The Power of the Postage Stamp

PostcardsThis summer while I have been home for an uncharacteristically long stretch of time, I have been the delighted recipient of postcards from several of my goddaughters, nieces and nephew.

All of these youngsters have received postcards from me as I travel about the continent and the world. It is how I embrace my ministry of prayer with and for those loved ones at home, and those to whom I have pledged my prayers and support in their Christian lives.

It is also how this 50-something woman copes with her grandmother’s expectations for proper etiquette in the art of sending thank you notes and engaging in correspondence.

Two of my goddaughters are twins who recently turned ten years old. When I visited them last spring I was treated to viewing a photo album stuffed full of postcards from “Miss Bronwyn.” I had no idea that these little notes from the field had a shelf life beyond what the magnets on the refrigerator could hold. I have now established my own fancy file box to hold the post cards I anticipate receiving as all of my minions return the favor.

Ha! We’ll see how long this gig lasts.

A former member of my congregational youth group confessed to me at a wedding this summer that she still has every thank you note I sent her during the seven years of her participation and leadership in the middle school and high school youth groups. I was stunned.

“Why would you keep all of those? What did I thank you for?” I asked.

“I read them again when I am feeling down or having a crappy day. They help me rebuild my self-confidence, remind me who I am, help me remember that God loves me – because you always wrote ‘Jesus Loves you and so do I.’”

And so I did. And so I do.

What I have learned in all of this is the lasting power of a postage stamp. I send all kinds of correspondence and words of encouragement and gratitude via the internet, primarily Facebook.

But when I’m on the road and truly engaged in my spiritual discipline of prayer for my godchildren, my nieces and nephews, my sons, my siblings, my parents, and the rest of my family by blood and by choice,  I send postcards. They are an outward and visible sign of my inward and spiritual practice to remain connected with all of these humans whom I love.

And now I have become a recipient of the same form of blessing. What a gift!

Who needs your blessing today?



Parents and Voting

My earliest recollection of church buildings is triggered by the colors and smells of autumn. I remember walking to the big, red church a couple blocks from our home in Evanston, Illinois, with my tall, long-legged mother, crunching through dry oak and elm tree leaves gathered in the gutters of the street and along the sidewalk.

I remember the smell of coffee and the buzz of bright white lights in the basement with the shiny linoleum floor. I remember the musty smell of the old curtains enclosing the voting booths, and the scent of freshly sharpened pencils. This was my first and only experience of a church building from my childhood. My parents, although raised as an Episcopalian and a Methodist, were not big fans of organized religion. They did not participate in a faith community with their young children, nor did they have us baptized.

But my parents did take their civic responsibilities very seriously and included their children in peace marches, conversations about the Nixon administration, advocacy for the Equal Rights Amendment, and their opinions about elections. My parents continue to be advocates for human equality and preservation of the environment. They have always discussed politics with my sister and me, explaining the importance of exercising our right to vote and encouraging us to do so responsibly as informed voters. Clearly they have not always agreed with their own parents’ political choices, but they have respected their opinions and encouraged us to make up our minds for ourselves.

My husband and I have attempted to do the same for our children. We have always taken them with us to vote. We have always encouraged them to read about the candidates and issues present each election year. We have raised our sons as baptized Christians in the Episcopal Church. And when talking about the appropriate separation of church and state, we have also discussed the appropriateness of allowing our beliefs to influence our opinions and our actions in the voting booth.

We Skovs are big fans of the Anglican Marks of Mission as a framework for decision-making and action. Tomorrow we will specifically keep in mind the third, fourth, and fifth marks of mission as we vote: responding to human need in loving service, changing unjust structures, and preserving creation.

Our college student has already voted in his first Presidential Election, including two amendments proposed to Minnesota’s state constitution, utilizing an absentee ballot. The rest of us will go to the precinct in the morning together. I am so proud that my twenty-something Episcopalians vote.

I pray that you and your young adults do, too.

What is Good

He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8 CEB

This verse from the First Testament is the scrap of scripture that the Holy Spirit has been whispering in my ear since before the Episcopal Church convened for General Convention in Indianapolis last July. It is the message that keeps bouncing through my head when I am praying during my daily exercise and when I lay my head to rest at night.

Current and former General Convention Official Youth Presence

Current and former General Convention Official Youth Presence

Part of why it has stuck with me is because I am still contemplating this ancient verse that I had memorized and treasured, using different words than those of this newly approved version (Resolution D021) from the Common English Bible. My heart hasn’t caught up with what my head is reading. It took me a while to memorize the “new” version of the Lord’s Prayer, too. I am a creature of habit and take comfort in the ritual that I can practice without thinking.

The Spirit is blowing us to a new place, and I am clearly called to follow with my heart and let my brain do the catching up as we respond to new ways to join God’s mission in the world.

We entered General Convention with a budget proposal that eliminated funding for Formation and Vocation Ministries, including ministries with children, youth and young adults. Through faithful strategies of many Lifelong Faith Formation advocates across the church, combined with the Presiding Bishop’s vision for a budget driven by our need to practice the Five Marks of Mission, we came out of Convention with a funded team and a budget that prioritizes continuing and new mission and ministry at the churchwide level in Formation and Vocation Ministries.

But we can’t keep doing the same things expecting different or better results. We need to build network capacity, reach further to the margins of our communities, and recognize that Youth and Young Adult Ministries cannot take place in a generationally segregated way. The community of faithful needs the Body of Christ working in multigenerational, cross-cultural, empowering ways.

We are exploring ways to bridge gaps so that the entire body of Christ is empowered for joining God’s mission in the world. I invite you to engage the Youth Ministry and Lifelong Formation networks by tuning in to at least two of the social media sites we’re using (such asFacebook and Twitter) and help build capacity across the network with us.

Share your stories and reach out when you are feeling disconnected. When you successfully bridge a gap in your context, please share so that others might learn.

Join us as we do our best “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”