Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

About this matter of aid for God’s people, it is superfluous for me to write to you. I know how eager you are to help and I speak of it with pride to the other dioceses and bishops when I visit them. I know that when you hear of appeals to give, you do so out of a sense of bounty and not because you feel spiritually blackmailed.

‘Remember: sow sparingly, and you will reap sparingly; sow bountifully, and you will reap bountifully. Each person should give as each has decided for oneself. Not out of a sense of reluctance, guilt, or compulsion. We are not about arm-twisting or feeling like we are squeezing blood from a rock, right? God loves a cheerful giver… Our giving is not merely a contribution to the needs of God’s people. Much more than that, God can multiply whatever we give in a flood of thanksgiving to God…Thanks be to God for God’s gift which is beyond all praise!’

Do these words sound at all familiar? I hope you’ve heard a version of them before. They come from Chapter 9 of St. Paul’s Second Letter to the church in Corinth. I confess I’ve done a little paraphrasing and editing to underscore his enthusiasm for the opportunity we have to give.

You read that correctly…Paul’s enthusiasm for the opportunity we have to give.   In churches that are thriving and growing and full of the Spirit, people love to give. Anybody who has travelled and worshipped in churches of economically stressed or undeveloped communities will tell you how much the Offertory is the most fun part of the service.   In these churches it’s not enough to pass the basket around once during the service. Sometimes it comes around several times, sometimes each time to address a different need within or outside of the community. Often it comes because the people just want the chance to give more.   In fact, any eucharistic service, including our tiny mid-week services, that doesn’t invite at least a modest opportunity to give- even just a plate at the back of the church that comes up at the Offertory—doesn’t really make sense in the spirit of the hospitality of God’s Table. Do we come empty-handed when invited to a meal at our neighbors? Money is not the only thing you can bring to the Altar. I remember the exuberance of a predominantly Polish congregation in Brooklyn where I served as a seminarian when links of freshly made sausages came up in the brass plates. (I think they went to the local soup kitchen, but I remember some pretty good pancake breakfasts!)   Children in another parish I served brought up crayon drawings in the plate with the same glee as any child might present a work of art and saying, “Look, Ma! Look, Dad, what I made!” Those children knew God delighted in the cheerfulness of their giving.

What would it mean if that same kind of joy of giving was widespread in the Church in New Hampshire. What’s preventing that from happening? I suspect it’s partly because we are infected by the contagion of consumerism. We are more focused on what we are getting from Church rather than what we share. We expect to get value from our dollar, goods or services in return for our investment.   Or we give whatever is left in our wallets to the church as opposed to the first fruits, the first that comes in the best we have, the cream of the crop, to our community. Where’s the joy in that? Where is the love?

A member of our family tells the story of overhearing a couple walking down a sidewalk in Manhattan. The woman is animated, clearly frustrated as her companion appears somewhat preoccupied, perhaps sullen and annoyed. She turns to him and says in a loud voice, “I am not talking about the pizza! I’m talking about our RELATIONSHIP!”

I think that’s kind of what Paul is saying to the church in Corinth and to us in New Hampshire when it comes to our giving. We are not talking about money or the budget. We are not talking about the bricks and mortar or the cost of clergy or candles. (Though, like pizza, these things are good and necessary!) We are talking about our relationship… the bonds and links that hold us together. Benevolence, kindness, generosity, prayer, justice, mercy, love. These things are in poor supply in our society, a culture that seems to be disintegrating into coarseness, disparity, and violence before our eyes. It’s not a feeling of blind obligation to give to the church that will renew us, either our church or our society. Rather renewal of our Church will come from the sense that we get to give. We get to share in the same flood of thanksgiving that God releases in our hearts. We get to go ever deeper into our relationship with God and each other in Christ when we give from the top, over the top.   “Thanks be to God for God’s gift which is beyond all praise!”

Your brother in Christ,   +Rob

AuthorLaura Simoes

The following letter, facilitated by partner organization Granite State Organizing Project, was sent to the Union Leader:

An Open Letter on Child Refugees

We, the undersigned clergy, from diverse faiths working in Manchester, offer this open letter to our community in response to the flood of child refugees coming to the United States from Central America.

We have been watching as the number of unaccompanied children entering the United States has grown to more than 57,000 so far in 2014, up from 27,884 in 2013. These children and families are fleeing horrific and worsening violence (worse in some cases than in open war zones), extreme poverty, gang-related dangers, and their governments’ inability or unwillingness to protect them.

These refugee children are risking life and limb to flee violence and poverty in their homeland, hoping to find safety in America. The story of this land being a safe refuge and a place of possibility is heard by children and adults all across the globe. It is the same story that we heard with pride when we were children. It is the same promise proclaimed on the Statue of Liberty, and it beckons to them with the promise of safety and stirs hope in them.

To its credit, this country has taken in refugees before (and to its shame, it has also turned them away, sending them back to danger and death; something we believed we would never see or do again). It is fast becoming apparent, however, that the collective will to care for these children is below their expectations and need. For them, the story that fostered such hope is met with profound disappointment as once in the US they are being detained, disgraced, and deported – treated more like criminals, terrorists, and threats than children, refugees, and victims of unspeakable horror.

As leaders in the faith community, we stand in solidarity and love with the children who seek refuge in our land. Deeply aware not just of our own immigrant stories and roots, clear biblical imperative to care for the stranger in our midst, to offer food, shelter, and care to those in need, and that there is no religious tradition which justifies sending children and refugees to their deaths, we invite our community to join us in prayerful study and active consideration of how we can best respond to this crisis and address the needs of those seeking our aid.

Bishop Robert Hirschfeld
Bishop Libasci
Father Joseph Gurdak, Ofm Cap.
Sister Felicia McKone
Sister Dorothy Cormier
Father John Buchino
Rev. William Exner
Rev. Kathleen Cullen
Sister Carol Descoteaux
Sister Jacqueline Verville
Rev. Patrick McLaughlin
Rabbi Beth Davidson


AuthorLaura Simoes

The Rt. Reverend A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, has issued the following statement on the New Hampshire State Senate vote on HB 1170:

“My heart grieves that the Senate has voted for the time being to perpetuate the escalating thirst for revenge in our culture.   Today’s vote feels a bit like Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the situation. This will be an especially painful Good Friday.  As we recount the unspeakable brutality visited on Jesus, we will be reminded how much we are all complicit in the violence that infects our hearts. We will continue to work and pray for a less violent society.”

AuthorLaura Simoes
CategoriesIssues, News