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Lessons from a Sick Bed

2016 June 11
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Bishop David EppsLast week, I was sick. I mean really sick. So sick that in four days, I dropped 18 pounds. In fact, I didn’t eat anything during those four days. I did drink water (after becoming seriously dehydrated) and was able to deal with a bit of tea. I forced myself to attend church services on Sunday and, after delivering a brief sermon sitting on a stool and installing some folks into important offices, I left, leaving the second half of the service in more capable and healthy hands. But out of it all, I learned something valuable.

For the last year and a half, I have been in a course called Clinical Pastoral Education. All total, I have spent some 1200 hours in the hospital and have seen, perhaps, hundreds of patients. Unless someone is in ICU or the emergency department, I think that most visitors assume that sick people feel only slightly worse than the visitor does. After all, most patients talk with and put on a good face for visitors. What I learned from my several days of illness is that most sick people may be consumed by how bad they feel. At least, that was my experience.

For four days, I did not care about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any politician on the planet. I had no interest in sports scores, foul weather, North Korea, ISIS, or what the President was saying or doing. If the phone rang, I ignored it. Knowing my emails were piling up, I didn’t care. I tried to care. I just didn’t have the energy to care.

For most of the four days, the only energy I could muster up was to move from the recliner, to the bed, to the bathroom, and back. Even that was exhausting. I am a clean person. My wife, a medical and educational professional, tells me that I shower too much. For four days, I didn’t shower, brush my teeth, or comb my hair. I assume it pleased her that I finally took her advice.

I hate being sick. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I usually trudge along and push through. Not this time. People, including my wife, wanted me to go to urgent care. Frankly, I felt too sick to get up, get dressed, go downstairs, and do all that one has to do to go to urgent care. So I didn’t. Whatever had me, ran its course, beat me up, and finally left me alone.

What I learned is this: I cannot now go into a hospital room and assume that I know how someone is feeling. If they felt great, they wouldn’t be in the hospital. I can’t even assume that I know how someone is feeling when they are sick at home. In my case I felt too sick to make the effort to seek medical help. I probably should have been hospitalized, especially for the dehydration.

I have survived. I am not back to normal yet but I am cautiously eating and am tentatively back at work. I have decided, having stabilized at a loss of 15 pounds, to try to eat healthy and lose a lot more weight in a more reasonable and less traumatic way. I will never enter a hospital room without being aware of how really badly they just might be feeling.

On Tuesday, I watched speeches by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It almost made me nostalgic for those four terrible days when I didn’t care about anything.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Chaplain James C. Taylor Elevated to Canon

2016 June 8
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The Reverend Doctor James C. Taylor, Peachtree City, was installed as a Canon of the Church in services at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA on 5 June, 2016. Although Dr. Taylor has a long and storied history of service both to the nation and to the general church, it has been his impact and contributions to hospital and spiritual care ministry over the past decade that singled him out for this recognition.

Father James Taylor installed as Canon

Beginning as a hospital volunteer chaplain at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, Taylor earned Board Certified Chaplain status by completing four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), the first unit at Emory University hospital under the auspices of the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and the remaining three units under the auspices of the College for Psychotherapy and Pastoral Supervision (CPSP).

Each unit requires 20 weeks of intensive study which includes 400 hours of clinical and academic training in the actual hospital setting. During this process, Dr. Taylor became a part-time staff chaplain at the hospital. When the senior chaplain left the hospital for ministry in another state, Taylor was hired as the full time staff chaplain at Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

Completing yet a fifth unit of CPE, Taylor began and completed the process of becoming a CPE instructor himself and, along with another chaplain at Piedmont Fayette, has been training potential chaplains for four years, offering four units each year.

In addition to being a Board Certified Chaplain, Dr. Taylor is also a Board Certified Clinical Chaplain, a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor, a Board Certified Palliative Care Chaplain, and is in process to be named a CPSP Diplomate.

Taylor has earned a number of degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Auburn University, Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, Auburn, Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering, Auburn, Master of Organizational and Group Psychology, Marymont University, Doctor of Science (a.b.d.) George Washington University, and Doctor of Pastoral Counseling, Andersonville Theological Seminary.

He served as a officer in the United States Air Force and worked under the Department of the Navy at the Pentagon. He is a member of two engineering honor societies and was the Outstanding Engineering Graduate at Auburn University. He is a member of the Mensa Society.
The Rev’d Taylor is an ordained priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church of North America and serves on the Commission on Ordained Ministry of the Diocese of the Mid-South. He is a Priest-in-Residence and Teacher at the Cathedral of Christ the King.

