July 27, 2015

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

Last Monday I climbed a six foot ladder to remove Spanish moss from an orange tree. The ladder could not support my weight. A leg of the aluminum ladder bent and down I crashed. I landed on thick and soft grass, but I severely pulled muscles in my back, around the right shoulder blade. I am much better today, but Monday through Friday I was in a lot of pain.

During that time I had difficulty thinking of anything other than relief from the pain. Thought and energy focused on finding remedies. When I wanted to take on an activity or even think or write about a topic, the pain intervened. God wants us to take our health for granted. In so doing we accomplish other things. Those of us in good health are often unaware of the mental despair of those in poor health. A sad dimension of illness is it dominates a person’s thinking and retards hopes and dreams.

Perhaps more than any other Christian denomination, the Episcopal Church’s clergy and laity excel in ministering to those who are shut-ins, sick, or in the last stages of life. We are sometimes accused of spending (or wasting) time on the elderly at the expense of evangelism of young or middle aged potential members. It is obvious we should care for the ill and shut-ins AND do what we can to evangelize, but if we must choose which is more important?

The primary purpose of the Church is to get us from point A (birth) to point B (death) in a meaningful way. Clergy and lay leaders need to care for parishioners right to the end of each person’s life. To ignore this for any other purpose, regardless of how noble, is not in keeping with the Gospel. Perhaps in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, we Episcopalians should inform those who consider joining us that we are a Church that takes care of all of its people—right to the end of this earthly life. This includes those our society marginalizes or no longer finds useful. The aged, sick, and shut-ins are clearly in this group. I thank the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Eau Claire who do such a fine job providing pastoral care for our members. You are Jesus’ hands and feet! With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,