(July 2nd)

July 4th is in our political DNA
 
So here we are again, another 4th of July celebration is upon us.  I don’t know if you have been watching Michael Wood’s The Story of China currently screening on PBS? If not, I recommend it as a window into the historical cycle of China’s rise and fall, as today we are witnessing once again in the resurgence of China as a global power. China is truly an amazing story of continuous political-cultural identity flowering in peaks of tremendous cultural achievement before declining into troughs in which civil war, invasion and revolution rip the fabric of society asunder. Yet, the dream of China never died. The cultural transmission of the Han-Chinese identity was never broken.
     My musings on continuous cultural transmission got me thinking about what we are celebrating on Independance Day. On the 4th of July we celebrate the beginnings of the American experience of nationhood, which did not spring magically from out of nowhere. It’s the fruiting of a longer cultural tradition of political organisation. Today we witness the deterioration of our confidence in our institutions of government, church, and education, and it seems that the very idea of what constitutes civic society is once again a matter of hot contention. I write this from my perspective as a resident alien – a foreigner, who experiences the same feelings of turmoil as others around me and yet, also maintains the distanced perspective as a British subject, both a native born citizen of New Zealand and naturalized citizen of Great Britain.
     However else I might describe myself, being British runs deep in my cultural DNA. What makes my experience of living in the US so culturally familiar is the British political legacy we all share. For despite the development of the United States as a unique melting pot of many nations and peoples, a patchwork of many cultural traditions, the political DNA of the Republic is the continuation of a much longer tradition of political and cultural identity. Like Chinese identity, British political identity persists in the American political DNA through the insistence that government must operate firstly, at a point closest to the people, i.e. a cherishing of the local.
      I am reminded that on the 4th of July we commemorate the original colonists protest and rebellion in defense of their inalienable rights and privileges as British men and women. For them the right to liberty and local self-determination led them to assume the right of self-governance, protected by the precedents of the a legal system of common law. The Common Law remained the first line of protection against the imposition of authoritarian government from the center. It was the increasingly harsh imposition of authoritarian central government that ignited their long smoldering resentments into Revolution.
     That the American Revolution led to the creation of a republic governed by a constitution was possible only because a thousand years of British constitutional and political development dating from the very first political structures of the Anglo-Saxon  Hundred  fundamentally shaped their aspirations.
     Charles Taylor in A Secular Age draws an interesting comparison between the American and French Revolutions. In America while a functional republic emerged gradually over 20 years or so, the political organization at the local level  was a continuous cultural and political transmission of structures and values passed seamlessly from colony to state. Taylor’s point is that in France, the emergence of a republic came only after a century of bloodletting. For unlike British political culture, the French had no tradition of local self-governance protected by common law. Take away the center and there was nothing but anarchy to fill the vacuum. Our recent failures in various Middle Eastern attempts at nation building  only remind us of this  salient point.
     However much we find ourselves in civil disagreement across the current political divide, the legacy that flows from the Magna-Carta through the English Bill of Rights of 1689 remains the framework within which our political conflicts can be resolved.
No wonder I feel so at home. Happy 4th of July!!

 

(June 25th)

Summertime and the living is easy
On Sunday we marked the end of the program year with another end of year story Sunday. In my sermon I offered and integrated overview of where our ministry teams fit together and in many cases overlap in the areas of their concerns. We have three key priorities; embedding the Bible in parish life, getting people going, and developing the heart of the leader. I wanted folk to understand how the various ministries relate to particular key priorities. I also offered a theology of ministry, drawing from Jesus’ words in Matthew 9: the harvest is plentiful but the laborers a few; ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his fields. If you would like to read further you can do so here. Laura Bartsch , the Senior Warden in the midst of the chaos of house moving was able to gather some of David Brookhart’s wonderful photos for a presentation celebrating  our various ministry teams during coffee hour.
With that now behind us, we can get ready for summer in earnest – weather permitting that is. Here are my spiritual practice tips for those of you who take a break from Sunday morning attendance over the summer, and maybe for you even if you don’t.
  1. If you haven’t started, begin The Bible Challenge. This coming Monday, June 26th, is Day 36, and you can find the reading references and daily commentaries here. Remember there are two commentary pages in the online format, the longer reading-by-reading one and the shorter all-readings overview. To progress from day to day either use the navigation tool on the page or manually change the day number at the end of the address string in your browser window, e.g. http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/the-bible-challenge-2015-day-36/  becomes http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/the-bible-challenge-2015-day-37/
  2. If you find you have more time why not experiment with the Daily Office? The Daily Office can be likened to an electric current of 24/7 prayer that encircles the globe. Monastic communities keep the seven-fold hours of prayer throughout the day and night. Our Book of Common Prayer offers us a maximum of four prayer opportunities that respond to the different rhythms of the day and of course the way these are reflected in our own biorhythms, i.e. energy levels and mood feel. At whatever times you pray- morning, midday, evening or at close of day – you can be certain that many others throughout the world are doing likewise. Praying the Daily office is as if we were lamps plugging ourselves into the perpetual current of worldwide prayer, we become switched on to illuminate the world around us. If you decide to join The Bible Challenge, the Daily Devotions format for the Daily Office provides a very contained and concise framework of prayer within which to insert The Bible Challenge readings. This webpage has other helpful links.
  3. Here is the link to the free Bible App where you can download many different modern and traditional Bible translations. A number of these have audio tracks that enable you to listen to the text while you read. Some translations have a rich and fruity American voice while others offer that precise English accented voice so many of us admire. All you need is a smart phone or tablet and you are away. This is great if you want to listen to The Bible Challenge daily readings while commuting or lying on the beach. You can also do that same on a desktop at youversion.com.
  4. Explore meditation by simply spending time in a quiet place and watch yourself breath. Why not visit our Meditation Hour page for further information on this both ancient and remarkably contemporary, spiritual practice.
Summer is a time for changes in page, and breaking the normal patterns of routine. Ironically enough, the best way for many to break their normal routine is to take time to explore beginning a daily pattern of spiritual practice, which can be as varied as there are varieties of personalities.
See you in Church, this Sunday.
Mark+

 

(June 15th)

The End of Year Story
 
Sunday is our end of year story and Laura Bartsch, St Martin’s Senior Warden will lead a presentation of appreciation of the many ministries within our community. As we end another very eventful program year we do so with a deep sense of gratitude for our members investment of time, talent, treasure, and the commodity most in short supply for many of us with busy lives, mental and physical energy.
   Like most of you, I spend a good deal of my time convinced that the biggest source of stress is the external demands coming at me, when I really know that a good 50% of my stress is internally driven by my expectations of myself. We live in a world where the source of so much of our stress lies with the internal expectations we place on ourselves that we should be able to keep up with everything. We can’t! The rapidity of change is such that we just can’t keep up. So the question becomes, how do we lower the intensity of demand.
   At St Martin’s we are an every member ministry community. This expresses the reality that it takes everyone to make a community. At St Martin’s, as in many other parish communities, what this phrase also expresses is the truth that we no longer have the numbers to sustain the challenges of the program we need to run, and without a challenging program, we are not going to grow. This catch 22 situation means we have little room for passengers. Hence, the reality as well as the phrase every member ministry community.

   I equate ministry with passion. Ministry must be an outlet for passion otherwise it is just one more drain upon our reserves. When ministry is an outlet for passion, it enlivens us and

Summertime and the living is easy
On Sunday we marked the end of the program year with another end of year story Sunday. In my sermon I offered and integrated overview of where our ministry teams fit together and in many cases overlap in the areas of their concerns. We have three key priorities; embedding the Bible in parish life, getting people going, and developing the heart of the leader. I wanted folk to understand how the various ministries relate to particular key priorities. I also offered a theology of ministry, drawing from Jesus’ words in Matthew 9: the harvest is plentiful but the laborers a few; ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his fields. If you would like to read further you can do so here. Laura Bartsch , the Senior Warden in the midst of the chaos of house moving was able to gather some of David Brookhart’s wonderful photos for a presentation celebrating  our various ministry teams during coffee hour.
With that now behind us, we can get ready for summer in earnest – weather permitting that is. Here are my spiritual practice tips for those of you who take a break from Sunday morning attendance over the summer, and maybe for you even if you don’t.
  1. If you haven’t started, begin The Bible Challenge. This coming Monday, June 26th, is Day 36, and you can find the reading references and daily commentaries here. Remember there are two commentary pages in the online format, the longer reading-by-reading one and the shorter all-readings overview. To progress from day to day either use the navigation tool on the page or manually change the day number at the end of the address string in your browser window, e.g. http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/the-bible-challenge-2015-day-36/  becomes http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/the-bible-challenge-2015-day-37/
  2. If you find you have more time why not experiment with the Daily Office? The Daily Office can be likened to an electric current of 24/7 prayer that encircles the globe. Monastic communities keep the seven-fold hours of prayer throughout the day and night. Our Book of Common Prayer offers us a maximum of four prayer opportunities that respond to the different rhythms of the day and of course the way these are reflected in our own biorhythms, i.e. energy levels and mood feel. At whatever times you pray- morning, midday, evening or at close of day – you can be certain that many others throughout the world are doing likewise. Praying the Daily office is as if we were lamps plugging ourselves into the perpetual current of worldwide prayer, we become switched on to illuminate the world around us. If you decide to join The Bible Challenge, the Daily Devotions format for the Daily Office provides a very contained and concise framework of prayer within which to insert The Bible Challenge readings. This webpage has other helpful links.
  3. Here is the link to the free Bible App where you can download many different modern and traditional Bible translations. A number of these have audio tracks that enable you to listen to the text while you read. Some translations have a rich and fruity American voice while others offer that precise English accented voice so many of us admire. All you need is a smart phone or tablet and you are away. This is great if you want to listen to The Bible Challenge daily readings while commuting or lying on the beach. You can also do that same on a desktop at youversion.com.
  4. Explore meditation by simply spending time in a quiet place and watch yourself breath. Why not visit our Meditation Hour page for further information on this both ancient and remarkably contemporary, spiritual practice.
Summer is a time for changes in page, and breaking the normal patterns of routine. Ironically enough, the best way for many to break their normal routine is to take time to explore beginning a daily pattern of spiritual practice, which can be as varied as there are varieties of personalities.
See you in Church, this Sunday.
Mark+

