Dearly beloved Fathers and Deacons, and all the Sons and Daughters of the Heavenly Father,
As we begin another Church Year and set our hearts and minds to prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord we have the call to refocus all we are and all we do. All God’s faithful love toward us is set forth in Jesus. The events narrated by St. John in the twelfth chapter of his Gospel come to mind: “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’” Those seeking God, with a longing for what would make them whole, but not yet fully in contact with the source of their life, reached out to find Him. We can think deeply on the words of the Apostle Paul, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2). To keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith, as Saint Paul says in Hebrews 12, requires great diligence and God’s Own help at every step of the way. But He is our joy and peace, our life and our way forward.
Many other things will crowd out our orientation to Life. Corruption in the world as well as awareness of our own weaknesses will draw us away into all kinds of other concerns, and obscure the Light. All that is broken and warped around us can stir up in us anxiety, depression and distress. This is the demonic mission: to bring us into despair and misery by taking away our hope, our joy, and our peace. But we and all to whom we bear witness should instead look to Jesus always.
There are many challenges to doing so: the obscene demands and assertions of Gnosticism, of Nihilism, of postmodern Critical Theory in all its various forms, in all kinds of brandings of Marxism, of transgenderism and transhumanism which seek to obliterate the image of God in us rather than perfecting it, and in all the various programs and agendas which attempt to generate disorder and fragmentation, both in society and in our own souls and minds. The various aspects of the “Great Reset,” the “New World Order,” or however that ideology is framed at any given moment, and the new religions of Radical Environmentalism, Radical Feminism, and the proliferation of all kinds of occult practices and ideas all threaten to corrode and diminish us if we let them. All of these and many more will draw us away and lead us to the place of frustration and despair. Added to this, “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6), in Ukraine and elsewhere, are laid out before us.
In the midst of all of these kinds of concerns – social, economic, political, spiritual (and really all of them are ultimately spiritual, because all areas of life are under the authority of Christ the King) – in all of these things we bring back to Christ everything that we have and all we are. We place all things into His hands. He and He alone will give us peace, wholeness, completion, true abiding joy, and lasting fulfillment. And this is His will for us: our complete sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3), the movement of healing and growth in us of the unique combination of goodness patterned after Himself in each one. This sharing of life with Jesus is the Church’s language of theosis/deification: that we “might be filled with all the fullness of God” as the apostle says (Eph. 3:19). Or as Saint Peter says, “that we might be made partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) sharing in God’s Own life as fully as that can be shared with creatures. This can all lead us on, bring us forward, instill Christ Himself and then also His hope and peace and joy in us. As we meet the challenges of the early part of the 21st century our peace and joy are bound up with our participation, our adoration, our longing for the God Who is with us, in us, for us, and standing by us in all things,
Unpacking all of what that means requires careful, thoughtful meditation over a long period of time. But it is a growth, the development, unpacking, and unfolding of God’s harvest of goodness in us. As we move forward into the future with our eyes set upon Jesus, we know it is a future found and bound up with Christ, His will, and His providential care applied to each one of us with perfect care and unfailing wisdom and love. So, as we orient ourselves repeatedly back, we fine-tune everything to bring it into harmony with Christ our God. We recognize and bring to the surface of our awareness by prayer and adoration of Jesus, that all things that are good have the fingerprints of Almighty God upon them. They are reflections of the distant country which is our inheritance and our true home, to use language found throughout the Scriptures. Let us have peace, joy, and satisfaction through awareness of the goodness of God in all things. We ask that He might stir up our hearts to thankfulness and to a gratitude for His gifts that overflows in self-giving love for one another!
As we head into 2023, there are also so many aspects of potential growth for us as a diocese and as Christ’s Church! New clergy from other jurisdictions or communities, and new missions or parishes are also being established or considered. The people gathered around Christ in the Lake of the Ozarks, cared for by Fr. James Long, are one example. Possibilities for new parishes in northeast Iowa to join our diocese are also being examined and pursued. We also have several clergy in the process of joining our diocesan family. Please pray for many new possibilities to develop and grow, that many looking for the fulness of Christ’s Church will be gathered with us, that many new vocations to the offices of subdeacon, deacon, and priest would grow also in our midst, and that all possible ways of making the emergence of those vocations, and seminary training for them, would prosper among us, too. Please pray especially for the further development and expansion of St Bede’s Anglican Catholic Theological College.
