Saturday, November 5, 2016

Invitation to join St Bart's in ministry.

Here is my short invitation to our parish community to join hands in ministry. All are welcome, no exceptions.

Friday, November 4, 2016

letter to the parish - week before the election

Dear Friends,

I hope this newsletter finds you all in good health and spirits. Thank you for your commitment to our shared baptismal life at St. Bart’s. The abundance of our spiritual journey’s connecting with our Epistles in worship, Bible study life stories, at deep sharing over tables of the One Bread, One Body dinners - each moment affirming again and again what binds us together. Whether you have been active at St. Bart’s for decades or weeks, attending weekly or through prayer – we are a powerful example of the living church transforming lives in real time.

As one person wrote on the window in the sanctuary, I give “In gratitude for this community of faith that sustains me. Thanking God for God’s many blessings. Giving so others can receive.” Indeed, it takes a village to build the body Christ in our lives.

I want to be honest. This election cycle has forced me to come to terms with my own weaknesses. Too many nights I have wrestled with the angels when I felt overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and, yes, hopelessness as the stress mounts in our lives. I know many of you are weary too. We have heard and shared so many prayers of asking for God’s Grace to heal families, friendships, neighbors from turning against each other over political views: a stand on one of the Propositions, frustration after sacrificing so much to protect our constitution, shared rights for freedom, liberty and the right to vote. When these moments of weakness begin to swell within me, my baptismal alarm bells sound loudly.

I realize in these moments, I am not putting my full trust in God. I give thanks for my faith family to open my eyes to the power of God working in our midst. As one person wrote on the window, I give “Because St. Bart’s was there for me and I want it be here for the next person too.”

I realize I am part of a larger community of saints - baptized Christians. I give thanks for each baptism we offer, when we all renew our trust in God. God is with us every minute of every day. As one person wrote on the window, I give because “It’s a tangible expression of my faith.”

The mission of St. Bart’s (and all Christians) is to build bridges of reconciliation between all of God’s people. We are called to practice dignity, respect, compassion, generosity and love. God calls us not to celebrate our enemies' fall or their weaknesses. Rather, let us celebrate our common humanity. As one person wrote on the window, I give “to touch the lives of others.”

God calls us to extend our hands to all persons - a bridge between a police officer and a black man, a Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter, a Christian, Muslim and Jew. In each case, God calls us to bridge every divide to discover our innate, shared, God-given humanity and common good. The Beatitudes proclaim we are expected to love God’s people first. We should not change someone’s mind, but open our own heart and their heart to the presence of Christ. When we hear another’s story, we are transformed as are they.

I realize in these moments I yearn for the humility to be the benchmark, the shared desire, of every person, especially every politician, religious leader, friend, co-worker, family member and, yes, of me too. As one person wrote on the window “I want to give back to a church family that has given so much to me.”

God’s voice has been clear for generations. We all sin when we demonize and dehumanize any person, especially those who disagree or see the world differently from us. We sin when we promote fear, lies and bigotry. We sin when we bear false witness. We sin when we degrade women, people of other faiths and ethnic groups. We sin when we shame and blame another person publicly or privately. We sin when we remain silent and seated while another person suffers. It is sin that drives a wedge between families and neighbors.

I realize in these moments I love St. Bart’s and the Episcopal Church because I don’t have to be perfect and we don’t need to agree. I only need to seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness continuously. One person wrote on the window, “I give to be part of something larger than myself and to help people in need of spiritual guidance through the church”.

For generations, St. Bart’s has and will continue to seek every opportunity to proclaim the Good News by spreading the water of baptism over the flames of sin. Through our actions and presence, God’s mercy and grace will be made tangible and real to our families and neighbors.

In these moments, I love the Episcopal Church's DNA. It is a community of cultures and life stories, gathered into God’s gracious arms - welcoming everyone from all perspectives - a willingness to get messy sharing the love of Jesus Christ. What we share in His name is prayer, belief, baptism, forgiveness, bread and a passion to make the world a better place. We share in the one Body of Christ.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we have been given the God-given ability to counterbalance the venom of evil, pride and injustice as we seek to be agents of justice, goodness and hope. God is calling St. Bart’s to make the world a better place and we are doing just that. We can starve fear and feed hope. Together, we can extend our hands to stranger and friend.

Friends, I believe God is calling us to be relentless in our pursuit to bring dignity to every person and to be advocates for peace and justice in every corner of the world, our country, our families and the people of St. Bart’s. May we all be united in Christ regardless of the results of the election. Let’s put our trust in God and build the body of Christ together each day.

We are one bread, one body in Christ every day. Thanks be to God.

