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Welcome to my blog

Thanks to my friend Wilfredo Benitez who continues to work his magic behind and in front of the camera!

After years of writing for other people and organizations, it makes sense to have somewhere to contain ones thoughts, hopes and inspiration.

The capstone at Bru na Boinne Ireland traces the movement and spirals of life by unknown artists 5000 years ago.

I hope these ruminations will feed the mind and soul and make sense of our journey together as I make plans to retire in the summer of 2021. Thanks to everyone who share in this adventure!

 

What to do about the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict?

Nobel Peace Prizewinner, Mairead Corrigan McGuire with Albert Ogle minutes before we had to take cover from rocket fire at Gaza in 2008.

 

The conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian communities has reached a new low level these past few weeks as hundreds of civilians are caught in this very militarized war that we are seeing daily in news reports. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a statement, the Bishop of Jerusalem has issued a statement and the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has released some news of what people are needing on the ground.

We feel pretty powerless to effect any significant political change -hard to believe when $4 billion of our tax dollars go to support Israel and the corrupt regime of Benjamin Netanyahu (who is a graduate of our local Cheltenham High School -what did he learn there one wonders?) So, what about humanitarian relief?

A life-changing experience

I visited Israel in 2008, during the 60th anniversary of Nakba or “catastrophe” when in 1948, Israeli forces practiced ethnic cleansing and removal of the Palestinian community from villages and regions of the Holy Land. The beginning of the apartheid system between Arabs and Jews began and slowly as the Palestinian community became more and more cut off from each other and new Jewish settlements ate away at whatever limited land they had been allowed to live on. Like holes appearing in swiss cheese, the “two state solution” proposed by advocates like Jimmy Carter, has become less and less likely as the imagined Palestinian state is eroded. The comparison of what these settlements have done in 60 years, makes the two-state solution to a long-term peace process, pretty impossible. Check out this image of shrinking Palestine. Democracy is also shrinking in this region while emerging theocracy and totalitarianism plays with the future of this violent topography.

The United States has continued to send money, support, powerful symbolic gestures (like moving the US embassy to Jerusalem under a Trump Administration’s sop to theocratic American evangelicals and orthodox Jewish community) who want to see Jerusalem (and perhaps the Temple) restored as the capital of Israel. The eastern part of the city is strongly Arab and the incursions into the West Bank, the expansion of settlements and displacement of Palestinian Arabs (and Christians) by the current regime, underscored the escalating frustration with the political oppression. The invasion of the Al Aqsa Mosque three weeks ago by an estimated 1,000 Israeli troops, as Muslim worshippers were honoring Ramadan, was the final straw. VIDEO FOOTAGE HERE The State of Israel remains precarious and forming a strong government has been problematic as the country divides more and more on religious grounds.

Taking cover in Gaza

During my visit to Israel, I went to the West Bank with several other Sabeel Conference attendees but we were not allowed into the territory as shelling was taking place. We all had to hide for cover under a wall as Israeli rockets were being fired into the West Bank and this photo with Irish Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Corrigan McGuire, was taken just before we all had to take cover -a frightening experience. The experience of travelling to the places associated with the life of Jesus was both beautiful and disturbing. I had studied international peace studies at Trinity College, Dublin and my thesis was aspiring UNESCO’s World Heritage Program to use cultural and religious heritage as a vehicle for international reconciliation. UNESCO invited me to present my thesis at their global symposium in Quebec, where the concept attracted a lot of attention and was finally published by UNESCO and the University of Laval.  From this work, I was invited to consult on the Israeli government’s application to UNESCO to classify many of the early sites of Christianity as a World Heritage site with reconciliation as an outstanding universal value. I got to meet many of the creators of this remarkably interesting proposal and the plan was to see if these sites could be used in reconciliation and then built upon this work by focusing over the long term on Jerusalem and attempt to ease the conflicts around her many holy sites, including the Al Aqsa Mosque (site of the temple). Since then, many of the progressive/centrist Jews who were leaders of these early explorations, were sidelined by more orthodox fanatics and the proposal was delayed and not recommended because of reasons not fully disclosed.

Protecting living heritage

After studying the proposal, the main issue that became a stumbling block for me was the fact of these sites had (at least historically traced from the 4th century) been curated by the Palestinian Arab Christian community who had provided access and hospitality to pilgrims for centuries, right up to the present day. The site of the Beatitudes, Nazareth, Capernaum, and many places associated with Jesus could have been recognized as a collective World Heritage Site, but the Israeli government (who would be responsible for the sites once designated) could not agree on protecting the culture and traditions of the Palestinian Christian community who had been forced out of many of their villages and were living in appalling conditions in decreasing available land. Without these guarantees by the Israeli government, within a couple of generations, these living sites of inspiration and hospitality, could end up as simply tourist museums. As Christians who value the contribution these spiritual ancestors have given the world, we need to be in solidarity with them to continue to support the healing work of the church in the very villages and towns Jesus brought the good news.

The combination of seeing the Israeli perspective and the Palestinian perspective has informed my belief that America is on the wrong side of justice and our unquestioned support of the Israeli regime needs complete overhaul. Antony Blinken, as US Secretary of State is trying to move a diplomatic solution forward with Egypt and other Arab nations taking a significant lead in brokering peace negotiations between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In the meantime, we should not only be holding our government accountable for what we are supporting and provide emergency relief to hospitals there that are trying to be the presence of Jesus in the contemporary world he came to save from itself.

Please join me and other Episcopalians in supporting the appeal from the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem by donating for humanitarian and medical relief online HERE.

Jesus once wept over Jerusalem where he met his own tragic death. Supporting our fellow Christians who are under siege and trying to provide health and emergency support seems the right thing for us to be doing right now. Working for long term peace and stability and creating an appropriate American and international response is another.

 

Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle

May 27th 2021

 

Preparing to retire

 

Dear parishioners:

June 29th (the feast of St. Peter and Paul) marks my 44th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood in the Church of Ireland’s Lisburn Cathedral. It will also mark the final month of my working in active ordained ministry before retiring at the end of July. My last Sunday as St. Paul’s Interim Rector will be on Sunday 25th July when I will hand over responsibilities to Dan Kline our Associate Rector, in preparation for a new rector coming this summer.

