Scholarships Help Make Retreat Affordable

The Daily Office has received three donations so far to defray the cost of attending our retreat this August in southern Indiana. Thank you, thoughtful contributors!

Donations are tax-deductible for U.S. citizens and will be kept anonymous. (We can use more, too.)

We are re-examining costs, $700 currently, to make sure we keep the retreat affordable. One possible target for cuts is the two side trips we currently have planned, which add $100 to the cost for bus transportation. I would hate to lose them – a trip to nearby Columbus, Indiana, which is world-famous for its modern architecture, including many churches, and a longer trip to Terre Haute to meet Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor and tour her CANDLES Museum, focusing on Josef Mengele’s infamous medical experiments on identical twins; Eva and her sister Miriam were two of his victims. Eva has the most remarkable insights on forgiveness that I’ve ever heard; but maybe we can show the documentary about her, “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” instead.

ForgivingDrMengeleMrs. Kor is not a religious person; she came to a point where she had to forgive Mengele just so she could survive and not be imprisoned by the past. But hearing and watching her story, including the controversy her forgiveness generated, helped free me from the worst thing that ever happened to me, domestic violence at the hands of my father and enabler/mother, so I figured that a spiritual retreat that focuses in part on forgiveness could be really valuable to some people.

I forgave my parents on December 21, 2010, when I was 59, thanks to Eva Mozes Kor. I still have a sign on my wall reminding me about it, which has come in handy when more recent provocations have arisen.

As for the architecture, we can make that optional. The town is open on Sundays, of course, while the CANDLES Museum is not. I can head over to Columbus with anyone who wants to go when we’re done Sunday afternoon.

“Transformations” by Howard Meehan, on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University, Columbus, Indiana. (

Why include the side trips at all? I wanted to let participants know that Indiana has more going for it than people expect, and since this is my home state, I wanted you to experience two unique offerings. But I don’t believe retreats should be expensive and I encourage anyone who would like to attend but thinks they can’t afford it to speak to me privately; my e-mail address is on every page of The Daily Office.

Our honorary deacon Clint Gilliland set the pattern for us when we started webcasting a year ago and found people really need to use a headset to participate. They only cost ten or twenty bucks, but what church would stop everyone at the door and say, “You can’t come in without these earphones”? So we decided that we would give headsets to anyone who can’t afford one; they’re paid for from our general fund. Jesus didn’t charge people when he fed the 5000 and neither do we. If you need a little help, speak to the Vicar – and don’t be offended if he speaks to you, not knowing your financial situation.

We don’t have our retreat leaders signed up yet, but tonight I contacted an experienced retreat leader in my parish, Amy J. Paget, and I’ve spoken to others about it; Deacon Lani is tentatively on board. I also want an experienced male leader but haven’t found one yet.

Once everything is settled we will open registrations – which is good because Waycross is wanting a deposit.

I close with this tip of the biretta to Steve Helmreich, who took me to Indiana Beach once and knows that…

Beach CrowI still have the coffee mug I bought that day; sometimes I sip from it while we’re reading Morning Prayer.++

Daily Office Retreat Schedule 2.0


Daily Office Community Retreat

Thursday August 13 – Sunday August 16, 2015

Waycross Conference Center
Brown County, Indiana

Workshops on Prayer – Liturgy – Anglican Rosary – Meditation & Centering Prayer – Vocation – Healing

Day Trips (Tentative)
Modern Art & Architecture, Columbus, Indiana
CANDLES Holocaust Museum hosted by Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor, Terre Haute, Indiana

Live Webcasts
4-Fold Office & Daily Eucharist
swimming – hiking – canoeing – birdwatching
Rosary Gift Exchange
S’mores by the campfire
Latenight euchre tournaments

Retreat Leaders (unconfirmed)
The Rev. Lani Nelson
The Rev. Gordon Chastain


Housing & Meals Included
Modern Accomodations, Private Baths
Double Occupancy, per person $97 x 3 = $291
Single Occupancy $127 x 3 = $381

Conference Fee & Materials $250
Airport Transportation (optional) $50
Day Transportation $100

$700 per person, double occupancy
$800 single occupancy

LIMIT 25 – Reserve your place today!!


Check-in & Registration 3-4pm
(free time)
Plenary Session, 4pm: Welcome, Introductions, Personal Faith Timelines, Hopes & Expectations
Evening Prayer, 5pm
Workshop 1 – Meditation & Centering Prayer, 7pm
Cocktail Hour/Social Time
Compline, 9pm
Euchre Tournament


Morning Prayer Webcast – 9am
Workshop 2 – Vocation & Discernment, 9:45am
Noonday Prayer & Lunch, 12N
Day Trip 1 – Columbus Art & Architecture Tour, 1pm
Options: Nature Walk, 4pm
Options: Pool Party, 4pm
Options: Canoe Trip, 4pm
Holy Eucharist, 5:30pm
Workshop 3 – Anglican Rosary, Practice & Craft, 7pm (Maria)
Evensong Webcast, 9pm
Campfire, Songs & S’mores, 9:30pm


Morning Prayer – 9am
Workshop 4 – Prayer as the Work of Our Hands: Mother’s Cupboard, 10am
Noonday Prayer & Lunch, 12N
Day Trip 2 – CANDLES Holocaust Museum Tour, 1pm
Order of Worship for the Evening & Holy Eucharist, 5pm
Workshop 5 – Prayer & Healing, 7pm (Lani)
Euchre Tournament


Morning Prayer & Holy Eucharist
Workshop 6 – Integrating our Learnings, Noonday Liturgy & Rosary Exchange

A Word from the Rosebud Reservation: Wopila

Rosebud children at the annual Vacation Bible School conducted for the past 12 years by members of Christ Church, Bethany, Connecticut.

Rosebud kids enjoying the GLORY youth activity series with Mother Lauren. Those looks are priceless!

Josh, following is the message I sent to Bishop Catherine [Waynick of the Diocese of Indianapolis] a few minutes ago. I waited so I could tell her how the money was spent, and want you to know as well. Blessings!