is the benchmark when assessing our gifts and areas for involvement. We have many examples of ministry groups where participation really enlivens those involved. It’s dangerous to name names, so I won’t, but you will be able to think of areas of ministry that enliven you and other areas where you might be acting out of a sense of duty. As we will hear on Sunday, we have some very impassioned ministries that over the last program year have born rich fruit.

   But what about those ministries where you participate out of a sense of duty? As the sense of duty that motivated former generations declines, areas of common life that rely on duty are likewise in decline. Some decline enables a much needed reset because we don’t have to keep on with stuff simply because we always have. Yet other areas that fail to engage our passion remain because they are simply part of the nuts and bolts that someone needs to do if we are to function as community.
   On Sunday, we are not inviting ministry groups to self-represent. Over the last 6 weeks Laura has been gathering feedback and photos from the ministry teams for this presentation in the context of an end of year story when our celebration of ministries is the vehicle for celebrating the vibrancy of our community. When we start up again in the fall we will invite ministries to self-present, giving each a chance to share their passion and experience as a way of inspiring and attracting others.
   In keeping with end of year story Sunday, I will take the sermon time to speak about some of our milestone achievements since September 2016.
   Tuesday was to be our third Temple-Church conversation however, please note that this will now be postponed until July 5th.
Monday, June 19 we begin Day 29 of The Bible Challenge. Visit our webpage  here.
Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday for our end of year story!
Mark+
 
 (Epistle for June 11th)
The Most Holy Trinity and Other Things
Sunday, we enjoyed an exuberant celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. We discovered how splendid red balloons look attached to the pews.  You can read or listen to the sermon either again or for the first time here.
    This Sunday, the cycle from Christmas to Easter culminates in the commemoration of the Holy Trinity. In the family of Abraham, our Jewish and Muslim cousins stand bewildered as we Christians tie ourselves in knots trying to explain that the Trinity is not three Gods but one God in three.
    The first Christians experienced an evolving sense of God. As Jews, they knew God as the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Yet, they had lived through an experience with Jesus, who through his death and resurrection had shared a totally new experience of God no longer distant but as one who had lived among them. On the Day of Pentecost they had a most startling encounter with God as an indwelling Spirit, transforming them from fear and bewilderment into a community empowered to take astonishing risks in pursuit of a more radical way of living.
    The second and third generations of Christians, in an attempt to defend and protect this unique experience of God resorted to the best thinking of their day to find a way of preserving their three-fold experience of God, while remaining within a monotheistic understanding of the Divine. Today, few of us find Aristotelian logic accessible, so it’s all the more important that we find our own way of approaching the mystery of the Trinity. I will be speaking about how as 21st-century people we might do this on Sunday. Remember if you can’t be in Church you still have access to the text and audio of the Sunday sermon, which is our major teaching occasion.
   The Bible Challenge continues and we are almost to the end of Genesis, which has involved some rip-roaring yarns that explode to smithereens our Sunday School attitudes about the Bible as a good book about family values. On Monday, June 12th week four begins on Day 22 of the book. Using the Bible App on my phone or I-Pad has revolutionized my experience because of the ability to listen to the readings while following the text if I choose to. The other great discovery for me is how fruitful an experience of using the neglected  Daily Devotions in the Prayer Book (p.137 or online) as a simple framework within which to insert the daily readings for a more devotional experience. 9am, Tuesday- Thursday we have substituted this pattern, replacing longer form of Morning Prayer, in Church.  One faithful person has given a Bluetooth Bose speaker to enhance our communal devotional engagement with the daily texts of The Bible Challenge. Remember, morning, midday, evening, or at close of day, there is a Daily Devotional form that suits your biorhythm.
Mark+
(Epistle for June 4th)
Pentecost 
Anglican tradition requires of us that we receive Holy Communion three-times a year. Before we feel let off rather lightly, the stipulation made sense in a culture where people attended Church every week and sometimes twice on Sunday’s, but where Matins or Evensong were the preferred services for morning and evening with Holy Communion being less frequently celebrated. Christmas and Easter were two occasions on which receiving Holy Communion was specified with a third occasion being left to discretion. In practice the third occasion for receiving Holy Communion was usually Whitsun, now more usually referred to as Pentecost.
   Pentecost means the 50th day after Easter.  Our Jewish neighbors will celebrate Shavuot on the 50th day after the second day of Passover, a festival that commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses. The disciples would have gathered for Shavuot, but instead of celebrating receiving the Law, they were surprised by the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thus Pentecost, completes Luke’s sequential schema of Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension as the day upon which the responsibility for preaching the kingdom moved from Jesus to his followers, now empowered by a different kind of divine presence.
At Pentecost the Church was born! In Acts 2, Luke paints a dramatic picture of elemental pyrotechnics of wind and flame as the Holy Spirit descended into the world to indwell within human hearts in a new and dramatic way. The point about the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost has less to do with the special effects of the Spirit’s descent and more to do with how it changed the disciples from followers into messengers. The new name of apostle came to signify this transformation which now showed itself as they began to live differently. The signs of this transformation can be found in the way they committed themselves to prayer, sold their personal property, and held all the proceeds in common. This was the way as a small group, the first Christians maximized their capacity to make an impact in the world around them.
   Pentecost celebrates the birth of the Church to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world. At baptism we are each given the dynamic (empowered indwelling) presence of God to energize us to continue God’s expectations as agents for the coming of the kingdom. This means that as with the first Christians, we are called to radical living and action in the world. Before we get caught up in the inevitable debates and arguments about what this means or should look like, let’s simply at this point take time to remember that this is who we have been called to be – persons and communities of radical living and action in the world.
   This Pentecost Sunday, come and together let’s commemorate our communal birthday as we rededicate ourselves as agents for God’s kingdom. We may not find selling all our property and holding the proceeds in common to be a very feasible or even a desirable way to go. Remember though, that this was for the first followers of Jesus their action that maximised their capacity to change the world for the better. What’s our equivalent to be?
   This Sunday we’ll have special music from a brass quartet during the 9:30 service and a festive Coffee Hour hosted by our KidZone families. So be sure to wear red, bring a friend, and celebrate with us!

Mark+

(Epistle for May 25)

“Madchester” is the name synomomous with the vital vibrancy of Manchester’s music scene, the home of Oasis, the Stone Roses, New Order, Happy Mondays and the Smiths. Writing in the New York Times Howard Jacobson notes how Manchester is: a city of young people. Even on the most forbidding winter nights, the young congregate outside the bars and clubs, wearing not very much. The less you shiver, the harder you are. We will hear more over the coming days about Manchester’s indomitable nature. How the city will not bend to terror. How death shall have no dominion, and the faceless men of violence neither. And it will be as true of Manchester as it can be of anywhere. All our hearts go out to bereft families across this great city and region, families who at the end of a night of celebration were plunged into the blood chilling waters of sudden of incomprehensible grief. Any death is a tragedy, but oh how deeply the death of children rends our hearts.

Manchester-like atrocities are happening across the globe, seemingly 24/7. Manchester, as with London, Paris, and Berlin previously, shocks us because it’s possible to identify with the dead, injured and bereaved, for these are people in whom we easily recognize our own faces. It happened in a city, otherwise like ours.

Identification is a valuable psychological mechanism because identification bridges the chasm of difference we imagine separating us from one another. In a world where division and polarization are the new normal, identification rescues us from our self-protective isolation. We feel, or allow ourselves to imagine what another feels as if the other’s feelings are our feelings. We are Manchester and so we feel Manchester’s horror and pain with an intensity of identification, sadly less evoked in us by the horror and pain in Kabul, Baghdad, or Sana.

Our politicians response in the face of escalating horror is to mouth tough words to subtly manage the very fears they are chiefly responsible for generating. Conveyed by the 24-hour news cycle into every room of our lives, we are not fooled, yet we are all ensnared in a bellicose rhetoric as we try to distinguish what is true from what is manufactured to make us feel more afraid.