It has been an honor, privilege, and a blessing to get to know the good people of St. Paul’s. When Mile was appointed to work at Jefferson University Hospital, I had no idea what would happen when we found a new home minutes away from the church. You lovingly took us in! I am grateful to Mile for his support and encouragement during these surprising and challenging years. Your call gave me an opportunity to feel useful and needed as you worked through an important period of discernment, reflection, and re-tooling for new ministry. Together, with my staff and Vestry colleagues, we have all helped to steer us through the unchartered waters of a rector search during a global pandemic. Like a great wooden hull turned heavenward, St. Paul’s is ready for its next bold adventure with a new captain and hopefully, a well-equipped vessel and crew.

Thank you for the invitation to share ministry, take inventory and move us all boldly forward. With the sheer joy of getting to know each other, we learned how to communicate more directly with each other, honing our organizational systems and management as well as expanding pastoral care, outreach, and our Christian Education opportunities. With worship and music at our heart, it has been an inspiration to see the music program encounter our current inhibitions and still thrive (especially with the $2m organ renovation gift). Though delayed a year, we are now seeing the capital improvements to the campus and buildings that dominated Rev. Cliff Cutler’s final chapter with you, before his retirement from active ministry in 2019. Everything is falling into place.

Systemic change

Rev. Dan Kline has been an invaluable team member and I am grateful to him for his commitment to a shared vision that has changed the way we think of children, youth, and family ministries, as well as innovative forms of worship and our clergy conversations series. Dan has developed an organizational structure for our family ministry that advocates and communicates at every level of our common life, especially now at the Vestry level. My hope is that we can take a similar organizational advance with some form of Music Committee that can share in the collective, wisdom, experience, and responsibility of the Vestry. We are still in discussion about how this can work. If this makes sense and has the support of the Music Guild and Vestry, this organizational change will strengthen the place of the music program at the highest level of decision making and concludes our governance restructuring before the new rector arrives. It simply did not make sense to me why two vital and much beloved programs had no official voice or representation on the Vestry’s monthly agenda. The Vestry has worked diligently to ensure the new rector will have the best support and most efficient ways of communicating and listening to these and other ministries who have undergone their own renewal and repositioning. Outreach has thrived and involved more people than in previous years and shared more grants than ever. Christian education has attracted more congregants than before and is taking advantage of the upgrades to our social media and communication resources. I know these improvements will strengthen collaboration and prepare St. Paul’s for the challenging days ahead. Your constant support and encouragement have been appreciated by the Vestry and staff. This has created a wonderful opportunity for the next rector and St. Paul’s is so blest with great lay leadership willing to support their priest without reservation. As Jesus reminds us, we will always have the naysayers and saboteurs with us. Mismanaged conflict within this congregation has been historically costly, but hopefully our willingness to heal and learn from the past will carry the day.

Clarity and communication

Clarity of roles, responsibilities and transparency of finances and strategies has helped to build trust and re-define our common purpose as we move into a new future. This shared responsibility and authority is a unique Episcopalian value that will help the next rector and their team to build upon the work of the past 2 years. Transparency, accountability and working for the common good helped us to heal and recover from a $220k deficit in 2019 that caused a great deal of anxiety for all of us. I am happy to note we now have a second year with a balanced budget, more reserves for property enhancement and over $600k in pledged income for the first time in St Paul’s history. The legacy society “the Company of Angels” is also growing and will provide important support for our programs and property maintenance. I have found these last two years of active ministry most rewarding and extremely challenging, but the collaboration between congregation, committees, vestry, and diocese has kept us all safe from Covid 19 infections and its pervasive social paralysis and isolation. We never stopped worshipping, serving, and supporting one another. We responded with imaginative online worship, memorable outdoor liturgies, and organized creative education programs for confirmands, enquirers, and our Clergy Conversations on Sunday mornings. The hard work of the profile and search committees will soon be coming to fruition and after long and careful discernment with the Vestry and diocese. It is a good time to announce my retirement, allow time to regroup here at St. Paul’s and begin planning for a different road in my personal and professional life.

Next steps?

What will retirement look like I wonder? I have been impressed by the active lives that many of our retired members have created and so thank you for this mentorship. Firstly, Mile and I will remain in the neighborhood we have come to love. I have many postponed personal projects, from writing and research, to painting more and visiting friends and family as some of the travel restrictions are lifted later this year. I know many of you long for connection to those you love and have been inhibited from seeing them, so with more and more people vaccinated and more opportunities to travel than last year, I hope you will get to see your loved ones also in the summer months. All our existing staff will remain in place, will have some vacation time between now and when the new rector arrives and get ready for the fall church year. The new rector will need time to get to know you all and I am confident the current staff team will be able to maintain the high standards of worship, education, and pastoral care that we have come to expect from St Paul’s over the summer months. I plan to re-launch my personal blog and share some memories of the kaleidoscope of ministries that have shaped my life, not only with St. Paul’s but with other parishes and non-profit organizations over the past 40 years. So please feel free to connect with my blog and stay tuned for the next adventures! Thanks so much to Bishop Daniel and Canon Arlette, to Ruth and the Vestry for their support, confidence, and collegiality – all of which remain a lasting memory.

In gratitude,

Albert

Albert J. Ogle

Interim Rector

Sermons from the Hill

 

Ascension 2021 -The sermon interprets the Ascension story in the context of the Jewish Exodus and liberation, as well as looking through the lens of imperialism. The recent violence between Arab and Israeli forces grounds the Ascension story (that happened at the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque) is a reminder to the church and St Paul’s of our work in the world today -the continued presence of the ascended Jesus.

Older sermons

Do you remember the first time you were ever lost?  What on earth has that got to do with success and adventure?

The Reluctant Revolutionary? Martin Luther and the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this weekend.

A poster in the Berlin subway about Martin Luther’s legacy.

The Reluctant Revolutionary?

A Lenten Pilgrimage in the Steps of Martin Luther: March 2017

A convergence of opportunities led to a surprising Lenten retreat 4,000 miles from home. It all centered around the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and I felt I needed to give some background on Martin Luther (1483-1546) and on sites associated with him during last year’s six-week series “Sacred Sites” at St Peter’s, Lithgow. Last March, Charlie Pierce, (former director of the Morgan Library in New York) offered to lead an ad hoc group of sixteen parishioners to view an exhibition of some Luther artifacts never seen before in the USA. Again, my interest in the Reformation was piqued.

Lego sold over 100,000 figures of Luther this past year. Kids love him, but why?