Faithfully yours,







Thursday, September 22, 2016

Watch this amazing intro with Fr Noe's introduction to The Epiphanie School, Loranette, Haiti
St Bart's and St Tim's Episcopal Churches are entering a partnership to build a school for 250 children. This will also be the first building in their village - and so it will serve as a hurricane shelter, community center, church. If you wish to join us and support our efforts, please click here: St Bart's and Haiti Partnership. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 8: Back in the USA

Made it safely to Atlanta this morning.
Sharing a meal back stateside while we await our next flight.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 7: travel to PaP

Good Morning. Today we packed our bags, said good bye to St Andre's, jumped in the car and off to Port Au Prince we go. 

Agenda: Two hour car ride. We'll drop Kate of for her meeting with local doctors, tour the top school in Haiti, St Peter's Episcopal Church. And then Pere Noe, his seminarian and I will attend Diocesan Convention. 

Church folk joining us and grateful for free ride to PaP. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 6: A Lesson in Healthcare

This afternoon we visited Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais. Thanks to Kate's connections and hard work in the pursuit of a proper local contact, we ended up with a guided tour of the facility, some background on it's history, and its impact in the community

Day 6: Back to School

Jim posting here...

A quiet morning here in Hinche, the beginning of another school week for the children of St. Andre's Episcopal School.
The morning routine of raising the Haitian flag to the national anthem played by the school band, and all of the children lined up according to their class, is a good vision to have as we look at building a school from the ground up.

We had a morning of reflection and schedule-juggling. There are many plans changing in the backdrop of cancelled elections and safety concerns in Port-Au-Prince.
In the midst of this, a stir could be heard from the school just a few feet away.
Apparently the soccer balls we brought were already being put to use during recess:


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day 5: photos

Today was all about worship, community, watching international soccer and finding the Patriots game (and their loss). 


Walk after church 

Private tour

Locals watching Liga Premier Soccer

Yes, the was the only place we could find NFL game ... Empty chairs are from an earlier soccer game watching. Lucky for us the owner wanted to stay open and watch. 


Day 5: Praise and Breaking Bread

This morning we worshipped with the people of St Andre's Episcopal Church. It was a short, 2 hours and 15 min service. Our spirits were raised high by a children's choir and spirit-driven community of faith. Pere Noe asked me to preach the Good News, which I offered wishing I could hear one of his excellent sermons. I will try to send a video message to St Bart's soon, if technology will permit. In the meantime, please know you are all in my prayers as I give thanks to God for St Bartholomew's and our great spirit for the Good News shared. 

Later today we will join the some local festivals for Mardi Gras and pray we can find one satellite TV to watch the AFC championship. 

With joy and gratitude in my heart. 


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Day 4: waking up to voices of angels.


The Reverend Mark C. McKone-Sweet

Please excuse any spelling and odd short hand

This morning the choir began its weekly rehearsal at 6am. The sounds of their voices drifting into our rooms. We will be visiting another church and school today, and I'll be assisting in a wedding. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day 3: The school at Loranette

After worship we fed the children a good meal and replaced the flat tire with a spare. We then sat down with the current teachers of Epiphanie School. Each grew up here and, despite the educational odds (closest schools are 90 min walk away), were able to complete their high school education. Each spoke with a deep passion to improve their community and give the children hope through education. 

We then walked 15 minutes up the path through this incredibly poor community. Homes built with clay and sticks, no running water and no electricity. 

And then we arrived at the school - if you can call it that. The teachers showed us where all five grades meet, with their 150+ students ... 

With funding for teachers, supplies (school benches, chalk boards, pencils, writing books and text books) and a daily meal, the teachers said Epiphany School would swell to 400+ elementary students. 

It was then we realized that a school, which is their primary prayer, would help break the cycles that keep their families impoverished. Improving health with food, improving self confidence with uniforms and purpose, providing a community center (hurricane shelter) and a place to worship. 

See images from Day 2: Evening post of Holy Innocents school being built in the village of La Begue. 

We have asked why is God sending us on this trip... And now we prayerful wonder if we were asking the wrong question. It's not where will you send us Lord, but is this your will Lord? 


The Reverend Mark C. McKone-Sweet

Day 3: the sound of music


Here is a short video from worship today. 

Day 3: arrival, Epiphany School

We had a restful start today. Jim and I went for a morning run and Kate and JD got to sleep in. We greeted the students at St Andre's at 7am, and we ate a tasteful breakfast of bread, hot dogs and papaya.

The drive was almost entirely dirt roads as we headed east. After 60 minutes we left the road to the Dominican Republic border, turning right onto a smaller road. 30 minutes later we pulled into the church property, with one tire of the truck completely deflated (that was close!). 