How do we expand the remit of our compassion? Cultivating a capacity for identification is a good place to start. Beginning The Bible Challenge exposes us to a daily structured drip-drip process for cultivating and expanding our capacity for identification. In the pages of the Bible we discern the outlines of the epic tale of a God who hearing the voice of those who suffer comes to liberate them. We discover a tale of a loving God who in the face of atrocious human cruelty continually calls us to keep faith with one another because we are each made in the image of God. I am not asking you to instantly believe this if you don’t already. I am asking only that you live as if it’s true until you discover that it is.

Monday night in Manchester has been an attack on a city’s very vitality, and our identification reminds us that the risk we face today is universal. Howard Jacobson again: If we want to find some consolation, it won’t be in speeches of municipal defiance, but in the stories, now coming thick and fast, of the assistance rendered not only by the emergency services, but by Mancunians of courage and goodwill who obeyed their deepest instincts in the face of danger and did all they could to comfort the injured and distraught. All is sorrow, but we still have kindness and pity, … rooted in an increasing capacity for identification.

This coming Sunday is the Sunday after the Ascension and the Sunday closest to Memorial Day, the day when the nation honors its war dead. I hope to see you, in Church then.

Mark+

(Epistle for May 18)
It’s one week until we begin The Bible Challenge  on Monday May 22nd  with day 1 of a 365 day program that will take us through until the summer in 2018. While wishing to encourage, I also don’t want to make light of the challenge aspect of this venture we are about to embark upon. It’s important to find our own individual rhythm and to approach The Bible Challenge, balancing the inevitable tension between hopeful and realistic expectations. At any time please consult me if keeping up with the reading schedule troubles you.
You can review  here my Epistles for the last two weeks in which I have written about different aspects of the program and our expectations for it. In last Sunday’s sermon I reviewed some key statistics that profile our parish community in relation to our intentional spiritual journey and to give context for why embedding the Bible in community life is so important for us. You can review or listen again to my review here.
Most of you will have purchased the book The Bible Challenge as either a paperback or Kindle book. We do have limited copies of the book left and these can be obtained on Sunday at a discounted rate of $10. Please speak with Elizabeth Welshman at the Welcome Table. It is likely you will have a Bible at home If it’s the King James or Authorize Version you might want to update. You can see a list of recommended translations here. I highly recommend the Bible app for smart phones and tablet notebooks called You Version. Download the app for free here. This app will give you portable access to multiple English translations, many of which also have an audio facility for those of you who might prefer to listen to the daily readings – ideal for commuters or bed time listeners. If using a desktop computer you can also read or listen online here. I really recommend this approach to Bible reading for portability and ease of use and the facility to be able to easily compare different translations and for audio listening.
Each week, Morning Prayer is said from Tuesday – Thursday in church, (note only Wednesday from July – September). After May 22nd we will switch to a shorter form called Daily Devotions (137 BCP) and this provides a nice framework for the longer Bible Challenge passages. Members of the Virtual Office group (folk who pray the Daily Office at home) can likewise switch forms if you wish. Until the end of June and periodically over the summer the Adult Forum on Sunday will be devoted to discussing the past week’s readings. Over the course of the next year I am certain we will also develop other small group venues for regular group discussion of the experience. Visit the website for up to date information.
The Easter season is passing fast. Watch next week for details concerning Pentecost Sunday, June 4th. See you in Church, this Sunday!
Mark+
(Epistle for May 11)
Once again, the May Breakfast Team pulled it off with a magnificent May Breakfast this past Sunday. There’s something a little odd celebrating the Eucharist to the smell of bacon. The compensation was knowing of the steady stream of breakfasters next door, some 200 + netting over $2000 for our charitable outreach. May Breakfast is one of the show case windows for the wider community into the vibrancy of our parish life and I want to thank not only the principal energizing team of Gail Peet, Chris Izzo, and Elke Moonan but everyone – there were so many of you -who gave generously of time and energy to make the event the success it was.
I had a lovely email from a parishioner who wanted to tell me that she and her husband misunderstood when The Bible Challenge officially is to begin and had already started reading. For anyone else similarly unsure Day 1 is Monday, May 22nd. My response was that starting early was the best way to accumulate comp time.
Daily Bible reading is a tough sell because Episcopalians have come to share the Liberal Protestant disinterest in reading the Bible. The fruits of 150 years of what’s known as Biblical Criticism has left us feeling that the Bible is for experts, scholars, and clergy trained to be able to unpack the sitz im leben, which simply means the ability to interpret the text guided by the historical, cultural, and theological settings in which it was originally written. This has led to a propensity among Episcopalians to encounter the Bible through the lens of commentary. Thus learning about rather than engaging with the text keeps us in our detached comfort zone.

The second reason for our disinterest in the reading of Scripture resides in the attitude that the Bible no longer belongs to us because it has been appropriated by them – them – being a reference to the fundamentalists. It’s because we not only find literal interpretation uninteresting but we deeply reject many of the social and theological attitudes such an approach fosters. Yet this is what makes it all the more important that we take back the Bible and make reading Scripture a part of our spiritual practice. You can find a fuller exploration of this theme in last Sunday’s sermon.

Daily Bible reading is a practice we learn to cultivate. But it’s not meant to become yet another rod for our backs. It’s absolutely fine to take a break from time to time and not feel bad or discouraged in doing so. The Bible is not a novel. It’s not even a book in any conventional sense. Biblos means library of stories often overlapping and coming at the same material from multiple angles. Examples of this abound.  We have four gospels telling the same story in different ways. Luke-Acts relates many of the same events recorded differently by Paul in his letters. The books of the 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, 1 & 2 Samuel, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy retell Israel’s history from different political and historical perspectives. At times different versions of the same story conflict with one another. In Genesis there are two separate creation stories. There are two differing stories of Noah and the Flood merged into one. The Bible Challenge is a 365-day program. But we won’t lose the plot because we don’t begin at Genesis 1 and end 365 days later on the last page of the Book of Revelation.
Take a stand against the Bible’s capture either by scholars or fundamentalists. Why not be encouraged to step out and take a risk of committing yourself to the experience of The Bible Challenge. You can purchase it in book or Kindle format at AmazonSmile  or access the daily reading and commentary schedule from The Bible Challenge website. Watch for more about nuts and bolts, next week.
See you in Church, this Sunday.
Mark+
(Epistle for May 4)

Bible Reading In the 12th-century, St Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the great Cistercian reform of Benedictine life, described Holy Scripture as a vast sea in which a lamb can paddle and an elephant can swim. I mention this as a good jumping off place to talk about the next phase of embedding the Bible in community life, the first priority flowing from our RenewalWorls experience in 2015.  Scripture reflection has become a feature for the start of important church meetings, such as the Vestry, the Pastoral Care Group, and Women’s Spirituality Group. In 2015-16 we embarked on a community reading of The Story. This was a mixed experience for many of us. However, it did get the experience of reading something together over a 12-month period, into our community bloodstream.

On Sunday, May 21st we launch a program marketed as the Bible Challenge, and on Monday, May 22nd we begin with Day 1 of our 365-day journey through the Bible. The program offers daily reading references for an Old Testament, Psalm, and New Testament reading, together with a contextual commentary, key questions, and a daily prayer.
 