During the past two years, I have noticed that St. Peter’s has a high percentage of parishioners who are former Roman Catholics. As a result of our demographics, Rev. Cam Hardy and I have tried, beginning on Reformation Sunday in October, 2016, to weave into our sermons some of the Anglican and Roman Catholic similarities and differences. Most parishioners are unaware that

75 % of Anglican/Roman Catholic beliefs and practices are shared; nor do they know how our important and significant differences came to be. I am hoping that this coming year, as we celebrate 500 years of Reformation history, we develop a common understanding of Luther’s legacy for our own time.

Luther’s signature

Lutherans and Anglicans have a common history, liturgical life, and theology, more than, say we Anglicans have in common with  Presbyterians or even Methodists.  Episcopalians, (as Anglicans are called in the USA) are in “full communion” with the Lutheran church, which means we recognize one another’s ministries and share in the sacraments. It is possible for a Lutheran pastor to be appointed to an Episcopal Church position and vice versa. Many years ago, I had the honor of being invited to take part in the ordination of a Lutheran pastor through the “laying on of hands.” This is a significant ecumenical sign, and something we do not yet do with Roman Catholics (who still regard Anglican orders as irregular, even invalid). The Reformation created different understandings about the priesthood and the ministry of all the baptized, and these differences remain acute and challenging.

The Reformation relied on the printing of new ideas, like this pamphlet on marriage

Even though I studied the Reformation a long time ago, Luther has remained an enigmatic figure to me. Was he a slightly deranged fanatic whose theology was used by the emerging European princes to break up the era’s “big government”—the Roman church’s imperial authority? The invitation to the Morgan Library exhibit and sharing these sacred German sites associated with Luther at St. Peter’s this past year, opened up a renewed interest in discovering who Luther was and how the Reformation shaped the church and world I know today.  The definition of this revolution is described here:

 The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. http://www.history.com/topics/reformation

Wittenberg Town Hall with St. Mary’s Church with its statue of Luther.

So by January 2017, it looked as if my formal Christian Education opportunity for this year, should focus on Luther and the Reformation. Two of the key sites associated with Luther’s tumultuous revolution were within a few hours travel (by train) from Berlin, so I designed a six-day tour taking in Wittenberg (where the Reformation began) and, nearly two hours farther away, Eisenach, where Luther went into hiding from the ecclesiastical and civil authorities following his excommunication by the Pope.

This is where Luther translated the Bible while in captivity and in hiding from the Papal decree that excommunicated him and meant he could be executed without consequence.

A religious death threat

Excommunication meant that anyone could kill him without punishment, so the medieval Church had basically condemned him to death, a “sentence” brought about by his theology and for his attacks on the corrupt practice of selling indulgences to finance the local German and Roman Catholic churches (particularly the present edifice in St. Peter’s Square in Rome which began to be built in 1506 and completed in 1626).

It is difficult for anyone in our modern society to understand the power of a papacy that could effectively condemn someone to death. A recent analogy might be the fatwa issued by the Iranian government against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, with a $600,000 bounty on his head. However, the papacy’s call ultimately backfired.

The palace and church of Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg where the King held millions of dollars worth of holy relics. Luther revolutionized this economy.

An economic revolution

There are many theories as to why this perfect storm—the Reformation— happened when it did. Why was Luther saved by one of the German princes? One theory centers on generations of German resentment toward Church taxation practices, which levied higher rates on Germany than on any other part of Europe; Luther’s challenge became a way of giving expression to this frustration. Such economic and theological divisions eventually fractured the entire Holy Roman Empire, resulting in a redefinition of the relationship between church and state (civil society).

Luther was in effect redefining the role of the state in the process of defending a fairly orthodox form of Christianity. He did not tolerate the theologically unsound practice by the Anabaptists of replacing infant baptism with adult baptism, but he felt the state should banish rather than execute them. He did not support the Peasants’ War (1524-25) when 100,000 peasants died, even though it was in part inspired by Reformation and biblical principles. Also, Luther’s public call to the princes to resort to the sword to keep law and order remains a blot on his legacy, illustrating how politically and economically conservative his Reformation really was. Yet his attempts at finding a via media, signifying moderation in all things, had a large impact on the Reformation in other parts of Europe, especially in England.

Henry VIII would use Luther’s new theology and teaching to support his nationalization of the church and its vast property wealth in Britain.

A direct link between Luther’s Reformation and the Episcopalian church can be traced to the fragmentation of centralized religious authority under Rome and the emergence of independent nation-states led to Henry VIII’s declaring himself head of the Church of England—our mother church. Henry had no scruples about using the sword to protect his own interests; nationalizing the church and its assets in England served his own imperial agenda, expanding his army and colonial interests in the New World and in Ireland.

In the wake of recent global events like Brexit and a rise of nationalistic fervor versus globalism, during my trip to Germany, I became particularly eager to learn more about the last decade of Luther’s life, when his deep fear and hatred of Jews and Turks emerged.

A medieval depiction of Jews having intercourse with a pig that still remains on the upper part of St. Mary’s Church. Below it is a memorial to victims of the holocaust

Was he suffering from PTSD? What circumstances had led to these positions after a lifetime spent helping people rediscover the good news of God’s love and grace? I set out to understand more about Luther the man, the physical places he touched and how they shaped him, and the revolution he started. Were there any lessons to be learned for the 21st century as we go through our own revolutionary times?

I was delighted to discover that others were asking similar questions. Our friends at Union Theological Seminary in New York City convened a two-day conference last April on Bonhoeffer and Luther, specifically the positive impact of their lives on ours.  This meeting occasioned conversations related to some of the deeper questions I had uncovered during my pilgrimage the previous month, questions that wove together a lot of personal strands, including my early commitment to reconciliation, which was shaped by sectarian (Catholic/Protestant) violence in Ireland. I had just had an opportunity to see how these divisions have impacted Germany over the last 70 years. Germany’s division and subsequent healing since the Second World War and the fall of the Berlin Wall remain important markers in a long history of religious and ideological conflicts. Luther’s anti-Semitism played a significant role in the German church’s co-option of fascism through National Socialism and the sites associated with Luther and the Reformation were inaccessible to West Germans until relatively recently.

Bach’s family home in Eisenach has been restored after the Second World War. Many sites associated with the Reformation have been inaccessible to most Germans from the West until recently.

