Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Story of Love and Faith

My Dear Friends at St. Margaret's,

It has been quite a few years since we have seen one another but you may remember us since my son Ari Joe, and my daughter, Rosie, attended your preschool and then, a bit later, we became full-fledged members of St. Margaret's Church. Oftentimes, because of the business of life circumstances, we lose touch with one another and we allow things and people to slip through our fingers because we become pre-occupied with what is in front of us. However, in my case, I have never lost sight of those special friendships that were filled with love and buoyancy, especially during times of great difficulty.

It occurred to me just this morning during prayer, that I have been longing to re-connect with so many of you and, recognizing that each day is a new opportunity to fulfill God's will, but also a chance for me to make any movement towards expressing my thoughts and feelings, especially with so many who brought so much richness and love into the life of my family.

If you haven't discerned by this point, my name is Nancy Whitmore and I wanted to bring a special hello and hugs to you all. I came into work this morning and without hesitation, I began to search for your website...well, lo and behold… there you were!--St. Margaret's, in Emmaus, PA!

We are now living in Littleton, Colorado, close to my mom's house and my two sisters. I have a third sister who lives on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies. My oldest sister, Barbara is living with Lou Gehrig's disease and this year has seen her health decline greatly. My step dad is suffering from lung cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Ari Joe is now in the 10th grade and Rosie is in the 7th grade. We are doing well, though these last several years have seen us enduring many challenges.

Before I launch into a lengthy letter, the purpose of this letter was to share an expression of faith and that is my sincerest intention to share with you what happened after we left Pennsylvania on April 1, 1999. We moved into my mom's small home and Rosie began preschool at Columbine preschool and I enrolled Ari Joe at Schaeffer elementary school. Two weeks later, the devastating events at Columbine high school occurred and our community was swept into international limelight.

Well, these were simply events that were in the public eye. For myself, that year, saw me dealing with the immense challenge of finding a home for us to live; looking for employment and primarily, finding a way to heal from a great deal of trauma and turmoil that preceded our leaving Pennsylvania during the time of my marriage. I found myself in a very dark place in attempting to care for my young children and cope with all that was in front of me, especially since I had not dealt with the particularly painful events that precipitated our move away from Pennsylvania towards my family here in Colorado. Those particulars are not completely important, yet for several months, I found myself slipping into a dark depression, despite my faith, my family and the church community within which I was quite involved (Saint Gregory's Episcopal).

I'm about to share something quite personal with you that involves an experience of, yes, a supernatural experience with the Holy Spirit...some of you may believe, even if you are 'believers' some of you may be skeptical but I can only say to you that its been my instruction to share certain things at an appropriate time and I feel that the time is now to share this with you.

I know that perhaps some of you may have had an experience with depression and this one was a doozy! Well, back to my story. One day, when the children were being cared for at my sister's house, I sat in front of my computer, trying to work; saying to God that I felt that I could not go on for one more second--life was way too difficult and I didn't have the strength to go on. I did not. I had no desire to do anything about it, its just that every living breath was a dramatic effort to live and in my consciousness, I was completely spent. I put my head down and for a moment all was quiet.

In that moment, I heard a voice---this voice was outside of me, yet it was inside of me...I cannot be more explicit in this. The voice said to me: "Rise and be healed."

I looked up and said to myself, what?

A second time, and more gently, the voice said: "Rise and be healed."

This time, I was quite...ahem...consternated...not believing what was happening...and I said again, out loud, "What?"

For a third time, and in the most loving tone, I heard: "Rise....and be healed."

(As a notation...this voice was neither male nor female...I could not describe it to you, even if I so desired and it was both an inner voice and yet it was a voice coming from outside of myself.)

I then stood up and in an instant, I felt something touch the top of my head and go down, literally through the tips of my toes...the only way that I can describe this is that it felt like water flowing down from the top of my head, down through my body, yet it touched every molecule in me.

At that, I fell down on my knees and began to cry and then I sat up and I felt completely normal. I felt normal! I had no sense of feeling sad, let alone depressed or desperate. I felt like myself! I was, well, flabbergasted, would be an understatement! As I was sitting on the floor, I heard one more time and only once this: "Now go....and tell all you know."

I took that command so seriously, I began to call everyone I knew, all my friends at church, the priest at church and I decided that I would tell my family in person, one by one. Through that, and without sharing all the details, I learned that 'telling all' did not mean telling the same meant that I was to tell all...who would listen...who were ready to hear...those who have ears, let them hear...this was more my direction...I have learned this through my sharing of this story.

This is only one of my stories of faith, yet it marked the beginning of another journey of my faith and I'm supposed to be sharing it so I offer it to you.