Dear Bishop Catherine:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing today to thank you for your part in helping us here on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Last month, sent $400 to the Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West) to help our people here with heating propane and firewood. Your gift alone helped two families receive propane and three other families sufficient firewood to heat their homes.

We cannot thank you enough for the assistance. As you may know, the Rosebud Reservation is one of the poorest counties in the United States, with 87 percent unemployment, nearly 100 percent of our children receiving free breakfast and/or lunch at school, and more than 60 percent of all residents receiving aid of some kind from the federal government, the state, or the Sicangu Lakota Tribe. With few prospects for development, more crime than we want to admit, and a high incidence of alcoholism and drug addiction, life on the Rosebud can be very difficult. It is part of the mission of the Episcopal Church here to help as many people in need as possible. We can only do so through help from Dioceses such as yours, and from numerous friends throughout the United States who serve as Ministry Partners.

On behalf of the families who were helped by your Diocese’s generosity, we say Wopila (Lakota for “thank you from the heart”).

Blessings and peace,


The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley
Priest-in-Charge, Rosebud Mission West
Rosebud Reservation
P.O. Box 256
Mission, South Dakota, 57555-0256

Our Community Network Build Has Now Begun!

Lovely as this is, it is not a church.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Wikimedia)

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Wikimedia)

It is a dazzling building erected for the glory of God and the edification of persons.

This is a church.

Members of the Diocese of Chicago playing with members of the Diocese of Southeast México, 2013.

Members of the Diocese of Chicago playing with members of the Diocese of Southeast México, 2013.

You can “have church” anywhere. You can “be church” only with other people.

This, so far, is The Daily Office version of church:

Some of my favorite people: a screen grab after one of our webcasts last year. We get together online five mornings a week, plus Friday nights.

Some of my favorite people: a screen grab after one of our webcasts last year. We get together online five mornings a week, plus Friday nights.

Community is everything. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together, I am in the midst of them.”

I am not the vicar of a website, or three websites, or a Facebook group. I am the Vicar of 5000 followers, most of whom do not know each other, but do know that they are part of an intentional community, and value their connection.

To remedy the fact that few of us have met, we’re holding a retreat this August in southern Indiana. But for years I have worked to bring us together in more ways – and now at last it appears my dearest dream is about to come true.

I’m so excited I could run around in circles like the Verger!

Luke resting at my knee a few days after I got him; he runs around in circles every day when he knows we're going outside. I call him the Verger because he likes to tug on his leash and show me where to go.

Luke resting at my knee a few days after I got him; he runs around in circles every day when he knows we’re going outside. I call him the Verger because he likes to tug on his leash and show me where to go.

To promote community – people knowing each other, sharing their lives, and working together for holy purposes – I have long wanted to develop a social network. John M. came up with the idea for us years ago, and I have struggled ever since to make it happen – made phone calls to developers and coders and marketers, written e-mails, asked for grants, raised money – all to no avail, until now.

But as of Friday, the work has begun!

Here is the person who’s finally making it happen – in one fortuitous conversation, by hooking me up with a web professional she knows.

Former journalist and television news producer Kathy Copas of the Diocese of Indianapolis.

Former journalist and television news producer Kathy Copas, Communications and Evangelism Officer of the Diocese of Indianapolis.

We met in a private chat on Friday with Tony Schlisser of Pages & PCs in Louisville, Kentucky. Tony is IndyDio’s main computer whiz, responsible for 50 or more individual websites under the diocesan umbrella, including our donation page. Lately he’s been helping me develop a new, unified “landing page” for our three Daily Office sites (Americas, Asia-Pacific and Oficio Diario in Spanish). We are the Daily Office Network now, with a logo and everything. You’ve seen our logo; I should put it on this blog too, but I only now thought of it. Our logo’s gotten rave reviews.

daily office logo

In the course of developing this landing page, where all our sites will converge under the roof, I happened to mention on Friday what all this is leading toward, our own social network. Somehow this was the first Tony had heard of it – though I thought surely I had mentioned it before; I’ve been talking about it so long I think everyone I know has heard of it. But he hadn’t. And then…


He solved it in five seconds!

(Cue the rat terrier turning triple axels.)

Tony knew what Kathy and I didn’t, that WordPress, our bloghost, also offers a social networking application called BuddyPress. Thus one problem that’s stymied me repeatedly – what platform to use – he solved instantly.

What’s significant is that our current blogs must integrate seamlessly with the social network, so that you can go from one to the other with a simple click without ever leaving our site.

We’re not looking to do a churchy version of Facebook here, but to use the strengths of social networking to “be” the church.

The most fun part of our Morning Prayer webcasts happens after we pray; we move into our virtual Parish Hall, where we can see everyone’s face much better, and we chatter like magpies.


We have the beginnings of a timeline now for our long-awaited site makeover and expansion. We hope to have our new landing page debut on Easter Day. It will feature much bigger, widescreen art on the title page, with 3 buttons so you can choose which site you use for prayer; maybe we’ll use that photo above from Sainte-Chapelle so you can see it in all its glory. Every day I want you to see a photo or painting that gets you in the mood to enter into God’s presence. Every day when you come I want you to say, “Yes, this is the right place.”

Shortly after Easter Padre Mickey’s Oficio Diario site will be moving to WordPress; all three sites will have new URLs (probably subdomains of, including automatic forwarding so nobody has to change their bookmarks right away. And then, later in the summer we’ll open our new social network, which I haven’t named yet.

Dana Carvey on "SNL."

Dana Carvey on “SNL.”

I have gotten to know hundreds of you in the ten years since I founded our first site. You are great people, incredibly engaged with Jesus Christ and working hard to bring Good News to a hurting world. It’s time you met each other.

As I said, I don’t expect our social network to replace Facebook; after all, we have 2600 members there and dozens more arriving every week. But I hope, once you look us over, you’ll also join our network and make new friends for socializing, sharing, writing, linking, laughing, weeping, praying and working. It should also be a great place to let other people know what’s going on in your parish, diocese and neighborhood that may interest them.

My greatest hope is that we will use it for mission purposes. Publicize your concert, your trip to Haiti or South Sudan, your prison ministry, your health services. Spread the Good Word!

