Racial Reconciliation and the Episcopal Church: Charlottesville

Last weekend marked the year-anniversary of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. We in the Inland Northwest share a history of challenges from white supremacist groups and ideologies. In the past decade alone, we might remember the 2011 attempted bombing of the Martin Luther King Day parade or the racist flyers that have been repeatedly posted around town. While we are time zones away from Charlottesville, curated resources in response to those events can shed light on race relations in the United States today and help us to respond as people of faith. Learning is key to reconciliation – in order to repent and make amends, we must understand what was done and how it continues to shape our lives today. In that spirit, here are three resources that you might explore in the coming month.

  1. Congregate Charlottesville, the website for an interfaith organization committed to “faith-rooted action and justice oriented education. Congregate Charlottesville equips and prepares people of faith to bear public witness to (in)justice and educates faith communities on issues of justice and liberation.” The Christian resources include liturgy, prayers, and “resources for repair” in the spirit of repentance for complicity in white supremacy, among other goals.
  2. JSTOR’s Charlottesville Syllabus, subtitled “Readings on the History of Hate in America”
  3. The Charlottesville Syllabus, a collection of links put together by UVA Graduate Students Coalition for Liberation designed “to educate readers about the long history of white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia”


Better Know a Parishioner: Nicole Sheets

I’m Nicole Sheets, and I teach in the English department at Whitworth University.

What is your history at St. John’s Cathedral, and the Episcopal Church at large?

I joke that I’m a common law Episcopalian because I’ve attended an Episcopal church off and on for the last 18 years, but I haven’t been confirmed. I moved to Spokane in 2010 and started attending St. John’s regularly the year after.

What ministries at St. John’s are you most passionate about?

I’ve heard choirs described as a church within the church, and that’s certainly been true for me at St. John’s. Janet Ahrend and Tim Westerhaus have taught me a lot about music, and what it means to sing as part of an ensemble. I love that there are professional musicians as well as amateurs like me in the choir. And it’s really an intergenerational ministry, which isn’t all that common.

The Cathedral Choir has been my home at St. John’s, and the center of my spiritual practice. I feel more deeply connected to the church calendar, as the music in our rehearsal folder reflects the more introspective seasons of Advent and Lent, and the exuberance of Eastertide. Maybe it’s just the fancy robe, but when I process with the choir on a Sunday morning, I have a heightened attention to what’s happening in the service. Certainly, working on my singing has made me a better listener. My son, Henry, was born last September, and I’ve taken a break from the choir. I miss it very much, and you can hear me belting out hymns in the children’s area in the South Transept.

What is one thing you’d like to know more about at St. John’s?

Now that I’m experiencing St. John’s with two young children, I’d like to learn more about St. John’s youth ministries. I grew up in a different tradition, so I really don’t know what it’s like to be an Episcopal kid. This is maybe exceeding my “one thing” I’d like to know, but I wonder if St. John’s will one day have an outdoor play structure. I was on Chapter when the short-lived Playground Exploratory Committee presented its report. The dream still lives!

A Fond Farewell

A lot can happen in three years.

Three years ago, I was ordained a Priest here at St. John’s Cathedral. It was a great moment in my life and a launching off point for what I am sure will be a life well-filled. Just under three years ago, I started working here at St. John’s Cathedral, the newest Curate, ready to cut my teeth in real ministry and put all of my seminary learnings to good use. It was just over a year ago, that you helped my wife and I welcome our baby girl Charlee into the church as she was baptised here. And it was this past year that we’ve lived into the uncertainty of transition together. It has been these past three years that have taught me a lot about what it means to be a priest, what it looks like to live into that vocation, how I can take what I have learned here with me as I answer the call to serve as the next Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Longview, Washington.

This past year in particular has allowed me to really stretch my learning and put into practice those things I learned in my first two years, while also growing with and learning from this community. Whether it be our exploration together last fall on what mission and outreach means to us as a community, or the experiment that turned into a regular offering of the Joyful Noise Eucharist this past spring, we have worked diligently and faithfully together to create formation, liturgy, and community here at St. John’s. This past year of faithful community discernment and transition period living has also influenced my own personal discernment as I sought my next calling to serve God’s church.

