River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage from the Source to the Sea

The first-ever spiritual Pilgrimage along the length of the Connecticut River, from northern New Hampshire to the Atlantic Ocean will be held this spring to highlight the River’s ecological, social, historical, economical, and spiritual impact throughout New England. The Pilgrimage is hosted by The Episcopal Churches of New England, the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Kairos Earth, in partnership with local, statewide, and regional organizations along the River. This 40-day Pilgrimage is open to people of all backgrounds, faiths, and beliefs. For more information, visit the River of Life website: www.kairosearth.org/river/.

Mark Kutolowski, guide for the River of Life Pilgrimage, explains, “Water is central to life and the Connecticut River and its tributaries are a prime example of waterways sustaining the myriad aspects of a region. For anyone interested in engaging in a sacred relationship with the natural world, the River of Life Pilgrimage will allow that on multiple levels along the Connecticut River: from being a core ‘river pilgrim’ and paddling segments of the river, to attending shore-based events hosted by local churches and conservation organizations, to being a ‘Pilgrim in Prayer’ by joining in the daily spiritual readings and lessons from your own location, everyone has the ability to participate.”

Rev. Stephen Blackmer, Executive Director of Kairos Earth, says, “This journey, like any true pilgrimage, is intended to be a doorway to interior transformation and lasting change. The daily prayer and spiritual exercises of the pilgrimage, as well as the land-based gatherings, will be held in the context of the Christian tradition. On a daily basis, we will also be focusing on the health and conservation of the flora and fauna of the Connecticut River.”

Registration for the three- to seven-day paddling segments is now open; space is limited and filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so interested participants should sign up early at the website: www.kairosearth.org/paddle-the-river. Events along the Connecticut River will be added throughout the spring – featured locations will be Canaan, VT; Littleton, NH; Hanover, NH/White River Junction, VT; Brattleboro, VT; Springfield, MA; Hartford, CT; Essex, CT; and many others.

GUEST BLOG: What is Lent?


This Sunday is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, which means this week the church will begin observing Lent. The beginning of Lent is marked by Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 1 this year.

The Lenten period of 40 days, which, traditionally, does not include Sundays, commemorates the “40 days and 40 nights” (Matthew 4:2) that Jesus fasted in the desert and then resisted temptations from Satan.

The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning “spring,” the time of lengthening days) has a long history.

Early Christians observed “a season of penitence and fasting” in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Pascha (BCP, pp. 264-265).


“The Temptation of Christ,” illustration circa 1411 by the Limbourg Brothers

Originally, in places where Pascha was celebrated on a Sunday, the Paschal feast followed a fast of up to two days. In the third century this fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually this fast became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness.

The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly.

In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (BCP, p. 265).

The Episcopal Church invites us to observe Lent “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 265).

How will you observe a holy Lenten season this year?

GUEST BLOG: The New Jim Crow

GUEST BLOG, by The Rev. Rosalie Richards, member of the Prison Concerns Committee of the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire, and a founder of the Prison Art Program in our Diocese

This article is based on an interview with The Rev. Richard Davenport. St. Stephen's, Colebrook and St. Barnabas, Berlin, and a member of the Prison Concerns Committee.  The Rev. Davenport was instrumental in bringing this book to the attention of the Diocesan Prison Concerns Committee, and to our Diocesan Convention this past fall.

Q  What is the history of this book, what brought it to the attention of our diocese?

The Rev. Richard Davenport: In 2015 the General Convention delegates decided this book is so important that they passed a resolution that the entire church should read and study it.

I brought this information to our Diocesan Prison Concerns committee and we agreed to read the book as a group and reflect on together throughout the year.  The committee also introduced a resolution to our Diocesan Convention, bringing the General Convention goal to our diocese.  

Q  What was the resolution?  

The Rev. Richard Davenport: The resolution encourages each congregation in the diocese to read and study the book.  This passed overwhelmingly.

Q  Is there a plan for how congregations should read the book together?