It will be essential that our core group of 5000 decide to join and make it work. So you can expect that we’ll be promoting it heavily. Here’s why.


When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, just one year after we launched our Daily Office site, thousands of people died, including Vera Briones Smith. Hundreds of churches were damaged or destroyed. Whole cities were ruined. I tried to compose a prayer that could begin to express our collective grief and loss and confusion.

And because our site is oriented in part toward praying about the events of the day – not just your personal piety, like other sites – we had a huge jump in traffic. People needed to pray, because we felt so helpless.

In the days afterward, thousands of Christians and other citizens from all walks of life rushed to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to help survivors rebuild their lives. Our site raised money for Episcopal Relief and Development.

And while the teevee focused so much on New Orleans, our members knew that Mississippi was devastated just as bad if not worse – because we showed pictures of churches, where the only thing left was the bell that used to hang in the steeple but then was sitting in the front yard. Ocean Springs, Pass Christian – we learned the names of these places – Pensacola, Bayou La Batre, Bay St. Louis, Metairie and more.

As recovery began, we showed that too – worship the following Sunday, with everyone gathered around the rubble and the bell.

We stayed on it for weeks, while our competition kept acting as if nothing happened. When the Bishop of Mississippi wrote a prayer, I took down mine and put up his.

Today, if we’re able to create a viable social network for Episcopalians and Friends, we’ll be much more able to respond to the next disaster.

That’s the kind of mission work I’m talking about – along with the everyday emergencies of war and peace, homelessness, hunger, ignorance, hatred, materialism, scapegoating, imprisonment, environmental degradation, racism, injustice and everything else that God abhors about human beings.

How God’s able to love us through all of this I’ll never understand. But then God is God, and I am not. Thank God!

Famine is spreading in South Sudan tonight. Episcopalians are going hungry along with 150,000 of their fellow citizens. I want us to get food to those people, along with celebrating every birth and birthday, graduation and new job, accomplishment and disappointment, illness and healing, life and death. That’s what a Christian social network can uniquely do, so that’s why I want one.

Our friend Deacon Letha used Facebook this weekend to publicize a concert at her church, Midway Baptist in Midway, Kentucky, a fundraiser for one of their frequent mission trips to Haiti. They raised $2100 while the town was covered in two feet of snow!!!

[UPDATE: Letha says that a Haitian couple, now living in Louisville, Ky., saw a notice about this concert on social media and drove 75 miles to little Midway so they could attend! A bit of virality started up, which is what social networks are so good at. That’s how the Church first got started, you know; Jesus went viral.]

It was a "Love/Haiti" thing last night at Midway Baptist Church in Kentucky. (Letha Tomes Drury on Facebook)

It was a “Love/Haiti” thing last night at Midway Baptist Church in Kentucky. (Letha Tomes Drury on Facebook)

The thing is, it’s easy for this kind of event to get lost in the vastness of Facebook, with all its celeb news, politics, hookups, advertising, gaming and cat videos. What a person gets out of Facebook depends entirely on who their friends are – and for everyone, those friends are a diverse group. I’m tired of fighting an insatiably greedy, privacy-crushing mega-corporation over the contents of my news feed. I don’t care that you just won at Crazy Birds, bought a tractor at FarmTown or found a clue at MurderMystery. I don’t want to see racy pictures of you and the person you’re dating. I’m not going to shop at my nearest Chick Fil-A, Pizza Rot or Walmart. And if I never see another racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Obamacare, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant rant I will like that just fine!

Yes to pictures of the “grandcubs,” the books you’re reading, the songs you recommend, the food you cooked, the flowers you grew, your concert for Haiti – and double-yes to Tim’s 40-second video of one-year-old Jackson’s first steps.

Taking Jackson for a ride.

Taking Jackson for a ride.

I just figure that Christians have a need to hang out with each other sometimes, even if our conversation is less than pious. And the chance to do a little good isn’t something I want to pass up.

Get this – the Diocese of Indianapolis will host our network for free. Unlimited bandwidth and storage, Tony says; just tell him what I want and he’ll try to find a way.

Kathy Copas is worth her weight in frankincense!

So watch for all these changes, and if you can spare a prayer please give us one.

Thank you, Lord, for making me a home in the Diocese of Indianapolis.

Think of this: if our new social site works for Episkies, it will work for progressive Christians of all colors.++

The Daily Office Retreat Is a “Go”

This week we polled our members to determine interest in getting together for our first retreat, and now we have results: enough interest to move forward, experts to guide us in planning our program, a wonderful location in scenic Brown County, Indiana and tentative dates, Thursday through Sunday, August 20-23, 2015.

We even have a pledge for some scholarship money, because we want our retreat to be affordable.

The idea grew out of discussions we had with our Daily Office missioner, Dr. Maria L. Evans, a seminarian in the Diocese of Missouri. After 10 years and almost 3,000,000 hits, we’re happy to claim some 5000 faithful, fascinating people as our own in Christ. We want to meet them in person! This will be our first chance, in what we hope will become an annual event.

It will be held at Waycross, the camp and conference center of the Diocese of Indianapolis, located about halfway between Indy and Louisville, Kentucky.

The main building at Waycross features 37 hotel rooms, several meeting spaces, lounges, artwork, dining hall and a souvenir shop.

The main building at Waycross features 37 hotel rooms, several meeting spaces, lounges, artwork, dining hall and a souvenir shop.

Brown County, Indiana is one of the top travel destinations in the Midwest, thanks to its beautiful landscape, which in the early 20th century attracted the Impressionist painter T.C. Steele, who built a cabin and painted many scenes. Other artists followed and an Indiana School of painting developed, known as the Hoosier Group.

Brown County is still rustic and rural; slow down around the hairpin curves, because you may find yourself hard upon a Mennonite buggy. Nashville, the county seat, is the only organized town, with a population of 900. There are 19 art galleries and studios; bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s annual Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival runs for 8 days in June and is located just a few miles away, not far from St. David’s Episcopal Church.


