comments that are intended to be confrontational. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received a similar post.

When you take the dive into all forms of social media (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Email, Messaging), think about what you want to do and the audience.

Happy social media-ing!

The Rev deniray mueller, Connections, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, 24 January 2018

Do Not ‘SHOULD’ on the New Year

What was the year 2017 like for you? Was it filled with joy and peace, or anxiety and stress?

The ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions is a staple in our culture–a time when we examine the past 12 months and set intentions for the coming year, promising ourselves to give up some bad habit or to develop new good habits or make significant changes in our lifestyles. It may be a time for trying harder at something (like losing those last five pounds!), or a time of re-establishing broken relationships. But, it can also bring regret and cynicism as we realize we’ve set the same goals year-after-year with little progress. I have never heard of anyone who was successful in meeting all of their resolutions throughout the year. Still, there seems to be a societal norm for all of us to make resolutions.

The fatal flaw with New Year’s resolutions is that we typically bite off more than we can chew. We do not set realistic goals, and so we end up disappointed and, often, forget resolutions by the time February rolls around.

It is something they say we ‘should’ do! – and we often know full well that we are not going to keep them.

We ‘should’ lose that extra weight, save more money, spend more time with our family, go to church every Sunday, become a volunteer. . . the list goes on and on! And when we fail to meet these expectations, we pile guilt upon ourselves. . . “we ‘should’ have been able to do ‘whatever’”.

Should-ing’ on ourselves is counterproductive – it only makes us feel worse about ourselves, and soon supplants any positive feelings we get when we accomplish something. We cannot learn new things or have new experiences if we are constantly telling ourselves we are ‘not good enough’, are failures. Besides, it wastes a lot of time when we could be accomplishing new and better things.

Driven by our stubborn willfulness, pressure, adrenaline and “never good enough” messages, we fail to allow that which is already unfolding in us, and in the world, to emerge. This year, we must get out of our own way, step aside and trust that the better version of ourselves will awaken, however it is meant to be. . . and when it is meant to be. We cannot ‘should’ it to happen.

In John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leader Within You, a Middle Eastern mystic said, “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: Lord, give me the energy to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that my life was half gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come into contact with me, just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life.’

So, what attitude will we choose to adopt in order to make the most of 2018?

Can we just forget about ’resolutions’ that may end up only making us feel worse about ourselves?

Can we just forego judgment about ourselves and strive to be open to love and acceptance, trying to be our best selves each day, whatever that means?

Remember, above all, one of my favorite pieces of advice is:

“Do Not SHOULD upon yourself today!”

If we do that, 2018 will truly be a wonderful year!

                                                                                   Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 14 January 2018


A Terrorist is a Terrorist – No Matter WHO It Is!

We are all reeling from yet another atrocity – the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas. The fact that someone chose to mow down people worshipping on a Sunday is an anathema of all this country professes to be. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is sadly marked by increasing violence and terrorism. It seems like very few days go by, if any at all, without some horrible act of terror or random violence. It has become such a ‘normal’ occurrence that some in the country hardly react any longer. There is surely something wrong in our society when the solution to a problem or reaction to anger is to not only kill the offender, but also massacre innocence people in the process.

But equally disturbing to me is that whenever there is a terror attack, the natural impulse is to blame a Muslim or ISIS. Are we so influenced by the national attitude that we can’t wait to immediately attach the nomer ‘Islam’ or ‘ISIS’ to the word ‘terrorist’? Perhaps it is easier to accept that a foreign element is responsible for our mounting atrocities than to accept the perpetrator may be the person next door, but clearly that is not so.

It is human nature to seek scapegoats for the causes of evil – it is far easier to look upon the things that come from without than the things from within. That chosen scapegoat suffices only until another deadly attack happens; then we repeat the blaming (mental health, access to guns, foreign agents).

If you look at the last six massacres, each one was perpetrated by a home-grown, All-American citizen – not some foreign boogey man. They may have had mental health issues, but they grew up and lived as a citizen of the United States. We are reluctant to admit that ‘we’ have spawned this monster.

