Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As we prepare for our Diocesan Convention November 4-5, where we will gather around the theme of “I Love to Tell the Story,” I am quite mindful that a new chapter in the story of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is being written in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and the response we are making. We are in the process of adjusting some of the activities and program for both the Ministry Fairs and the Convention itself to take into account this reality in the life of our diocese. One of the main agenda items for Convention is the Diocesan Budget, of course, and each year the Diocesan Council goes through a discernment process that generates a proposed budget. We then present the proposed budget for consideration, both through the detailing of the actual numbers and a narrative (or story) that tries to put into words the meaning of the numbers for our common life and ministry as a diocese.
This year, Irene interrupted the process of preparing that budget narrative, leading us to rethink the story we were trying to tell. We decided to tell the story through the eyes of the storm, the flooding and most of all the response we have made as The Episcopal Church in Vermont. I have chosen to devote my Mountain Echo column this month to the words from the introduction to the Narrative Budget. Several voices have helped craft this part of our story, chief among them Angie Emerson, and many more voices have shaped it by the living out of their faith in countless generous ways. You can read the full narrative budget on line at www.diovermont.org and examine the budget numbers elsewhere in this edition of the Mountain Echo.
Hear then, some words from this chapter of “our story.”
2012 Narrative Budget Introduction:
“Irene has come and gone, but the lives of many Vermonters—including many in our Diocese—will never be the same. Human lives, livestock, pets, homes, cars, businesses, farms and much more were lost. But into the trauma, the devastation, the despair and vulnerability came hundreds of Vermonters with open hearts and helping hands. Among those responding with a spirit of love and determination to ensure that hope triumphed over that despair were people from the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont.
“Our connection and commitment to each other and to the world we serve is best captured in the “Freeway Relay:” a tangible way that many congregations along major routes of travel have connected to each other and to people in need. Money, gift cards, clothes, food, tools, personal care kits, juice, masks, fresh flowers, gloves, brown bag lunches—simple items yet having profound impact—have been collected and relayed down the highway and distributed to those in need.
“In the midst of a dark and seemingly never-ending tragedy—a Good Friday experience—the Freeway Relay gave Episcopalians a way both to connect with each other and to be the light of Christ to their neighbors. We have met each other in parking lots and food pantries and parish halls and operation centers as we have relayed supplies and food from one end of the state to the other as one body with many moving parts, each essential to the whole. We are the living breathing moving loving and responsive Diocese of Vermont.
“The month of September was an experience of small and large congregations combining efforts, offering to share the unique special gifts and resources that each had to give in the face of this tragedy. We responded as the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, and we have made a difference in the lives of God’s people. Reports continue to come in from many communities that “Episcopal Church” is a daily phrase that, when spoken aloud, is met with prayers of thanksgiving from those we serve.
“We are the Episcopal Church in Vermont, and we believe that this Good Friday experience will be transformed into a Resurrection experience, one that continues to deepen our ties and commitment to each other in order to strengthen our mission to be God’s hands and feet in the world. The people whose lives we have touched do not see a structure or bureaucracy but a “freeway” of people and gifts and resources that moved and will continue to move into their lives.
“The world needs our witness to the power of God at work, taking what is offered by human hands and labor, blessing it, and giving it a power that only comes from God. We continue to live out our baptismal vows, relying on God’s grace and faithfulness. We embark on this mission of aid and recovery even as we continue work and programs long underway, knowing that God gives to us all that we need to be faithful—today, tomorrow, and into the future.”