For the healing of the nation -- and the nations

Fast-forward with me to Friday, January 20, 2017 – Inauguration Day.

No matter who moves into the White House that day, people of faith in this country will have work to do in ministries of reconciliation.

I’m writing from Washington DC, meeting and praying with others at the two-hundred-year-old St. John’s Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Square from the White House and a thirty minute walk to the Capitol, where St. John’s Rector Luis León prayed at President Obama’s 2013 Inauguration that God would bless us, “that with a spirit of gratitude and humility we may become a blessing among the nations of this world.”   León, a native of Cuba who was sent by his parents to the U.S. in 1961 as a 12-year-old refugee, had also been asked to pray at George W. Bush’s second term Inauguration in 2005.

We find ourselves these days in the midst of an unprecedented, vitriolic political campaign in which rude and vulgar behavior is often rewarded. But out of this roiling cauldron a new governmental administration must emerge in less than a year.

I was taught as a child not to discuss religion or politics at the dinner table – much less religion and politics. But here I go, in print – where angels fear to tread.

Last December Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Jon Meacham (a graduate of the McCallie School and Sewanee, who got his vocational start at the Times Free Press) said of former President George H.W. Bush, "This is the last American president who truly tried to create an atmosphere of consensus and compromise to do big things.”  Is it likely that the next President will likewise try to create such an atmosphere? That remains to be seen. And it would be an uphill climb.

What I do know is that people of faith can become just as polarized as politicians. Faithful Christians can self-identify themselves as conservative, as can faithful Jews and Muslims. Truth is, some faithful Christians, Jews and Muslims can also be seen as reformers, progressives and liberals. And then there are the radical, fanatical fringes that have abandoned the central tenets of each of these Abrahamic faiths and can no longer be called legitimate adherents of these religions. 

We as Christians (among other people of faith) will have our work cut out for us after Election Day and Inauguration Day. Do we want to be healed, to be made well?

Brian Baker, the Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, preaching on Palm Sunday, the Sunday of the Passion, said that it takes two things to turn a crowd into a mob: fear and a target.  Some Christians say that almost 2,000 years ago fear on the part of some of the self-righteous religious authorities of the day, in an unholy and uneasy, tense and strange alliance with the occupying Roman political and military forces, turned the crowd in Jerusalem into a mob shouting, “Crucify him.” Jesus was the target, the scapegoat.

It seems to me that much anger and brutality of spirit in our land these days issues from fear. Fear of the changing culture. Fear of immigrants. Fear of loss of status, power, station and position on the part of some. Fear of being left behind as “The One Percent” prosper beyond measure.

In my youth I could not ignore the struggle of the Civil Rights movement. As a white Southerner, I witnessed the tension within the Episcopal Church amid the obvious fears that our church schools and camps could close if integration were to be introduced. Fear on the part of white Southerners and others – if “Negroes” gained their Constitutional right and power to vote. The Church moved forward. We wanted to be healed, to be made well.

In leading this church nationally and beyond, our first African American Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is now calling us to new mission and ministry as evangelists and healers. Much of this is the work of reconciliation in our Lord’s name in this land. Bishop Curry is calling us to leadership in addressing racism, among other evils, and to be people who live out the Gospel, proactively praying and working to reconcile all God’s people in this country and beyond.

And so as a follower of Jesus I ask, shall we drink from the water of life and use the leaves of the trees for the healing of the nations? Do we want to be made well? Do we want to experience God’s saving health – and seek to become a blessing among the nations? I’m working from Psalm 67 and with this text from the last chapter of the last book of our Bible, the Book of the Revelation to John (22:2)* as expressed in the words of the Liturgy for Baptism in the Church of England:

I saw water flowing from the threshold of the temple.
Wherever the river flows everything will spring to life. Alleluia.
On the banks of the river grow trees bearing every kind of fruit.
Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail.
Their fruit will serve for food, their leaves for the healing of the nations.
For the river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Other Christians will recognize this Scripture text in the hymn: 
For the healing of the nations,
Lord, we pray with one accord,
For a just and equal sharing
Of the things the earth affords.
To a life of love in action
Help us rise and pledge our word.

Help us rise, indeed – rise above religious and political discord and rancor, and pledge our word to pray and work for the healing of this nation – and its place, our place, in the healing of all nations. 

* See:

The Rev. Dr. Donald Allston Fishburne is a consultant to congregations in stewardship, ecumenical social justice ministries, mission trips and pilgrimages. He is a former Regent at Sewanee: The University of the South. For more information:   And

First published April 30, 2016 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Three Surprises at the Masters Tournament – and at a Convent! Holy Comforter!

Imagine a perfect spring day in Augusta, with blue skies, wispy white clouds – colorful azaleas – and a stiff breeze through the pine trees. It’s a great day at the Masters™ and the spectators are loving it. Sarah and I have been fortunate to attend as spectators in many of the last 25 years.