We do not call their actions ‘terrorism’ . . . but terrorism is terrorism. . . – no matter who the person is. Whether they have a mental problem or are seeking revenge for a perceived slight, when one kills and maims dozens of innocent people, they are still ‘terrorists’. And until we accept that their actions are not solely, ‘mental health issues’, or ‘gun control issues’, but ‘acts of terror’, it will be nearly impossible to address these actions.

Living among us as law-abiding and patriotic Americans are thousands of Muslims. In a knee-jerk reaction, to continually label them as a group as being the cause each time we have an incidence of terror in our midst, is unfair, unjust, and weakens our ability to address the real causes behind the terrorist’s act.

We, as Christians, need to begin to address the causes of terrorism. We need to provide services for those who feel they have been a victim of injustice. And we need to be a strident, but loving voice against those who spout hatred against those who are not ‘like us’, whether ethnic, racial, gender, or religious. If we begin to ‘love one another as we love ourselves’, maybe we can begin to change the world.

We can pray this will be so – and put our prayers into action.

written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington & Parts Adjacent, OH; 12 November 2017

“Fake News” and Real Citizenship

We are all aware that our national public life has become a chaotic swirl of arguments and controversy, fed by Tweets, incessantly repeated ‘soundbytes’, 24-hour news channels, and social media. What’s more, we are now cautioned to beware of ‘fake news’.

In Wikipedia, we find ‘fake news’ defined as:

“… a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.”

In the middle of the din of information – and mis-information – it is difficult to separate fact from opinion, truth from lies, and reality from concocted propaganda.

On top of all this, we are learning that forces seeking to weaken the United States government and sow discord in our national life are using demographic studies and profiles to target us with propaganda and lies meant to mislead people about the integrity and motives of our leaders and agencies in government, religion, academia, and charities.

This sort of ‘fake news’ and unsupported  opinion, not based on fact or reality can have real-life consequences. We are seeing shootings, riots, and other violent and hostile actions that are caused by some angry or disturbed people responding to that ‘fake news’. Those so inclined then latch onto this information and promulgate it to thousands of other people of the same ilk, further fueling the anger and propaganda.

The more exaggerated or inflammatory the headlines are, the more likely they are ‘fake news’. Headlines or social media subjects are meant to get the reader’s attention, but they’re also supposed to accurately reflect what the story is about. Now headlines use exaggerated language to intentionally mislead or are blatantly untrue.

How Do We Determine What Is Real?

  1. It is not only the responsibility of the platforms to determine the existence of fake news and issue a retraction or take the offenders down (as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have recently learned), but we as subscribers also have a responsibility to monitor what we pass on as ‘real’. It is disheartening that we can no longer trust all we read, but as responsible citizens, we must be more vigilant than ever about checking facts and not passing along lies and propaganda. How can we do this? The most recognized authority for getting at the truth is:

The International Fact-Checking Network ( is the recognized authority for fact checking. Every statement checked goes through a rigorous process for verification of validity.

Other sources for fact-checking are:

Snopes ( or

Hoax-Slayer (

FactCheck (


  1. Another safeguard is to pay attention to the domain name and the URL; many websites can be ‘ghosted’, looking like a legitimate source. If the URL has an entry after the “.com”, the website is suspect, particularly if it contains inflammatory information.
  1. On Facebook, check the ‘About Us’ section; it should be straightforward without melodramatic or incendiary claims. Check the language usage; often the fake news sites use broken English, have misspellings, or poor syntax.
  1. Legitimate news sources will contain quotes attributed to experts in their fields; if an item attacks a person and contains text with no quotes, but rather attributes to ‘an informed source’, these are suspect. If an unfamiliar name is cited, Google the person; often that person does not exist.

There are several satirical websites that are ‘real lies’, but the sites will always state that they are satirical. Some of these include The Onion, Babylon Bee, Burrard Street Journal. A list of the top 50 satirical websites can be found at https:/

  1. We must also guide our teenagers and children in deciphering truth from fiction on social media. Parents, grandparents and families should take time to explain the concepts of ‘fake news’ to children. If something is incendiary with pictures, younger children will be inclined to believe it. And fake news can cause unnecessary fear in children (thinking September 23, 2017 is the end of the world, for instance).

