The Rev. Eliacín Rosario-Cruz called as Cathedral Canon

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A Message from Dean Thomason

Dear friends,

It is my great delight to share the exciting news that The Reverend Eliacín Rosario-Cruz has accepted the call to serve as Canon and Priest Associate at Saint Mark’s Cathedral. Eliacín (pronounced “ay-lee-uh-SEEN”) is no stranger to Saint Mark’s, having served as Adult Faith Formation Associate here 2005–2008, and he was ordained a priest in the cathedral in 2015. Since ordination he has served St. Luke’s~San Lucas Episcopal Church in Vancouver, WA, and, more recently, as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Snohomish since September, 2017.

He is a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, and is also a trainer with the College for Congregational Development. His interests include intercultural competency in congregational systems, intersectional justice, and liberation theology. He is a native of Puerto Rico, and his bilingual gifts figure prominently in his ministry.

As Cathedral Canon he will join fellow clergy in our collaborative design of parish ministry, taking his place as preacher, pastor, and teacher, while also serving as a member of the senior leadership team exercising administrative leadership as well. Eliacín’s passion for restorative justice and systemic change lends well to his playing a key and timely role in our community’s efforts in that expression of ministry, and I look forward to his witness and voice in our midst as we plot the course forward together. His first day at Saint Mark’s will be October 26, 2021.

Please join me in welcoming Eliacín, his wife Ricci Kilmer, and their three teenagers, Catherine (Catie) Rosario-Kilmer, Eliacín Gabriel Rosario-Kilmer, Elías Oscar Rosario-Kilmer.

The Very Rev. Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector


A Message from The Reverend Eliacín Rosario-Cruz

Dear friends,

It is with great joy that I have accepted the call to join you in ministry and service at Saint Mark’s. I am looking forward to being in community with you. I accepted this call because of your intentional desire to be agents of justice and love in the community with integrity and creativity. I am thrilled to join you in the many ways you show God’s love to your neighbors. See you soon!

Que el Señor omnipotente y misericordioso: Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo, los bendiga y los guarde. Amén.

—The Rev. Eliacín Rosario-Cruz

Community Conversation on the Formation Consultant’s Report

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UPDATE: Community Forum on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 6:30–8 p.m., via Zoom

Community Conversation on the Formation Consultant’s Report

In May and early June of this year, we held several Listening Groups with our Formation Consultant, Jamie Martin Currie, who captured a great deal of information and insights from these groups and the parish survey (which had more than 200 providing input). Thanks to all who participated. The report delivered in late June has a great deal of information and several recommendations which we have embraced, and all in the Saint Mark’s community are invited to participate in a follow-up conversation about the report. Join using this Zoom link.

Read the full consultant's report here. 

Read Dean Thomason's initial announcement of this survey below:

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Special Parish Forum on the Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action

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UPDATE: This event has been postponed, and will be offered later in the Fall on a date TBA.


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2021, 6:30–8 p.m.

Hybrid gathering: in Bloedel Hall and via Zoom (registration requested for either option so we can plan accordingly)

Earlier this year the Vestry unanimously adopted the Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action as a guide for our important work as individuals and community as we strive for justice and peace and respect for every human being. It is a substantial document with a broad range of statements leading to actionable ways we are called to live and act in the world. In the special parish forum, to which all are invited and encouraged to attend, we will reflect together, unpack the document, and break into groups which will focus on specific areas of work including

  1. Addressing Homeless and Hunger in Seattle,
  2. Cathedral innovations for Reparations,
  3. Racial Justice and Healing,
  4. Global Justice ministries,
  5. Immigration Ministries, and
  6. Networking with Affiliate Partners in Ministry.

Please register in advance using the form below, whether to plan to attend in person or online via Zoom. If you choose the online option, a Zoom link will be emailed to you directly in the days before the event.

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Following Jesus to a New Counter-Cultural, Post-Pandemic Normal

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SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 2022, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

A Saturday gathering led by Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

The year 2022 is already being called “the year of all things,” as the world attempts to catch up on two years of pandemic postponements. But Jesus, ever attentive to the present moment, calls us to liberation from the tyranny of being overcommitted and offers us the invitation to rest, heal, and be well. This workshop will explore the resources of our faith tradition for grounded and connected life and ministry for all of God’s people.

No fee, but advance registration required


About Bishop Baskerville-Burrows

Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows is the first black woman to be elected a diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church. Before being elected bishop in 2016, she served in the Dioceses of Newark, Central New York, and Chicago.  Bishop Jennifer’s expertise includes historic preservation of religious buildings (with an M.A. in historic preservation planning from Cornell University), stewardship and development, race and class reconciliation, and spiritual direction.

A defining experience of her ministry came when she found herself near the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001. In the midst of a fearful situation, her own faith and that of others who sought shelter alongside her gave her a renewed perspective of faith vanquishing fear. “The Episcopal Church teaches me that the world is filled with incredible beauty and unspeakable pain and that God is deeply in the midst of it all loving us fiercely,” she says.


[The registration form  for this offereing will appear here when it is available.]

Canon Walter Brownridge presents: From Prisoners of Pandemic to Prisoners of Hope

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From Prisoners of Pandemic to Prisoners of Hope: A Day of Reflection on Being Church in our Emerging Reality

SATURDAY, JULY 24, 9:30 A.M.–12 P.M., in-person in Bloedel Hall or virtually via Zoom. Register here or below. 

led by The Rev. Canon Walter Brownridge, Saint Mark’s Theologian-in-Residence

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  —Desmond Tutu

The past 16 months have been traumatic for many of us, and on so many levels. Pandemic, climate signs of foreboding, and a renewed cycle of racial reckoning. As COVID-19 recedes, in some way, we may feel divided. Some of us may feel that our energies are depleted, and others are eager to leave our isolation and enjoy the summer, and life returning to a sense of normalcy.

Yet, this may be a good time reflect and ask questions of meaning, faith, healing, and that big word: Hope. People in the midst of dark times, as the quote from Archbishop Tutu above notes, certainly need hope. I contend that we need hope when coming out of a difficult period and into the unknown. So yes, we must remain Prisoners of Hope. Together we will explore how hope is a muscle—that must be exercised as a spiritual discipline.

This program will be offered in person in Bloedel Hall OR virtually via Zoom. Register to attend using this link or the form below:

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Mutual Ministry Goals Community Meetings

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An Invitation from Dean Thomason


Dear friends,

Come create our new way forward!