The Bible Challenge comes in both book and Kindle formats available from Amazon Smile. It’s also available online through the Bible Challenge website. One difference between the book and the online formats is that in the book, each day’s contextual commentary offers a one page overview of all three readings, whereas the daily contextual reflection on the website is more extensive and detailed, giving more attention to each reading. I recommend the book version with the option of going to the website for more commentary should you wish it. Last Sunday we sold all our 35 book copies. We have ordered 12 more for those who can’t buy online. I encourage others who have online access to purchase from Amazon Smile for $12 or $9 for book or Kindle formats, respectively.
The word challenge in The Bible Challenge evokes differing reactions. Challenges stimulate us to greater achievement. They can also seem too daunting so that we are discouraged from the outset. Embarking on this 365-day program of reading will challenge some of us to discover a new and unexpected relationship with Scripture. Others of us will experience the challenge of a daily reading as too much for us at least, at this point in time. Most of us will begin well, but find over time that other things interfere with the daily discipline and weeks may go by when we do no reading. The temptation here will be to feel there is no point returning to the practice after a period of absence. I remind us that the Bible is not a continuous, contiguous narrative, but a series of overlapping, ruptured, at times competing, narratives. Like the Bible itself, The Bible Challenge can be resumed at any point along the timescale from Day 1 to Day 365.
Another image of the Bible Challenge is of embarking on a train journey with many potential stopping off, layover, and re-embarkation places. The important thing is to begin and continue on the journey at our own pace. How will we be shaped and changed as a community by our experience of taking such a journey together?
Next week I will say more about the particular ways we will find time and space to share our individual experience together.
Mark+
(Epistle for April 30)
Easter is Everyday
I have returned this week from a post-Easter time away in D.C. recovering from the stress of Lent and Easter. The high point for me of visiting the nation’s capital was some heavenly time in the Library of Congress – a first for me, and a chance to visit the Museum of African American Culture. Having been away let me say a belated thank you to everyone who contributed to making is such a fantastic Holy Week & Easter experience!
Speaking of which Easter is upon us! I was tempted to say Easter is over, but the truth is it’s actually upon us. The liturgical observance of Easter is actually 50 days, and I must admit, 50 days seems a long time if one is preaching most Sundays.
Everyday is Easter – which leads me to reflect on why we gird our spiritual loins for the 40 days of Lent and then breathe a sigh of relief. For after Easter Day has passed, do we give Easter any further thought?
That Easter is actually everyday reminds us that the Resurrection is more than an event that did or did not happen – according to your view-  to Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is more than the resuscitation of a body, like that of Lazarus. The point here is that the Resurrection is not so much about the dead coming back to life, as it is about the living experiencing the promise of new life. If we can focus on the idea that everyday is Easter then the promise of new life becomes the possibility of new life, everyday.
As a reflection of promise materializing into possibility, we now move into the Easter Season and beyond. In our parish-wide learning program we return to a Biblical focus with the introduction on Sunday 21st of May of The Bible Challenge, a year-long organized program of daily readings and reflections that will guide us through a 365 day Bible reading cycle. Following-on from our communal reading of The Story as part of our RenewalWorks priority of embedding the Bible in parish life, the Bible Challenge offers us more depth with its stimulating approach to engaging Scripture. Each day, three portions – one from the Old Testament, one a psalm, one from the New Testament are recommended reading. These readings are set in their historical-theological context by a daily reflection piece, followed by two focus questions, and a concluding prayer.
Between now and May 21st I will outline more about the program and how we might approach using it. Marketed as a 365 day program we will need to approach this aspect with some flexibility. For now, it’s enough to say that you can order the book The Bible Challenge from Amazon Smile in paperback or Kindle format, or you can purchase a copy from the office for a discounted rate of $10 instead of $12. We have 35 copies as of now and these will be available after Sunday services. The Bible Challenge is also a web-based program and you can find all you need online without the need for a book. But a book is nice to have and it helps to have the program all in one place and at our fingertips.
The late Pope John Paul II liked to proclaim: We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song. We are indeed an Easter people. I look forward to celebrating this with you, in Church, this Sunday.
Mark+

(Epistle for April 20)

Alleluia! In KidZone we like to say that this is another way of saying, “Yay, God!” There is something special about being able to shout, sing, and write this timeless word of joy and praise that has been deliberately deleted from our vocabulary during Lent. And now, in the next fifty (yes, 50!) days of Eastertide I hope that Alleluias will be as common on our lips and hearts as daffodils and Bradford pear blossoms are on Orchard Avenue. Alleluia!

Our Alleluias are also offered for so many who worked to make Holy Week and Easter at St. Martin’s so meaningful. Preparation for the many liturgies is hectic; last Thursday I compared keeping up with the vast number of logistical details to playing a game of whack-a-mole, and one member of the staff has affectionately renamed Holy Week, “holy eeeek!” Thank God for laughter when we are under pressure.

We are immensely grateful to so many people for their ministry to our community in Lent and Holy Week: To our office staff and sextons, who coordinated the liturgical rota, made sure our facilities were in top shape and ready for services and receptions, and wrestled countless bulletins from draft form to the printer. To our office volunteers who folded said countless bulletins. To our marvelous Hospitality Committee who prepared our Easter Vigil and Easter Day receptions, and to all who contributed delicious goodies to the feasts. To our Altar Guild and Sacristan who polished silver, filled candles and made sure everything was beautiful and ready for worship. To the tireless floral decorators who transformed the church into an Easter wonderland of blossom and scent, and to all whose contributions paid for such a bounty of plants and greenery. To all whose participation in the liturgies helped it to go smoothly, beautifully and meaningfully; our wonderful choir and musicians, our acolytes, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, greeters, foot-washers and altar-strippers. To those who watched during the Gethsemane Vigil in the Chapel, those who participated in the Good Friday Walk, the children who painted and decorated Kindness Rocks, and those who delivered Easter flowers to shut-ins. In other words, to ALL who attended and participated in Holy Week and Easter worship; your presence and your prayers made it all possible, and for that we say Alleluia!

Remember: Easter is a season, not a day, and we are People of the Resurrection. So go ahead; keep wishing people, “Happy Easter!” If they ask you why, tell them Easter lasts for 50 days. And then invite them to the May Breakfast, May 7th. 🙂           The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

(Epistle for April 6)

On Tuesday of this last week we held the fifth in our Lent series Going Deeper. In this session we were looking at what I call competing stories. Human beings are storied animals. We tell stories to make sense not only of ourselves to ourselves and to others but to construct meaning from our experience of the world. As people of faith, Jews and Christians share a big story. Two Sunday’s ago I referred to this big story as the greatest story ever told , playing intentionally on the title of the 1965 Hollywood blockbuster.
At the core of our Judaeo-Christian experience is the epic story of a relationship with God that unfolds and develops over time and within the events of our history. This epic story is the one we look to for the wisdom to guide us on how to live fruitful lives amid what the Prayer Book refers to as the changes and chances of this life. Yet, we are also influenced by competing stories, narratives that support more conventional approaches to life in 21st century America. These are stories of power and powerlessness; of life as a zero sum gain; of material prosperity and personal success; of the pursuit of personal satisfaction as the goal of our living.
What are the stories that shape the way you live your life? To what stories do you go to for wisdom and guidance in the day-to-day making of decisions? What stories shape your priorities? If you consider yourself a person of faith, is the epic faith story at the center of your awareness, or is it just one possible story among others, a kind of bolt on extra to an otherwise conventional life? This question challenges us to become more aware of how different and conflicting stories push us off course.
This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday when the crowds stripped the fronds from the palms to carpet the road for Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. They greet Jesus in the understandable but misguided expectation of an earthly warrior king; an expectation shaped by a competing story about the assertion of worldly of power. At the same time as Jesus was entering Jerusalem from the East, Pilate and his Roman Legions were entering the city from the West; a show of force come up to police the Passover.
We have two processions – one a demonstration of God’s involvement in our world, the other a demonstration of naked worldly power. Each is a story competing for our allegiance. Which will we heed?
Jesus saves. But what in your life story will Jesus save you from? As a community journeying with Jesus on the way to the cross, we are strengthened by your presence with us during the liturgical enactments of Holy Week  and the Great Three Days of Easter. Will you join us?
Mark+

(Epistle for March 30)

Throughout the days of the week, we remember the saints as well as the Saints. Saints with a capital S as well as saints with a small s are people who are remembered by the community of the Church as exemplary witnesses of what it means to live a Christian life. We remember them in the Calendar according to the anniversary date of their death.
After the English Reformation the Anglican Tradition relinquished the authority to canonize Saints.  Nevertheless, we continued to value the concept of sainthood and since then we have added innumerable saints. Through them we maintain the long communal memory that reassures us of our place in a trans-dimensional community, or as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it -surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.
At the Sunday Eucharist, we conclude the Prayers of the People by honoring Mary, the Godbearer. Theotokos translated as Godbearer, is Mary’s title in the Orthodox Churches, and is a more appropriate and less ambiguous title than virgin. Along with Mary we also honor St. Martin as our patron saint together with Roger Williams, RI’s founder. To this weekly list we now add Ann Hutchinson. Hutchinson was a formidable and courageous woman who like Williams challenged Puritan patriarchal intolerance in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans were not going to take insolence from a mere woman and so like Williams, Hutchinson fled to the safety of Rhode Island. She later moved to Connecticut and then to the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam, where she was later killed during an Indian attack on the settlement.
Until now, we have also included the commemorations from Holy Women, Holy Men, of the Saints and saints whose anniversaries occur in the coming week. It seems that this can often be a very long list of names, not well known to most of us. In future, we will only add to Mary, Martin, Roger, and Ann the feasts of Apostles, major Saints, and notable Anglican-Episcopal figures occurring in the coming week. However, we will print each week in the announcements the full list of the coming week’s commemorations as they appear in Holy Women, Holy Men together with a link so you can find out more about those named week by week, and the record of their deeds.
Sunday is Lent V and marks our entry into Passiontide. The next Sunday following is Palm Sunday and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week commemorates the events of Jesus’ last week leading to his death and resurrection. The liturgical tension mounts as the personal and political ramifications for Jesus become scary. We now enter into the third act of a four-act drama and you won’t want to miss out. So from now on regular attendance is advised. See you in Church, on Sunday.