Each of us has a responsibility to stop the proliferation of this ‘fake news’. For the companies operating the sites, it is a fine line between restricting the ‘fake news’ sites and still allowing freedom of speech for its users. We can help in this effort by checking anything that we share with others. If you see someone in your circle who is passing along ‘fake news’, let them know and ask that they take the entry down. This may not be comfortable, and some may ‘unfriend’ you, but everyone has to correct ‘fake news’.

It is now more important than ever that we stand up for, and honor the First Amendment of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”

Within this Amendment lies the keys to much of our freedom as a people. Yet, also, herein lies the danger if forces are free to promulgate lies in the name of ‘free speech’, we must all be ever vigilant in finding those lies and correcting them!

Two-thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by people who believed ‘fake news’, gossip and lies, and were afraid to stand up for the truth. Lies travel faster now, and can be sown more quickly. But the urgent need for each person to stand for honesty and integrity in the face of lies is as great now as ever.

Remember, passing along one ‘fake news’ entry may reach millions of people with one click of the button.

Be responsible!
(Graphic provided by The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 October 2017

Moving toward the Promised Land: The Reforming Catholic Confession

About 500 years ago, as the legend goes, a small-town German Augustinian[3] friar named Martin Luther nailed his ’95 Theses’ on the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. This action was the most obvious of many events during the 17th century that marked the rejection of the many of the tenets and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, and led to the Protestant Reformation.

Luther believed that Scripture alone was the sole authority (Sola Scriptura) for doctrine, and that Christ’s death fully satisfied the penalty of sin. The Protestant mantra became: justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. This was a sharp divergence from the Roman Catholic doctrine that salvation came from works and faith (Sola Fide).

Luther had no intention of leaving the church he hoped to reform, but his theological fury led to his inevitable excommunication as a heretic and the splintering of Christendom. As a result, with the help of Philip Melanchthon, Luther precepts became known as the Lutheran religion. From this Reformation Movement what developed was the church known today as ‘protestant’.

Now, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, one of the most common charges against the Reformers is that they divided the Church. What’s more, once the division came, inevitably division after division followed, with fragmentation, splintering and dissension; there are now approximately 33,000 different protestant denominations in the world.

On September 10, 2017, over 250 prominent scholars, pastors, and church leaders drawn from every continent and spanning most Protestant theological traditions and Communions (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Free Church, Nazarene, Pentecostal, etc.), released a theological statement affirming the essentials of the Reformation. Its Protestant authors contend that in this 500th anniversary year, the document must be a “catholic” statement in the best sense of the word.

This Reforming Catholic Confession (A “Mere Protestant” Statement of Faith to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation) is a document which outlines the main theological commitments held by a large majority of Protestant Christians since the Reformation. The purpose of such a statement is to “demonstrate the remarkable commonality that exists throughout the world among Protestants on the core elements of Christianity”, claims Jerry Walls, an author and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.[1]

The Reforming Catholic Confession contains 12 articles that outline shared beliefs in such basic Christian tenets as “The Triune God,” “The Atoning Work of Christ,” “The Gospel,” and “The Church”.

The beliefs are followed by 25 “why we say what we say” explanations that capture key cornerstones and dimensions of the Christian faith. The final section of the Confession states the resolve of the authors to honor the distinctions among the variety of Protestant traditions, but to aim for even greater unity in the Body of Christ.

It is much like the creation of the Nicene Creed, developed in 325 CE, as a statement of faith that could be professed by all the faithful. It is a negotiated statement among the leaders of the various factions of the church at that time, and is still used by a majority of Roman Catholic and liturgical churches.

As in 325 CE, no single group of participants gets everything they wanted to express in the document, but they nevertheless arrive at a mutually agreed upon declaration. “The question is not ‘Does this statement say everything you would want it to say, but ‘Can you agree with us thus far?'” Walls said.

It is called a “catholic” confession, to reclaim the word (little ‘c’) “catholic”, meaning the church universal. The document is an attempt to recover the speaking of truth in love between divisions of the church, Too much dissension and negative rhetoric between members of the Protestant churches has come down through the ages. This is an attempt, much like the Nicene Creed, to emphasize what we all share, rather than how we are different.