Earlier this year the Vestry forged a key document—our Mutual Ministry Goals—which are designed to inform and guide our work as a community. These three goals center upon the work of justice, creation care, and intergenerational ministry as we plot a course of lifelong spiritual formation for every person in this cathedral community. They are intended to touch every aspect of our common life.

So important are these that the Vestry has restructured its Standing Committees to include these three scopes, and every ministry group is being asked to embrace these goals and reflect on the work in light of them. I write today to encourage each household, and each person, to embrace them in your life as well.

To that end, and to learn more about the goals and action items arising from them, we have community meetings planned in the coming weeks via Zoom. You are welcome to attend any or all; I encourage each person who claims Saint Mark’s as your spiritual home to attend at least one of these. Here is the schedule:

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Presiding Bishop, House of Deputies President issue statement on Indigenous boarding schools

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The Episcopal Church and Indigenous Residential Schools

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Indigenous children across North America were stolen from their families and forced into institutions whose explicit goal was the complete eradication of Native culture, language, and identity—that is, cultural genocide. The Episcopal Church has been complicit in the creation and operation of some of these institutions. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings have released this statement on this shameful history, calling for the creation of "a comprehensive proposal for addressing the legacy of Indigenous schools" within the Episcopal Church, and supporting a process of truth-telling and healing on the national level.

 


Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings issued the following statement regarding Indigenous boarding schools on July 12, 2021.

(Coverage of Executive Council’s June 25–27 meeting where council discussed Indigenous boarding schools is here.)

In Genesis, God conferred dignity on all people by creating them in God’s own image—a belief that is shared by all Abrahamic faiths. We are grieved by recent discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children on the grounds of former boarding schools, where Indigenous children experienced forced removal from their homes, assimilation and abuse. These acts of cultural genocide sought to erase these children’s identities as God’s beloved children.

We condemn these practices and we mourn the intergenerational trauma that cascades from them. We have heard with sorrow stories of how this history has harmed the families of many Indigenous Episcopalians.

While complete records are unavailable, we know that The Episcopal Church was associated with Indigenous schools during the 19th and 20th centuries. We must come to a full understanding of the legacies of these schools.

As chair and vice-chair of Executive Council, and in consultation with our church’s Indigenous leaders, we pledge to make right relationships with our Indigenous siblings an important focus of the work of Executive Council and the 80th General Convention.

To that end, we commit to the work of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities in our church. We pledge to spend time with our Indigenous siblings, listening to their stories and history, and seeking their wisdom about how we can together come to terms with this part of our history. We call upon Executive Council to deliver a comprehensive proposal for addressing the legacy of Indigenous schools at the 80th General Convention, including earmarking resources for independent research in the archives of The Episcopal Church, options for developing culturally appropriate liturgical materials and plans for educating Episcopalians across the church about this history, among other initiatives.

We also commend Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on her establishment of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative and the effort to “shed light on the traumas of the past.” The Episcopal Church is also working to support legislation that will establish a truth and healing commission on Indian boarding school policy, which would complement the Department of the Interior’s new initiative.

As followers of Jesus, we must pursue truth and reconciliation in every corner of our lives, embracing God’s call to recognition of wrongdoing, genuine lamentation, authentic apology, true repentance, amendment of life and the nurture of right relationships. This is the Gospel path to becoming beloved community.

—Office of Public Affairs of the Episcopal Church, July 12, 2021

 

Above: Girls at St. Mary's Episcopal Mission School, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, MRL 10: G.E.E. Lindquist Papers, 60, 1483, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Can be viewed at http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu:443/catalog/burke_lindq_060_1483

Juneteenth Service of Freedom & Healing, 2021

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Diocese of Olympia Circles of Color Present: Juneteenth Service of Freedom and Healing | Saturday, June 19, 2021, 12:30 p.m. 

Offertory donations support the Richard Younge Curates of Color Fund which was established to honor the ministry of the Rev. Richard Younge and to support the ongoing formation of newly ordained people of color in the Diocese of Olympia.

Please write "Juneteenth" in the memo line. Give using: saintmarks.org/give or venmo.com/saintmarkscathedralseattle or mail a check to: 1245 10th Ave E, Seattle WA 98109


This liturgy is created and presented by the Circles of Color of the Diocese of Olympia. ecww.org/event/juneteenth-healing-service/

Learn more here: ecww.org/ethnic-ministries-circles-of-color-in-the-diocese-of-olympia/

LEAFLETS

  • The Service Leaflet contains all you need to fully participate in each liturgy from home.

COFFEE HOUR

  • Virtual Coffee Hour: Immediately following the Sunday morning service, everyone is welcome to gather in a Virtual Coffee Hour over Zoom. Join using this link.
  • Monthly Newcomers Coffee (first Sunday of every month only): Immediately following the Sunday morning service, come meet people and ask questions at a special virtual coffee hour with clergy over Zoom. Join using this link. The next offering will be Sunday, July 4.

NEWSLETTER

  • The weekly cathedral newsletter contains important announcements, offerings, and events. Click here to add yourself to cathedral emails lists.

IN-PERSON ATTENDANCE

  • Limited in-person worship has now resumed. You must register in advance to attend in person. Read more, including how to register for an upcoming service, here.

OTHER WAYS TO WATCH

  • If you experience any problems with the video player on this page, you may wish to try joining the simultaneous stream on Facebook or YouTube instead.

ARCHIVES 

  • Video of past services can be seen here.
  • Audio and printed text of sermons can be found here.

Support the Mission and Ministry of Saint Mark's Cathedral

If you watch and enjoy our live-streamed or archived services, please consider making a donation in support of the mission and ministry of this cathedral.

You may also donate using the Venmo mobile app from your smartphone (search for @SaintMarksCathedralSeattle ) Thank you for your generosity.

Looking for the Livestream video archive? It now has its own page here

An Introduction to Saint Mark’s Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action

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On May 25, 2021, the cathedral Vestry unanimously adopted a Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action, a revised and expanded statement of principals for this community.

This document has been in the works for many months, and builds on the cathedral's 2016 Statement, titled Renewing Our Covenant—which for many years has been posted on the church's front doors—and A Covenant to Root Out Racism, created in Diocese of Missouri and adopted by the Diocese of Olympia at the 2020 Diocesan Convention.