Much has happened since then, of course...some good thing...many, still painful and challenging events and yet through it all, I have had many faithful and loving friends help me through and this made me think of you this morning. Without the love of so many of you at Saint Margaret's, I honestly do not know where I would be today.

Where am I today you ask? I presently work at a church called Faith Community Church as an office manager in Littleton, Colorado. :) I'm surrounded by a loving and enriching family of pastors and leaders and will soon embark upon my studies to become a Stephen Minister (this is a sort of lay ministry that ministers to the grieving and hurting). Some say I have a special gift in this area :) God has certainly blessed me.

This is simply the surface of my story yet I needed to share it with you, with whom so many I still have a great affection for and would love to hear from and I send my sincerest apologies for the time that I have spent in a lack of communication with you. I wish to correct that situation and I'm including my address and phone numbers and invite many of you to write if you wish. We would adore hearing from you and if not, email is a great way to also keep in touch. [Contact Mark Tillotson for address and phone numbers] You may also contact me at My web site is

You have touched me and I will never forget any of you. One day, God willing, I may surprise you in that back pew.

Love to you all!

Nancy Jo Whitmore

Friday, September 01, 2006

Valuing Co-Workers and the Dignity of Labor

This is Bishop Paul Marshall's September column for secular newspapers, usually different from his monthly column in Diocesan Life. The column is sent to newspapers throughout our 14 counties. It is published by The Morning Call, Allentown, on the first (occasionally, the second) Saturday of every month. The combined circulation of papers that publish the column regularly is about 400,000. More than 110 columns have been published over the past ten years.

When my wife was a nurse in New York, one of her pleasures in working at Roosevelt Hospital was the energetic volunteer who came several times a week to push the book cart. It was Ethel Merman. She never made a big deal about it, and people quickly accepted her as a co-worker.

Co-worker. Someone who is considered a contributing member of a team.

Not everybody gets that status, unfortunately. Do you help in a hospital? Do you care for your grandchildren while your adult child works? Do you cook and clean and launder and deal with the plumber? Do you mow the lawn and clean the roof and vacuum the car?

Do you know that it doesn’t count?

An economist-neighbor wrote me earlier this summer that normally, when members of her trade count up the “product” of a country, only the efforts that generate money count.

She said things are slowly changing in some parts of her academic area. I cannot speak about economics as a theory or profession, but something in what she said has questions for how each of us looks at life this Labor Day.

Labor Day sprang from the efforts of the Knights of Labor to have the dignity of labor recognized. A century before, a key element in the definition of “lady” or “gentlemen” was someone who did not work.

A lot of change had to occur before the Labor Day concept was even possible. Harvard historian Steward Wood claims that America was the first place someone could work and still be considered at all a lady or gentleman.

There are cultural historians who now, instead of scoffing at the “Protestant Work Ethic,” realize that it contributed to the development of American democracy by moving the highest moral status from those who do not have to work to those who are actually productive of goods, services, government, or ideas.

A first goal for Labor Day reflection might be to widen our perspective on productivity, on identified co-workers in creating America’s life. Whose work, paid or otherwise, makes our lives at home and in the larger community possible, even pleasant?

Sometime during summer’s last holiday, it might be useful to reflect on how much other people make any valuable aspect of life possible. Many people are clever and energetic, but nobody is self-made. We all depend on the work, paid or not, of many other people.

Several prayers in my own tradition speak of “the dignity of human labor.” Respecting that dignity means acknowledging the value of all who work, volunteered or paid. We see the creator’s intent in the need for meaningful use of one’s energy. It is part of human identity and needs to be valued.

But valuing even the paid work of others may be out of fashion again. The New York Times (8/28) reports that wages have been the smallest percentage of the gross domestic product since 1947, and that employee benefits have leveled or decreased. Corporate profits have taken up the largest percentage of the GNP since the 1960s. The insult is compounded: American workers are more productive than ever, and reaping less for their efforts.

The Times’ economists reflect on why this situation is bad for the economy. They report also that politicians are worried. That’s not my field, so on Labor Day I offer a second subject for reflection: is it at all possible for the dignity of labor to be recognized voluntarily – or is anybody thinking about the issues I am recalling here? We really do need all of our co-workers, paid and unpaid, and it is best if we act accordingly.

[The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall is bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem, 14 counties of eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania. Additional columns and sermons by Bishop Marshall are available at]

Prayer and Potential Flooding

Please join me in praying for all those in the storm's path, but especially for those in our own diocese who have already taken a beating from flooding.

Thank you.


[Posted to Bethlehem of PA site by Bishop Paul]