I particularly want to thank the youth and young adult(ish) people of this congregation. I have spent much of my time and energy working with these groups of people in our community, and I have loved every minute of it. Whether it be attending youth group every week, helping grow the Yoga at the Cathedral program, doing seasonal book studies, attending baseball (and hockey and basketball) games, and launching a new concert experience, these people have inspired me in my ministry to see church in new ways.

Ultimately I want to thank this congregation and the people within it that have given me a platform in order to succeed. It started with Bill Ellis, someone I will always treasure having had the opportunity to learn under. It ends in our time of transition as we (not so) patiently await the arrival of our next Dean, Heather. I know that this place and this congregation are in fine position to help lead the church into our unknown future, and I will be excited to see how the Cathedral of Spokane, the Cathedral on the Hill, continues to live out its call to ministry in the greater Spokane community and Spokane Diocese.

Thank you.

Better Know a Parishioner: James Rosenzweig

Your name and what you do in Spokane (whether that be work or volunteer or hobbies or activities or…)

My name is James Rosenzweig—the primary thing I do, locally, is serve on the library faculty at Eastern Washington University, where I’m currently an Assistant Professor and the Education Librarian.  I’m also a part-time employee of the YMCA of the Inland Northwest, as I serve as an advisor and mentor to a group of teenagers who participate in the Y’s Youth & Government program for civic engagement.  Those two commitments, plus being the husband of a cathedral chapter member and the father of an energetic 4 year old, don’t leave me a lot of time for hobbies or activities.  But when I find time, I do enjoy reading (especially science fiction), playing board games, and spending a little time under the stars as an amateur backyard astronomer.

What is your history at St. John’s Cathedral, and the Episcopal Church at large?

My family started attending St. John’s in January of 2015, just a week or two after we moved to the area from Chicago, and we’ve been here ever since.  We’re naturally a bit introverted (except for the 4 year old), so it’s taken us a while to settle in and learn about all the things the parish does in the community, but we’ve been really glad we chose to be a part of the congregation, and are invested in seeing St. John’s thrive.  I’m active as a lector and as one of the people who offers the prayers on Sunday mornings, and last year I was licensed as a lay preacher (as I had been previously), which has allowed me the rewarding opportunity to preach on occasion.

As far as the Episcopal Church goes, neither my wife nor I were raised in it.  My story starts out in a Swedish Baptist Church, which I attended very faithfully throughout my childhood and young adult years, and in which I was baptized.  For reasons, I don’t really recall, when I went off to a graduate program in history, I chose as my subject the religious history of the English Reformation, and I fell in love with the church I was studying.  I like to say (half-jokingly) that my first prayer book was the 1549 version.  My wife and I became Episcopalians in 2005, when we started attending St. Margaret’s in Bellevue, Washington, and we were very active in that parish for a number of years, prior to our move to Chicago in 2011.  In Chicago, we had a harder time finding a church home, but we settled for long stretches of time at St. Paul and the Redeemer on Chicago’s south side and at St. Luke’s in Evanston, which is the church we were attending right before moving here to the Spokane area.

What ministries at St. John’s are you most passionate about?

I think it’s fair to say I’m pretty passionate about lectoring/praying, which is a ministry I’ve been involved in at every church I’ve attended for many years now – I love our liturgy and I delight in the opportunity to participate in the liturgy in that way.  I’m also pretty passionate about ministries to children and teens—both as a parent of a kid I expect will engage with those ministries for many years to come, and as someone who’s long worked with young people both in the church and outside of it (at the YMCA and as a public school teacher, which I was for a number of years).  And I’m very glad that our church is involved in supporting the homeless and the underemployed through ministries like the West Central Episcopal Mission, which I’ve been able to participate in a little, helping with meal preparation.

What is one thing you’d like St. John’s to know more about you?

Probably the best thing is something I alluded to earlier: I’m a bit introverted naturally (which people don’t often expect, since I don’t mind reading or speaking in public … it’s the social setting of something like a coffee hour that I find a little more challenging), so I may be a little quieter in some settings at church.  But I have enjoyed getting to know people at St. John’s, and if you cross paths with me, I hope you’ll say hello.  I’d be glad to talk about all these things I’ve mentioned (my kid and my job and my hobbies, and all the rest), and maybe get the chance to know you a little better, too.