Midwest Living magazine offers this 60-second video tour:

While Waycross and Brown County are attractions in themselves, the real reason for attending is the chance to meet other people with a deep commitment to God in prayer. Though I hesitate to call them “good Christians,” because we’re all sinners and at best are only doing what Christians ought to do, I believe very strongly that the daily habit of prayer makes a big difference in our lives. These are people who know, better than I do, that when we pray the Daily Office, twice a day for 30 days, we’re bound to get closer to God – not because of any merit of our own, but because God is generous in allowing us to get to know him. The Holy Spirit uses the time we give to bring us closer to herself; and the more we know her, the more we trust her and are able to follow where she leads.

What we want to accomplish on our retreat is to develop our prayer lives beyond our current practices. Thus we want to offer instruction and practice using other methods besides the Daily Office, including meditation, centering prayer and the work of our hands. Though we’ll have some spiritual experts to guide us, the main teachers we’ll find are each other. That is what we’ve found this past year with our core group of webcasters – but it surely is equally true of the 5000 other people who follow our sites. We’re not holier than anyone else, but having taken on this discipline and applied it daily, we maybe find it a little easier to conform our lives to God’s will.

Constant prayer reduces our resistance to God. We mortals always resist, we can’t help it; partly out of selfishness and ignorance, but also out of fear. What happens to those who have a spiritual discipline is that God greatly reduces our fear.

For instance, I used to be afraid that giving myself wholly to God would mean that “I” would cease to exist as a separate being. I was afraid that God was like a spiritual vampire waiting to consume me. But it isn’t so; God is the opposite of a zombie, and I’ve become more like myself, not less.

Now multiply my paltry insight times 25 people and you might have a weekend worth coming to!

It’s six months away, but already I’m getting excited. We’re going to Waycross. We’re going to meet each other!++

Annual Meeting Approves Tithe for Mission Work, New Logo

Annual Mtg View Here

Click here:

(UPDATE: Some graphics displayed during our webcast may not be visible in the recording.)

Gwen moved and Clint seconded that we devote $2000, or 10% of our annual budget, to Episcopal churches in these places:

• Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission, South Dakota
• Episcopal Diocese of Bor, South Sudan – famine relief
• Episcopal Diocese of Lui, South Sudan
• Rosebud Episcopal Mission, South Dakota – emergency heating assistance
• St. Andre’s School, Mithon, Haiti – student lunches

It isn’t much but it gets us started in mission work – and we couldn’t do it without the generous support of our members. Thank you.

We chose these recipients because they offer us the chance to engage in mutual ministry; we expect to benefit as much as they do. “Church” is a community, and communities are built of relationships. We’ve already heard from the priests at Rosebud and Mithon, and communications channels are well-established with all five.

Our other big news is internal to us, our new logo. We operate several associated websites – prayer sites in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Spanish language, as well as our Facebook group, Twitter followers, the Progressive Church News and even this blog – and now they’ll all be labeled the same:

daily office logo

Hope you like it. And stay tuned, we’ve got more plans up our sleeves.++

Announcing “The Progressive Church News” on

We now have a presence on, a news aggregator customized for us, and I suddenly understand the value of it. We’re calling it Progressive Church News.

It features a prominent link to our site, but you already know about The Daily Office, so what makes this new thing worth your while? It contains a lot more than just our stuff, newsy things from around the Church and the world that you may not see otherwise.

What does is to pull links from our Twitter feed and give them more prominence. You’ll see stories from church and society, in the U.S. and around the world. Check it out here.

The current edition (it updates twice a day, morning and evening – get it?) contains stories from Chris Hayes, several Episcopal seminaries, Mother Jones magazine, HuffPo, The New York Times, Trinity Wall Street, Episcopal Migration Ministries and more – photos, videos and news. And none of that “I’m sipping latte at Starbucks” or “I won a pig at Farmerama” trivia.

The folks at have figured out how to add value to Twitter, by expanding the links placed by others; the key to it is who and what we follow. I don’t use our Twitter account for personal friends, only for Daily Office purposes, so we get a feed of what’s worth knowing around the Church and the world, from street ministries to major institutions, Episcopal and otherwise. Here’s a screen grab:

Prog Church News

It’s laid out like a newspaper site, thus the name. And since we follow clergy, dioceses, lay leaders and various news outlets – from Diana Butler Bass to the Diocese of Mississippi – we get a more complete look at the Church and the world than we would otherwise.

I came up with a slogan for Progressive Church News, too – Things to Know & Pray About.

I hope you’ll check it out and consider subscribing. We are always looking to expand our reach and usefulness, and this is looking like a cool new thing.

As you know, we work hard at all this. Why?

(The Daily Office)

(The Daily Office)

Our Advent “Ember Day” Letter to the Bishop: Late but Newsy

Right Reverend Ma’am:

This is the Advent Ember Day letter from, late as usual. I’m happy to report that we have achieved nearly all our goals for 2014.

• We celebrated our 10th anniversary and 2,800,000th visitor.

• We completed our first year of live webcasts, a total of 313 daily services. Our live congregation has grown very close to each other; it makes all the difference to be able to see and hear each other. We incorporate new webcast members easily, too.

Average attendance remains small, only 15 per day, perhaps because it is held too late in the morning for the East Coast. That is something to examine in the future, because we have unlimited attendance capacity.

We also make the webcast recordings immediately available once the service is over, and though we do not get the most useful statistics from Adobe Connect, we know that our most popular services attract 2-3 times the number of live participants, or 30-45 per day. When our regular webcasters have to miss a service, they go back and watch it later – but so do others. That part of our congregation is invisible to us, but we reach out to them and bless them every single day.

We may be the only religious congregation anywhere doing daily webcasts like these.

We bought a parish register this fall, because our webcasts feel like real church services. I’ve quickly fallen in love with that book, which of course hasn’t changed formats since I was a teenaged acolyte in Lafayette.

• As of Advent 1 our Spanish language Office site, Oficio Diario, is operating smoothly under our banner and Padre Mickey Dresbach’s tutelage. However, we’ve had to let go of our local “vicar” in New Zealand. He did a great job for a month, and then decided it was too stressful, citing some church-related rejection he went through in 1969 when he was a kid. I guess such things happen sometimes, and all we can do is try to support the person.