(Epistle for March 23rd)

It’s a packed E-News this week so I have been asked to be brief.
Although interrupted by the storm the previous week, this past Tuesday we resumed with the Lent Program. You can find the weekly discussion sheet posted on line at Lent 2017.
My 2017 Easter Letter should arrive through the post early next week. In it I have emphasized the importance of participating in Easter worship even if you are away. As Episcopalians, we are a liturgical-sacramental people. For us, worship is the work of the People of God. While, God is globally present and active in the world long before we arrive on any scene, when the community of the Church performs the work of God, i.e. celebrate liturgy-worship, God promises to be particularly and locally present to us. This promise to be present is what we mean by the term sacrament. Easter is not a ready-made experience that we can just parachute into at the last minute. The liturgical journey requires participation! There are Episcopal Churches most places.
This Sunday we will have a speaker from Episcopal Charities (EC). EC is an umbrella instrument through which our Episcopal Diocese supports a range of RI charities and other non-profits. St Martin’s folk have always been generous contributors and I hope you will continue to be mindful in your support for Episcopal Charities.
See you in Church, this Sunday.
Mark+

(Epistle for March 16)

Lent’s invitation to spiritual practices  – tip no. 3 (see here for tips 1 & 2).  Many proclaim with certainty that the churches are dying. I am not sure what that means and even how you measure such a thing. Falling attendance is certainly measurable, but what about the fact that many churches, though smaller than 20 years ago are more vibrant and vital as a result of the decline of church as a social event. 30 years ago most mainline Christians described themselves as religious but not spiritual. Today it’s the reverse, the majority now reporting as either both religious and spiritual or spiritual but not religious.

An expression of this shift is a deepening interest and curiosity among ordinary churchgoers about the spiritual life of prayer and practice. Every Thursday evening the meditation hour meets in St Martin’s chapel between 5:30-6:30. Here, you will find all ages from early 20’s to late 70’s. You will find established parishioners alongside spiritually seeking visitors. This is an hour a week for anyone who cares to show up, providing a different portal into the experience of religious community from the conventional Sunday morning experience.  For some, it is the one time in the week when they stop long enough to become aware of the experience of seemingly doing nothing. For others coming together in a group for meditation once a week is an important anchor point of supporting them in developing a daily practice.

While there are many schools of meditation technique, there are two broad approaches to meditation. The first approach is called discursive (following a discourse or storyline) meditation. Popular forms of guided meditation fall into this category. Ignatian- Jesuit  spirituality, today a mainstay of Christian meditation, is discursive in that it invites us to enter into an imaginative engagement with a text or encounter from Scripture. For example, when Jesus heals the man born blind, we would imaginatively explore what it would be like to put our self in the place of the blind man. What would it be like to be blind? What does it feel like to hear Jesus’s voice speaking to us, feel his touch healing our inner sense of blindness?

The second approach is contemplative meditation. Coming out of Benedictine Traditions, Thomas Keating’s Centering Prayer or John Main’s Christian Meditation  encourage an experience of God’s presence (love) within us that is: closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. Eastern inspired mindfulness meditation by focusing attention on the rising and falling of the breath encourages us to become more aware of ourselves as greater than our thoughts, feelings and sensations. Learning to observe the contents of mind and heart, the aches and pains of body, we lessen their power to unconsciously drive our lives.

A metaphor I often use is – life is like a fast flowing river that tosses us to and fro in a turbulent current, sweeping us along on a stream of thoughts, feelings, and sensations across the rocky rapids of experience. Meditation is like climbing up onto the bank and for a brief time simply watching the surge that is our life flowing past before getting back into the current again.

Many of us are attracted to spiritual practice only to find that like everything else it involves perseverance, regularity, and an ability to tolerate an experience of boredom arising from not being able to follow our usual mental and physical distractions. Like keeping our bodies fit and strong, meditation requires time, intention, and regular practice or training. When our ego expects too much from spiritual practice, or desires the wrong thing from spiritual practice, then disappointment quickly follows. How we handle our disappointment then is what really matters. This is where our practice of meditation begins to take root so that love might flow more strongly within and through us.

See here  for more information on why you might like to make Thursday’s 5:30-6:30 a regular event in your week?

Mark+

 

(Epistle for March 9)

Lent is a time to experiment with breaking habitual patterns. When you change the way you eat for instance, you notice new results. In Lent, the spiritual discipleship practices support us as we explore new ways to deepen our spiritual lives. Last week I mentioned the simple advice that St Benedict gives us about how to regulate the energy flows in our day – Lent tip no.1. I want to now entice you with tip no. 2.

The Book of Common Prayer invites us to study the Scriptures with a special intentionality in Lent. While it is always possible for us to embark on a scriptural study program, I prefer the invitation to sit with rather than study Scripture. For Anglican-Episcopalians we believe that the Bible is the historical record of God’s relationship with us as a people. Its words are understood as the inspired rather than literal word of God. Remember, the Word of God with a capital W is Jesus, and the Bible simply bears textual witness to him. By inspired we mean that God speaks to us as a community Sunday by Sunday through the readings during the Eucharist. God also speaks to us individually when we sit with a text. Through sitting with Scripture we listen as God invites us to become more mindful in the present moment of our lives. God is always seeking to invite us into a new conversation, thus breaking the stranglehold of the self-referencing conversation we prefer to have with ourselves – over, and over, and over again! So how do we do this?

The oldest method for sitting with Scripture is Lectio Divina. Click on the link and see hip Fr. Josh giving an overview or if he’s not your cup of tea you could click on Abbot Austin Murphy OSB. In short, take a sentence or two. The psalms or gospels are good sources for this practice. Read it slowly several times and look for a word or phrase that draws your attention. Wonder about what you notice and let your imagination explore associations that emerge from the word or phrase. You can repeat this step a number of times before finally asking yourself- what is God drawing my attention to through this text and how does my emerging insight apply to my life over the next 5-7 days? Note this is a short term, present-focused exploration, not a mapping out of the rest of our lives. When it becomes clear to you just what God is seeking to draw your attention to, then sit quietly, breath and pray or ask for guidance as to how to apply the new insight over the next week or so. End your sitting by being thankful and breath silently into your sense of gratitude.

We are all too familiar with the way we have learned to live in ways that leave us with a question – is this all there is? Our hope for the more beyond the limitations of the way  we

have learned to be, becomes the goal for our reflections in Lent. Lent is a boundaried safe space. Between Ash Wednesday and Easter, it’s a time for experimentation and exploration of new discoveries and new insights that we hope in the days after Easter will increasingly become second nature for us.

Don’t forget to check out the next session (Week two: Effective Faith) of our Tuesday Lent program here .See you in Church, this Sunday.

Mark+

 

(Epistle for March 2)

Lenten discipline – Tip No. 1. Managing our day

St Benedict, the father of Western Monasticism speaks about the need to punctuate our day with frequent pauses. Everything has a beginning and once begun, everything has an end. Between the end of a current activity and the beginning of something new lies a moment best described as an opportunity to pause. Benedict organized the monastic day into activities punctuated by a moment for prayer – a moment to pause before going on. Throughout a 24-hour period, the contemporary Benedictine writer, Macrina Wiederkehr refers to these as seven sacred pauses.

The major source of stress in our lives is our inability to manage the flow of energy throughout each day. If you are like me, then the pattern that takes over the flow of our days is one of accumulation. A new activity is begun without the previous one coming to an end. Because there is no ending before a new beginning, there is no space for pausing. I reach the close of the day exhausted by the accumulation of non-ended activities akin to a multiplicity of tapes endlessly running over each other in my overtaxed mind.

By ending, Benedict did not mean completing the task, simply a time to stop doing it before moving to the next thing awaiting us. It’s sometimes hard to stop before the task is completed, but one can always return to it. Tasks may remain incomplete, but nevertheless must be ended, because other priorities await our attention. By ending, Benedict is referring to a psychological process of letting go of the activity in our minds. Even if it’s ended -say the ending of a meeting, it still occupies our thoughts and adds to the sum total of our preoccupations. He is talking about the regular pausing that allows the freeing up of mind and imagination. It’s actually hard to do, but all the  more necessary for being so.

You might like to take a look at the full description of our Lent program, which includes the Tuesday evening and Sunday morning Adult Forum programs plus recommended reading for Lent here. Please remember to sign up for the Tuesday evening program here .

Mark+

(Epistle for February 23)

Friends, next week we begin the season of Lent with the invitation to keep a holy Lent on Ash Wednesday.  Services on Ash Wednesday will take place at 7 am, 12 noon, and at 7 pm with the imposition of ashes at all services. This Lent we have an exciting program and during Lent I will be writing about the nature of the spiritual disciplines that the Book of Common Payer invites to consider as ways to deepen our experience with God.

The Lent Program

The title of our Lent program this year is Going Deeper. It will seek to address how as members of the St Martin community we can become more publically expressive of our faith in the service to the world around us. We live in a time when none of us can afford to ignore the challenges of both the present time and our future.
Going Deeper will run over five Tuesday evenings from March 7th until April 4th.
  • 5:30 pm Stations of the Cross with Holy Communion
  • 6:15 pm Community meal and program discussion
  • 8:30 pm Compline (night prayer)

The cost will be $45 for five meals. This year we are not separating eating from talking, so the program will take place in the round table setting. To participate in the program will require arrival in time for the meal at 6:15 pm. The evening will conclude at 8:30 pm. The full description of the program and reading recommendations for Lent can be found here.

Sunday Adult Forum

Tuck Shattuck will be leading the Adult Forum during Lent. The Forum meets after coffee at 10:45 on Sunday mornings. For those who may not know Tuck he is a retired priest of the Diocese and an academic historian who has written extensively on the history and development of the Episcopal Church. Many of us are Episcopalians by habit and yet we know so little about the history of our tradition and its contribution to American life. Knowing our past enables us to have a clearer sense of the kind of impact we can make upon the world today.
Reading for Lent

For this year’s Lent reading I am recommending Miroslav Volf: A Public Faith: how followers of Christ should serve the Common Good. Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. The book forms the underpinning for this year’s Lent Program and I recommend it to you if you want to delve more deeply, but it is not required reading, though will certainly be helpful. Ashes and the Phoenix is Forward Movement’s Lent meditation book for this year. Ashes and the Phoenix offers a way of observing a daily response to the call to keep a holy Lent by leading us from Ash Wednesday to Easter through the emotions, symbols, sights, sounds, and scents of Lent. Both recommendations are available in book or Kindle format from Amazon Smile.

Don’t forget the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper on February 28th. This year we are expanding our normal supper to capture the spirit of Mardi Gras. We will have a New Orleans jazz band and I encourage you all to come in costume or at the very least mask. Mardi Gras is the New Orleans variation of Carnival. Shrove Tuesday Carnival was the only day in the Christian year when the normal hierarchy of social relations was turned on its head. Under the influence of the Lords of misrule a peasant could behave like a lord without fear of penalty. Come and bring your friends and neighbors for St Martin’s hospitality with
the twist.
See you in church on Sunday.
Mark+

(Epistle for February 16)

“In the name of God and this congregation, I send you forth bearing these holy gifts,that those to whom you go may share with us in the communion of Christ’s Body and Blood. We who are many are one body, for we all share one bread, one cup.”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

The passages above encapsulate the ministry of the Pastoral Care Team, which is comprised of ten dedicated parishioners. Their mission is to offer God’s consolation to members of our community through listening, prayer, and sacrament. The most visible aspect of their ministry is our “little red bags”, or communion kits. If you attend the 8:00 service you see the small bottles of wine consecrated, the consecrated host wafers counted out and put into little jars, and the bags packed (for lack of a better term) to go. At the end of the 9:30 service the bags are sent out with the congregation’s words: “We who are many are one body, for we all share one bread, one cup.”

Our licensed Lay Eucharistic Visitors take the sacrament to those who are homebound or too ill to come to church. This ministry is truly grace-filled for both recipients and visitors. David Whitman, a member of the Pastoral Care Team, says that the joy of sharing word and sacrament in an intimate setting is powerful and meaningful.

In addition to Eucharistic visits the Pastoral Care Team is available for non-Eucharistic visits to anyone in need of someone to provide a listening presence.  This is not a substitute for professional counseling; simply the availability of a fellow parishioner to be a companion on a challenging part of life’s journey; something all of us experience at one time or another.

The Pastoral Care Team is also responsible for our annual “Blue Christmas” liturgy for those who find the holidays difficult. And after Easter we hope to begin offering a regular Healing Eucharist.
I am thankful to the following people for their faithful ministry with this team: Al Anderson, Carter Davis, Mary Gray, Diana Hassel, Jane Langmuir, Gail Peet, John Reardon, Denny Scott, John Staniunas, and David Whitman. Please contact the church office if you would like a Pastoral Care visit.

“…Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that weare born to eternal life. Amen.” (from A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis, Book of Common Prayer, p. 833)

Peace,
Linda+

(Epistle for February 10)

We are always looking for the limit of our responsibility, the point beyond which we are no longer required to respond, the point at which we can rest easy acquitted from further claims being made on us. I remember as a first year law student, my Legal Systems tutor telling us that the key quality of a well-drafted law lies not in the responsibilities it lays upon us, but in the protection it affords by delineating clearly the limits of its application. This makes the rule of law clear and predictable. But when applied to our spiritual life this approach encourages something called legalism. Legalism, sticking to the letter of the law, impoverishes us in the spiritual life.

This goes to the heart of what Jesus is saying in the Gospel for this Sunday in Matthew 5:21-37. I hope you might follow this link to refresh your reading of this passage before going further. This passage is from Jesus’ teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. Here he appears to extend the application of the commandments of old relating to murder, adultery, divorce, and swearing oaths. Extending the application of the commandments to judge not only our actions but our secret intentions as well, how will any of us reach the bar he appears to set?

Jesus confronts the legalistic approach to the commandments of old, which many in his time had confined to the strict letter interpretation according to which virtuous action was simply refraining from: killing, committing adultery, treating ones wife as a chattel to dispose of at will, and appealing to an idol instead of to one’s personal honesty and integrity as the guarantor of one’s trustworthiness.

Jesus uses hyperbole, obvious intentional exaggeration, not to raise the bar to an unreachable level but to show us what living law looks like when compared with a legalistic approach. Legalism, i.e. dead letter interpretation turns the commandments into relational barriers, i.e. I am obligated to do only this much, or go this far in my dealings with others. Instead, Jesus is concerned with spiritual law as an agent for transformation and expands the notion of virtuous action to include our intentions. We are not transformed simply by refraining from doing harm. We are transformed only when we struggle with our rage, desire, greed, and our tendency to treat others as mere objects to be manipulated to fulfill our own needs.

It’s not whether we achieve the goal that matters. It’s whether we struggle with the baseline intentions that impoverish our relationships. Through the grace-filled transformation of our base intentions, we collaborate in God’s vision of what it means to live relationally and thus to experience life in all its fullness. Jesus’ approach to Scripture is to transform it from a noun to a verb. Scripture, something static, becomes scripturing, something alive and dynamic and ever changing; capable of guiding us in the present context of the lives we live. Only in this way can the commandments of old continue to guide understanding and action in each new generation.

Stay warm, keep safe, and see you in Church this Sunday!

Mark+

(Epistle for February 2)

I think the one thing that most of us can agree on is that we are facing into the head winds of unprecedented change as President Trump begins to shape the tone of his presidency. On a day-to-day level the continual barrage of news feed is overwhelming and at times I am in fear for my sanity. An English friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page, which I reposted on the St Martin’s page. It’s titled How to Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed by Your Newsfeed and I commend it to you here.

At St Martin’s we are a predominantly liberal to progressive community, politically as well as theologically speaking. Yet, I feel we need to remind ourselves that we are not all of the same complexion and we need in times of national and communal stress to work very hard to maintain ourselves as a broad tent church under which a variety of worldviews find shelter. The message I would like to convey going forwards is, propelled by the imperatives of the Jesus’ teaching let’s take good care with one another and find issues of common action in our local and wider community around which we can unite. Think global, act local could be out motto.

I remind us that in times of political tension Episcopalians have held together through their experience of common worship as the glue that shapes and binds us together in a covenant community with God. Sunday-by-Sunday attendance is falling out of fashion even among committed church folk. The truth is, many things compete for our time and attention. Remember though, that when we are not present in worship the community is impoverished by our absence.

See you in Church, this Sunday!
 
Mark+

(Full Epistle for January 26)

Thank you to Laura Bartsch and John Bracken, Senior and Junior Wardens respectively, and to Sarosh Fenn, Treasurer, for last Sunday’s Annual Parish Meeting. Sunday’s meeting has been universally applauded for its well-managed agenda, conducted in an efficient and timely manner; 45 minutes seems to be a record. This year we departed from the usual lunch format and went for an expanded coffee hour that seamlessly flowed into the business meeting for the approximately 110 congregants who attended. The result was not only a more efficient husbanding of costs, but being out by 12 pm seems to have met with everyone’s approval. I feel we have a new model for successive Annual Parish Meetings going forward. Sarosh offered a visual overview of the 2017 budget with a focus on our need for a reduction on the endowment draw, this year now down to 5.5%. Sarosh’s message going forward is that while 5.5% may seem reasonable the fact that most of this draw is still going to cover the operating budget is not acceptable.  With expenditure firmly under control with reductions in several area, and once again no staff salary increases for the third year in a row, the financial emphasis remains on the need to increase pledge and miscellaneous giving income, augmented by other income generation.

The financial message synched well with my pastoral message about growth being our key priority in 2017. My Rector’s State of the Parish address outlines developments in 2016 and new possibilities and challenges in 2017. The full text and audio of this can be found here.The educational and formational task ahead lies in equipping the membership to follow St Paul’s encouragement to give an account of the hope that is within us. When we begin with our experience of what it means being part of the St Martin’s community, we become more magnetic attractors for neighbors, friends, and work colleagues, many of whom are bedeviled by trying to live according to conflicting stories of self and world. We are unaware of having given allegiance to stories that don’t fulfill our human yearning. For instance, many feel trapped by the failure of the story of comfortable material prosperity and inevitable progress to meet the yearning in our hearts. We long for something more to live by; for a richer and larger story of faith and hope that not only meets our yearning but affords us room to grow and feel more effective in the world. As Jesus disciples we have to let our faith show in the areas of our lives beyond Sunday mornings.

I cannot leave the subject of the Annual Meeting without once again expressing my deep appreciation for the Staff and the Hospitality Committee, both groups once again rising to the challenge with consummate skill and organization.

On Tuesday evening we held the second Temple-Church Conversation among a group of some 35 people from both Temple Beth-El and St Martin’s, with a small number of visitors from neighboring congregations. This will continue to be a significant interfaith initiative in 2017, focusing on the progressive faith voice in the debates concerning the current state of our civic society and democratic institutions. You can find more on Temple-Church Conversations here, and here .

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany. See you – in church!

Mark+

(Full Epistle for January 19)

Next Tuesday, January 24th we will hold the Second Temple-Church Conversation, at 7 pm, Temple Beth-El. Many of us labor under confusion between the personal and the private when it comes to expressions of faith. The confusion lies in the fact that religious faith is always personal, but never private. Despite faith being personal to each one of us our faith is public because it guides how involvement in the world around us. A hot topic at present concerns the fact that the religious faith of both Jews and Christians is fundamentally concerned to promote good citizenship.

In 2017 we will face the unpredictability of wide-ranging political change both at home and abroad. The central theme of our second conversation will concern where can we find our authority to speak into the wider public arena? This particularly concerns the promotion of good citizenship and the defense of an important connection between personal virtue and public policy. How do we defend democracy in the midst of a sharp turn towards a political authoritarianism marked by contempt for truth-telling and personal accountability in political life?

Many in the secular society question the validity of the faith perspective, challenging our right to speak at all beyond the boundaries of our communities of faith and practice. In a secular space that no longer accepts the existence of the spiritual dimension in human affairs, our confusion about whether our faith is private or public results in our lapsing into silence. In our engagement with wider society, this silence or muting of our faith voice has only strengthened a tendency among progressively minded Christians and Jews to define themselves as secular humanists – good people doing what good people do. Yet, to define ourselves in this way is to downplay our allegiance to a god who is active in human history and encountered in the midst of human social affairs.

Jews and Christians are joint participants in the unfolding story of a god named YaHWeH who heard the cry of a people in order to free them from bondage. We are constituted by this core historical experience out of which, YaHWeH-God invites us to live together according to a covenant, i.e. a set of mutual promises that has profound implications for our social, economic, and political lives. There is a great deal of overlap and common ground between progressive and open-minded faith and secular humanist perspectives. But it is our shared faith story, which is able to inform us about why we view the world in the way we do. As we confront the issues of our own day, our faith story is better able to shape us than the more reduced narratives of secular humanism. Our common faith story is where we must relocate the source of our authority and energy for engagement with others in the pluralities of the public, civic space.

On Tuesday, Rabbi and Rector hope to share with a wider group their ongoing conversation as a preparation for a participative exploration in small discussion groups of the encounter between Moses and God at the burning bush as a defining story for thinking about our relationship to the world.

Please remember, this coming Sunday is the Annual Parish Meeting beginning with coffee and pastries at 10:45 – note no lunch this year. We need everyone to be present for the election of parish leadership and ratification of the 2017 budget. These are rather like two slices of dry toast inside of which is the rich story of our achievements in 2016 and our aspirations for the coming year in 2017. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. In the meantime keep the new President as well as those marching in Washington on Saturday in your prayers.

Mark+

(Full Epistle for January 12)

Because of the heavy snow fall on Saturday and resulting parking ban on Sunday we scaled down to one service and moved it to 2pm on Sunday afternoon. I think a number of us were curious, including Bishop Nicholas, as to how this might work. In the end we had a great attendance of around 95 for the bishop’s visitation, confirmations, and dedication of the new altar and communion rails. I am deeply appreciative of everyone who stepped up and stepped out to be here Sunday on such short notice. The absence of a Patriots game undoubtedly helped! During the service Mary and Elizabeth Blake (mother and daughter), and Lauren Hill were confirmed. There followed an open forum with the bishop at which he spoke about diocesan perspectives and listened to our principal concerns for the coming year.

I know that a number of people from the parish will be marching on the Women’s March in D.C.  I wanted to include this message from Kikea (PK) Louve, a soprano in the choir:

Shortly after the election, a group of women immediately decided to mount a protest in Washington, DC.  The Women’s March on Washington is now a record-breaking event: over 300,000 people of all genders are pledged to attend just the DC event, with thousands of other rallies happening all over the country and world.  Providence has its own rally- information on that can be found here (you do not need a Facebook account to see).  Many parishioners are attending the rally at the statehouse, including Linda+ and Mark+!  For St Martin’s folk intending to march, I would love to help you in any way I can!  Please email me at: wingedpurplekangaroo@yahoo.com or call/text me at 401-419-9607.  There is also a lot of good information here.

If you cannot attend the march, but would like to help, I recently put together a GoFundMe and an Amazon Wish List to allow that.  To those of us marching, our travel and accommodations are already set, but extra items and funds would enable us to hand out warmth and snacks to under-prepared fellow-marchers, and help out any who might need a place to stay or a safe ride back home.  The GoFundMe page is here. And the Amazon Wish List page is here. Even sharing the GoFundMe link on Facebook or other social media would be a big help to our cause.  Thank you so much. I feel immensely grateful for the generosity of my fellow parishioners.  This is a call to action, and there is so much to do in the coming days and months.  I feel your support like a living fire, stoking the one in my heart!   Thank you! PK

If you are planning to march please register with the organizers, i.e. don’t go independently, in order to be well protected and receive essential information and support during the event. A tip from a veteran of many Civil Rights marches is to try to stay on the edge of the crowd so as not to be trapped in the center in the event of panic reactions. Make sure you have an escape route option in case of trouble.

This Sunday is the last of The Story discussions in the Adult Forum. We will look at chapters 28-31 chronicling the birth and rise of the Church as the inheritor of Jesus ministry in the world. Please review my brief summary of these chapters and the discussion questions for Sunday here.

A keep-the-date for your calendars is Sunday January 22nd, 10:45, Annual Parish Meeting during which new officers will be elected and the 2017 budget approved. I make a plea to us all to remember that nothing in parish community happens that does not require our involvement. Please make an effort and endeavor to attend this important event that sets us on course for another calendar year.

Another date coming up close on the heels of the Annual Meeting is the second Temple-Church Conversation at 7.00 pm on Tuesday January 24th at Temple Beth-El. I will be saying more about this next week.

See you in Church this Sunday!

Mark+

(Full Epistle for January 5)

I hope many of you will join us this coming Sunday when Bishop +Nicholas will make his annual visitation to the parish. Our bishop is welcome at St Martin’s at any time but he only makes one official visit a year during which he carries out those responsibilities reserved only for a bishop to perform. These include confirmation, reception, dedication, the reviewing of registers and conferring with parish leadership. Last year we had a bumper crop of confirmations and receptions and so it is wonderful to have three people presenting for confirmation and one for reception, this year.

For young Episcopalians, confirmation is the completion of their baptism. I say completion because confirmation was originally the very end of the baptismal liturgy. As the church grew, bishops delegated authority to baptize to the presbyters and deacons, but reserved confirmation as only theirs to perform. Because there came to be a gap of many years often between baptism and confirmation, confirmation became the rite of passage from child to adulthood, a kind of Christian Bar Mitzvah. Through confirmation our young people affirm for themselves the baptismal promises made at their baptism by godparents or sponsors, and become adults – spiritually speaking – within the community of the baptized. For adult Christians from protestant and reformed church backgrounds (Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, and evangelical and free traditions etc.) or no church background, confirmation marks their entry into the Episcopal Church, represented by coming into communion – spiritual relationship – with the local bishop. For Christians from churches of the apostolic tradition, meaning churches who have maintained the historic order of bishops (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Moravian) because they have more than likely already been confirmed by a bishop in their own tradition, they come into the Episcopal Church through our bishop receiving them with the words: we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic church and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion.

On Sunday, Bishop +Nicholas will dedicate our new nave altar and altar rails. In Anglican Tradition, objects used for spiritual purposes are blessed through their use, and since St Martin’s day we have been using them. By dedicating the altar and rails the bishop will be publically blessing them as spiritually fit for their intended use.

Finally, +Nicholas (note the + before the name indicates the order of bishop where as a + after the name identifies the order of priest) will meet with the church leadership and staff within the context of a community adult forum following coffee. Everyone is invited to this to be reminded of our vision as we move into a new year, and to hear words of wise counsel and guidance Bishop +Nicholas will offer us.

Looking forward to seeing you in church, on Sunday.

 Mark+

(Full Epistle for December 29)

We enjoyed a wonderful celebration of Christmas at St Martin’s. We began at 4pm  Christmas Eve at our first celebration of the Nativity with a wonderful gathering that filled the church. This service provides a unique opportunity for a mixing of the generations. Grandchildren, parents, and grandparents together with an assortment of other relatives and friends all find themselves together in one place to welcome the Christ Child. We enjoyed a most wonderful nativity pageant involving any child still in town. Thanks go to Lian-Marie Holmes Munro who masterminded the choreography and loaned us a real live baby Jesus in the form of her new son Thomas, who is to be baptized this coming Sunday. The pageant wonderfully showcased the collaboration between our young people ranging in age from the teenage to toddler. Thank you priest Linda and to all our Kidzone helpers who made the pageant such a success!