Finally, pray for fruitful developments on many fronts where we are engaged in ecumenical dialogues, or are preparing to do so: with the Polish National Church and the Union of Scranton; with the Orthodox Church in America; the Anglican Vicariate of the Orthodox Archdiocese of America; with diocese and priests and parishes from other Anglican bodies seeking after God but not in communion with us; and with various groups among other Christian bodies willing to engage in discussions with us. Some of these discussions will, at the very least, mean common work in public statements on matters of public morality and the defense of standards of Natural Law. Some of these will, we pray, go much further. But please pray earnestly for all to be gathered into one visible Communion and Church, according to the will of God according to Jesus’ Own Words to the Father, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).
A THANK YOU
I want to express a personal thank you to all who helped to prepare for the consecration on November 12th; to all who came and participated in the Liturgy; and to all who sent notes or gifts of support, encouragement, and who extended prayers. By your prayers God, Who is rich in mercy and loving faithfulness, has been very gracious. The outpouring of your love and support means very much to me and is a barometer of the love of Christ at work in you!
While a number of details are still pending, a new domain name and a new website for the Diocese of the Missouri Valley will be coming in the weeks to come. The existing site is inaccessible to us to make changes, and a wholesale reworking of the site is therefore in process of being arranged. Please look for details in the weeks and months to come! The St. John’s Cathedral website has already been redone. A new domain name for that was required, with the change to www.stjohnscathedralquincy.com . The Facebook page for the DMV is also in process of being worked on. Suggestions for all of these things are welcome.
With all of those things in mind, there are a number of appointments which need to be made, and which we are here therefore announcing. Canon John Armstrong has, according to the diocesan canons, been re-appointed as Canon Missioner for the diocese. With Fr. Chad Hart leaving the diocese, we are in need of a Chancellor. Archbishop Falk has generously agreed to serve in this position for the present. Appointments conditionally made at the last Synod are here confirmed: Mr. Michael Ift as Diocesan Treasurer, Mrs. Janie Burgett as Diocesan Secretary, and Sunni Ball as Historiographer, as well as the confirmation of Fr. Jevon Gordon and Mr. Brian Dumble as appointed members of the Standing Committee. Mr. Jeff Jones has agreed to act as our diocesan webmaster, and he will be assisted by Mr. Brian Dumble.
The appointment of a Canon to the Ordinary is still being contemplated, and your prayers for discernment connected to this are desired. Pending, too, will be the position of Dean of the Cathedral. Please keep that also in your prayers, that Our Lord may guide the vestry of St. John’s to a final selection of a good and fitting candidate for this office.
The CLERGY RETREAT will be held in March 14-16 at the Marillac Center in Leavenworth Kansas. After careful consideration and contact with a number of people with expertise in the field, Canon Lee Stafki will be coming to lead the clergy in training connected to Deliverance Ministry, to create greater knowledge and awareness of spiritual warfare, and the process the Church as in place for dealing with various forms of demonic attack and activity. The clergy should watch for final details and registration information connected to this.
There is also the general DMV SYNOD which will be the first full week of June (6-8). It will follow the model that we have followed in the past, with a first evening that includes a time for a clergy gathering and the clergy wives to meet. There will then be a full day of synod, with the synod banquet that Wednesday night after the synod Mass, as we have historically done. The banquet will be at the Town & Country Hotel, with the catering that we have used in the past. The last day will also follow our old pattern: hopefully we will have all of the business done before noon so that people can immediately get back on the road home.
As we therefore gather in Jesus’ holy Name to celebrate, to praise Him, and to ask for His life and goodness to be poured out into our hearts in preparation for a holy Christmass, we do so with confidence in Him. The blessings of His life be upon us and in us always!
Yours in Christ our God,