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Memories of an Angry Lady

2017 September 30
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsDuring the storm that finally hit our area, formerly known as Hurricane Irma that degenerated into a tropical storm by the time it made it to north Georgia, I had flashbacks, of a sort. Maybe it was the wind that uprooted thousands of trees across the state, multiple inches of rain, floods and flash floods—but memories returned.

It was June of 1972. I was stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base near the coast of Virginia. We had a two month old son and lived in a small apartment building. One of our neighbors was a drill instructor at The Basic School and helped to train officers for the Marine Corps. He and his wife became our friends. We would occasionally get together when there was time.

On one of those occasions, we were at the apartment building playing cards and board games when a storm came up. We were used to the rain and generally ignored it. Somewhere along the way the power went out and, with it, the opportunity to have a hot meal. The wives lamented and the husbands volunteered to go to McDonalds for a fast and inexpensive lunch. Off we went into the rain.

The wind was blowing hard, the rain came down sideways, water flowed across the streets, and there were no other cars on the road. None. At all. We thought that a bit strange but, being Marines with a mission, we forged on ahead. We finally arrived at McDonald’s—which was closed. We thought it odd but decided to find another fast food joint. All of them were closed, too. So, we decided to turn on the car radio.

It was then that we learned that we were smack in the middle of Hurricane Agnes. Agnes would prove to be, up to that time, the costliest hurricane in United States history. Nearly every state on the East Coast was impacted as were Cuba, Canada, and the Yucatan Peninsula. Before it was all over, 128 people would lose their lives. And there we were out looking for hamburgers.

The devastation in our area was mild compared to some areas in the east. Pennsylvania received over 15 inches of train. But we received our share. A mudslide, caused by the storm, hit the apartment building right next to ours, not ten feet away, and four families were immediately homeless. The towns around us would take months to recover.

Because of the lingering humidity, mold infested a huge number of dwellings and, because of a lung problem my son contracted, brought on by the conditions, my wife took our baby boy and moved in with her parents in northeast Tennessee. I moved back into the barracks and they stayed away until everything was finally dried out.

Having unwittingly been in the middle of a hurricane (I didn’t listen to the news in those days), I have no desire to experience another. If I had been in Florida for Irma, I’m pretty sure I would have heeded the warnings, loaded up the family, and driven to Colorado or wherever the highest ground is. It’s been a long time since I had memories of Agnes. She was not a sweet lady and I hope to never meet her like again.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, (www.ctkcec.org). The church is located at 4881 Hwy 34 E, Sharpsburg, and meets on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

The Secret of a Long Marriage

2017 September 28
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Bishop David EppsMy wife and I observed our 46th wedding anniversary last week. Or, as I sometimes say, “We completed 46 years of a life sentence without parole.” Which makes most men grin and most women give me “the Look.” Once in awhile, someone will ask what our secret is. “Well,” I respond, “when we were younger, it cost $200.00 to get an uncontested divorce. So we agreed to stay together until we saved the money. Then, when we had 200 bucks, the cost of a divorce had risen to $500.00. So, we decided to stay together until we raised that sum of money. By the time we did it, we were getting along pretty well and, hey, we had five hundred bucks!”

That story is not entirely the truth but it does contain an important truth. Marriage is hard. Anytime two people are in close proximity to each other for extended periods of time, there will be disagreements, clashes of egos, and conflict. Was ours always a blissful marriage? No, it wasn’t. There were times when neither of us thought we would make it and those who knew us concurred. We married young, she 19 and I, 20. I came from a solid blue collar family, she from a white collar professional family. I used to describe how we started out by saying, “I rode into the castle on my broken down donkey, wearing my rusty armor, and saved the Princess from a life of shallow materialism.” And that was the absolute truth—at least it was for years.

If there is a secret, it is simply this: neither of us was willing to admit we couldn’t so it and quit. Neither of us wanted to move back home in defeat. Neither of us wanted to hear countless people say, “I told you so.” And neither of us wanted to subject our children to the ordeal of parents who lived apart. And both of us were stubborn, which was both our problem and our salvation.

Looking back, all of those difficulties seem like so much nothing. We made it through the Marine Corps years where we were both together and then apart. We both went to college and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, we saved money and bought our first house, then another, and then another. We had three sons, moved to Colorado from Tennessee and then to Georgia. We both advanced in our chosen fields and, somewhere in the midst of all that, we learned about married life. Of all the people we knew who were married around the same time as us, we are among the very few to still be together.

Last year, on our 45th, I said to her, “If you’re going to get out of this thing, you better do so while you still have your good looks and girlish figure.” Her reply was, “Shoot, I’m not going anywhere. I have too much blood, sweat, and tears to leave now.” “You sure?” I asked. “Yep,” said she. “I don’t even think you could do anything to make me leave.” “Really!?” I said, surprised. “Yes. I don’t think I’d divorce you even if you had an affair.” I said, “Hmmm. Soooooo, I have your permission?” Looking over the top of her glasses, she said, “If you can find somebody that desperate, then go for it, big boy.” Ah, sweet romance.