The children and adults were all dressed up for church. Pere Noe visits 4x year. So this was important. We learned that earlier this month 50 people were baptized. Amen. Although this ministry of the Episcopal Church began 12 years ago, we are the first outside visitors they have ever had. 

And so Kate's hair and our pale skin drew major attention, especially from the children, whose hands reached out without hesitation to feel and touch as we joined the gathered community under the worship tent (actually a framed straw wind break). 

The music and sense of community was electric. (The video can't upload ... we'll try again.)


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day 2: Evening

This afternoon we drove to La Begue to witness a school being built. This was like looking into the future as to what we are being invited do participate in. 

I am a little biased, but I am so proud that my former parish St Dunstan's (Dover, MA) is the principal partner. Last year the students had a tent to study and worship under (left of first photo). Today they have a school of 300 children and growing. It's not complete, but it will be in a few months. And they now have clean water, a new well to draw from. Needless to say, hope has prevailed and hope is being raised up in real tangible ways: education, food, clothing, community and faith. 

We had a chance to meet with Janis (pronounced zha-neese), a young leader from the community of Loranette, who, with his college education, has chosen to return to his home town and give his life to helping lift it out poverty. He told us how desperate his community is - one of the poorest in this country that itself is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The one thing they pray for is a school: a school to give their children hope, to break the cycle of hunger for their children, and to build community. Recently the Dominican government sent all Haitian refugees back to Haiti. Many of those refugees ended up here in Loranette, with nothing. 

Tonight we are inspired by others and their resolve to make a tangible difference here in Haiti and by the spirit of Haitians. 


The Reverend Mark C. McKone-Sweet

Day 2: Tutorial on Education

"Jesus is the friend of all the children." Today we begin our tutorial for education in Haiti and specifically the ministry of providing education, nutrition and hope for children and families in Haiti. 

This morning we got to know the St Andre's School here in Hinche. Built over 30 years ago and sustained over the same period of time through partnership with St Dunstan's, Carmel Valley, CA, St. Andre's provides 900 children and youth with a daily meal and an excellent education. Tuition is $200 year and half the students are on scholarship. 

We will spend the afternoon visiting Holy Innocents School in La Bague.  The school building was constructed last year, in its 3rd year; it now has 300 students and will peak in year five at 500. Before this school was built, the best option for kids in this area was a few hours walk. St Dunstan's, Dover, MA, is the first partner. Tuition is $20 year and all the students get some or full tuition assistance. 

Finally we will meet with leaders for the Epiphanie School. They need a partner(s) to make this work. 200 students study under a tent with little teaching tools, no pay for the teachers and no food for the children. This is where Pere Noe is hopeful we and our friends from San Diego will hear God's voice calling us into ministry. That is the  transformational work realized for these children, their community, our selves and our parish(es). 


The Reverend Mark C. McKone-Sweet

Day 2: Dawn awakens

Good morning. We arrived last night to the warm welcome of Pere Noe. 

After a short meal in PAP, we made the drive up to Hinche (pronounced 'ehnsh'), base camp for us, at St Andre's Church and School. Needless to say, we slept well after a long day's travel. As life changes and the children grow older, I am always struck by how much life also seems to stay the same. The sun rising on the church, electricity and water not always working, the sounds of city awakening, the children gathering for school and the smiles on faces. 

I am very grateful for our safe arrival, for your prayers and for the hospitality of Pere Noe and the church here. Please know you too are in my prayers this morning. 

More to posts to come as our day progresses. 


The Reverend Mark C. McKone-Sweet

Please excuse any spelling and odd short hand

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 1: departure from SD

Kate, Jim, JD and Mark anticipating boarding  Delta fight in 15min. 

Shout out to Sally at St Bart's for the travel cookies! Lord send us where you need us. Lord open our hearts and minds to the presence of your son Jesus Christ in everyone we meet. Lord bless the diocese of Haiti and children of Epiphany. And Lord bless our families during our travels. 


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

As back ground for January Mission trip to Haiti.
We at St Bartholomew's are responding to our new strategic plan.  Here are two slides to explain.

And here is the section on International Mission:

Heading to Haiti tomorrow. It has been too long since my last visit to Haiti, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and the ministry of Pere Noe Bernier. Tomorrow, we travel to see Pere Noe, a small group set to discover if our parish, St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (Poway, CA) and some friends from St. Peter's Episcopal Church (Del Mar, CA) are called to work in Haiti to teach, feed, support and possibly build a school in the remote community of Loranette, Haiti (near Hinche): the Epiphanie School. Like the school in Le Begue' (Holy Innocents) - we hope to follow the example of St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church (Dover, MA). Like Le Beque, there are hundreds of children trying to learn under a tent with a few teachers and not much to eat.