Here is a brief (2-minute) video by Senior Warden Peter McClung, describing the documents origins and goals. A transcript of the video can be read below.

TRANSCRIPT

I am pleased to present on behalf of your Cathedral Vestry the Saint Mark’s Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action.

Over four-and-a-half years ago, the Vestry of Saint Mark’s articulated our commitments as a parish in the original version of this document, which after its adoption in December of 2016 became a banner and description of our work in our community and world. The commitments we made drove new and re-energized ministries and outreach, including deep engagement with the Sanctuary movement, refugees, and those in our community like Lowell Elementary School, just to name a few.

In October of last year, the Diocese of Olympia at our Annual Convention adopted Resolution Number 9, an Anti-Racism Covenant developed by Bishop Deon Johnson and the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, with a recommendation to adopt it within the parish communities within our diocese.

Since then, a subcommittee of the Vestry including Vestry members and clergy have reviewed these two documents to discern and align them into a reframed Saint Mark’s Statement. The result of that work has recently been approved by the Vestry, and it is delivered to you today in the Saint Mark’s Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action.

You will immediately notice that a large section of the Statement presented to you laments actions by the church and individuals, both currently and in the past. These laments are not only an acknowledgment of actions of the past but a current participation in the pain suffered by those within our community.

In addition to the laments, the Commitment to Action section is broader than previously stated, with greater inclusion of people, communities, and ministries tied directly to our three mutual ministry goals of our parish: Creation Care and Carbon Reduction, Restorative Justice and Systematic Change, and Innovative and Intergenerational Community.

All of us within your Vestry hope you take the time to read and reflect on this Statement of Lament and Commitment to Action and that upon your reflection, your soul is sparked to join together in the important work of our community.

Dean’s Message on Land Acknowledgment

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Dean Thomason sent the following message to the community regarding the creation and intention behind the cathedral's Land Acknowledgment. Much more information can be found at Saint Mark's Land Acknowledgment page.


A Message from Dean Thomason

Dear friends,
You may have noticed in recent months more occasions when we have begun our worship or meetings with a Land Acknowledgment:

Saint Mark’s Cathedral acknowledges that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Duwamish Tribe. 

Over the last year a Vestry-appointed ad hoc group has worked to develop the Land Acknowledgment we are now using. It was adopted unanimously by the cathedral Vestry in April of this year, and every group at Saint Mark’s—every ministry, every gathering, every committee—is encouraged to begin your time together with this Land Acknowledgment. The Vestry is committed to this action and many more as we seek to deepen our relationship with and support for the Duwamish People. You can read more about that, and the process that led to this action, on the website, but I hope and expect you will embrace this work as well, with intention.

Words matter, and this is the work of justice to which we are called as a community of faith, and as individuals. If it feels awkward at first to say the words, as I suspect it might for some, I beseech you to press on, keep saying them, and remain open to the conversion that can happen when the words help form you into a new awareness.

In my conversation with Duwamish tribal chair (and descendent of Chief Seattle) Cecile Hansen as part of this process, she spoke of the tribe’s desire to gain federal recognition; the desire to see the economic, ecological, and social harms perpetrated against her people be corrected; the desire to be in relationship with groups like Saint Mark’s Cathedral who are willing to recognize and respect the first peoples of the land on which we gather. I assured her of our commitment to that relationship and that respect for her and the Duwamish people. I made that commitment on behalf of this wonderful community, and I hope you will stand with me and the Vestry in this cause. There is much more to come.

Your Brother in Christ,

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector


LINKS

Projecting Justice at Saint Mark’s

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photo by Brian Smale

Justice means they would still be alive today. 

May 25 marks the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, a watershed moment that has re-energized an ongoing nationwide movement and sparked an urgent conversation about the role of policing in our state. In Washington, about 40-50 members of our communities—disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, and AAPI—are killed each year by police officers. That must change.

Beginning on May 25, the Saint Mark’s cathedral building will become a public monument. With the approval of the Vestry, and in collaboration with the ACLU of Washington State, the names of citizens killed by police will be projected onto the façade of the cathedral, in letters over three feet high. With the exception of George Floyd, all the names will be people from Seattle and Western Washington. In this way, Saint Mark’s will use its most visible asset—the cathedral building itself—to “say their names” in this extraordinarily public way, in order to spark discussions and move towards meaningful change in our own community and region.

In the 2021 legislative session, ACLU-WA collaborated with the Washington Coalition on Police Accountability, a coalition which centers the voices of impacted family members whose loved ones have been killed by police. Their work seeks to bring us towards justice by preventing the unnecessary and unjust killing of others by police. Through lobbying, organizing, and policy efforts, the Washington state legislature passed 14 bills on policing, aimed at reducing police violence.  

Special thanks to Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) for designing and building our equipment.

Learn more: 

ProjectingJustice.org

Washington Coalition for Police Accountability 

Washington Coalition for Police Accountability Facebook 

ACLU-WA Policing Blog Series 


Updates:

This article contains reflections by Dean Thomason on meeting the family of Herbert Hightower Jr., who visited the cathedral to see their loved one's name projected on May 26.


Victims and Dates of Light Projections: 

May 25 – George Floyd
May 27 – Tommy Le and Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens
May 28 – Joel Nelson and Billy Langfitt 
May 29 – Iosia Faletogo and Samuel Toshiro Smith
May 30 – John T. Williams and Stoney Chiefstick
May 31 – Renee DavisCecil Lacy Jr, and Daniel Covarrubias
June 2 – Leonard Thomas and Said Joquin
June 4 – Enosa “EJ” Strickland and Giovonn Joseph-McDade 
June 5 – Matthew Folden and Patrick West
June 6 – Ryan Smith, Damarius Butts, Che Taylor, and Shaun Fuhr 
June 7 – Kevin Peterson Jr, Clando Anitok, and Carlos Hunter 
June 8 – Juan Rene Hummel, Clayton Joseph, Oscar Perez Giron, and Michael Pierce

INFORMATION ABOUT THE NAMED INDIVIDUALS

NOTE: Additional information to be added soon.

Click photos to enlarge

MAY 26

  • photo by Brian Smale

    Charleena Lyles weighed 100 pounds. She was 14 weeks pregnant with three of her 4 children at home when she was killed by Seattle police. Police allege she was holding a paring knife.  They had recently been to her apartment and were aware she struggled with behavioral health issues.  