The Rev. Richard Davenport: It is up to each congregation to decide how to do this, for instance there can be book groups, adult forums, adult classes, or the book can be available for individuals to buy.  (Purchase information is given at the end of this article.)

The Prison Concerns committee would like to encourage people and churches who want to add this to their Lenten discipline to order a copy.

Q  Can you describe the book in two sentences?

The Rev. Richard Davenport: Michelle Alexander, the author, draws together data that proves that blacks are overrepresented in prisons and jails, and the result is permanent second class status for this group of people.  As the first Jim Crow law systematically withheld the right to vote from blacks, so the result of being imprisoned is to have voting rights withheld.  Even worse, it creates a permanent second class status for a large part of the black population.

Q  This is difficult reading because of the injustice that is pointed out.  How can we deal with that?

The Rev. Richard Davenport: That is right, this isn't light or easy material.  For that reason we encourage people to read this in community, a book group or an adult education class.  Another way to find community around this book is to  follow or visit the author, Michelle Alexander, on Facebook where they can participate in a dialogue with people around the country who are reading the book.  Here is that link.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Alexander/168304409924191

Q  Can you give encouragement to all of us who want to face this reality but don't want to have to delve into the difficult topic in this book?

The Rev. Richard Davenport: I can tell you three things that we discuss in my church:

  • First, Jesus didn't come to cheer us up, we preach Christ  crucified, and only by facing the reality of death and of evil do we have the triumph of Christ resurrected.  This is not just true in the Gospels, it is true in our lives.

  • Second, This is one mandate--of VERY few--from Christ to us:  Visit those in prison.  Reflecting on this book is one way to be with those who are imprisoned.

  • Third, without acknowledging this reality of this injustice we are doomed to perpetuate it.  Only by facing the truth of this situation can we resolutely choose to not continue this new form of Jim Crow.  It requires that we not be neutral, which is a form of complicity.

As MLK said:  "He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

Please note: The book, The New Jim Crow, can be purchased in bulk (10 or more copies) from www.thenewjimcrow.com and individual copies are available at your local bookseller or online retailer.

Ashes to Go in Concord--Ash Wednesday uniquely observed by the Episcopal Church of NH

Ash Wednesday (Wednesday, March 1, 2017) starts Lent, the period leading up to Easter. “Ashes to Go” are being offered by Grace Episcopal Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, serving the Concord area; St. James Episcopal in Keene, and St. John's in Portsmouth.

CONCORD: Ashes will be administered in Eagle Square, Main Street, Concord, from 12 pm–1:30pm, by Bishop Hirschfeld, The Rev. Kate Atkinson, Rector, St. Paul’s Church, Concord, the Rev. Jason Wells, Rector, Grace Church, East Concord and the Rev. Jon Hopkins, Pastor, Concordia Lutheran Church, Concord.

KEENE: Ashes will be offered from 7:30am - 9am.  The Rev Elsa Worth will be present to offer a quick prayer and the administration of ashes to anyone who would like them.  You can find this event on the sidewalk in front of St. James – rain, snow or shine.  Pull up next to the church and get out or, if necessary, Elsa+ can pray with you in your car.

PORTSMOUTH: This is the fourth year for St John’s, who will be joined by North Church, UCC, and Christ Church, Portsmouth. Ashes will be available in Market Square from 7:30am - 1:30pm.

Ash Wednesday is marked by prayer and fasting in the Christian faith. To observe this holy day, ashes are placed on foreheads as a reminder of human mortality. “Ashes to Go” is about bringing spirit, belief, and belonging out from behind church doors, and into the places where we go every day.

For more information on Ashes to Go across the country, visit www.ashestogo.org.  To find an Episcopal Church near you, visit www.nhepiscopal.org.

Bonds Across Borders: Celebrating 12 years of loving bonds between youth

Join All Saint’s Episcopal Church, Peterborough, on Saturday, March 11, as they welcome youth from Juarez, Mexico, to share stories of the 12-year ministry tradition between All Saints’ and the Juarez orphanage they sponsor and support. 