Our strategy was provably right, though; that blog doubled its e-mail subscribers to 500+ in just one month – which may seem small, but that’s 350,000 services arriving in Inboxes per year.

• With your help, we launched a fundraising drive which has exceeded our modest goal of $18,000. Thank you!

• We produced our first introductory video, “How to Get Closer to God,” which is located here if you haven’t seen it:

It’s also posted on our About page. It’s not quite perfect, but we’re happy with it. I’m very proud of our members’ enthusiastic participation; 16 people had a hand in it, recording a few words of greeting and prayer, and I got my first experience in writing and production. Now if I could find a better editor than yours truly, we’d be in business.

I also completed a “Video Christmas Card” with art, music and no text, and now we have a Daily Office Channel on YouTube. This video started out as a learning project so I could familiarize myself with the editing software. I’ve decided there’s no longer any reason to lick stamps!

• We attended diocesan convention; I got to meet people I only knew online, as well as a very sharp Daughter of the King and many members of the Youth Steering Committee – one of whom described Waycross as “my favorite place on earth.”

• We have our first advertising materials, with the same graphic on a 9-foot vinyl banner and running at the top of all three websites. Kathy Copas has hooked me up with a logo designer, who expects to have the final version ready for inspection soon. I am delighted with all Kathy’s help.

• And through it all we have maintained a pastoral focus and an unwavering commitment to social justice.

Heading into 2015

This year I intend to concentrate on three areas of growth: producing more videos; beginning “remote” webcasts from the chapel at St. John’s, Lafayette; and our long-awaited site redesign.

I’ve written two video scripts, on evangelism methods and technology as an evangelical tool, and I’ve recorded some footage that I haven’t put together yet. Getting “Daily Office 101” completed turned out to be massively fun, but also a big drain on my time. So I gave myself the rest of December off and will take up those projects in the new year.

I also have plans to shoot video of a house church in Little Lake, Michigan, where one of our webcasters, the Rev. Gwen Hetler, is on the clergy team. Holy Innocents’ is a long-established smalltown church which a few years ago was asked by the late Bishop Jim Kelsey to move its building to the new diocesan camp and conference center nearby. After Bishop Kelsey was killed, the diocese went through turmoil and ended up selling the camp, with Little Lake’s church still sitting there. They lost their building but they didn’t close, and I think there’s a great faith-story in it.

Fr. Bradley in Lafayette has given me permission to webcast from the St. John’s chapel, if we can get their internet router problem solved. I think the longterm future of our webcasts probably depends on relocating to a visually richer setting – the opposite path from Little Lake’s. Once the novelty of new technology wears off, we’ll want to show something besides a few talking heads and a thousand-word liturgy printed in a PDF.

Webcasting is not a lot different from the FaceTime call you and I’ll be having in a few days; the webcast has more “callers” from more places, a few pictures and a recorded video at the end, but the rest is very similar to Skype. Spiritually our webcast is much more enriching than saying the Office by oneself, but it doesn’t begin to be as good as going to church, where we don’t just sit, read and recite, we also look around at the beautiful holy things; if there’s music it isn’t recorded, it’s live. As Episcopalians we believe God is revealed to us in our senses; our webcasts need to become more visual. Bradley and I will be getting together for lunch soon.

Site redesign: We are approaching the end of the useful life of our blogs as currently configured: free (or nearly so) and presented using a simple template. Blogs are built for words, not for images; “blog” is short for “weblog,” a written diary of thoughts, opinions and experiences. The Daily Office is always going to offer (and rely on) the written word, since that’s what the liturgy consists of, but we’ve nearly maxed out what WordPress can do at this level of inexpensive technology. But getting to the next level has always depended on having enough money to upgrade the visual presentation. Now, for the first time, we have the ability to do that because of our fundraising. Praise the Lord!

Kathy is going to put me in touch with some site designers she trusts. I’m not just talking about getting a new website; that’s a common enough activity, and as she points out, parishes can and do spend thousands of dollars on a new presentation and often end up with something that isn’t much better than they had before. What the Daily Office needs is both simple and revolutionary, at least within the Church. We need to move in the same direction as some other media companies are starting to do: widescreen dramatic visuals that illustrate our words.

We don’t need flash; we don’t need “ease of navigation,” although we’re going to have that too. The first thing I want – and it will be simple to do, even if some complicated coding is involved – is to wow people with the beauty of the Lord from the moment they land on our site.

From there they’ll have only a few choices to navigate. But I want them with us the minute they walk through our door.

We exist to provide a prayer service; an experience of the Holy One. That is a simple remit. If we can learn to do that well, we’ve done our job and will grow inevitably because of it.

Every single day we must be visually stunning – but do it quietly, because God is not a shouter.

Our “landing page” will consist of a single, gorgeous photograph, painting or sculpture. We’ll put our name in the upper left and offer a few little buttons: Western Hemisphere, Spanish, Asia-Pacific. Nothing else.

You wanna pray, or just find God? It starts the minute you land. One day a Botticelli, one day a NASA photo from space, one day Canterbury or the annual Vigil for the Homeless at Christ Church Cathedral, Monument Circle.

“Bring Back Our Girls.”
“Here Lies Vera.”
“Black Lives Matter.”
Children evacuated from Peshawar.
The new St. André’s School in Mithon.
Libby Lane, the new Bishop of Stockport.
Or the faith, joy and courage of refugees in the Diocese of Bor.

I want the person who lands on our homepage to say, “Yup, this is the right place.” Then they’ll choose a button and begin to pray.

Once we’ve got that landing page we’ll add our social media site with all its possibilities for interaction, ideas, mission plans and just fun.

I believe, based on certain shivers surrounding my body a couple of days ago, that this is where God wants the Daily Office to go. So 2015 is the year and this is where we will go.

Personal Check-In

My best personal news this past year away from our sites happened at the St. John’s/LUM Food Pantry in Lafayette; I discovered the joys of mission work, and I’m already hooked for life.

They started opening up on Saturdays this summer, to offer weekend hours and to take advantage of unsold merchandise at the farmers’ market just down the street. I got to volunteer almost every week and had a blast. The people are a lot of fun – the staff, yes, but especially the customers. I loved them and they loved me back.

