From the Dean’s Desk: The “D” Word
The Very Reverend Paul Lebens-Englund
In the Episcopal Church, the 'D' word—‘discipleship’—may be even less popular than the ‘E’ word that succeeds it—‘evangelism.’

No doubt these two words can conjure up for us some of the worst abuses of the Christian faith in the public sphere, but we disavow them at our own peril—and, as numerical trends indicate—to our own demise. A ‘disciple’ is simply one who ‘follows’—and, in our case, that means ‘following Jesus.’ An ‘evangelist’ is simply one who‘shares (good) news’— and, in our case, that means ‘sharing the (good) news of Jesus.’ History demonstrates, of course, that this ‘following’ and ‘sharing’ takes many forms, some of which have been exquisite revelations of God's goodness and love, others of which have not. Saint Mark’s is in the business of shaping lives for the former.

In the myriad ways we pray and learn and serve together, Saint Markans are formed as ‘disciples’ and ‘evangelist’ to model and to proclaim to the Good News of Jesus, which is always, as our Presiding Bishop reminds us, ‘loving, liberating, and life-giving.’ As such, we also commit to identify and confront all the forces within and around us that obscure and oppose this Good News. This life assumes a particular shape, a particular posture, and a particular trajectory, which is why members of 'the Jesus Movement' have historically been seen as a ‘counter-culture’— informed by a vision and by values that are always more loving, liberating, and life-giving than is yet true of the world around us.

This letter includes updates on two of the ways Saint Mark’s nurtures this kind of (trans)formation.

Outreach Update

A lot of hard work has already been done during this first month of transition within our Outreach ministries. Following our initial ‘Outreach Summit’ on September 1, our Outreach Commission co-chairs, Jr. Warden, Deacon Rena and ECMN Missioner Rachel have been working with Monday Night Supper and Warm Space leadership in preparation for those ministries to shut down by October 1. This work includes, of course, making sure guests' needs are met so as not to leave a gap in services, gathering data and feedback from guests and volunteers, steering volunteers to similar alternatives with other SMEC direct service ministries (e.g. Sunday Night Supper, Sack Lunches) or with other community organizations.

Please join me in extending your heartfelt gratitude to our Monday Night Supper coordinators, Gregory and Nancy McDaniel, and to the many faithful MNS volunteers who will offer their final MNS meal on September 26. And please join me in extending the same to our Warm Space coordinator, Sally Cuningham, and to the many WS volunteers who will offer their final WS gathering on September 29. Our guests have been informed of alternative meal availability within the neighborhood, so no one will go without food. And our leaders and volunteers are discerning new ministry partnerships, so no one will go without the opportunity to serve. Please keep this hard work in your prayers and stay tuned for ongoing updates throughout the fourth quarter.

So what's next?

Deacon Rena and Missioner Rachel will continue to coordinate our direct service discernment process throughout the remainder of the year, working especially closely with other direct service organizations, including the Downtown Coalition to End Homelessness, St. Stephen’s Homeless Outreach Services, and the Dignity Center at Hennepin Methodist, where they're currently converting their former rectory into a direct service center. On October 13, Deacon Rena and our direct service leadership will attend a ‘Dignity Dialogue’ luncheon at the Dignity Center, which will include representatives from other downtown faith community who desire to build a coordinated effort toward supporting those struggling with chronic hunger and homelessness. And on October 29, Deacon Rena and Missioner Rachel will facilitate a ‘Living in the Green’ discernment retreat for our Outreach leaders and stakeholders at which they’ll set the framework and process for evaluation and decision-making of Saint Mark’s direct service ministries. Following numerous field visits and organizing meetings, your Outreach leaders with synthesize key learnings and recommendations for Cathedral Outreach moving into 2017.

Youth Ministry Update

At the end of this month, eleven (11!) high school youth will begin their journey to affirm as adults in the church the baptismal vows that were offered on their behalf as children. Three more youth who have already been confirmed have chosen to walk this journey alongside them as mentors. Their confirmation program starts off with an all-family meal together on Tuesday, September 27, then a kick-off retreat up north in early October. Our classes are intentionally Ecumenical and Interfaith, with an added emphasis on Episcopal ethos and pathos, along with a deep look at the Baptismal Covenant and what it means in our daily lives, planting the seeds for lifelong learning and serving. Also included in this are several experiences and events designed for reflection of personal faith and community relationships in the larger church.

Our Confirmation class includes Sagon, Ella, Harper, Archie, Memphis, James, Justus, Isaac, Luke, Will, and Reed.

Our Youth Mentors are Silje, Jonah, and CJay.

And our Teachers are Stacey Olson, Tim Kingsley, Rev. Siri, and Dean Paul.

As a show of your support, along with your prayers, we welcome personal letters of encouragement for the class and/or for individuals. Please give these to any clergy or directly to Stacey so the letters may be shared.

And thanks, in advance, for your prayers, encouragement, and direct support along the Way, for surely making Disciples and sharing Good News takes the very best each of us has to offer!