  • Herbert Hightower Jr. was killed in 2004 by Seattle police while experiencing a mental health crisis. Police claimed Herbert had two knives when they approached him and have changed their story multiple times, first stating that Herbert was walking towards them and they were remorseful for not using non-lethal weapons, then changing it to he was running towards them and they were no longer remorseful. The family learned one of the knives claimed to be found on the scene was a round-edged butter knife. The family still does not know what happened, and no one has been held accountable. Herbert was only 25 years old.  

MAY 27

  • photo by David Wagner

    Tommy Le was shot and killed by police in Burien in 2017. The King County Sheriff's office initially claimed that he was shot while charging at the police with a knife. They later admitted the no knife was involved at all, and that he was shot in the back. An autopsy suggests that he was in fact lying face down on the ground when he was shot. He was 20 years old, 5'4" tall, and described by his family as "nerdy." Office of Law Enforcement Oversight found "serious gaps" in the investigation into the killing, and King County settled a lawsuit with his family in March of 2021. 

  • Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens was 17 years old when he was shot in the back while running away from plainclothes police officers in Des Moines, WA, in a botched sting operation in 2017. Mi'Chance was completely innocent of any crime whatsoever—the police were attempting to arrest another teenager (who, as it happens, was also innocent). It is unclear if he ever knew that the men attacking him were police. King County apologized for the killing, and the case led to the implementation of body cameras and dash cams by the King County Sheriff's Office. But the chain of blunders on the part of the police that led to his death should never have occurred. 

MAY 28

  • Joel Nelson’s death in 2016 should not have occurred. Joel was unarmed and police de-escalation should have been used in his incident. The Thurston County Sheriff needs to learn from Joel’s case and implement a transparent process for investigations. Five years later conflicts of interest proving family relationships involved in the Sheriff’s office are still a major role in investigations.
  • Billy Langfitt was 28 years old when he was killed by a Pierce County Sheriff Deputy near Graham Washington, in 2018. Billy was experiencing a mental health crisis and was unarmed when he was shot. The deputy made no effort to de-escalate or use less lethal force.   

MAY 29

  • photo by Kevin Johnson

    Iosia Faletogo was shot by Seattle Police officers the afternoon of December 31, 2018. He was pulled over for a traffic stop and fled the scene on foot. Six officers chased him, tackled him, and held him down. He had a gun on his person, and complied with commands to drop it and not reach for it. One officer shot him point blank in the head, although the officers heard Iosia say “not reaching.”

  • Samuel Toshiro Smith was severely impaired by drugs and alcohol and holding a knife when he was shot by a police officer in Seattle in 2015. Body camera footage shows that he was killed less than two seconds after being given a warning by police. He had no chance to respond. No attempt was made to calm, de-escalate, control, or simply evade the situation. Non-lethal weapons were not employed. The officer's choice to end Sam's life was not inevitable.   

MAY 30

  • photo by Jack Storms

    John T. Williams was a seventh-generation woodcarver of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation. On August 30, 2010, a Seattle police officer saw him walking across a street in downtown Seattle holding a small pocket knife, which was later found to be closed at the time. The officer shouted "Hey! Put the knife down!" and less than five seconds after the first "Hey," the officer shot him dead. 

  • Stoney Chiefstick was killed in a crowd gathered for a fireworks celebration on July 3, 2019, in Poulsbo, Washington. The officer who killed him made no effort at all to de-escalate and instead rushed him and killed him. There was no conversation, no effort to move the crowd, no use of alternatives. He was alleged to have had a screwdriver. Stoney Chiefstick’s death was unnecessary.  

MAY 31

  • photo by Jack Storms

    Renee Davis was killed in her own bed in October of 2016 by two King County deputies. Those deputies were called for a welfare check and were there to make sure she was safe during a mental health crisis, yet they killed her in the presence of her children. The officers had their guns out before approaching her door, did not de-escalate, take time, or secure the safety of anyone involved before they kicked her bedroom door open and killed her. The officers’ actions were found reasonable.   

  • Cecil Lacy Jr. was killed September 2015 by a Snohomish County Sheriff Deputy and Tulalip tribal police. He was walking, unarmed, committing no crime, having no criminal history. He died from asphyxia while prone, cuffed, with the deputy sheriff on his back. Cecil’s last words were “I CAN’T BREATHE.” Cecil was killed on his own reservation. Cecil left three kids, a wife, mother, grandchildren.   
  • Daniel Covarrubias was killed in Lakewood in April 2015, holding a cell phone when he was killed and the officers took no effort to use de-escalation tactics. He was in a mental health crisis. He was killed within seconds of officers arriving on the scene. The shooting was deemed justified by the department. 

JUNE 1

  • Jackie Salyers was killed by Tacoma Police Department, the officers shooting at the vehicle she was allegedly driving towards them, claiming their lives were in danger. This death and cover up in early 2016 illustrates the failures of police investigating police, and the disregard for Native Americans. Native Americans have the highest rate of fatal encounters with police.   
  • Bennie Branch was checking on his mother who was living in her vehicle at the time, when Bennie was shot and killed by Tacoma Police Department. This shooting in September 2019 has so many facts in dispute, it needs an independent investigation, and a jury to weigh these facts. Bennie was unarmed and shot in his back while running away.

JUNE 2

  • Leonard Thomas was unarmed, holding his son, when a SWAT sniper shot him in Fife Washington on the porch of his home in 2013. Three of the officers involved in killing Leonard were found civilly liable in federal court and a jury found that their egregious actions were directly responsible for Leonard’s unnecessary death. All three of these officers have been promoted and still have their badges and jobs. 
  • Said Joquin was killed during a Lakewood traffic stop in 2020 by one of the same officers who had been found responsible for the wrongful death of Leonard Thomas seven years earlier. Said was suspected of rolling through a stop sign. Police justified the killing by claiming he had "lowered his hands" after being ordered to keep them in air. The man who was in the passenger seat during the killing says that this is a lie. Officer Mike Wiley should have been removed from the police force after his misconduct in 2013. 