Maybe it’s my background and training. My parents stayed together through tough times. In football I learned that, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” In the Marine Corps it was “always faithful,” or “improvise, adapt, and overcome,” or, simply, “Do or die.” Once, a young man headed off to Marine Corps boot camp asked me the secret of making it through Parris Island. My response was, “Don’t quit.”

And that simple phrase, or one similar, has gotten people through college, through tragedies, through the storms of life, through doubts about God, through illness, through hopeless times, and got Great Britain through World War II. On October 29, 1941, when Winston Churchill visited Harrow School, it was after the Blitz and things were looking up a bit for Britain. Here is the relevant part of the speech: “But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period — I am addressing myself to the School — surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson: Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Never give up. Never give in. Do or die. Don’t quit. “Do or do not, there is no try.” If we have a secret to a 46 year marriage, that’s it. On our 40th anniversary, I said, “Well, in spite of everything, we made it!” “Yep,” she said. “So far.”

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, (www.ctkcec.org). The church is located at 4881 Hwy 34 E, Sharpsburg, and meets on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

Honor to whom Honor

2017 September 3
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Bishop David EppsLast Saturday, my wife was one of several recent retirees from the University of West Georgia who were honored for their many years of service. There was a very nice luncheon at the country club in Carrollton, GA, where the food was some of the best I have eaten at one of these affairs, and family members were invited to attend with the honoree.

The president of UWG gave a tremendous report on how well the university was doing—excellent, as it turns out, the best in the history of the institution—and, after some preliminaries and business, the men and women were honored, each with a medallion. As each person’s name was presented, he or she had the medallion draped on his or her neck, had a special photo taken, and was asked to say a few words.

There was also a special booklet listing the biographies and featuring the photos of each retiree. And here is what I liked the most about the event. The names were listed alphabetically and each honoree had their own page on which were listed their job titles, the number of years at the university, their responsibilities, educational history and so forth. The honorees were not listed according to the “importance” of their position. My wife has four degrees including a Ph.D. and was a retiring Professor and Associate Dean, but you had to read her bio to find that out.

Whether one was a professor, dean, provost, in administration, management, human resources, information technology, custodial services, athletics, campus law enforcement, secretary, maintenance, or whatever—the clear impression was given that each person was a vital part of the UWG family and that each and every position was not to be valued over the other. Frankly, I loved it.

Everyone was treated as an equal, each received the same medallion, each had an opportunity to speak, and no one’s title was on their name tag. Each and every tag had the person’s name accompanied by a ribbon that said, “Honoree.” And every retiree was proud of their service as an employee of the University of West Georgia. It’s just that not everyone had the same responsibilities—but that all were valued and respected.

I have thought for years that church should be like that too. Who is the most important person in the church? According to the New Testament, each individual is a vital part of the “Body of Christ” with Christ being the head of the Body. It’s not “Brother John’s Church,” or “Father James’ Church,” or “Bishop Harold’s church.” Everyone, and I mean everyone, is a vital and important part of the Church.

The musicians, the singers, the greeters, the custodians, the nursery workers, the sound and video techs, the teachers, those who are able to give a lot, those who are able to give very little, the mature, the immature, the elderly, the children, the Baby Boomers, the X Gens, the Millennials, the men, the women, the youth, those with a formal position, those without, a formal position—all are vital and valued, Even the clergy are a part of this thing we call “Church.”

Too often, we see distinctions being made among people, even in the church. I saw a website recently in which some ministers were being touted and lavishly praised as “apostles,” or “prophets,” or “bishops”, or “anointed teachers and global leaders” as though such people somehow were greater than, say, the lady who empties the wastebasket or the man who quietly takes communion to the hospital. It was Jesus, after all, who said that “the last shall be first” and that it was “the meek” who would “inherit the earth.”

On the one hand, it was wonderful to see what happened at the UWG luncheon and, on the other hand, it was humbling to see it happen, and done so well, at a “secular university” when it so seldom happens in a “divine institution,” the Church.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson in humility. But more importantly, perhaps we can learn a lesson in how to value others, to respect all, to understand that all are vital and important, even though their tasks may be dissimilar. Perhaps the Church can learn from this university to “give honor to whom honor is due.” Which includes all, whomever they may be and whatever they may do.