So, I discovered this major educational component to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as much for contemporary Germans as for the global faith community.

Germans are celebrating this anniversary as some Americans are seriously reconsidering constitutional separation of church and state as well as the role of the state in defending the (Christian) faith, so the 15th and 16th centuries have much to teach us.  In May 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order on Religious Freedom that appears to remove the wall between Church and state and allowing political endorsement of candidates and policies than before. How does a Muslim travel ban impact the privileges of Christians who appear to benefit from the proposed ban? As the world becomes more connected, the forces that divide and cause fear among races,

Luther’s “And the Jews and their Lies” 1543

nationalities, or religions are once again being played out (just as they did via Luther’s anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim writings and cartoon illustrations, which were eventually reinterpreted by the Third Reich).

Our current generations must understand the role of “holy” violence in our shared history and identities. Has Luther anything to say to us that might give some hope or encouragement? Or do we need a renewed reformation that spins us into the next human orbit of history without making the mistakes of the past?

 

Shops in Wittenberg were full of Luther souvenirs, like modern day indulgences!

The journey begins     

I arrived in Wittenberg on a Monday morning. Having had little sleep on the flight to Berlin and then a brief 40-minute train ride, I left my bags at my Airbnb residence, owned by a musical-instruments maker named Jorge Dahm. He had bought and restored a set of buildings skirting a medieval courtyard that had been used as a blacksmith’s shop. Twenty years ago, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, he moved to East Germany and invested in this community. He’d replaced the rotting support beams and most of the wooden windows and doors, creating a wonderful space for himself and his international visitors, most of whom, he said, come to learn more about Luther.  When I arrived no one was present to give me a key, so I left my suitcase hidden in the bicycle shed and stopped in at a nearby restaurant, where I pointed to a picture of eggs and sausages to order my breakfast. The bar was smoke-filled, as locals chatted over morning coffee. The smoke clung to my jacket all day, reminding me I was no longer in the USA!

Wittenberg is surprisingly compact, just a few main streets.

When the former East Germany was under USSR rule, the residents all learned Russian, and so few people here in Wittenberg actually speak English. As I walked around for some fresh air, waiting for my host to show up, it was amazing to think these wonderfully wide, elegant streets—deserted that Monday—had been patrolled by the Red Guard until 1991. What I saw instead was a sleepy, provincial town coming to the end of a multi-year project to spruce itself up for the millions of people who would want to do what I was doing. How had this little place, with its two main streets lined quaint churches and houses, taken on the most powerful institution in the world, the Church, and survived?

I began taking pictures along the main streets, which had been closed to car traffic since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. I saw everything from sushi bars to foot massage services with fish tanks where you could put your feet for…fish therapy? In front of the grand town hall in Market Square stood the famous statue of Luther and his ally and friend, the younger Philip Melanchthon.

Another brilliant young scholar, Philip Melancthon taught at the same university as Luther.

Both men were in their early twenties when they were hired to teach Biblical Studies at the brand-new university of Wittenburg. (The Elector of Saxony had been inspired by royal universities established by rival German princes.) Melanchthon was a genius in classical languages, while Luther, at the time an Augustinian monk, had just completed his doctoral studies in nearby Erfurt.

Ancient books and libraries are plentiful here. This revolution began in the mind.

Both men remained committed to academic studies and the mentoring of young people throughout their time in Wittenberg. I visited the building, the Leuocorea, where they taught; it is still a branch of the larger regional university at Halle. Melanchthon and Luther always had numerous students living in their family homes, and down the street from the university was the house Luther lived in with his wife, Katerina, and their six children.

Katarina was one of the many nuns Luther and his community liberated over the years. She was a brilliant business woman.

Luther became one of the wealthiest men in town, with his wife, a former nun, running a very busy beer business and investing in local real estate. Luther’s modest professor’s salary was augmented by these and other activities, including the proceeds from boarding and tutoring students, who would often keep records of the conversations at household meals. (What an opportunity for young people to sit at the feet of these great local heroes!) Both professors would have received stipends, and the university built a house for Melanchthon that still stands (and is open to the public) close to the university. I was impressed by the collection of books at both men’s houses.

The university where the Reformers taught is still going strong in Wittenberg.

The great humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam had a huge influence on them, and their personal libraries have hundreds of his works.

Erasmus clearly thought Luther and the German Reformation had gone too far with the reforms that would lead to divisions within Christendom. Eramsus may have seen himself as a mediator between Rome and the German princes as they fragmented and eventually ended up in armed conflict, exhausting the region. Scholarship that provided the intellectual underpinning of the Reformation was pivotal in this long conflict. In Wittenberg I could imagine the importance of an emerging university with Luther and Melanchthon as young intellectuals applying the new technology of printing to the spread of ideas. Through their pamphlets and the translation of the Bible into German, Wittenberg became the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual capital of the Reformation.

St. Mary’s -clergy marriage began here and many practices like sharing the chalice at the eucharist, were first practiced right here.

One of the highlights of my visit was going to St. Mary’s Church, located in the heart of the city, where both men preached and administered the sacraments, (pre- and post-Reformation) and where some of the first Protestant liturgical changes actually occurred. It was here that the chalice was first administered to the laity. It was here that the laity rioted against indulgences, broke statues, and intimidated priests for saying masses for the dead.  It was here, too, that Luther and Katherine got married as monk and nun, uprooting the notion of clerical celibacy. These reforms and symbolic gestures of defiance had a profound effect upon the German people. Their marriage, an act of sexual revolution, was celebrated by the whole of Wittenberg with processions and parties for a whole week!  Soon these events opened the floodgates of reform within religious orders, where much of the wealth and intellectual capital of the church was sheltered. Later, in England, Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and major land grab would be softened by legislation permitting clerical marriages.

Luther’s war against indulgences—money paid to shorten a sinner’s time in Purgatory—was an article of his reform movement. At Wittenberg’s Castle Church, part of a former royal palace complex, Frederick the Wise held many thousands of holy relics designed to keep him out of hell for just over two million years.

Castle church was renovated under Kaiser Wilhem II as a center for German nationalism and religion. It is also the place where Luther is buried.