Last week, Thursday’s round of the tournament featured Jordan Spieth firing a first-round 66, consisting of six birdies and no bogies.

Christopher Clarey of The New York Times wrote,  “On screen, Augusta National looks majestic because of the flora, the water hazards and the color palette, from bleach-white bunkers to fairways a… deep green… But in person, much of the course’s majesty resides in the panoramas: the long views through the big trees, vistas made possible by all the rises and falls in a golf-scape that is broader and more open than expected.”

Ovations greeted 66 year old Tom Watson at every hole in the second round on Friday, a heartfelt send off for the two-time Masters champion after playing the Tournament for 43 years. He nearly made the cut this year.

Twenty-two year old Jordan Spieth shot a 2-over-par 74 on Friday in a windy, brutal second round. He carried a one-shot lead into the weekend over Rory McIlroy, the number three-ranked player and a four-time major champion. But then McIlroy fell out of the picture.

Jordan Spieth was still the story on the next blustery day under clear blue skies, breaking Arnold Palmer’s record for most consecutive rounds led at the Masters, but Spieth double-bogeyed twice on the second nine, including on the 18th hole, and fell back to the rest of the field for the second straight day after holding a lead of four or more during the day.

"It wasn't ideal," Spieth told CBS about the bogey, double-bogey Saturday finish. "Climb back nicely to get to -2 on the day, even par, I thought was a fantastic score. Two-under with three holes to go, I figure par-par-par and I got really wayward from there."

The defending champ was leading by just one heading into Sunday that began as a chilly morning. The last defending champion to hold a 54-hole lead or co-lead was Tiger Woods in 2002; Tiger's win is also the last time anyone has won back-to-back championships.  

In a stunner, a surprise ending, England’s Danny Willet shot a final round 67 and was the beneficiary of then-leader Spieth’s trouble at the 12th.  Willett became the first Englishman to win since Nick Faldo in 1996.                                                           


Spieth came off 18, donned the green jacket he had won in 2015, and then helped Danny Willett put on his own jacket – several times, for the worldwide TV audience and for the crowd outside the clubhouse. It was a solemn moment for Spieth and his followers, and a joyful moment for Willett.   A headline and story in the Washington Post proclaimed the next morning, “He lost the Masters, but Jordan Spieth’s athletic grace can inspire us all.

And so ended a great Masters Week at the National, with pimento cheese and other sandwiches at $1.50 to $3, and where a coffee and breakfast can be had for $5-6. Every one of the army of volunteers and employees of the Tournament is courteous and more than pleasant.  As Bobby Jones himself wrote, “It has been the aim of the Augusta National Golf Club from the inception of the Masters Tournament to provide as many facilities and conveniences for the spectator as possible.”

Here’s the surprise ending: An inspiration!

A few months before the Masters, Sarah said, “Donald, you said the Order of St. Helena has a new Convent and Guest House in North Augusta. Why don’t we stay there?”

With hotel rooms running triple or more their normal rates, and with my desire to see and experience the stunning new Episcopal Convent and Guest House, we made a reservation. I am embarrassed to tell you the nightly cost.

As it turned out, we were the only guests for the week in the eight bedroom, eight bath Guest Quarters! It was the cleanest and quietest accommodation in the Augusta area, for sure.

I was privileged to worship with the sisters of the Community several mornings, and to enjoy their hospitality, grounded in prayer and care.

I was surprised to have been drawn to that Community, and to be inspired there. Inspired to offer to preach at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Augusta on Masters Sunday, and to have that offer accepted. There too, Sarah and I were the ones who received inspiration, hospitality, and care. Another surprise!

Thanks be to God.

The 2017 Masters Tournament is April 3-9.

Sorry, I have no badges for that event. But email me for info on accommodations.

Photos available from Donald Fishburne and at 

Photo credits:

Augusta National Golf Club

The Order of St. Helena

The Church of the Holy Comforter

By Donald Fishburne 

April 2016


ASH and DASH! Does a ministry of Ashes to Go make Sense?

For the last few years as rector of a downtown church networked into ministries including those at a university – and a worshipping community that regularly takes to the streets, shelters, school and businesses, I was involved in Ashes to Go only vicariously.  I was the guy who stayed back at the historic church and participated in the rota of liturgies in the church and chapel.

Ashes to Go caught on in Chattanooga and elsewhere, and I would hear stories of university students, faculty and staff, as well as production workers and business people, giving thanks for the street ministry.  And the story of a woman with ashes on her forehead at midday who would approach a priest on the street and say, “I just need a touchup.”

I wasn’t sure I could make sense of it.