Centro Victoria, an outreach ministry of All Saints’ Church, is a home for abandoned children in Juarez, Mexico, run by Pastor Joel Cortes Ramirez and his wife, Carmen. They currently shelter over 80 children of all ages. For more than a decade, many people from the Monadnock Area have traveled to Centro Victoria to help build dorms and connect with children through hope and love.

Youth from Juarez and the Monadnock Region will share their experiences about forming meaningful relationships with each other. Hear what they have learned, and how the power of lasting relationships lifts them up.

The event will tack place at 4pm, in Reynolds Hall , 52 Concord St.(across from All Saints’ Church), Peterborough. It is open to the public and free of charge.

For more information, visit the All Saints’ website at: http://allsaintsnh.org/.

An Evening with Actor and Death Penalty Activist, Mike Farrell, on March 3

Mike Farrell, well known for his role as Capt. BJ Hunnicut on the popular television series "M.A.S.H.," has been a death penalty activist for several decades. He has especially worked hard in California, where hundreds still languish on death row. Mike will share his story of connecting with convicts, exonerees and activists around the country.

The event will be held at the Audubon Center in Concord NH (click for directions). Hearty hors d'oeurves will be served. Wine will be available or a nominal donation.

Suggested donation is $20-$75 per person, or as you are able. (See Paypal link and alternative payment information on next page.) Space is limited, pre-registration is advisable.

“Capital punishment is the germ that infects our understanding of our own value, and tells us that under certain circumstances it’s okay to take a life. And when you determine that society has the right to execute incarcerated, incapacitated human beings incapable of doing harm to anyone else, you are stepping over a line, a moral bottom line, which brutalizes us.”      --Mike Farrell

Learn more HERE.

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers at Maine Gathering on Civil Discourse

Overcoming Divisions By Sharing Hopes And Hurts
St. George’s, in York, Maine Hosts Lecture On Civil Discourse

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church will be the special guest lecturer at St. George’s Church Sunday, February 26 at 3pm, as they continue their series on civil discourse with the session, “Overcoming Divisions by Sharing Hopes and Hurts.”

Rev. Canon Spellers will help attendees to understand the importance of having brave, honest conversations. She’ll explore how we as individuals, and a society, can move toward freedom by sharing our deep hopes and hurts around race, class, politics, and so many other divisive issues.

A popular author and speaker, Rev. Canon Spellers mission is to help Episcopalians foster loving, life-giving and liberating relationships with God, each other, and the earth.

Author of Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Spirit of Transformation, and co-author of The Episcopal Way, she has directed mission and evangelism work at General Theological Seminary and in the Diocese of Long Island.

She was also Founder of The Crossing, a ground-breaking church within St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston, and has led numerous church-wide renewal efforts.

A native of Frankfort, Kentucky, and a graduate of both Episcopal Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, she makes her home today in New York's Harlem neighborhood.

A reception will be held following the program, and donations are welcome. To reserve your place at the event, call 207-363-7376. St. George’s is located at 407 York Street in York, ME.

GUEST BLOG: Episcopal Revivals: ‘Do Not Be Afraid to be People of Love’

By MARY FRANCIS SCHJONBERG, Episcopal News Service

The old church tradition of the revival received new life in the Diocese of Pittsburgh February 3-5 with a distinctly Episcopal feel.

The emphasis was on both sparking individuals’ faith lives and a commitment to show the love of Jesus beyond the four walls of their churches. Anchoring Episcopal revivals in the needs of the world was a constant theme of the weekend.

“Episcopal Church, we need you to follow Jesus. We need you to be the countercultural people of God who would love one another, who would care when others could care less, who would give, not take,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during his Feb. 5 sermon at Calvary Episcopal Church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

For those who think the words Episcopal and revival don’t go together, the size of the crowds, the depth of their emotion and Curry’s insistence begged to differ.

His prayer for this and subsequent revivals, he said during one of his four sermons, is that they will be the beginning of “a way of new life for us as this wonderful Episcopal Church, bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus in this culture and in this particular time in our national history.”

Curry’s Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism in Southwestern Pennsylvania is the first of six revivals being planned with diocesan teams in different cities around the country and the world this year and in 2018.