JUNE 3

  • Jesse Sarey was killed in Auburn, WA, on May 31, 2019 by Officer Jeff Nelson, who had multiple complaints of excessive force. Jesse was the third person he killed. The King County prosecutor has filed second degree murder and first degree assault charges and the officer was arrested. Jesse was only 25 years old.
  • Isaiah Obet was, according to claims made by the police, attempting to commit a carjacking in June of 2017, armed with a small knife. Officer Jeff Nelson arrived, ordered his police dog to attack, and shot Isaiah in the chest. While lying on the ground, having been mauled by a dog and with a bullet already in his chest, Isaiah posed no threat. Nevertheless, Officer Nelson stood over Isaiah and fired a second shot directly into his head. The Auburn Police Department awarded Officer Nelson its Medal of Valor for thwarting the carjacking. The City of Auburn settled a lawsuit brought by Isaiah's family for $1.25 million.
  • Brian Scaman was the first of the three people shot by Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson, killed during a traffic stop in 2011. The officer claimed that he was being attacked, and yet Scaman was shot in the back of the head.

JUNE 4

  • Enosa “EJ” Strickland was shot by Auburn police in May 2019 while waiting with police for a ride to pick him up. No crime had been committed. According to the police, Strickland allegedly obtained a knife belonging to one of the officers, although it remains unclear how that happened. The officers  claim they were unable to deescalate or restrain EJ, and instead fired a single shot into the back of his head.  
  • Giovonn Joseph McDade was killed in Kent in a traffic stop in June 2017. He was not committing a crime and was unarmed when he was killed. The vehicular pursuit was unnecessary. He was 20 years old. An officer standing beside Giovonn’s car shot him twice.   

JUNE 5

  • Matthew Folden was killed in Wenatchee in a grocery store parking lot in July 2017. Matt was agitated and is alleged to have threatened people with a pocket knife. He was killed within 13 seconds of the police arriving on the scene. Matt was 31 years old, had a history of drug use and co-occurring mental health issues, was a local musician and tattoo artist, and was a father and part of a loving family.
  • Patrick West was a loving husband, father, son, brother, and friend who suffered from bipolar disorder. Police were called to his home in Montesano in April 2019 for a welfare check when he was experiencing a mental health crisis. Patrick was alone in his own home and had not committed any crime. The local police activated a multi-jurisdictional tactical response team, which surrounded his home with armed officers, snipers, and an armored vehicle.  Patrick was shot in the back and shoulder after tactical officers breached the door to his home with a battering ram. He was holding a piece of steel from his workshop.

JUNE 6

  • Ryan Smith was killed in May 2019 after his girlfriend called 911 saying, "He needs help." Rather than providing help, police broke the door down, and six second later he was shot 12 times, as his girlfriend yelled "do not shoot!" Seattle's Office of Police Accountability concluded both officers had acted in a "lawful and proper" manner. 
  • Damarius Butts was shot and killed by Seattle police following a report of an armed robbery at a downtown convenience store. Nineteen-year-old Butts and his 17-year-old sister reportedly stole doughnuts, chips and a 12-pack of beer, showing the clerk a handgun on the way out. According to police officers chased him, and a police officer was struck in the protective vest with a round. Butts died from multiple gunshot wounds. His family believes that have never found out what really happened.
  • Che Taylor was given conflicting demands by Seattle Police, and he had his hands up when they shot him and left him to bleed to death. He was unarmed. Che was killed in February 2016, and his brother and sister founded Not This Time to advocate for other families facing the difficulties of navigating the system after a police-involved shooting.   
  • Shaun Fuhr was holding his child and running away from police when he was killed in Seattle in April 2020. It appears that deadly force was not necessary and it was used in a reckless and indifferent manner. There were other alternatives that day that would have kept Shaun alive. 

JUNE 7

  • Kevin Peterson Jr. was shot in the back in October 2020, while running away from Clark County Deputies. Kevin was 21 years old. He did not fire a single shot, yet police claimed he fired first, and immediately posted this misinformation on their website. Officers included these lies in their report. Kevin’s life mattered, and the truth matters.   
  • Carlos Hunter was shot and killed in March 2019 while seat belted in his car, dragged to the ground, handcuffed. He was left to bleed to death. The police use the traffic stop to serve a warrant; and the police found no evidence of a crime in their search of his home or car. Carlos was the third Vancouver, Washington resident killed in a three-week stretch. 
  • Clando Anitok was killed in January 2020 in Spokane after an officer attempted to stop him for a missing headlight. A traffic stop turned into a car chase. The officer claims he attempted to use a Taser, but it "malfunctioned." Clando was unarmed. He was shot once in the head.

JUNE 8

  • Juan Rene Hummel was killed in July of 2020 after policed received a call reporting someone slashing tires. (It remains unclear whether Juan or anyone else was actually slashing tires.) He was killed within seconds of encountering the officer. He was 25 years old.
  • Clayton Joseph was 16 years old when he was shot and killed in Vancouver, WA, in February 2019. He was holding a knife at the time. Non-lethal means of stopping him were not attempted.
  • Oscar Perez Giron was killed by a King County Sheriff’s deputy after being removed from a Sound Transit light rail train for failing to pay fare in June 2014. Police claim he pointed a handgun at the police, but his family disputes this version of events.
  • Michael Pierce was killed in February 2019 in Vancouver, WA, while holding what police believed were handguns. The guns turned out to be fake—the officers were never actually in danger. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was living on the street.

Racial Justice Audit and Webinars

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RACIAL JUSTICE AUDIT REPORT & RESOURCES NOW PUBLIC

After two years and more than 1,300 surveys, the ground-breaking Racial Justice Audit of Episcopal Leadership is now available to the wider church and public.

Conducted by the Mission Institute in partnership with The Episcopal Church’s Racial Reconciliation and Justice Team, the audit focused on two key questions: who makes up the leadership of the church; and what are their experiences of race and racism in their leadership roles?  The Mission Institute team mined the data for key insights about race and power and offered long-term recommendations.

The audit identifies nine “patterns” of systemic racism – ranging from the historical context of church leadership to current power dynamics — that will also be highlighted in three public webinars in May and June.

You are invited to read, reflect, and share the full report available here.

Similarly, the executive summary is available here.

The new bilingual Racial Justice Audit website features report information and a host of related resources at this link.

Find other resources and announcements from the Racial Justice Team of the Episcopal Church here.


UPCOMING RACIAL JUSTICE AUDIT WEBINARS:  

The Racial Justice Team is also hosting three webinars introducing the report and diving deeper.  Register for any/all of the webinars by clicking on the dates below, or by visiting the main Racial Justice Audit website.