Now I know why our Missioner, Dr. Maria L. Evans of the Diocese of Missouri, is forever gallivanting off to foreign parts – Niobrara, Haiti, the Diocese of Lui, or just driving her pickup to the local supermarket and challenging the whole town to Fill Up The Ford with food donations.

We often speak these days about Christ’s “preferential option for the poor.” That’s theological talk for something really basic: Jesus just enjoys them, even as he understands exactly how they came to be where they are.

Whether they’re happy, sad, hurting, angry, sick, confused or afraid, they don’t try to be someone they’re not. They let me see them as they really are, with all their needs, joys, strengths and weaknesses. They wear their humanity on their sleeves, and all I have to do is recognize them, be present and real back with them. They’re more tolerant of other people, and more willing to take in information they didn’t have before. They like to make friends; every Saturday when I arrive at the church I don’t go inside until I’ve said hello to everyone waiting outside for us to get this show on the road. We recognize each other now, we joke around, I talk to the kids and the old folks, I make sure everybody gets some face time; then I go inside and help us get organized.

The payoff isn’t just when they leave with groceries and say profuse and heartfelt thanks; it’s that they recognize my humanity too. So we have a great time, and the next week I can’t wait to see them again. Sure, we count the number of families and individuals served, and think about the people who will eat whom we do not see; they’re who we’re in business for. But the real impact on me is the customers’ faces and the echo of their voices as I drive home. If I manage to say one thing that honors their dignity, that becomes the currency we exchange; the old disabled veteran, the bright immigrant child who can translate English into Hindi for his mother, the middle-aged man who worked all his life until the company closed, the younger guy with mental illness trying to keep it together amidst all the stimulation. Give them just one moment where we’re equals, and they’ll be your friend for life.

I wouldn’t miss it; I’m already a food pantry lifer.

So the next time you ask me what I do for fun, it’s that; I hang out with poor people, we have a great time together. I may be the one handing out the food, but they’re the ones handing out the love.

Why did I get those shivers a day or two ago? I think it’s because what all this is leading to is mission. That is a joyful thing, despite the overwhelming sorrows of this life. We’re in this together and for the most part, “the kids are all right.”



Church Composer: Evil Episcopalians “Corrode” Souls, “Pollute” Society

Maybe you remember the video we showed on the morning of Christmas Eve, “The King Shall Come” by Michael Linton. It’s a lovely piece, sweetly sung and played by the combined choirs and orchestra at Wheaton College.

That should have been my first clue – and it was, actually, because this was the first favorable mention of fundamentalist Wheaton we’ve ever had on our site in 10 years. But I decided to go ahead in honor of the college’s courageous role 150 years ago in the anti-slavery movement, and because Linton’s Advent carol should be more widely heard. For several days after I posted the video, that was the music I heard in my head, not the standard Christmas repertory. I watched the video several times.

The composer makes quite an effort to ask viewers to visit his website, so I did, and wrote him a nice note to let him know that we’d shown his work on our webcast and made it available to our thousands of followers. The video had only had a thousand plays before this, so I thought he would be pleased. But come to find out…

He answered back this morning.

“Dear Josh:

“Thank you for your e-mail regarding the use of Wheaton’s performance of “The King Shall Come.”  Mary Hopper is an extraordinary musician and I was both delighted and honored by Wheaton’s use of the processional.  And I am grateful for your kind note.  But it is with mixed feelings that I receive the news of the piece’s use on the website.

“I am happy that your visitors like the piece and found it useful, and also for your own kind words.  But there is more. Because of the House of Bishop’s vote in 2003, confirming the bishops’ belief that the Bible was not to be held as the authority in matters of faith and practice, over riding all else (a motion put before the House of Bishops by the Bishop of Quincy, Illinois, if I remember correctly), my wife and I resigned our positions in an Episcopal parish as musicians and exited the Episcopal Church with our daughters.  Except for one funeral, I have not even been inside an Episcopal Church since nor have I used the dailyoffice website (something that I once consulted twice daily).  I believe that the Episcopal Church as it stands today is both deeply corrosive to lives of Christians and a pollutant in the wider, secular, culture.  I understand that people of good will and the best intentions can disagree on important matters, but there comes a time when profound disagreements must lead to responsible separations.

“I believe that there really is a time when “the King shall come” and “truth shall be extolled.”  It’s just not a bit of poetry.  And at that time all of our sins and arrogances will be burned away, most certainly mine.  But I ask that my music not again be linked to the dailyoffice website.  There is a continent of deeply wonderful music available for use and whatever music I might have most certainly won’t be missed by those using the site.

“I do not mean to be rude or ungrateful for your personal kindness.  I am grateful and I thank you for being so generous as to understand a position which to many might seem inexplicable — but it is my position.

“All best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2015.


Imagine that – I belong to an evil Church that’s corrosive to Christians and pollutes civil society, but he wishes me a healthy and properous new year!

As Vicar I get these Gay-hating messages from time to time, but to me it’s just one of the costs of proclaiming the Gospel. Linton doesn’t spell it out, but that 2003 decision in the House of Bishops had nothing to do with Biblical authority; if anything it had to do with Biblical interpretation. But the decision in 2003 concerned the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson, who is openly Gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire. He needed the consent of the other Episcopal bishops and he got it – then had to wear a bulletproof vest to his consecration, in case some fundamentalist bigot decided to assassinate him.

So I replied to Mr. Linton:

“That’s fine. I once picketed your alma mater for encouraging anti-Gay violence and murder.

“Josh Thomas”

Here’s a photo I took that day in 2007 outside the Wheaton chapel when former Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola preached to Bob Duncan’s “Anglican” schismatics; 50 demonstrators showed up, not a huge number, but still, the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, local TV, the Associated Press, Christianity Today, the college newspaper, the Religion News Service: we got our message across. Jesus loves everyone.