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

Nazis, Communists, and Charlottesville

2017 August 29
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Bishop David EppsIn the 1930s, two major groups clashed in Germany. The clashes were often violent and, at times, people were killed in these conflicts. The two groups were the Nazis and the Communists. Both sought to dominate the political conversation and, while both groups would eventually cause the deaths of tens of millions of people, their approach to totalitarian rule was different. They were both far more dangerous than anyone could imagine at the time.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and one finds a similar scene being played out in Charlottesville, VA. On one side is a far right group and, on the other, a far left group. One side has among its ranks member of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. The other has embedded in it anarchists and members of an anti-fascist group known as Antifa. In viewing news video of the violent clash in that beautiful Virginia city, it was difficult to tell who was who. Both groups were intent on inflicting harm on, and silencing, the other.

The problem is not just the violence and the peace of a city that was disrupted. The problem is that, in this nation, there is the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and the right to express one’s views, however abhorrent those views may be to the vast majority of the population.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

What this means, of course, in the area of speech, is that all political speech, and most other kinds of speech, is protected. In the 1950s, a chill swept across the land as a powerful politician, Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican, sought to root out and expose alleged communists in the government, media, and the arts, and silence their left-leaning viewpoints. In today’s America, leftists groups have successfully silenced right-leaning speakers who have been invited to speak on college campuses.

Not only have the courts found that Congress does not have the authority to limit speech but, for the most part, all speech, even hate speech and reprehensible speech, is to be protected. The rationale is that, if one can prohibit one kind of speech, then all kinds of speech can be forbidden. The framers of the Constitution felt that freedom of speech was so important that prohibiting any form of speech had to be guaranteed in the Constitution.

So, if the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members wish to peacefully assemble and speak their minds, that speech is protected. If those who oppose such ideas wish to counter-protest and espouse their ideas, that, too, is protected speech. But one group does not have the right to prohibit the speech of the other and violence takes the matter out of the realm of speech and into the area of criminal activity.

The scene played out in Charlottesville recently, if filmed in black and white, would have looked little different from the pre-World War II clashes in Germany between the Nazi and the Communists. When the mentality of the mob takes over, then reason and inhibition goes out the window. People who, under normal circumstances would never attack anyone, suddenly are caught up in something that changes their behavior and they become, no longer peaceful people, but part of the mob.

It was significant that a number of those on the left wore black masks to hide their identity as they attacked other people who, under different circumstances would have been wearing white masks to hide their own identity. Wherever the threat to free speech originates, there it must be condemned. In America, speech is protected. Once it is not, then no American will be able to speak without fear. Neither the Nazis nor the Communists in Germany wished to tolerate opposing viewpoints. Neither the far-right nor the far-left are proponents of free speech. That is why the one wishes to silence the other.

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

Cuddle for Pay

2017 August 17
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Bishop David EppsWatching television the other night, I was very surprised to learn that there is such a thing as a “certified cuddlist.” Apparently, one can hire someone who will cuddle with them for an hour or more. I fired up the computer and visited the web site of the business which claims to have 75 cuddle centers throughout the nation. One can book a cuddle session on line. The web site makes it clear that these sessions are “a therapeutic, non-sexual, cuddle session with a certified professional cuddlist.”

In fact, the group is advertising for people who want to become a professional certified cuddliest. There are three requirements: (1) Take the on-line cuddle course which costs $149.00. (2) Attend a cuddle party. (3) Have an evaluation session. There is also a $39.99 monthly fee to be listed on the organization’s web site. And all potential clients are screened presumably to weed out perverts and dangerous people. The cost to hire a cuddlist? A mere $80.00 per hour.

Dr. Daniel Yadegar, MD, FACC, who is listed at the Head of the organization’s Scientific Advisory Board, is quoted as saying, “There is something transcendent about cuddling, as it has the power to take energy from the outer world—human touch and intimacy—and influence our inner world, down to the molecular level. Cuddling can improve immunity, enhance mood, and server as an energetic elixir for all patients, especially for those with chronic medical conditions. I recommend everyone get their daily dose!” Of course a daily dose would add up to $2,400.00 per month or $28,800.00 a year. A little rich for my blood. Which make me wonder how much the doctor is paid for his advice to the organization.

What I conclude from this is that there must be a great number of lonely people out there—people who are willing to shell out eighty bucks for someone to hold and cuddle them. That doesn’t really surprise me. With the electronic gadgets and social media that abound, it’s a wonder that anyone has face-to-face contact and communication with anybody.

Some time ago, I was in a fast food restaurant where four teenagers were sitting at the same table, each glued to their cell phones. The entire time I was there, they never exchanged a word. A few weeks later I was in a more upscale restaurant and sat across the aisle from a family of four—a dad, mom, and a teenage son and daughter. They, too, were glued to their cell phones and, again, almost no exchange took place at the table.

Apparently, someone has found a need and is in the process of filling that need. This is all fine I suppose but it makes me wonder what the future of our society will look like. Already, there are Internet “churches” where people meet on line and never gather together in person. They may not even know the names of those in the group.