Dismantling Racism Training from Absalom Jones Center (UPDATED)

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Absalom Jones

WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 6:30 P.M., via Zoom

UPDATE: Follow-up Conversation to Absalom Jones Center “Dismantling Racism” Training

If you participated in a session of the day-long Absalom Jones Center’s “Dismantling Racism” program, come join in a follow-up conversation via Zoom with your fellow Saint Markians. Dean Thomason, Canon Daugherty, and Canon Ross have all taken the training and look forward to talking with others who participated at any point these past three months, to share about our thoughts, feelings, and take-aways. If you would like to join the conversation, please email Canon Ross: nross@saintmarks.org.

And if you are interested in registering for the Absalom Jones Center “Dismantling Racism” training, there are still dates available in the coming months: https://www.centerforracialhealing.org/training  This great program out of Atlanta is focused on increasing racial understanding, healing, and reconciliation. Although there is no charge to take the training, pre-registration is required no later than one week in advance. (And note: it’s offered Eastern Time, so starts at 6 a.m. for us West Coasters!)


TRAININGS VIA ZOOM RUN FROM 6 A.M. TO 1 P.M. PACIFIC TIME
SELECTION OF DATES AVAILABLE, BEGINNING IN AUGUST

CATHEDRAL DISCUSSION GATHERING ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 12

While the world is meeting via Zoom, the Saint Mark’s community has an opportunity to participate in Dismantling Racism Trainings with The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia, focused on increasing racial understanding, healing, and reconciliation. Let’s take advantage of this significant resource – and then share our learning and reflections in an upcoming Zoom gathering on the evening of Wednesday, May 12 at the cathedral! The Absalom Jones Center provides tools and experiences that allow faith communities to engage in dismantling racism through education, prayer, dialogue, pilgrimage, and spiritual formation.

Six people per date from one community are permitted to sign up for a seven-hour training, which is scheduled on many upcoming weekdays and Saturdays. Although there is no charge to take the training, pre-registration is required no later than one week in advance. Register here. (Note that Zoom classes are offered only until it is safe to meet in person again, as classes are filling up quickly, so sooner is better!) Questions? Contact: Canon Nancy Ross: nross@saintmarks.org.

One Service for Turtle Island: A Liturgy for the Diocese of Olympia

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One Service for Turtle Island: A Liturgy for the Diocese of Olympia
SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 11 A.M.
10:00 A.M. - Musical Prelude
11:00 A.M. - Liturgy Begins
12:30 A.M. - Town Hall
Connect here.

In the cosmology of North and South American peoples, Turtle Island is the geographic region covering Canada, United States, Central America, and South America. Join together online Sunday, April 25, at 11:00am to worship Jesus with Episcopalians from all over the Diocese of Olympia led by our Circles of Color and focused on the languages, cultures, and experiences of the First Peoples of Turtle Island, with a specific focus on communities from within Province 8. This online service is a chance for diocesan-wide worship, learning, connection, and conversation, as well as an opportunity to give our working clergy a Sunday off from preaching and presiding.

The One Service will include a Town Hall webinar after worship with Bishop Rickel and members of Circles of Color to process the worship experience and go deeper into dialogue around issues of race and culture in our diocese, with special attention to the experiences of Indo-Hispanic/Indigenous peoples and a specific focus on communities from within Province 8. And join us beginning at 10:00am for a musical prelude featuring music from churches across the diocese! All are welcome, and congregations are encouraged to “attend” together in whatever ways you can – viewing parties, online watch parties, or whatever means are safe and responsible given the state of the pandemic at that time.

Follow the link below for the full schedule and links to access the service and the Town Hall.

FULL SCHEDULE AND LINKS

 

NOTE: Special Saint Mark's Cathedral Worship at 9 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. on April 25
REGISTRATION OPENS 9 A.M. MONDAY, APRIL 19 Registration links found here.
In order that all may participate in the One Service for Turtle Island: A Liturgy for the Diocese of Olympia on April 25 at 11 a.m., the cathedral will offer its Sunday morning liturgy at 9 a.m. on that day, instead of 11 a.m. as usual. This liturgy will be available via livestream at 9 a.m. (with a video recording available soon after the service concludes), or you may register to attend in person. A link to join One Service for Turtle Island at 11 a.m. will be posted on the cathedral's usual livestream page.

UPDATED! Jesus and the Disinherited—Community Lenten Book Study

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Canon Walter Brownridge leads Q&A and concluding reflections 

SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 12:30-2 P.M., via Zoom. Register at this link

 


Introductory presentation by Canon Brownridge occurred SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 1-2 P.M., via Zoom. See video below. 

Community discussion with small breakout groups occurred WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 6:30-8 P.M.

Gather via Zoom on February 28 at 1 p.m. with Saint Mark’s Theologian-in-Residence, The Rev. Canon Walter Brownridge, for an introduction to acclaimed African-American religious leader and theologian Howard Thurman’s legacy (watch here or above). Canon Brownridge’s presentation leads off an invitation to read for Lent Thurman’s foundational work Jesus and the Disinherited, exploring the Gospel as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. (You may recall that Canon Brownridge discussed Thurman in his sermon of January 17.) We will follow up on March 24 for an online discussion of the book together with Saint Mark’s clergy at 6:30–8 p.m.

Howard Thurman was a pastor, teacher, preacher, writer, and mystic. He played a guiding role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. His writings formed the spiritual foundation for the modern, nonviolent civil rights movement and he was a key mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman interprets the teachings of Jesus through the experience of the oppressed and discusses nonviolent responses to oppression.

Register for the concluding discussion on March 24 at this link. Questions? Contact Canon Jennifer Daugherty at jkdaugherty@saintmarks.org.

A Message from Dean Thomason—Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

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Dean Thomason sent an email message to the community on Thursday morning, March 18, regarding hate crimes against Asian Americans—not just in Georgia, but also in our own city, our own neighborhoods, and our own community.

Dear friends,

The news out of Atlanta over the last 36 hours has been a swirl of tragedy, horror, and a distressing series of comments by police that seek to point anywhere but to the fact that these murders were racially motivated. Sex addiction, mental illness, human trafficking, random gun violence—these are threads woven into the news cycle for reasons yet unclear to me—perhaps meant to humanize the alleged perpetrator (we must ask then, for what purpose?), or perhaps police are striving to avoid stoking the embers of racial protests Atlanta saw last summer.