Priests earned an important part of their livings praying for the dead, and Luther decided to engage the student community in a debate about the efficacy of relics and the Church’s power to sell indulgences—to the poor in particular. Luther thought that souls should be released from purgatory and eternal damnation simply as a consequence of faith. This would have been the most Christian thing to do, wrote Luther. Instead, the Church’s powerful infrastructure needed to raise thousands of gold sovereigns to pay off debts and purchase ecclesiastical titles and land. (St. Peter’s in Rome was under construction.) The combination of the exploitation of regional German electorates and an increasing resentment toward Rome due to indulgences and taxation gave rise to popular pietistic movements, which sought a more personal relationship to God than what the Roman Church offered, often for a price. This populist spirituality brought more attention to the intellectual work of Luther and Melanchthon outside of the university setting.

Occasionally peasants and students would hear from Luther and Melanchthon through sermons preached at St Mary’s or the Castle Church, where Luther had nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the front door (the university notice board on the Eve of All Saint’s Day, November 1st). Luther’s perfect storm depended more than a little on the threat of open revolt from the peasantry over economic hardship as their farms and businesses suffered. Luther may not have had the support of the peasants to carry through his reforms without these dire economic issues threatening the medieval power of local princes. He adroitly walked the tightrope between the conservatism of a medieval feudal society and its emergence into the Renaissance. He threatened civil disobedience if the princes did not live up to their responsibilities as good Christians obeying Christ rather than the emperor or the pope, while refusing to support open violence and rebellion, calling on these same princes to maintain law and order.

Luther was kidnapped by the King to protect him from the threat of the Papal Bull. He remained in hiding in Wartburg Castle.

Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in early 1521, after which Frederick the Wise led him into ten months’ hiding in Wartburg Castle. Subsequently he was invited to return to Wittenberg, where he had now to govern. (That challenge reminded me of the difficulties experienced by Rev. Ian Paisley, who in my own lifetime went from being a fiery Protestant theocrat to Northern Ireland’s First Minister.  It was a remarkable conversion to a more moderate political leadership, and it cost him a significant number of his more extreme supporters.)  So, in the course of his own personal journey, Luther became a bridge, forcing the papacy and Roman Catholicism to rethink its position in the world. Nothing was to be the same again.

The Crannach’s were family friends of the Luthers and painted their portraits as well as organizing the printing of thousands of pamphlets. Their studios are still in operation today (below)

During my week in Germany I reread Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand, a classic account of the life and legacy of Martin Luther. It gave me some helpful background to the places I visited in Wittenberg. In many ways the remaining thirteen years Luther spent there as a pastor, teacher, and political leader were an extension of the time he had spent in exile at Wartburg.

 

 

 

Revolutionary Art and Printing

His notoriety created a nearly unbearable double-edged situation: on one hand he was the former opposition leader who had returned home to lead a government torn within itself; on the other he was essential to that community’s role in shaping, for centuries to come, Protestantism internationally. Nonetheless his embrace of this particular confinement in Wittenberg, allowed him to focus on teaching at the university, translate both the Old and New Testaments, renew the liturgy, and write close to 3,000 significant tracts or sermons on a variety of reforms.

Throughout my visit, there was a sense of sacred space about Wittenberg, as it and the entire country prepared extensively and expensively to revisit the effects of this very local revolution, after emerging from forty-five years of atheistic communism under the Soviets. Many of the buildings were in disrepair. Millions of euros have been spent by cities like Wittenberg and Eisenach, and for many locals it is a jolting experience. At a recent meeting of the Town Council, the successors of Luther’s theocratic vision, municipal leaders were asked about what could come out of the 500 Year Celebration, whose planning had consumed them for at least a decade. The university had no plans to share students the close to 20,000 historic records and books from Luther’s time. The leaders had no plan for keeping young people employed, although one of the area’s major industries had opened a first-class interactive science center in the main square a week before my visit.

Luther had been the first academic to develop a system of religious education that taught people to be biblically literate and think theologically, and he had called upon the miserable sinners of Wittenberg to cough up four pence each to support the teachers and pastors who were ministering to them and their children. He was able to articulate a vision to carry out what he termed the “priesthood of all believers.” Luther and Philip Melanchthon reduced the seven sacraments (traditionally associated with the Church’s institutional control of people’s lives, that is baptism, marriage, ordination, confirmation, and holy unction at death) to an emphasis on two sacraments only -baptism and eucharist.

This theology also shaped Anglican polity in that so much of what Luther did was picked up by the English reformers when they came to translate the Bible, reform liturgy, and look at the relationship between the power of the princes (Henry VIII) and the church, reshaping both.

What is most astounding to me is the volume of writing this one man accomplished in his lifetime. Bainton notes that Luther’s work in translating the Bible into German was as of high a value as that placed on the works of Shakespeare with respect to the standardization of the English language and its literature. At the same time he completed bodies of work on the liturgy and Book of Common Prayer, early church music, and Christian education, especially for the young.

A funny depiction of Bach now hanging in his family home.

I was privileged to pay coincidental visit to two places associated with one of history’s great followers of Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach. There is an extensive collection of his music in the Bach House in Eisenach, where he was educated and worked. The Psalms and motets that dominate Bach’s extensive repertoire were all influenced by the liturgical reforms of Luther as well as by some of Luther’s own music and hymns. More than any other theologian and reformer, Luther was an important figure in establishing congregational singing as a part of Christian experience. Through Bach we have evidence of the profound changes, in their highest form, Luther brought to arts and culture through sacred music and its vital role in the liturgy.

Many thanks to St. Peter’s as we celebrate the Reformation on Sunday 29th.

I am grateful to St. Peter’s congregation for making this educational opportunity possible and to be able to share some personal reflections on my pilgrimage in the steps of this reluctant revolutionary and the people who shared deeply in his life and work. I am also grateful to Lorraine Alexander for her gifts of editing and encouragement to make this paper more engaging to our readers. Happy Anniversary to our reforming ancestors and our heartfelt thanks for helping the faithful rediscover renewing and liberating principles that remain challenges for our own times.

 

Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle

Vicar of Lithgow  29th October 2017

Don’t forget our friends and relatives affected by the hurricanes

Helping Bishop Griselda and others in the Caribbean

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/team/partnering-to-help-rebuild-caribbean-communities?utm_campaign=oc&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=crowdrise

An increasing number of my friends are wondering what we can do to provide support to communities in the Caribbean region that have been devastated by severe hurricanes this past month. As the media cameras leave and other compelling news stories occupy public attention, many people of goodwill have not forgotten the work of rebuilding lives and community that local residents face every day. The faith community is one of the most reliable and trusted networks we have, particularly as FEMA also moves on and prepares for the next disaster. The private sector, non-profit and religious organizations have to find efficient and transparent ways of working locally, advocating internationally and preparing for the longer term effects of these extreme forms of climate change. There is simply no escaping our present reality.

One example is to hold up the courageous work of episcopal bishop, Griselda Delgado del Carpio, who reported nearly half her churches and the communities they are serving, were damaged in the recent hurricanes. We celebrate her leadership this week in a series of events including an honorary doctorate at Yale yesterday, the Church Club event in New York city on Wednesday evening and an event in Philadelphia on Friday. The bishop will be reporting on the work of rebuilding community and I have promised her our prayers and support for those of us who cannot attend these events but would like to contribute to her work through the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.

Bishop Griselda remains the only woman bishop in Latin America and her community is proud to welcome all people regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation or gender. The church serves everyone in need and I know our gifts (50% will go to the bishop and 50% will go to the church in Puerto Rico -all is tax deductible). I know the faith community we are supporting welcomes and provides support to everyone in need and our gifts will be well accounted for and leveraged for the common good. You can read more about this work here: https://www.friendsofeccuba.org/

My congregation in Upstate New York is also committed to assisting domestic hurricane relief with a focus on a Baptist church in Beaumont Texas. This is a time to reach out and break out of our silos. We hope to welcome and have an update from its pastor in 2018 when the real and deeper ministry of the people of God to those hurting and in need and I encourage other congregations to plan similar events and post-disaster updates as signs of our solidarity and common humanity. We share a common earth, “our island home”. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt. We trust our friends and companions on the ground to get on with the work, knowing they remain on our thoughts and prayers AND with our much needed financial support.

Rev. Canon Albert Ogle,

Executive Director, St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation

 

Help Spread the Word!

LGBTI and Religion

Ending the war between religious leaders and the LGBTI community

https://76crimes.com/2017/07/08/new-challenge-for-gay-activists-accept-religious-allies/

New challenge for gay activists: Accept religious allies

As a queer priest reflects on his 40-year journey toward gay liberation, he expresses amazement at how anti-religious the Western LGBT movement has become, excluding and devaluing the contributions of faithful allies.

‘Whose service is perfect freedom’

The Rev. Albert Ogle and the vestry (governing board) of St. Peter's, Lithgow, N.Y., in 2015.

The Rev. Albert Ogle and the vestry (governing board) of St. Peter’s, Lithgow, N.Y., in 2015.

Excerpts from a sermon at his parish, St. Peter’s, in Lithgow, N.Y., U.S.A., on July 2, 2017, celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination

By the Rev. Albert Ogle

The Rev. Albert Ogle

The Rev. Albert Ogle

Within my first year as vicar here, an older lesbian couple came to me and wanted to be married in church. We had a beautiful service in our old wooden church and although it was the first ever same-gender marriage, no-one around here blinked an eyelid. I didn’t have to get permission from the bishop or my Vestry (Board). It was just like every other wedding and the normalcy of it all actually upset the couple because they wanted much more “hoopla” and headlines, but this was simply what St. Peter’s was now doing. They would treat LGBT folk in the same way as they had done with straight couples for centuries.

This normalcy was shocking and even disappointing to the couple who wrote me a long letter and were so upset they felt they needed to leave the parish. I thought, “How sad!” In all the ups and downs of ministry, I never expected something like this and for weeks, I just had this heavy stone in my stomach and could not figure out what had happened to upset these dear people. Here was a community that was fully embracing and supportive of their love and journey and the couple had simply missed the moment.

When we are no longer victimized

They eventually came around, but it was an interesting reminder that when we are no longer victimized, it is us who need to change our attitude and I was reminded that changing laws and attitudes does not necessarily bring a sense of freedom that we may expect. Sadly, there are lots of people who simply thrive on victimhood and their whole identity is based upon being “other”. How do we deal with change when we are no longer victims? Change is hard work and demands WE change. This change in the West is also a threat to many in the developing world.

Yet, the new world order I am describing (through a lens of Western secular liberal culture where religion is still dominated by traditional values) is seen as a threat, particularly in developing countries and their vast unquestioned religious industries.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

We live in an age where fundamentalism, in its many forms, is a global business. It fuels ISIS as much as its grip helped to clinch the billions of dollars of arms deals between American and Saudi Arabia. Fundamentalism fuels the evangelical American prosperity gospel that has deep pockets in USAID paybacks for Presidential and party loyalty and makes it difficult for African LGBTI people to even think about the kind of societies they want to shape. These industries have much to lose if fundamentalism wanes. The cost of this madness is an unimaginable waste of gifts and human potential. It is like millions of stillborn vocations where people who are wanting to contribute to the well-being of the societies and support their families, simply cannot. It is as much a vocational issue as a human rights issue. Lost potential. A calling but the community who might benefit is deaf and unable to hear or see our contribution. …

Dark places in the road

I have two hopes from this sermon. One, that places where there appears to be little hope of change … these dark places on the road (I describe them as forks in the road where it looks as if we must choose to lose what we seem to love most and sacrifice all we know and love about who we are, epitomized in the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac) — these places will not appear so frightening to LGBT people as we move through the darkness and despair into the clarity, light and freedom.

Gay liberation that has largely been presented in Western terms over the last 50 years around the Stonewall mythology is not the freedom I am describing either. We have pink-washed American consumerism fornicating with an American rugged individualism and the offspring of this illicit relationship is the illusion of 21st century gay liberation. It is a dangerous illusion and many of us in the West who are critical of the evangelical exportation of prosperity gospel/family values bullshit that Africa and South America seems to believe (300,000 Prosperity Gospel churches in Africa alone, paying Rick Warren’s salary through sales of his prosperity gospel heresies).

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle poses in Uganda with the executive committee of the Good Samaritan Consortium, which works with the St. Paul's Foundation to remove obstacles to health care for LGBTI people there.

The Rev. Albert Ogle during a visit to Uganda to meet with the executive committee of the Good Samaritan Consortium, which worked with the St. Paul’s Foundation, which Ogle founded, to remove obstacles to health care for LGBTI people there.

Yet, we are as guilty as exporting a false gospel to Africa, in this gay liberation package that is not sustainable in Africa or anywhere else. It is not about true freedom. I think this is where religious and secular gay liberationists disagree on the future of our movement, especially in the larger developing communities at this critically dark fork in the road.