“I want to suggest this morning that we need a revival inside the church and out – not just in the Episcopal Church. For there is much that seeks to articulate itself as Christianity that doesn’t look anything like Jesus,” Curry said in his Feb. 4 sermon during an Absalom Jones Day Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross. “And if it doesn’t walk and talk and look and smell like Jesus, it’s not Christian … and if it’s going to look like Jesus, it’s got to look like love.”

Curry said the revival of the church, centered in God’s love, is not about a church rejuvenated for its own sake. The church’s revival must spill God’s love out into the world “until justice rolls down like a mighty stream,” he said, echoing Micah.

The other revivals are planned for May 5-7 in Diocese of West Missouri; Sept. 23-24, Diocese of Georgia, Nov. 17-19, Diocese of San Joaquin (California) and April 6-8, 2018,  Diocese of Honduras. A joint evangelism mission is planned in July 2018 with the Church of England. Most will be multiday events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, speakers, invitations to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren’t active in a faith community.

Read the full article and more about upcoming revivals on Episcopal News Service: http://bit.ly/2kKelmz.

Our Stories Speak of God: Diocesan Learning Event with Dio Mass

The Diocese of Massachusetts offers a Diocesan Spring Learning Event, "Our Stories Speak of God," on March 4, 2017, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM in Boston. Some of the questions addressed will include the following: 

  • How could our churches be energized by members sharing their own faith stories?
  • How could we make new connections in our neighborhoods by sharing what we believe about God's work in the world?
  • How can Episcopalians learn to connect their own experiences and faith journeys with scripture?
  • And how do we learn to do this in a way that isn't scary?

"If we want our churches to grow, if we want to make a difference in our community and connect it with our faith, and if we want others to know the transforming power of God in their lives then we need to find a way to talk about it," explains the Diocese of Massachusetts.

The keynoter this year, the Rev. Hershey Mallette Stephens, is on staff at Trinitiy Episcopal Church, Wall Street, and will lead an interactive workshop where participants will share stories, and listen to others' stories. Please consider using the EPIPHANY PAPERS before this event. This year's theme is "Recognizing God's Story" and each of the 5 downloadable studies emphasizes a story from around our diocese of God at work in unexpected ways. These are not dated and can be used at any time, or explored without attending the training.

The event will be held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, 138 Tremont Street in Boston.
REGISTRATION: $20.00. GROUPS: $15.00per person for groups of 5 or more. Use the code "GROUP" in the Promo Code field. STUDENTS: $10.00
Price includes lunch with a selection of sandwiches and sides to choose from. Please indicate any special food needs in registration.

Registration closes March 2. Learn More and Register HERE.

Bishop Hirschfeld's Testimony on HB 351, Expansion of the Death Penalty

On February 7, Bishop Hirschfeld submitted written testimony on HB 351, "Relative to an act making a person who knowingly causes the death of a child guilty of capital murder." You can read the Bill Language HERE.

The following is Bishop Hirschfeld's written testimony:

Dear Chairman Welch, Vice Chairman Sapareto, Members of the House of Representatives’ Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, thank you for the opportunity to enter my testimony into the record.

No one can argue against the need to punish perpetrators of crimes against children, especially murder.  Such violence against the most vulnerable among us evokes in all of us the most jagged and painful of human emotions, including the urge to seek retribution.  However, as a Christian, a follower of Jesus who urged us not to seek vengeance, I speak against New Hampshire’s Death Penalty, even when it is intended for those who commit heinous acts against our most vulnerable.

I do not believe we want to be complicit in the state-sponsored taking of life.  Nor do we want to bear the enormous financial cost incurred by the death penalty of needed funds that can be more healthfully expended for the benefit of New Hampshire.  The death penalty only perpetuates a culture of hatred, which perpetuates the violence of our society.

I am opposed to this Bill because it damages the dignity of the citizens of this great State.  To expand the death penalty, and not to seek to end it completely, erodes our adherence to our highest values and imperils our collective soul.