This year, in a different ministry setting for me, I accompanied Mother Abi Moon on the short walk from Saint John’s Church to the Florida State Capitol Entrance Rotunda, frequented during the Legislative Session by lobbyists, school groups, trade groups, and representatives of counties and organizations who come to Tallahassee from across the state for a day or a week. Under Abi’s tutelage I asked each person who approached our “Ashes to Go” stand in the crowded, bustling, noisy Rotunda, “What is your name” and “what would you like to pray for or give thanks for here, today?”  I was surprised that each person gave his or her first name, thought for a moment, and then offered,

"You've made my day... 
"Pray for my nephew who killed himself last week... pray for my fiancée and our marriage... pray for my family, for my health, give thanks for my promotion, my friends, this day, this season. Pray for God's creation and for our care of it. Pray for the Legislature and the legislation under consideration...." 

To each person who heard the words "Remember that you are dust," I also said: "Remember that you are a joy to Jesus today, and in God's eternal day." 

And so we began the observance of a holy Lent, with a takeaway prayer card and a list of churches and worship opportunities – including a midday Eucharist in the Capitol Chapel just steps away.

Yes, it’s well and good that we offer the Prayer Book liturgies in our churches and chapels.  But I am also impressed by the thankful hearts of people who may have gotten up in the middle of the night to drive to the capital city, and who would be in the Capitol from 8 a.m. till closing. The Episcopal clergy and congregations of the city had remembered them and ministered to them. Called them by name, and stood with them in this mortal life – and also stood with them in resurrection faith, hope and love.  We were together in the name of Jesus.


Change the world in 2016


In the face of seemingly overwhelming problems in the world, what can you as one person do in 2016 to change the world for the better? Care. Share. Invest.

Strive and pray for justice, freedom and peace. Begin with respect for the dignity of every human being. Love your neighbor as God loves you. Take a first step.

Care for the good earth and God’s creation. We can make a difference in the environment of this fragile earth, our island home – for our children and our children’s children. is an example of a resource.

Invest in the future. Give to causes that matter to you and will make a difference in the lives of others. Give till it feels good. It’s good for the health of your soul.

Join a community. One person can make a difference. A network or community of supportive people can make a bigger impact. Example: the congregation of St. John’s Episcopal Church, grounded in faith and growing in service. Members of the congregation serve in mission trips to Cuba and Ecuador – and at the local Kearney Center, Grace Mission, Habitat for Humanity, prisons, shelters, and more. Financial gifts support the ministries in which people are engaged as servant leaders.

Give someone younger a boost. Encourage him or her, and build networks for young leaders with people already making a difference. An example for me is a very bright young woman who says her dream job in life is “to strengthen health practices and healthcare systems in developing countries, so that they could provide necessary and affordable health services to people that need it, wherever they need it.” She has a Masters in International Public Health, and I’m introducing her to other leaders.

Don’t demonize others of faith. Ecumenical and interfaith relationships are important for the future of the world. Christians, religious Jews, faithful Muslims and other people of faith can find common ground – and work together against the obvious evils of radical extremism in religions. And know that ISIS is not a legitimate religion – it a military and political terrorist network. 

Don’t arm our enemies. Work to end the possibility that people with serious mental illness, violent felons, and self-professed enemies are able to buy weapons that can kill hundreds of innocent people in no time – and outgun the police and military personnel sworn to defend us and protect our liberties. 

Value the present as much as the presents. Now that we have exchanged gifts – Christmas and Hanukkah and holiday presents – think on this. The present moment is God’s gift to us.  Let’s not waste it. Use and share the present moment, shimmering with hope and possibility, for a world of good.

In the face of seemingly overwhelming problems in the world, what can one person do in 2016 to change the world for the better? As a Christian, I look for the face of Jesus in everyone in the world. What would I want to do for Jesus?

That’s a starting place. 

The Rev. Dr. Donald Fishburne serves part-time on the staff of St. John’s Church, downtown Tallahassee. He is on the founding board of Bethel Ready4Work Tallahassee, a community effort to reduce prison recidivism. He can be reached at


What!? Not yet tuned into Advent?

You're not yet subscribed to the multi-lingual, multi-faceted, participatory daily AdventWord from a bunch of monks? Check it out!

And there’s this:  Living Compass  Advent eBook  for only 99 cents. 

And Bob Dannals’  free daily eDevotions

And  subscribe to the year-round daily Faith & Leadership eNewsletter from Duke Divinity.  Very valuable.

And there’s always Forward Day by Day 

Advent blessings,


How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? *

Bob Dannals, in his daily eDevotions (see the link at ) encourages us to encourage others as we give thanks to God.

As I give thanks, I see the French word coeur. The heart in Scripture is the seat of will and courage as well as love and affection.  May we pray for the brave heart of France these days, and for the people and ministries of our American Cathedral in Paris, including the Dean and her preaching of God’s mercy, justice and hope.