Whatever the motives, and whatever other “isms” may be involved in this mass murder, it is evident that these were racially motivated hate crimes targeting Asian women. What’s more, I have heard from Asian Americans in the Saint Mark’s community in the last 24 hours expressing a real fear for their lack of safety in this time—and yes, in this place…in Seattle where we have heard accounts of violence against Asian Americans precipitated by an insidious xenophobia seeking to lay blame for a viral pandemic. This is not an issue for a city in the Deep South—it is an epidemic that has swept the nation, and lurks in our midst as well—right here, right now.

The Vestry of this Cathedral is on record as denouncing white nationalism which I believe is at the heart of all this hatred and the violence that flows from it. I write this morning, not primarily to comment on the hate crimes in Atlanta (horrific as they are), but to draw on whatever emotional response you may have in this moment in the wake of those murders, and say to you: we have work to do HERE, in Seattle, and at Saint Mark’s.

An estimated ten percent of the Saint Mark’s community are Asian Americans; 14% of Seattle’s population is Asian. It is not okay that they do not feel safe. It is not okay that they feel the need to watch over their shoulder when they go to the grocery store, or to work…or to church. The collective trauma of decades of disrespect, injustice, and racial violence takes its toll, and I wonder how we might awaken to the haunts of racism, not just as a systemic blight on our society, but also really face racism as the very real weight some in our midst must carry relentlessly while others of us do not.

Do we care enough to make it personal?

Here on the eve of Holy Week, I’m mindful that Jesus says, if we are to follow him, it must be personal. What is our response, beyond horror or outrage for a few days before returning to our routines? What is our response collectively as a faith community? What will you do personally?

 

Your Brother in Christ,

 

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector

Anti-Racism for Parents and Children

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During Black History Month, check out the resources and materials made available at The Conscious Kid, an education, research, and policy organization that promotes healthy racial identity development in youth.

Here are some quick tips from them:

  1. Name and take action against white supremacy with kids as early and as often as possible.

  2. Support racial identity as part of healthy child development. It is important to name whiteness, and for white people to identify as “white” in ways that acknowledge racisim in society and give white children models of people who have utilized their power and privilege to take action against racism and oppression.

  3. When questions or comments about race rise in your child, try to understand your child’s thought process, provide factual information and answers, and correct any misinformation rather than dismissing the comment or question. If you get asked a question that you are not sure how to answer, you can model that it's okay not to have all the answers.

Mideast Focus 2021 Film & Discussion Series—”Who’s at the CHECKPOINT?”

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The Mideast Focus Ministry's eighth annual series of film screenings and discussion begins February 19! The theme of this Film Series is "Who's at the Checkpoint?" Like most of the previous series, all events will be via Zoom.

This year's programming has a difference. In response to the U.S. apartheid-like parallels to Palestine in our own country, we will spend some evenings linking to Black Lives Matter and the story of Indigenous people in America. See the complete schedule with details of each film here.

Restrictions imposed by the film's distributors mean that the instructions will vary from film to film. Check the webpage for details as they become available. Join each post-film discussion using this Zoom link.


Schedule of films:

FEBRUARY 19  •  Advocate

MARCH 5  •  East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem

MARCH 19  •  There is a Field

APRIL 9  •  'Til Kingdom Come

APRIL 23  •  Promised Land

MAY 7  •  Mayor

MAY 21  •  The Present (with a selection of shorts)

Details may be found here.

The Doctrine of Discovery: The Episcopal Church, Indigenous Peoples, and the Necessity of Decolonizing Christianity

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UPDATE: Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a recording of this presentation.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 7–8:30 P.M., via Zoom

A Presentation and Discussion with The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton

The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton

Saint Mark’s welcomes The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, who is Shackan First Nation, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett, and Coordinator of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color.

The Doctrine of Discovery historically informed the legal premise for justifying the forces of colonialism, including the enslavement of African and Asian peoples as well as the oppression and genocide of indigenous peoples. Rev. Taber-Hamilton will share the historical development of the Doctrine of Discovery, the historical role of the Church, and real-world contemporary examples of its continuing impact. The Doctrine of Discovery remains embedded in the legal policies of the U.S. and colonized nations throughout the world, policies that maintain the theological, political, and legal justification for continued neo-colonialism, including the seizure of land, genocide, oppression, and racism.

The Episcopal Church National Convention in 2009 formally renounced the doctrine and urged dioceses’ reflection and action. Come learn how allies can help deconstruct the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery as a social force in our Church, in our nation, and in our world.

Read More

Church Leaders Respond to Political Violence

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The shocking (if unsurprising) events of January 6 have occasioned countless responses from faith leaders in The Episcopal Church and beyond. A selection of those responses, including the messages from Dean Thomason and Bishop Rickel, are collected here for convenience.

 

Presiding Bishop Curry – Call to Prayer for the Nation

Presiding Bishop Curry – “Who Shall We Be?”

Bishop Budde and Dean Hollerith on Election Violence

Announcing the Cathedral’s Theologian-in-Residence for 2021

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UPDATE: Rev. Brownridge's first sermon for Saint Mark's will be offered during the 11 a.m. liturgy on Sunday, January 17

A MESSAGE FROM DEAN THOMASON

Dear friends,

It is my delight to share the news that The Rev. Canon Walter B.A. Brownridge will serve as Saint Mark’s Theologian-in-Residence during 2021. In this role, which is grant-funded and was delayed several months due to the pandemic, Canon Brownridge will bring his manifold gifts and considerable experience as he engages the cathedral community at periodic intervals as theologian, priest, preacher, teacher, and ministry consultant. We look forward to his presence among us, which will be virtual until pandemic restrictions allow for him to travel to Seattle safely.

Canon Brownridge writes:

“I am looking forward to taking a journey with you in 2021. As followers of Jesus Christ we are invited to participate in God’s mission of bringing a reversal in our society which reflects the Dream of God. It is my hope that I can in some small way assist in discerning how God is calling, and equipping, Saint Mark’s Cathedral to become more like God’s Beloved Community.”

Canon Brownridge was recently called by the Bishop of Vermont to serve as Canon to the Ordinary and Canon for Cultural Transformation for that diocese. He begins that role in the new year, transitioning from his current post as Associate at Christ Church, Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He formerly served as Associate Dean of the School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee, and I came to know him during his five years as Dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu. Earlier in his ministry, he served as a Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, as the nation transitioned from apartheid rule. Prior to ordination, he practiced law as a federal prosecutor and in the area of public policy development. Canon Brownridge is a contributor to the recently published book, Preaching Black Lives (Matter) (July 2020, Church Publishing). His essay/sermon is titled “On the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of the Arrival of the First Enslaved Africans to British North America.”