As Trump turns off all the American funding supporting the gay human rights activist industry, a different kind of faith and value system will fill the vacuum. African, Asian and South American leadership in the LGBTI communities should not see this as a negative problem but an opportunity to move forward into a different paradigm and movement than say in the past decade.

Anti-religious LGBTI activism

The Rev. Albert Ogle and his stole (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The Rev. Albert Ogle and his stole, which illustrates the various stages of his ministry. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The second thing I hope for on this 40th anniversary of my journey is that secular organizations in the LGBTI movement will recognize the contribution religion and religious leaders have had on our journey to true freedom and make room for us and others at the table. I am amazed how religio-xenophobic the Western LGBT movement has become in such a short time and the contribution of individuals and organizations in the religious sector is still undervalued and denied.

One recent example comes to mind when I joined a conference call organized by The Williams Institute, based in Los Angeles. The conference call was themed “The Place of LGBTI folk in the Sustainable Development Goals.” A Swedish researcher presented a background on how this internationally agreed agenda might include us. It was a well thought out presentation and, as I have been following this strategy here in New York through the work of many NGO’s at the United Nations, I was familiar with most of the information.

Not once in the presentation was the role of religious leaders or organizations mentioned. In places like Africa, where 40% of healthcare development is provided by religious networks and driven by powerful religious values, many of which are good and inclusive, how could a respected academic body like the Williams Institute allow for such oversight?

Bryan Choong in 2012

Bryan Choong in 2012

Not everyone is so blind. I respected Bryan Choong coming all the way from Singapore in 2012 when St Paul’s Foundation and other faith-based organizations invited 26 activists to be part of the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC. Bryan admitted to the selection committee that he did not share in any faith tradition but he came to be among us to learn more about the role religion can play in shaping public policy and mobilizing people.

We selected him to be able to come, because he knew religion plays so much, even in opposition to our movements, and he wanted to expand his knowledge and understanding of how to deal with this as a reality, both as a positive force for good, and a way of understanding all assaults of our enemies. When my angry lesbian couple I cited earlier (who were recently married by me, an ordained Anglican priest in a very conservative Republican stronghold and traditional Episcopal church) realized that for 30 years, our issue had been debated and fought over by 3 million Episcopalians, eventually ending in a very negative and financially costly divorce and split in our churches, their understanding changed.

They realized how much OUR issue has cost the church who now stand with us. To take a stand for our freedom demanded enormous sacrifice and struggle and commitment from countless straight allies. It was a very ugly and hard-fought battle, so that my wonderful lesbian couple could simply walk arm and arm up the aisle of St. Peter’s church in Lithgow and no-one batted an eyelid. This is simply what we now do.

Next, is there a place at the table for this kind of advocacy and normalcy? I realize after reflection on my own journey this week, that St. Peter’s represents a place of hope and light to churches and countries still dominated by religious fundamentalism, as we see in places like Northern Ireland and Uganda.

Things change and the change is dependent upon people simply showing up and showing what they want to contribute to the greater whole — .service to benefit the whole society, not just the rainbow piece of it. The downfall of any movement comes about when we forget our own story and, through his collective amnesia, we then begin to believe our own bullshit.

This is an interesting and dark fork in the road for our movement — a movement that I and many religious LGBTI people and our ally friends helped to create. We have a responsibility to communicate more clearly what that was like for us and trust those who take up the mantles and stoles of the future to accept the things they can change, wisely, recognize the things they will not be able to change (but others undoubtedly will) and have the wisdom to know the difference.

For more information, read:

Why the United Nations Human Rights Council Elections matter

Advocacy at the UN

Civil society gets an opportunity to question countries as they stand for election to the Human Rights Council in 2017

What’s at stake in U.N. Human Rights Council election

U.N. Human Rights Council elections:
  Why they are important to the international LGBT movement

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

Around 130 people gathered in a brightly lit mid-century conference room at the United Nations in New York on Monday, 11th September, at the invitation of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). Other sponsors included Amnesty International, the Czech Republic and Iraq. The meeting was chaired by Andrew Gilmour, U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights.

The meeting’s sponsors had invited representatives of countries seeking election onto the Human Rights Council to present their reasons for their candidacy and to hear from civil society.

Every year, a third of the available seats on the Human Rights Council (47 seats in all) are up for grabs. Some of the most notorious countries who allow human rights violations, serve on this august body. But that does not render the council meaningless. Many activists see such countries’ membership as a serious matter that could allow these nations’ human rights failures to see the light of day and perhaps even be corrected.

The body’s most influential carrot is the annual process where a third of U.N. member nations undergo a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) often detailing human rights abuses and failures in economic, cultural and religious institutions so they can be named and, in some cases, remedied.

The Council has also relied on a network of internationally recognized independent special rapporteurs/experts with cross-cutting themes. (For example, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the special rapporteur on refugees, etc. — a total of at least 38.) No country wants to get a bad report from any of them. The transparency of the U.N. systems has allowed countries the ability to discuss their shortcomings openly and the possibilities for making amends to marginalized and persecuted communities.

ISHR meeting on Sept. 11, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

ISHR meeting on Sept. 11, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The focus on women’s and indigenous people’s issues in the Sustainable Development Goals underscore this momentum. Along those lines, it’s worth mentioning last year’s first-ever U.N. Security Council discussion related to sexual minorities. The outcome of that discussion — the 2016 condemnation of violence towards LGBTI people as a result of the Orlando massacre — shows another important direction the Council may be taking: Costly wars and other conflicts could be prevented if human rights abuses by governments are somehow nipped in the bud earlier.

A number of ambassadors who came to the ISHR meeting made the case for their country’s candidacy by pushing for greater commitment to human rights by all U.N. agencies, including the U.N. Security Council. This is a new role for the U.N.’s most elite body.

The ambassador from Afghanistan talked about the impact of losing 70-80 people a day through terror-related violence and how to protect the human rights of his people under these traumatic conditions. There was a key discussion on immigration and refugees and what each country has been doing to alleviate the plight of people coming to their countries.

LGBTI issues were specifically mentioned by Nepal, Australia and Mexico but it remains an issue that either is low on national priority lists because of larger issues like refugees, or it is simply opposed for religious or cultural reasons. All these emerging pressures and foci underscore the vital importance of this Council’s work and why countries are seeking election to it to shape its future.