And as I give thanks for God’s gift of creation, and for life and love and family and friends, I am mindful of people and ministries who give me strength in a troubled world. They include:

Rob Voyle of The Appreciative Way  Rob teaches me how to find and put to use those things that are life-giving.

Scott Stoner and Living Compass Ministries that help me in a journey into wholeness, wellness and wellbeing.

The Rev. Austin Rios and the people of Saint Paul's Within the Walls, Rome and their ministries, including refugee ministries, and for The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe .

Cynthia Cannon of  The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes in this country and beyond which continues to grow as a resource to all congregations including new expressions of “being church.”

Bob Leopold of Southside Abbey Chattanooga  and Robert Hartmans ofProject CanterburyChattanooga and other emerging ministries.

John Runkle and the team at Saint Mary's Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Developmenta place of refreshment apart from our busy world.

My dear friend Persis Laverack and all the people of The (Episcopal) Church of the Redeemer, Sorrento, Maine, and for the year-round care of the people of that summer worshipping community.

All the lay people, together with the present and former seminarians and clergy with whom I was privileged to serve at St. Paul's Chattanooga and in other parishes, now including St. John's, Downtown Tallahassee.

Bob Dannals reminded me last week in writing of the abundance of a pecan tree of such trees in my childhood – now a metaphor in my adulthood for the wild, free abundance of God’s gifts of love to us – including the gifts shared so freely by the people I name here, and countless others. 

I give thanks for the sunrise over the water, and for the dawning of the love of Jesus each day.

May we give thanks for the abundance of the fruit of God’s love in us and through us, and in the lives of those who love us more and more into Christ’s Kingdom. And may we be faithful stewards of the riches of God’s grace and great bounty as we anticipate the advent of even greater things than these. 

God’s blessings upon you and those you love and serve.

                                * Paul (Silas/Silvanus and Timothy) to the Church of the Thessalonians (I, 3:9).

Building on our strengths

One of the resources I use in building leadership teams is Gallup Consulting group’s FaithStrengths profile.

Living Your Strengths, by Albert L. Winseman, Donald O. Clifton, and Curt Liesveld, shows readers how to use their innate gifts to enrich their faith communities. With the insights from this book, readers can identify and affirm their talents, use them for growth and service, and discover their true calling.

I use the StrengthsFinders assessment with staff teams, vestries and boards – and in pre-marital conversations!

Here are my top ten strengths, in Gallup language: Strategic, Connectedness, Arranger, Maximizer, Communication, Futuristic, Relator, Positivity, Belief, Activator.

That is to say, I value my God-given talents, and as a steward of these gifts, I exercise and strengthen them – and use them to strengthen my life and work as a proactive, positive, forward-looking communicator who uses strategic thinking and planning to help choose the best way forward for the team or community – and to respond to changes and challenges to the plan.

I enjoy networking and connecting people in relationships, as well as identifying other peoples’ talents, arranging team members and events to maximize everyone’s performance – and their sense of reward and satisfaction. All of this is based on a strong and enduring Christian belief and appreciation of the gifts of faith, hope and love.  

I combine my Appreciative Way and Living Compass training to round out the picture, and to address the question: “What is life-giving and healthy for you?”

We can’t change the past, but we can look forward to and beyond the horizon and chart a course for the future. The “activator” in me asks, “When can we start?”

So, when do we start strengthening you and your teams?


Maximizing Lay Leadership

What excites me most about the church these days?  The astonishing faith, ministries and leadership of the laity!

Sarah and I have had opportunity to travel in Europe and in the States this year, and the resiliency of the people of God — in good times and in bad — is heartening.

We’ve seen the church stay strong even under oppression — and we’ve seen in parts of Europe how colorfully the church of Christ springs back after Communist rule and other oppressive forces are stripped away.

In Charleston, SC and elsewhere, we’ve witnessed the power of forgiveness flowing through people of faith — even those most deeply wounded by the cruelty of others.

In congregations I serve in Maine and Florida, and in other places where I have been privileged to preach, there is inquisitiveness and a heart for ministry. Gifts and talents are put to use.

At St. John’s Church,  downtown Tallahassee, for instance, the theme of the year is “Grounded in Faith, Growing in Service.”  Inreach ministries care for members of the congregation. Hospitality ministries care for all who come — thru the website or through the doors of the buildings. Outreach ministries care for residents of the city — and for the people served by a sister congregation in Cuba, to which youth and adult members of St. John’s go regularly.  Through the Visioning the Vineyard ministry at St. John’s — and the clergy and lay staff that support the ministries of the congregation —  the church follows a dynamic plan to grow the ministries of the church in Jesus’ name. 

Living Compass ministries are being introduced to foster and encourage wellness, wellbeing and wholeness. 

St. John’s is just one of a huge number of congregations that is growing in number and in service.  Have a look: