Sermons and other thoughts from an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of West Virginia.
Author: Kent Higgins
Fr. Kent is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of West Virginia. He functions primarily as a supply priest, but also serves as Dean of the Kanawha Deanery. He was ordained deacon December 16, 2006 and priest June 16, 2007. He is married and the father of two grown sons. Fr. Kent retired from his "day job" in August, 2014.
A sermon delivered on April 8, 2018 (Easter II) at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Charleston, West Virginia.
I have long thought that “Doubting” Thomas gets a bad rap. This sermon discusses that kind of judgement, done so easily by people, and relates it to Dr. King and Senator Kennedy. The last statement in the sermon (“Life is short. Be kind.”) relates to a blessing posted elsewhere on this site and which is well known to the congregation at St. John’s.
A sermon delivered at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Charleston, West Virginia, on Sunday, January 15, 2017. In a week in which the National Cathedral was subjected to criticism for hosting a prayer service following the inauguration and for having the cathedral choir sing at the inauguration, I felt called, not to address those questions, but to approach the broader question of how our church and its members can both take positions of witness in and to the world, and have sufficiently strong interpersonal relationships that we can continue to worship with other church members with whom we may disagree.
This is a sermon delivered on August 17, 2014, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charleston, WV. I post it almost two years later because I think it speaks to our need to make space for one another. Given the now-recent events in Dallas and the nationwide emphasis on meaningful communication and now just saying words, there is a message here which may help.
A sermon delivered at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntington, West Virginia, on June 28, 2015.
On June 21, the Sunday following the shootings at Mother Emanuel Church, few if any preachers in America delivered the sermon they had prepared earlier in the week – the events overtook plans, and I spoke of faith that abides, that helps us deal with such tragic events.
The public and political reaction has been swift with moves to remove the Confederate battle flag from display as well as to possibly relocate or remove monuments to leaders of the CSA. It is not for me to say that this is or is not a good idea. I certainly have my own thoughts, but I don’t see the preacher’s job as being to address those specifics. It is my job to warn of a potential shortfall, because (in my opinion) if we were to erase any public evidence of the existence of the Confederacy from American soil, but failed to deal with the racism which plagues our country, we would have failed to live out our calling as people of faith.
This sermon tries to call people to conversation, both on racism in particular and other public events in general (and the two Supreme Court decisions of last week come readily to mind as examples). Conversation is not confrontation – we don’t need more sound bites forcefully advocating our own points of view. People who support, for example, keeping the battle flag as a mark of respect for heritage need to be able to hear the voices of those who say the flag is an offensive symbol of a society whose purpose was the continuation of slavery. And those who find it offensive need to hear why it is an important cultural icon to others. And everyone needs to clearly speak of the racist elements present in American society. If we do that well, it will bring good from the evil that took nine innocent lives in South Carolina.
Delivered at Ascension Episcopal Church, Hinton, West Virginia, on Easter V (May 3, 2015).
At the time this sermon was prepared, the US Supreme Court had heard oral arguments with respect to “gay marriage.” The court is expected to rule later this summer, and may (or may not) extend the civil marriage laws to include all people, not just “one man and one woman.”
The Episcopal Church has long since come to the realization that it is appropriate for the church to bless the faithful union of loving couples, but it has not been an easy path to follow, and some members of the church remain in conflict on this issue. I think it is time we all put away those conflicts and got on with the mission of doing God’s work here and now without continuing angst. My thinking has been informed by personal experience as well as the writing of Fr. Tobias Stanislas Haller, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of New York. His book Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality was given to all attending clergy in the Diocese of West Virginia when Tobias spoke to us some years ago.
Further information on that work is at http://reasonableandholy.blogspot.com/ .
Delivered at Christ Episcopal Church, Bluefield, WV on Easter VI, May 10, 2015.
Reflections on the calling of Jesus to his original disciples and (by inheritance) to us to be both his friend and friends with one another. This is a bigger challenge than it might at first appear, especially as one realizes that taking on this role requires us to give the Holy Spirit free (or at least freer) reign in our lives. For Episcopalians whose motto might be “all things decently and in good order,” this is not necessarily easy, but it is incredibly worthwhile.
It came to me recently that Christians miss the real meaning of Easter for two reasons: 1) we know that it happened and that we will celebrate it, and 2) we don’t experience Holy Saturday.
That night between Good Friday and Easter was – for the disciples – a time of deep despair. They knew Jesus was dead and buried. They did not know that Easter was coming. This sermon explores that thought.
Delivered (in this form) at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Charleston, WV, and in forms modified to fit the calendar at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, St. Albans, WV, and Ascension Episcopal Church, Hinton, WV. (One of the benefits of being a supply priest and working with different congregations is that sermons can be modified and reused!)
If you search the Internet for the words “gladden the hearts of those” you will find numerous instances of a blessing based on the words of Swiss philosopher Henri Frédéric Amiel. I readily admit to having stolen it from The Rev. Elizabeth “Liddy” Hoster.
I added “and those you love” and have used it routinely. Congregations have been highly responsive to it, so much so that people ask for copies of the blessing.
Considerably prior to the release of the movie Noah (which qualifies as the worst I have seen in a long time – perhaps ever), I used the framework of that story to talk about Church and how we should be toward one another. It was prompted by a person who wanted her particular church to take a public position in support of gun control, but it’s not about gun control. It expresses the idea that Church ought to be a safe place where all are supported, regardless of what they have to say in the outside world. If we cannot continue to walk together, we are not loving one another, and if we fail to love, we fail to live as Jesus commands.
One priest said to me, “This sermon ought to be preached in every church in the diocese.”
The Ark as Church (preached at St. Christopher Episcopal Church, Charleston, West Virginia, February 17, 2013)