The elevation to Canon was announced by Bishop David Epps and is the first such appointment in the Diocese in eight years. His official appointment is as “Canon of Hospital and Spiritual Care Ministries.” He will also serve on the Diocese’s Endorsement Board for Hospital, Hospice, and Law Enforcement Chaplains. Taylor is also a chaplain for the Peachtree City Police Department.

Dr. Taylor is married to Karen Romano-Taylor, herself a Commissioned Minister in Hospital Ministries and the director of the cancer care ministry at Christ the King.

Not All Lives Are Equal

2016 June 4
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Bishop David EppsA serious tragedy very nearly happened this week at the Cincinnati Zoo. Somehow a four year old child escaped from his mother and wound up in the gorilla compound where he was snatched up by a 17-year old male silverback gorilla. Zoo officials quickly made the decision to shoot the gorilla. The child was rescued and is in good condition.

What happened on social media and on television was a very public outcry over the death of the gorilla. Some were calling for the imprisonment of the parents of the child while others were threatening lawsuits against the zoo. Reportedly, the parents have received death threats. Conspicuously absent from most of the discussion was relief that the child survived the encounter.

And here is where I marvel at how far we have fallen in valuing human life. In the Old Testament book of Genesis, God determines to create humankind in “the image of God.” Whether history or allegory, the point is that, of all the created life on Earth, only humans have a spark of the divine in them. We also read in Scripture that humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It is even declared that they are created “a little lower than God (or ‘angels’ in the KJV).” No other beings have that distinction.

Lest I be misunderstood, I love animals. I cried when I buried my cat of 20 years and I daily feed the local birds, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons that wander into my back yard. I don’t even kill the backyard snakes unless they are venomous. My wife says that I provide a buffet for the hawks, but I see little evidence of that. I haven’t been hunting in over 20 years and I would much rather look at a deer than shoot it, but I take no issue with those who hunt for food. I support animal cruelty laws and believe that all animals should be treated humanely. Not because they are human-like but because humans are God-like.

Nevertheless, I do not in any way believe that human life and animal life are equally precious. Do I think that some life is more valuable than other life? You bet I do. There are federal criminal penalties for tampering with the eggs of a bald eagle.

And when it comes to sea turtle eggs, federal law provides even greater protection (and criminal penalties as severe as $100,000 and a year in prison) if you “take, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or capture any marine turtle, turtle nest, and/or eggs, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.” The law recognizes that the life in the eggs is something that should be given the same level of protection as the animal itself. We do not give the same protection to “pre-hatched” humans. We value humans less that we do eagles or turtles.

It is, then, no surprise that the outrage is not that a human child was in danger of being mauled to death but, rather, that a gorilla possessing the strength of ten men was killed to save the child.

It is sad that such a magnificent beast was killed. It is sadder still that a great number of people apparently believe his life is thought to be equal to, or even superior to, the life of a four-year old child.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Shall This Republic Stand?

2016 May 29
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Bishop David EppsSeveral days ago, I attended the annual Department of Georgia Marine Corps League Convention. I served as an enlisted Marine for a tour and received an Honorable Discharge. Later I served a year with the Tennessee Army National Guard and, again, received an Honorable Discharge. In 1993, I joined the Marine Corps League, a veteran’s organization open to Marine Corps veterans who have been honorably discharged and to U. S. Navy medical corpsmen who have served with The Fleet Marine Force.

At the convention, each event opened with, among other things, the MCL members standing at attention and saluting the American flag as they repeated the Pledge of Allegiance. For some reason, each and every time we came to the phrase, “And to the Republic for which it stands,” I would get choked up and my eyes would tear up. That had never happened before and now it was happening every time we recited the Pledge.

As the conference wore on I began to realize that I was uncertain that my Republic would be able to stand. Would we still have a country in the years ahead? Would it radically change to be something else that no one could now imagine? Here I was in the presence of Marine Corps veterans who had served from World War II to the present day. There were even 15-18 year old young men wearing the uniform of the Marine Corps Junior ROTC from Each Coweta High School as they presented the Colors. Would the nation be there for them?

The Veterans Administrations estimates that 7.3% of all living Americans have ever served in the armed forces of the United States. That means that 92.7% of Americans have not. Only 7.3% of Americans have any experience with offering their lives, if need be, so that this Republic may endure and survive.

All it take is one visit to a local high school football game to see the disrespect and dishonor that the average attendee offers when the National Anthem is played. Most teens go about their business as if nothing is happening. Even adults remain sitting, talking, laughing while a very few immediately stand to the feet, remove their ball caps, and offer a proper salute. Others, seeing the example set, reluctantly stand to their feet during the playing of America’s secular sacred hymn.