Better Know a Parishioner: John Wallingford

Your name and what you do in Spokane (whether that be work or volunteer or hobbies or activities or…)

Hi, I’m John Wallingford. I am a nutrition scientist and an independent consultant on the regulation of specialty special dietary uses, like infant formula, human milk preparations, and medical foods.  My clients are mainly back East; but four years ago finally found a way to make a living in Spokane!

What is your history at St. John’s Cathedral, and the Episcopal Church at large?

My early time with the Cathedral was through confirmation.  I re-engaged church life when we started our family some 15 years later and have been involved in many roles since, including Junior Warden at St Johns Norwood (Bethesda, MD) and Rector’s Warden at Church of the Redeemer (Bryn Mawr, PA).  I taught church school, headed ushers, worked on stewardship, volunteered for outreach programs like Habitat for Humanity and Family Promise.  I’m on the Board of the Diocesan Foundation, and was recently elected to Chapter, now serving as Senior Warden.  I have grown in my commitment to the Episcopal church because of its openness to different theological ways of understanding of God, for its its acceptance of science as a manner of understanding truth, and its intentionality to live with opposing points of view in mind.

What ministries at St. John’s are you most passionate about? If none at St. John’s, what ministries in Spokane are you most passionate about?

St Johns is itself a ministry to Spokane, but I don’t think most folks in Spokane know much about the Episcopal Church, so my passion is to increase awareness of our faith community though-out the city, and to become recognized for our tolerance and advocacy of the middle way, via media.  I think non-church affiliated persons would enjoy joining a community committed to civility and justice; and that fundamentalists who find dogmatic churches not answering their needs to find a faith home at the Cathedral that lets them explore theology without judgment.

What is one thing you’d like to know more about at St. John’s?

I look forward to getting to know the persons in this congregation better and hearing their stories.  There is so much caring and good will here.  It’s a great place to practice Christianity.

What is one thing you’d like St. John’s to know more about you?

I live daily with a foot in the world of science and a foot in the world of faith.  I think the Episcopal church embraces human achievements and human failings in equal measure.  In the catechism is says that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he took our human nature into heaven.  That’s a wonderful meditation, evolutionary for both humanity and God.  It helps me see the coherence of science and faith, with hope for our exponentially changing world.

Any other thoughts/comments?

Favorite Bible verses: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:33). He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah, 6:8)

The Deacon’s Corner: February 2018

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”–Psalm 139: 23-24

Unfortunately, like my previous attempts at committing to New Year’s resolutions, I too often entered into the season of Lent with good intentions, “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” (BCP, page 265.)  I’d get a week or two into the approximate 6 week season and either get too busy at work, focus on projects around the house or more often than not come to the realization I just wasn’t committed enough.  In retrospect, I believe my intentions were genuine but I failed to have a plan of daily activities of study and prayer that could sustain me.  I ran across the above verses from Psalm 139 and am using them as a daily reminder of the commitment I’m undertaking this Lenten season.  There are certainly numerous other readings from Scripture that are just as appropriate but this is what I’ve chosen for 2018.

I mention this because I don’t think I’m unique with the struggle of maintaining a consistent habit of prayer and reflection.  I’m certainly better at it than I used to be and it’s because I’ve worked hard at incorporating the discipline of prayer and study on a daily basis through praying the Daily Office.  This year we have the opportunity to engage the process of self-examination and intentional reflection through the use of the booklet entitled Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John, A Lenten journey for the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane that Bishop Rehberg graciously made available.  If you didn’t receive one of the booklets this past weekend, I’d encourage you to register at http://www.meetingjesusinjohn.org and begin receiving the daily emails which include a brief video and suggestions for how to pray the verse each day.  Another option is provided by the clergy of Washington National Cathedral who will offer daily meditations during Lent to encourage thoughtful reflection and contemplation.  The cathedral’s website is www.cathedral.org.