Logo of the U.N. Human Rights Council

Logo of the U.N. Human Rights Council

For LGBTI people in particular, the Human Rights Council has been an un-fogged lens to look more deeply into the systemic, governmental and religious abuse of LGBTI people in close to 80 countries where we remain criminalized and largely invisible.

Attempts to exclude LGBTI economic and health indicators during the prioritization of the Sustainable Development Goals in the past two years, sadly, have been successful. Against this background, it was amazing that the UN agreed to create the special position of the Independent Expert on the Prevention of Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity last year. The discussions about that position were uncivil. That six-year appointment was approved — barely — on a vote 28 in favor, 18 against and 6 abstentions.

Some of the countries opposing the creation of that position are now running for election to the council, including Qatar, Nigeria and Congo. Our meeting was used by the U.S. delegation to condemn countries that have poor human rights records and refuse to show up to meetings like this one.

The panel of candidate nations were asked if compulsory attendance at these kinds of forums would be acceptable. There seemed to be no doubt that this would be an important evolution from the current system.

It is reported that Congo has some of the worst rape statistics in the world — over 400,000 reported cases. Yet the government has supported impunity for rapists because of the ongoing armed conflict there. If Congo earns a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, that would be outrageous.

Like Congo’s, the U.N. delegation from Nigeria also did not show up to the meeting. Nigeria has only ratified 5 out of 14 mechanisms or treaties that concern international human rights issues.

South Africa abstained in that 2016 crucial vote on the independent expert’s position, so even LGBTI-friendly countries cannot always be counted upon to do the right thing when we need them to.

Elections to the U.N. Human Rights Council will be held at the General Assembly next week.

Vitit Muntarbhorn

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the first UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Jean-Marc Ferré photo courtesy of the UN)

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the first UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Jean-Marc Ferré photo courtesy of the UN)

Many of us were saddened to hear the elementary work of the present Independent Expert, Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, will be cut short because of the recent announcement he will resign from his position at the end of October because of family and health issues.

The position, although new and precarious, will need to be filled by someone who understands both the complexity of the U.N. systems and has a high level of experience internationally to ensure the work can be integrated to other U.N. priority concerns. Because LGBTI issues remain invisible in the Sustainable Development Goals, there will need to be some extra collaboration with other accountability mechanisms to ensure we are represented across these goals. The case still needs to be made to influential institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that LGBTI people are among the most marginalized and impoverished minorities on the planet.

For comparison, consider last year’s timely appointment of Cliff Cortez as the World Bank’s internal LGBTI expert. Cliff brings 20 years experience of working within the U.N. itself, so he knows how to get the attention of the economists and bureaucrats who are still not convinced we should even be at the conference table. Mr. Muntarbhorn’s successor will need the same respected credentials.

We have the next six years to make our case before the hawks circle again to try to jinx the post entirely. ISHR’s recent report on the difficulty and significance of this new appointment is expressed in their annual report:

“The first attacks came at the Human Rights Council in June. Unsuccessful there, negative forces regrouped to mount a campaign to discontinue the mandate at the Third Committee and the Plenary of the UN General Assembly in November and December. Defeated again, a last-ditch attempt was made on the eve of the new year to starve the mandate of resources through the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee.

“That the resolution was adopted, the mandate established and the resources allocated is a testament to the power of a positive vision, the principled leadership of a group of progressive Latin American States, and the careful documentation of LGBTI rights violations by Special Rapporteurs and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The victory owes most, however, to the bravery and tenacity of LGBTI rights activists worldwide and the unprecedented mobilization of more than 870 grass-roots NGO’s from 157 countries from every region of the world. ISHR, OutRight Action International, ILGA and ARC International played key roles in this mobilization and coordination of the landmark campaign in Geneva and New York.”

The countries standing for election are: Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, Congo, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar (represented, incidentally, by the only woman delegate who spoke at the meeting), Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, and Ukraine. You can read about the effects of LGBTI discrimination or progress in any of these countries through the Erasing 76 Crimes blog. There is also an excellent scorecard prepared by ISHR on the human rights records of these countries that you can read in more detail here.

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is Executive Director of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and is based in new York where he also serves an Episcopal Church congregation. You can read more about the work of the foundation and support its international work here.

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Public Advocacy in 2017

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           Millbrook at Home

http://www.millbrookathome.org/

Some of us may have seen FRONTLINE’s report on renowned New Yorker writer and Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he explores the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life. In conjunction with Gawande’s new book, “Being Mortal,” the film explores how the medical profession can better help people navigate the final chapters of their lives with confidence, direction and purpose.

This radically different approach to aging and caring for seniors has spawned a movement from its Boston roots.

In May, I hosted a meeting of the local Millbrook clergy (from St. Joseph’s, Lyall Memorial, Grace Church and St. Peter’s) to hear from one of these local all-volunteer organizations “Rhinebeck at Home” with a membership of 110 people,  committed to helping neighbors helping neighbors stay at home.

Our local clergy network wants to explore how this model might help the Millbrook area community plan ahead and our four local congregations might learn something from our friends in Rhinebeck.

We held a panel meeting on Thursday September 7th at Grace Church in Millbrook. Thirty people were able to hear from Nina Lynch and Anne Brueckner on how Rhinebeck at Home began and the kinds of services provided. A Steering Committee was formed and we are gathering information on existing resources and creating a short survey for the Town of Washington.

We have been invited to join Rhinebeck at Home on  on September 25th to watch their national annual meeting of the movement via teleconference with Atul Gawande as the keynote speaker. This is another opportunity to understand this emerging model and adapt it to local needs in the Millbrook community. Seats are limited so RSVP today to vicar@stpeterlithgow.org and arrange transportation.

What we can learn from the Aging-in-Place concept

Rhinebeck at Home joins over 200 existing “aging in place” villages and another 100+ villages that are in development. We are a part of the Village to Village Network (VtV), a national peer-to-peer network that helps establish and continuously improve management of villages, whether in large metropolitan areas, rural towns or suburban settings. The mission of VtV is to enable communities to establish and effectively manage aging in community organizations initiated and inspired by their members. Villages that are part of VtV are membership-driven, grass-roots organizations, and are typically run by some staff and many volunteers. To learn more about Village to Village, visit their website http://www.vtvnetwork.org.