Bob and Max on the corner outside the Wheaton College Chapel, 2007. (Josh Thomas)

Bob and Max on the corner outside the Wheaton College Chapel, 2007. The demonstrator in the background holds a sign, “Akinola Says, “Gays Unfit to Live.” (Josh Thomas)

I don’t always answer the Michael Lintons of the world; there’s no point in arguing with a bigot. They never have original things to say that I haven’t heard 10,000 times before. But I decided today that I’d give him a 20-word reply for no better reason than so he would know the first and most important lesson of the Stonewall Riots: If you attack us, we fight back.

It’s true of Lesbigay people and I hope it’s true of Episcopalians: we fight back. I am all in favor of saintly Louie Crew turning the other cheek, but it’s not what I’m called to do.

I hoped my 20 words would be enough to make my pal Mike think twice about continuing this useless conversation, but no. He couldn’t let a thing like that go by.

So he sent this. (I haven’t even looked at it yet, just copy-and-paste.)

“Thanks Josh.  It must have been fun to picket NYU and Yale!  HA. I assume you mean Wheaton.   Were you with Soulforce? I may have this wrong, but I do believe that the college provided a meal and a discussion for the Soulforce visitors, at least one time, followed by a civil open forum.  But I may have the story wrong.   We live on somewhat metaphorically different planets with different values.  Let’s hope that we can continue to cultivate a civilization where such differences are respected, where we don’t descend to the kind of civilization where differences bring people to kill each other, as is happening in Africa and the Middle East.  It will be tricky to negotiate and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be successful but it is something to work for.


(And I still haven’t read it; let him have the last word, so I don’t get sucked in to another pointless screamfest.)

Wheaton College continues to promote anti-Gay views – and to provoke increasing criticism from its own students. Last January the college gave its chapel to a “conversion therapy” advocate, even though “pray away the Gay” isn’t a therapy, doesn’t work and is illegal when administered to minors in California and New Jersey. Christianity Today was on top of that demonstration too and ran this photo by Philip Fillion:

"Wheaton Students Protest 'Train Wreck Conversion' Speaker's Ex-Gay Testimony," by Kate Tracy, in Christianity Today, posted 2/21/14.

“Wheaton Students Protest ‘Train Wreck Conversion’ Speaker’s Ex-Gay Testimony,” by Kate Tracy, in Christianity Today, posted 2/21/14. The magazine was founded by Billy Graham and has offices in Coral Stream, Illinois, like Wheaton a suburb of Chicago.

Meanwhile American televangelist Scott Lively, described by The Washington Post as “obsessively anti-Gay,” is facing a “crimes against humanity” lawsuit in Federal court for his role in promoting Uganda’s “kill the Gays” law. Maybe he can get a gig at Wheaton.

I would think that our humble composer and the little fundamentalist college would think twice about picking needless fights with Gay people, when it’s increasingly obvious that young adults have made up their minds on the sinfulness and injustice of homophobia. But no, these intrepid anti-Gay campaigners soldier on, convinced they’re warriors for Christ – and in that, I do aver, we have everything in common.

Mike Linton wrote a nice tune, and the Wheaton students sang it beautifully. I just don’t ever want to hear it again in one of our evil, wicked, corrosive, polluting Episcopal churches.++


Ember Day Letter to Bishop Cate

To the Congregation:

Preview of coming attractions, FYI.

My dear Bishop,

Here is the autumn Ember Day letter from I hope you enjoyed your time with the House of Bishops in Taipei. We were able to pray with you and for you during that time, and to follow some news of the House thanks to Mary Frances Schjonberg’s coverage on ENS.

Spanish Site, a Daily Office “Network”

Here are some important developments for us. On Advent 1, our official 10th anniversary, we will launch the Daily Office in Spanish by bringing an existing site, Oficio Diario, under our umbrella. It was founded three years ago by the Rev. Michael Dresbach, a priest in the Diocese of El Camino Real and former missionary in Panamá. He was named Alumnus of the Year in 2013 by CDSP and awarded an honorary doctorate; I’m proud that he’s joining us. Oficio Diario is attractively presented and successful, but it has never gotten the traffic it deserves, and Padre Mickey and I are hoping that by combining forces, we can generate some publicity so more users come to both sites. We will create a portal (“landing page”) on our sites so that all users can choose their preferred language and location, English/Spanish and Eastern/Western Hemisphere.

Maybe you’ll get a chance to help us add a little buzz by mentioning it to bishops in Spanish-speaking dioceses. I’m hoping they can remember “” as the point of entry. (Show them on your phone!) We would love to have more visitors from Central and South America, the Caribbean and Philippines, as well as our own country.

That same date, Advent 1, I will appoint an Anglican layman in the Diocese of Auckland, New Zealand as editor of the Daily Office East so it has more of a regional focus and impact. His name is Graeme W. Prestidge and he has the support of his Vicar and Bishop. Graeme is currently the administrator of a New Zealand Anglican group on Facebook, and he links to our prayers every day. He has demonstrated commitment to the Lord and shown sufficient computer skills to take on this role. To find him I wrote a letter to our Eastern members and contacted the Rev. Bosco Peters, an Anglican liturgist and professor who operates the #1 Christian blog in New Zealand, asking for a volunteer from the region; Bosco publicized our invitation and Graeme volunteered. will own and control all three sites, which together we are branding as the Daily Office Network. But my workload will actually diminish because of Graeme, and the East should be a more useful site to people, being managed by someone who actually lives there.

Here’s what’s behind all this. As our American site got more and more hits, I began to worry about what would happen to it once I’m gone. Like Jackson Kemper and Philander Chase, I want the institutions I establish to outlive me. That means they have to be well founded, well managed and well capitalized; it has to be somebody’s job to keep the prayers going and make sure our sites continue to grow.

Money’s Coming In (and Going Out)

In connection with our 10-year anniversary, we are engaged in fundraising; we can’t wait for some foundation to decide we’re worthy. We set a goal of $17,800 and have received about $10,000 of that from 220 new donors after five weeks. We pegged our goal to equal $10 per year per e-mail subscriber, while allowing that some people can’t afford that, some people never give anything, and others are moved to be more generous. We don’t “charge for prayers,” but ironically, parishioners cost money; if the number of babies in the church nursery suddenly doubles, they need twice as many cribs and caregivers. That’s our situation.

Of course we have to be responsible with donors’ money; we’ve engaged the Roberts Law Office of Goodland, Indiana and the CPA firm Huth Thompson of Lafayette, and bought new accounting software. We will be able to meet our obligation to send donors’ contribution receipts come January. I will attach 1st Quarter 2014 results (Jan-Mar) herewith, as well as our 2015 budget. By the end of the year we’ll have good records of our finances.

You have twice offered a one-time donation of $1000 as the diocese’s gift to us. Now would be a good time for it if it’s still available.

New Technology

Meanwhile we are moving ahead on technology. Thanks to a generous donation from our “soul medic” and webcast leader Clint Gilliland, we now own two GoPro 3+ video cameras at about $300 each, which I am learning to operate. (This is the model Kathy Copas recommended to me.) I have made one “slide show” video so far (a common type on YouTube) to learn how to edit, which turns out to be easier than I expected. Even at the novice level, this opens new worlds for us.

Your offering me unused space in your office set in motion a chain reaction. (If you need to withdraw your offer, I’m fine with that. Your offer was enough to get me thinking, so it “worked” without my actually occupying the space.) A deacon in the Diocese of Michigan, Tim Spanauer, donated a copy of his recent book on video production, which emphasizes the planning process. I’ve learned how to set up a wireless network so I can control the camera remotely, without standing behind a tripod or disrupting what happens in church. I bought a new router, so now we have Wi-Fi capability. These are all key steps. Someday soon we will produce our own stand-alone Daily Office videos, as well as our webcasts.

But there are limits to what an amateur like me can accomplish, especially on a shoestring budget. We are at the point of needing professional help, so we can keep up with the increasing sophistication of our audience and congregation. In this coming year we will engage Bill Wolfe of Thirty Five, a marketing agency in Indy and Lafayette. They grow and cultivate online “tribes,” which we call communities. We need a site redesign, that new landing page, and ways to “monetize our content” so we can afford all these new bassinets for the nursery. We don’t need a Lay Vicar thinking he has to run everything when he doesn’t know how. We need expertise, and Bill has it; that’s why his company is a $5000 line item in our new budget.

What All This Means, I Think

There are many directions we can go in the future, but I want to close with a wide shot for some perspective.

Technology changes constantly, and we don’t know what the future will bring, but we can start to draw some conclusions from our limited experience. In ten years has grown from one small, basic, static website to three interactive, multimedia, bilingual sites with international reach, plus a few thousand followers on social media. Site visits keep climbing 40% a year with no leveling off – so we can expect growth to continue, and can probably accelerate it if we continue to invest in new production techniques, develop new “products” and new “markets,” and learn how to present these new products in ways that delight consumers and serve the Lord.

All this growth has big implications for how Episcopalians do church; our digital market increases at the same time that our physical parishes are struggling. Is anybody driving this bus? (In the future we may not need anyone to drive us; the bus may drive itself.) By 2050 artificial intelligence, now the domain of academics and the military, will likely be commercialized; what’s to become of the Church then?

My sense is this: no matter how smart our devices get, no matter what existential questions new technologies raise, people will always need access to the Divine, to holy ancient Wisdom, and to the cumulative experience of humanity. The Church’s mission will not change, even as our procedures and methods will be upended. There will never be a substitute for human touch in the Sacraments of God. So we should be prepared to stumble and fall and pick ourselves up again without fear or shame, but with confidence and open hearts. A loving God is in charge of this world. People will always need each other, will always need God, and will always need Good News. We’re likely to need community more than ever before; at the same time we’re likely to see ever wider divergence between cultures and faith.

So our job will be what it’s always been, communication – the very thing technology promises more of, but doesn’t always deliver. ISIS recruits online, but so do we.

We don’t know how, 40 years from now, we’ll “proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ,” but we know that will remain our mandate and vow. These trends put extra-parochial communities like right at the center of things. In our diocese we may lose 20, 30, 40 buildings – but we should try to gain 200, 300, 400 new micro-production companies. That’s what my organization is these days, a production company for Christ. We don’t crank out a hit show every day, but man, when we do, we’re astounding. I long for you to see that for yourself someday on a webcast.

We’ve got a good head writer, a talented presenter in Clint, and a congregation of great faith, but mostly we’re just aggregators. We combine other people’s incredible gifts from all over the world to tell the stories of God.

Besides investing continually in the latest gizmos, we need to aggregate talent in-house, by which I mean our organization, our parishes, dioceses and the national church. Whatever setbacks happen in the world and in the Episcopal Church, we have talent like crazy – and better stories to tell than any competition, religious or secular. What’s coming, as I see it, is pure, intense competition for souls; why should people go to church when they could be GoPro-ing with the whales off Dana Point, California, or battling to destroy all their enemies on X-Box?

As long as we don’t give up our “content” as Christians, but continually develop it with heart, soul, art and gadgets, I see us winning. We’re so far ahead of other churches it’s not funny. It may feel to us like we’re way behind the techno curve, but in fact we’re early adopters. This is only the start of the Computer Revolution.

So I’m optimistic, even as my mind gets boggled every day by the challenges. Episcopalians need to stand firm in the faith, as St. Paul said; we need visionary leaders who can gather creative people, train them and let them loose. We won’t win every time, but we don’t have to; we have to provide alternatives to the apathy, alienation and violence headed our way. Our opponents like to shoot up movie theaters, behead people or enslave women and girls; while our God continually gives us life.

As Episcopalians we can face this. Our little Daily Office community is proving it. And what we’re learning to do can be replicated and elaborated upon almost infinitely, if the Church will trust the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the thing to watch for from us on Advent 1: not just our new sites and new look, but whether we make our financial goal. If we fail, that represents a Word that doesn’t get said, a story that doesn’t get told – while we keep on telling others as best we can.

But if we succeed, we will be one new model of what this Church can become. We’ll always need priests and communities and gathering places, but they don’t have to be limited to the ones we have now, they can be anywhere and everywhere. That’s just where we want to be!

Thank you, Reverend Mother, for your prayers and support. Please send more!

Yours in Christ,


October 13, 2014

Attach: 2015 Budget
1Q 2014 Activity Statement