The nation is in a shambles politically. Some 13% of Americans believe that Congress is doing an acceptable while a majority of Americans dislike or distrust the two likely candidates for President. Having felt betrayed by their leaders, the Democrat voters, were it not for so-called “super-delegates,” might well select a Socialist as their nominee! Having rejected 16 politically experienced contenders for the office, Republican voters would rather have a businessman with no political experience as their nominee.

The nation is in a mess. Most people don’t vote. Of those who do, a large percentage have not a clue about the issues or the challenges this nation faces. The military, the only force that stands between the country and the forces that would destroy it, are at the lowest level of strength since before Pearl Harbor. Currently, only 0.4% of Americans are on active duty. Less than 1/2 of 1%! It is no wonder that I, and many others, wonder if the nation has a future as a free people.

We are about to honor the nation’s war dead. We are not about to celebrate fishing, swimming, back-yard barbecuing, or the right to lounge in front of the television. We observe the day because 1,313,118 American soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen have been killed so that this Republic might have a chance to stand.

Frankly, I do not know if this nation will endure. That’s why the catch in my throat and the moisture in my eye at the MCL Convention. A mere 0.4% of the population is the only insurance that we have that we will not be overrun by forces that wish to end our existence on this planet. They are willing to die to protect this country. Some will die this year. The other 99.6% need to recognize their debt and support our active military. The 92.7 % of Americans who have never served, along with the veterans, need to offer homage to those who have given their last full measure of devotion. It’s the least they can do. The very least.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

How Do You Get Over It?

2016 May 25
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Bishop David EppsAs a minister of over 40 years, I have seen my fair share of death. As a U.S. Marine, I served on a number of Honor Guard assignments firing 21 gun salutes for Marines killed in Vietnam. In my very first pastorate as a 23 year old novice, I had a funeral during my first week in the church of a man I did not know. Over the years I have experienced death in more ways than I can count. As a former law enforcement chaplain, with 25 years’ experience, I was often called to the scenes of people who had died, or were killed, or who had killed themselves. Death is always present.

In my own life, I have lost all my grandparents, my parents, a granddaughter, numerous relatives, many friends, and scores of church members. In the last year and a half, as a priest enrolled in Clinical Pastoral Education in a local hospital, I have encountered death much more frequently than I ever imagined.

Sometimes the people who died are elderly and, as the Bible says, are “full of years.” Sometimes they are younger men and women, or youth, or children. Sometimes, babies are lost before they ever take their first breath. Others leave this earth at odd times, sometimes expected, and, at other times, it is tragically unexpected.

“How do you ever get over it?” I have often wanted to ask. I never have because the question is too personal, too full of pain. I have never gotten over the death of my father who died of cancer almost 20 years ago or the death of my mother some six years later. In fact, I still haven’t gotten over the death of my maternal grandfather who has been dead since 1973. How, then, do you get over the death of a spouse? Or a child? Or a grandchild?

Some time ago, a lady said to me, as though she could read my mind, “Someone asked me recently how I got over the death of my child. I told them that you don’t ever get over it. But you do move past it.” That, I think, is the truest answer I have ever heard. A year ago, I visited the graves of my parents in north-east Tennessee. I stood there full of memories and regrets. I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of loss all over again. In my 60s, I felt like an orphan and the pain was fresh. No, I haven’t gotten over it. But, with time, I have moved past it.

And, I’m not sure that we should ever get over it. The people we love, we tend to love forever, even when they are gone from our sight. The tears are not signs of weakness but of the reality of our humanness. We weep because we care. We cry because we love. We grieve because we have lost someone precious. In my world, I believe in an afterlife. Specifically, I believe in Heaven. I believe that I will see my Mom and Dad and my grandparents again. I believe that one day, when I die, I will hear the voice of my granddaughter crying out, “Papa! Papa!” as she greets my arrival. This helps me move past it. But never will I be over it.

When people say, “You need to get over this,” they are well-meaning but they are speaking in ignorance. It is likely they have never experienced this kind of loss themselves. But they will someday. That is almost a certainty. And they will learn to move past it, but they will never get over it. It is both the blessing and the curse of being human that we have memories—and feelings. We have the ability to love and to care deeply. No, we never get over the loss of someone we hold dear. But we will move past it.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Honor is Forever

2016 May 23
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Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2016

Sermon Link: Honor is Forever

Essentials

2016 May 19
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Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2016

Sermon Link: Essentials