Little by little, piece by piece, community is disappearing from our world. We live in isolation, we often now work in isolation, we can study and become educated in isolation and, even in public, we can pull out our electronic device and take our meals in isolation. It’s no wonder that, in a world like this, people would pay $80.00 an hour for a human touch.

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

Lesson from a Hospital Bed

2017 August 15
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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)

Recently I served my first week in a monthly rotation as Chaplain to Upson Regional Medical Center. Upon being asked to serve by the Upson County Ministerial Association and the Hospital to do so, I quickly answered, “Sure, no big deal right?” Just go in pray for a few folks, no biggie. Boy was I ever wrong. I did not realize I was embarking on a life changing experience.

I found myself twice in my first week performing a sort of “Last Rites” for two gentlemen. One was an elderly gentlemen of 98 years. He had lived his life full and was, according to the family, “Ready to go be with the Lord.” All his family were there with him in the final hours. I was basically asked to come in and pray for the gentlemen to have peace and to just offer grace to the family. If one could say it, it was actually a good time. It was a time of release and of sharing love with one another.

However, it was the second visit that changed my life forever and broke my heart. I was asked to see another gentleman with the same circumstance. He was only 55 years of age and being kept alive only by respirator. In fact, they were about to take him off and make the trip to hospice where it was certain he would not make it through the night. I asked about his family and that is where I got the shock of my life. When I asked about his family I was told, “He has none.” The gentleman was from out of state and had been estranged from his family from many years. He only had one friend in town. My heart dropped. Talk about the lost, the least and the lonely.

With that being said, I am not naïve enough to believe this type of situation does not occur. However, I will admit that I was not prepared. I am blessed enough to have a loving family. Also, I have been blessed enough, even with 27 years of ministry, to be with persons with family. I found myself leaving the hospital in tears of sadness. I learned two valuable lessons last week. First, never take family for granted. No one likes being alone. Secondly, I found a new respect and honor for Chaplains. You guys do this stuff daily and I admire your grace even more so now.

Father Mike Birdsong
Pastor, St. Michael and All Angels Charismatic Episcopal Church
Thomaston, GA

Internet “Ordinations”

2017 August 10
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Bishop David EppsFor quite a number of years I have been aware that people could be “ordained” to the ministry on-line or through the mails. It really doesn’t take much. One fills out the short application, encloses a check for $35.00 and up and, just like that, one can either download their “ordination” certificate or it will come courtesy of the U. S. Postal Service. It’s not a scam and it is legal. All because of the laws of the land.

While the “separation of church and state” is not found in the constitution of our land—the document guarantees freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion—it still has become an operating principle. Thus, the courts are loath to meddle in church affairs if they can avoid it. So, while other professions are likely to have state regulations and statutes governing them, and, while the states, or agencies recognized by the states, may test, register, license, and certify those in these professions, it does not do so with the church and, hence, the ministry. Each denomination pretty much sets its own standards and regulates itself.

For example, some denominations require a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a Master of Divinity, a three years program, from a seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, or ATS. On the other hand, people may also come together, form a church, and, in the case of, say, an Independent Baptist Church, ordain a person without any formal training whatsoever. There, the safeguard is presumably that the person is well known to, and approved by, the congregants.

But in the case of so-called “ordinations” over the internet, there are really no requirements nor are there any safeguards. One can claim to be a minister without ever having set foot in a church or other religious house of worship. In fact, one not even need to be human as the guy who sent in papers and fees a few years ago and had his dog “ordained,” discovered. All of this makes a mockery of the ordained ministry which, I suspect, is why some people actually do it. So these “ordained” men and women perform marriages, do funerals, and possibly even do “pastoral” counseling.

Imagine this—a physician about to do surgery on you who became a “doctor” over the internet. Or an airline pilot printing out his own pilots’ license on his home printer. Or a lawyer representing you who was a dishwasher only last week in a greasy spoon restaurant. Why not let those wanting to join the military skip basic training and boot camp and just send in $35 to become a “soldier,”“sailor,” “airman,” or “Marine?” Why not just let people dress up and claim to be cops? Or firefighters? Or paramedics?

Because we wouldn’t accept that. We have too much respect for those professions and too much rides on those who practice them being legitimately prepared and approved. I said earlier that it’s not a scam. I think, after reflection, that it really is. It’s people presenting themselves as something they really are not. And the “ordination” mills? Oh they make loads of money. Is it legal? Yes, under the so-called “separation or church and state” practices. Is it legitimate? Not if we judge it by the same standards that we do other professions that touch human lives and families and have the ability to do great harm.

If one wants to be a minister, a rabbi, and Imam, or some other religious leader than do yourself and everyone else a favor and do it right. Do the hard work, put in the study, be mentored, do the internships, and put in the time instead of deceiving yourself and others who might not know the difference.

So, beware. There are a great many frauds and con artists out there. Some of them just might be “ministers.”

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