Canon Brownridge is scheduled to preach on Sunday, January 17, 2021, and will lead a portion of the Vestry retreat in February. As the year unfolds, he will preach periodically, teach, consult with ministry leaders, staff and vestry, and serve as facilitator of theological reflections and consultant for curricular visioning with a special focus on the cathedral’s efforts to address systemic racism.

I look forward to Walter engaging our community at regular intervals in the course of next year, and I hope you will join me in welcoming him. I am,

Gratefully yours,

 

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason, Dean & Rector

Post-Election Book Discussion: Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times

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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 7–8:00 P.M.

Post-Election Book Discussion:
Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times - Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s New Book!

Let’s gather after the election and talk about hope for the future in a real, Jesus-centered way! As the descendant of slaves and the son of a civil rights activist, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's life illustrates massive changes in our times. In his new book, he uses the prism of his faith, ancestry, and personal journey to show us how America came this far and how to go a whole lot further. The way of love is essential for addressing the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing this nation today: poverty, racism, selfishness, deep ideological divisions, competing claims to speak for God. Let’s get some love going and talk about the PB’s charge and challenge together! If you’d like to hear more about the book, read here. Registration required here.

Watch Party and Discussion of Documentary “13th”

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MONDAY, OCTOBER 19

5:30 P.M. • MOVIE WATCH PARTY OVER ZOOM; 7:15 – 8:15 P.M. POST-FILM DISCUSSION OVER ZOOM

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED! A USEFUL DISCUSSION/REFLECTION GUIDE MAY BE SEEN HERE

Gather together online to watch and then discuss the profound documentary “13th,” filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s exploration of the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the mass incarceration of African Americans. Scholars, activists, and politicians analyze the history of criminalization of African Americans and the intersection of race, justice, and the prison-industrial complex. If you’ve already watched the documentary, join us later at 7:15 – 8:15 on Zoom for a discussion of what this means for us, and what our responsibility is to work to change this system. Registration for both movie and discussion are the same, and are required here. Want to know more? Great article in The Atlantic here, and Ava DuVernay discusses the film with Oprah here.

United for Good: An Interfaith Election Contemplative Prayer Vigil Co-Sponsored by Saint Mark’s

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Click on the flyer image below to enlarge.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2020,  6:30 P.M., watch live here or on the Saint Mark's livestream page

This event is co-sponsored by Saint Mark's, St. James Catholic Cathedral, Temple de Hirsch Sinai, First African Methodist Episcopal, and the Church Council of Greater Seattle

Please join with Dean Thomason, virtually, as Saint Mark’s cosponsors this event with Temple DeHirsch Sinai, First AME Church, St. James Cathedral, and Church Council of Greater Seattle. Amidst the cacophonous noise of round-the-clock spin and the restless ticking of our anxious hearts, we gather in prayerful solidarity to settle our souls, as people of faith and citizens concerned for the well-being of our nation. As we pray for wisdom and grace, healing and connection, we draw on the broad and ancient wisdom to be still, entering the contemplative spirit that transcends word and speech, and rest for a moment of inspiration and intentional grounding. For more information, click here.

Voting, Politics, and the Church: A Message from Dean Thomason

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dear friends,

This Friday, October 16th, marks the opening day in this state for early voting in the November 3rd general election. As I consider my own ballot, I find myself prayerfully mindful of the right and privilege I have as a voting citizen in this nation. Not everyone is afforded the right, restrained either by law or by impediments of disenfranchisement or disinterest.

I am especially mindful of our nation in these turbulent days and prayerful for a peaceful election. I bid your prayers, too, that we may be given grace to be guided “by the better angels of our nature,” as Abraham Lincoln famously wrote in his first inaugural address, as the vituperations launched toward one another reached a boiling point. “Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection,” he said.

Many have offered spiritual counsel in recent weeks—good counsel—on ways to navigate this difficult stretch of days. I commend them to you here once more—


...to name just a few. The common theme is perspective and grounding. As people of faith, we know such perspective and grounding are forged in the contemplative spirit of prayer and self-reflection, not the acrimonious energy oriented to the other. So I add my voice of entreaty to you: claim your spaces of contemplative quiet with intention in the coming days and weeks; turn off the cacophonous spin which feeds off worst-case hyperbole; turn into those spiritual practices that enable you to plant your whole self squarely with perspective and a firm grounding in the values you hold most dear. These values rise from our identity as God’s beloved.

I often get questions, or challenges really—that the Church and its leaders should refrain from entering the political fracas. I appreciate their sentiment, which I take to mean we should avoid using the pulpit to make decidedly partisan pronouncements. They often cite “separation of church and state” as the prevailing reproach against such activity. A closer read of the founding documents of this nation, however, and additional clarifying statements made by those who wrote them, draws an important distinction between the need for a wall “separating church and state,” and some corollary premise to separate religion from politics. The latter is a fabrication not intended by the founders, and they made that very clear. They saw political and religious expression as inexorably linked and believed one’s values were derived from the intermingling of the two. [note 1]

A person’s religion informs his politics, or it’s not much of a religion. When Americans speak of freedom these days, I think we largely intend a freedom from obligation to anyone else. I am free to do and say whatever I want. Unmoored by a commitment to the common good, our nation teeters perilously close to the precipice of a chasm, lured over the edge by songs of hatred and fear and hubris—a house divided cannot stand.

Our faith-informed notion of freedom comes with an undeniable sense of servanthood. Christian freedom intends the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—virtues that ultimately bear fruit when others experience them as gifts from you.It is dangerous to speak of politics and religion in the same conversation. I know it is. Such talk is fraught with chances to demand that we are right while others are wrong, or even worse, to claim hubristically that God is on our side. But it seems to me that we are living in a time when our religious virtues are desperately needed in the public discourse, and that is what we have to offer—not our claim of moral superiority, but our humble claim to Christ-like virtues offered to all as neighbors.

So vote, dear ones. Bless you in the act of voting. And may you be a blessing to all the families of the earth. I am,

Affectionately,

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason

Dean and Rector

NOTE
  1. Meacham, Jon. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Random House, 2006. We must note the sad deficiencies of the Declaration of Independence and its authors who did not responsibly address the evil of slavery in this nation.
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