Phyllis Tickle, a renowned authority on American religion once said:

“Every 500 years, the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered so that renewal and growth may occur. Now is such a time.” [2]

In a PBS interview, Tickle referred to this

 “[e]very 500 years” theory and said, “the church has a giant rummage sale.” She said, “Christianity is in the midst of a new reformation that will radically remake the faith.”

There is still much analysis to be done on The Reforming Catholic Confession by varied denominations of the church universal, but this may well be the beginning of a ‘modern’ reformation, working to bring disparate factions of God’s faithful into closer communion with each other. The statement has already been translated into French, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The complete document can be found at
[2]      Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (Emergent Village Resources for Communities of Faith), Baker Books/Emergent Village-Emersion Books, 2008

[3] Thanks to Tunney Lee King, who corrected me: Luther was an Augustinian friar.

Written for Connections, Diocese of Southern Ohio, 1 October 2017

LESS BUTTER, MORE GUNS – Are these Christian Priorities?

As Christians, we will be judged by how we support the care of God’s creation; Jesus repeatedly taught us to work for peace and to care for the people of the earth.

How we allot and spend our combined resources – our budgets – are moral documents, reflecting our values. The proposed state and federal budgets reflect few of the religious values that our Savior taught, or for which our churches proclaim they stand.

At the federal level, the proposed budget eliminates school lunches and HeadStart programs, funding for programs for the elderly such as ‘Meals on Wheels’, and drastically reduces money for environmental protection a clean-up. Also significantly reduced is funding for foreign aid and diplomacy, and for Medicaid which provides healthcare for some 30% of our neediest poor and elderly.

The billions of dollars removed from Medicaid will be transferred, instead, to a 10% increase in military spending (the U.S. already spend more than any other nation on earth on armaments) to a Pentagon renown for waste and fraud. Some of this money will also go for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens in our nation.

At the state level, the proposed budget only has a 1.9% increase over the current budget. Funding for education (early education, primary, vocational and college) programs has not been increased to meet the 2.7% rate of inflation. School districts will be penalized for a decrease in enrollment, although classroom costs will not change. Severe decreases in funding for vocational training for those students who are not college-bound practically eliminates the possibility that students graduating can obtain training to become productive citizens.

In the Ohio budget, tax cuts proposals include benefits for the upper socio-economic class, while significantly increasing sales tax and local income taxes, which negatively impact those with lower incomes.

The Ohio Department of Aging, which provides services to the elderly, receives no additional monies, although the percentage of elderly Ohioans living on fixed incomes and in need of these services is rapidly increasing. With the decrease in or elimination of Medicaid funding at the federal level, essential preventive healthcare measures and addressing the critical opioid addiction problem in Ohio will go unfunded. No additional funding for non-physical healthcare, will lead to more and more crises for the homeless and those suffering from addiction and mental illness.

As stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28), elimination of major portions of the Environmental Protection Agency should cause great concern. As the effects of global warming becomes more apparent, we need to take additional measures to ensure the quality of our air and water and earth, rather than ignore this growing world crisis.

Yet money for border walls to separate us from one another and for life-killing weaponry is being proposed!

Is this really what we as a nation stand for?

    when I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps;
    when I was thirsty, you diverted lead & coal into my water;
    when I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates;
    when I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations;
    when I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me;
    from the lonely you took away social programs;
    from the elderly, you took away meals & medicine;
    from the workers, you took away legal protections;
    from the young, you took away school funding;
    from the victims, you took away shelter;
    instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance;
    instead of caring, you encourage isolation;
    instead of equity, you encourage military excess.

It is our obligation, as people of faith, to do everything within our power to call our senators and representatives to account for their votes on these budget decisions. There are many things individuals can do: make telephone calls, visit legislative offices, write letters and send emails to elected officials, and write letters to the editors of your local papers.

Yet, is this enough?

Perhaps more importantly, what are we- the members of Saint John'<uls – going to do to provide leadership to our city and state reflecting our priorities? Jesus’ voice must be our voice. We, as a church, can have an important influence. What are we going to do?

We should hold the clergy responsible for talking and preaching about these issues, reminding us that we are responsible for the world we live in, and we need to be vigilant to see that no one is left behind.

This is not politics! – it is caring for our world and the people in it.

Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 19 March 2017