It just makes inherent sense that if we are to more fully appreciate the joy of Easter we need to encounter the realities of our existing relationships with God and our neighbor.  We can use this time to honestly examine our lives in light of God’s Word and, with God’s help, make a commitment to change.  Lent is an opportunity for us to separate from the world and all the noise and distractions it throws at us.  Those of us that commit to this journey through lent will no doubt enter the Easter season with an increased appreciation for who God is and the life altering reality of the cross and empty tomb.  Let’s journey together, one day at a time, through the next 6 weeks with a willingness to be open to hear what God has to say to us and how this time of journeying together changes who we are individually and as a community of faith.


Better Know a Parishioner: Katherine Karr-Cornejo

Your name and what you do in Spokane?

Katherine Karr-Cornejo. I’m a professor in the World Languages and Cultures department at Whitworth (the reason we moved to Spokane in the first place) and my time is divided between that work, my home life, and church stuff. My work at Whitworth involves teaching, service, and research in my academic discipline (Latin American literature); at home, I treasure my spouse, my cat, and my books; and at church, I love worship and trying to figure out what God is calling us to be together as a community.

I love reading! Generally I prefer fiction, and within that, speculative fiction, but I’m willing to try all sorts of things. I’m working on being OK with not finishing books that don’t speak to me in the moment. It’s a challenge. I also enjoy doing yoga by myself, I love cooking, and playing some video games.

What is your history at St. John’s Cathedral, and the Episcopal Church at large?

I was raised in the Episcopal church – my mother’s religious roots are Baptist and Congregationalist, and my father’s are Episcopalian. I loved singing in choir as a child, which was an important Christian formation experience. I was baptized when I was in high school, and confirmed in college – which was a wonderful opportunity to deepen my understanding of the Christian tradition and my own place within it. I love singing in church, and at St John’s I love joining my voice with others every week praising God.

I came to St John’s in 2012 when we moved to Spokane from the East Coast, after having done internet research on the different Episcopal churches in the area. Many individuals, both at St John’s and in the Diocese, have been instrumental in inviting me into ministry in ways that I would have never thought possible. I’ve been stretched in my notion of myself, as God through our community has challenged me to offer my gifts in the service of the Gospel – or at least, I am trying.

There are many things that I love about the Episcopal church. I love that we welcome questions and doubts. I love that we take liturgy seriously and do it to the best of our ability. I love that we embrace mystery. I love that we embrace intellectual inquiry – we are all, in our way, theologians! I love that we take the Bible seriously. I love that we do our best to seek and serve Christ in all persons. I love the musical traditions of Anglicanism, and its global scope. I love that doctrine is not a bat to shut down conversation. I love that we hear the Word of God all over the place. I love the language of inclusion that has become ever more naturalized as I’ve grown older. I love that I can see myself – and people different from me – in church leadership. I love that I have never had to question whether I am a beloved child of God.

What ministries at St. John’s are you most passionate about?

Christian Formation! We are all continually being shaped by our experiences of God and the world, and my experience of God in Christ stirs me to respond by wanting to know more and help others to know more. I have always loved learning things, and I’ve always loved sharing what I learned with others. A natural progression from that is teaching – which, unintentionally, has become a bit of a vocation for me. God calls us into relationship, and part of that relationship is learning more about God’s self, the Scriptures, our history and tradition, and frameworks for understanding the world in which we live today. I am very excited that our congregation as a body has expressed a desire for greater Christian formation opportunities, and I look forward to what the future holds for our growth in Christ.

I understand the desire for knowledge of God to be a natural response to our created nature, and to the multitude of gifts with which God blesses us. How can we not want to know more? One of the treasures of our tradition is that we are invited to deepen our understanding while at the same time embracing uncertainty and ambiguity. The church is the one place in my life where ambiguity and certainty can coincide. I know in my bones, and have known my entire life, of the reality of the Risen Christ. What happens in the Eucharist? For me, it’s a mystery. And I find that ambiguity deeply satisfying.

What is one thing you’d like to know more about at St. John’s?

What are we doing to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I know what my own personal commitments are, but I am sure that collectively we are doing much more!