Later on Christmas Eve, with choir and sermon we celebrated the arrival of the Christ Child with the dignity of the ‘Midnight Mass’, mercifully brought forward to 9pm. A small congregation gathered for a quiet and deeply meaningful celebration on Christmas Day. Reflecting on our Christmas celebrations I feel very good about the way St Martin’s is able to cater to a wide range of different worship needs over the course of three distinct services. Thank you to everyone, church greeners, sacristan and altar guild, ushers and servers, who worked so hard to make Christmas the wonderful experience it was.

We now move towards welcoming in another New Year. As we face forwards it’s important to hold firmly to the message of God’s incarnation – I am now part of creation with you. In the Prologue to his Gospel, St John offers us a vision that evokes our  contemporary Big Bang Theory understanding of the origins of the Cosmos. Accordingly, in the beginning God can be thought of as the massive explosion of concentrated creative energy (love) that through its rapid outward expansion gives birth to the creation. At a certain point in the life of the creation, an element of the creator source enters into the creation itself as a communicative principle bringing a new understanding of the relationship between creator and creation. John speaks about this shift as the Word coming into the world as the light“the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”. Through our baptism we are part of the light. We have a responsibility to glow with the light and together to become the change in the world we long to see. We will not be overcome by the darkness though at times it seems to envelop us.

Happy New Year might mean a year that brings an increase in solidarity that empowers us to be the change we long to see.

            Mark+

(Full Epistle for December 22)

It’s Wednesday in the week leading up to Christmas and I am mulling over a few thoughts in preparation for getting to grips with the Christmas sermon later in the week. At this stage I have not got very far other than to notice how my mind is returning again and again to the need to explore Luke’s version of the birth of Jesus. So here are a few teaser-trailer points.

Luke and Matthew have their own versions of this story and although we tend in our imaginations to run them together they are very different. For instance in Matthew’s story, the key player is Joseph and it’s wise men that witness the birth. Overall, Matthew locates the birth in a very Jewish narrative emphasizing the lineage of Jesus’ kingship. In Luke the focus is on Mary and it’s shepherds who witness the birth. Luke paints a beautiful picture that has none of Matthew’s anxieties about pregnancy before marriage and the danger to this child from the genocidal Herod. For Luke, Jesus’ birth is a sign of God’s expansion of salvation to include the wider Gentile world. It’s not great kings – themselves representative of the wider Gentile world who by their attendance attest the royal nature of Jesus’ birth, it’s the ordinary people of the land, the shepherds, the outcast and religiously unclean who witness this amazing event.

We prepare to celebrate Christmas this year in a world that more resembles the chaos and instability of the world into which Jesus came than at any time since 1945. At home passions of a very tribal nature are aflame while whole regions of the world are engulfed in upheavals characterized by a tremendous uprooting of peoples, destruction of ancient centers of civilization, and acts of terror and genocide.

In the face of uncertainty and change Christians have a need to hold even more tenaciously to the message of Christmas. I don’t mean averting our gaze from reality and finding refuge in the details of a lovely story that for many is really only now an enchanted fairy story. The function of the story is to take us more deeply into the realization of the purposes of God.

In the coming of Jesus, God does a new thing. As the Creator, God comes to know the experience of the creation from the inside out. The truth in the name Emmanuel –God is with us – enters into history’s time and space when through the birth of Jesus, God comes not simply to visit but to stay in our world. Our God is with us as the source of a transformative vision for justice and peace. The fact the world is far from being this way simply means that we have to keep believing in the power of love more tenaciously, holding to a vision of hope more courageously, and working even harder to sow the seeds of God’s vision in our own time and place. With the state of the world and the nation as they are it seems highly probable that our resolve will be sorely tested as never before.

I am looking forward to seeing you Christmas Eve at either the joyful intergenerational celebration at 4pm with pageant, or at the more solemn atmosphere of ‘Midnight Mass’ now thankfully brought forward to 9pm. The celebration on Christmas Day will be at 9:30 am only. See our website  for details.

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and blessings for safe arrivals and homecomings if you are travelling.  Let’s take the further steps to become the change we long to see and let hope be the shape of our actions in the New Year.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for December 15)

It’s not yet Christmas. We are still in Advent – a period when the focus is on the art and anxiety of waiting. In the modern world we hate waiting. Waiting has become a sign of failure. The only people who have to wait these days are losers; those unable it seems to grab instantaneous gratification. The hallmark of a successful person is: I get what I want when I want it.                                   
The craving for instantaneous gratification has ruined several generations of lives within the larger demographic known as the Boomers. Boomers abandoned the self-discipline and religiously inspired focus on lives of hard work, personal virtue, and tolerance for waiting that marked the lives of our grandparents. Today, self-entitlement, an attitude that feeds our social anxieties of failing in the competition stakes makes life increasingly unpleasant for everyone. Entitlement is one of the bad fruits of a culture of instantaneous gratification.
The season of Advent is important because it challenges contemporary social values with its message that all good things come only through waiting. The very act of waiting purifies our longing. Longing -expectation -hope takes shape within a process best described as parallel time. The idea that the Kingdom of God as both now and not yet is an example of the notion of parallel time in which the past, present, and future all interact simultaneously. Here’s how it works. The chief lesson of the past is surely how not to repeat the same mistakes. When we forget the past, we are destined to repeat it. One of the principal aspects of forgetting emerges in our longing – not for a better future that avoids the mistakes of the past, but in our hankering for a return of a golden age that never was. This is a kind of back to the future thinking and the antithesis of hopeful expectation.
Waiting is important. In the experience of waiting our future longings are not only refined, they become the compass settings for our actions in the present. Our Christian longing for the future realization of the Kingdom of God forces us to wait because the evidence is that the coming of the Kingdom seems sadly delayed. Yet, it’s our very longing for the Kingdom that empowers us to work tirelessly for its expectations in the present time. Future longing becomes something that shapes the present through the way it guides the actions we take now; actions informed by our expectations of a future that is so much more than a repetition of the past. Alice Miller (psychologist) one of my heroes said: we are who we are waiting for. Another way to put this is to say that the quality of who we are waiting to become, shapes who we already are in the present.
The poet T.S.Elliot(poem) cautions that our hope if instantaneously gratified it will inevitably be hope for the wrong thing. If our love is immediately satiated, then it’s likely to be love of the wrong thing. Faith on the other hand, is hope and love, purified through the experience of waiting.
Remember this coming Adult Forum is our monthly discussion of The Story- Chapters 25-27. Only three more chapters after this!
See you in Church this Sunday, Advent 4.
Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for November 23)

I want to thank everyone who made Sunday’s St Martin’s Feast – our celebration of our patron Martin of Tours – such a runaway success. The energy levels for engagement have been rising for some time in the parish, and one long time member confided to me that “This is how I remember St Martin’s used to be.” So a huge thank you to all who made this event possible and successful, with especial thanks to the Hospitality Team and the Staff. The choir performed Nick Voermans’ new setting for the Evensong vesicles, canticles and responses, beautifully. Certainly, our music ministry is an area of growing excitement and increased energy for engagement. Thank you to everyone who invited friends and family to the Martin’s-Feast. This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the welcome and joy of our community.

Those of you who were here Sunday afternoon had the privilege of seeing for the first time our new altar, platform, and communion rails. The process of seeking a suitable solution to the reorganization of the Church for worship in a manner that respects the decorative integrity of the church, a 30-year evolution, has now resulted in a beautiful new addition to the Church, that blends so well that it looks as if it has always been there.

Many people have made this possible: the generosity of 25 donors who made memorial gifts towards the costs of the communion rails in memory of loved ones, and these gifts will be recorded in the Church’s Memorials Book. The main cost of the altar has been met from the Langmuir Fund, a memorial fund originally contributed to by around 52 people, both in the parish and beyond, in memory of Paul Langmuir at the time of his death. Luis Sossa built the platform, and Jim Eddy, skillfully executed Peter Lofgren’s altar and communion rail designs.

I particularly want to thank Peter Lofgren. We all know him as a quiet and hard working member of the parish. Peter’s conception of the altar and communion rail designs emerged from his close and time consuming study of the many features of existing woodwork and carpentry design in the Church.

  • From the simplicity of the communion rails at the High Altar he designed a similar look and feel for the new communion rails. The needlepointed kneelers came from the St Martin Chapel.
  • He drew inspiration from the arched stone tracery at the top of the East Window for the carved half screen that repeats this motif spanning beneath the altar table.
  • His observations of the end carving on the Choir Stalls gave him the inspiration for the design of the altar’s legs.
  • From a carved goose, almost concealed from view in the far left section of the High Altar Reredos, Peter drew the inspiration for the two carved goose reliefs at the top of each of the front legs.
  • Peter not only regularly liaised with Jim Eddy who skillfully implemented his designs, but he sourced a number of carpet options, dragging them down from Boston on two separate occasions, for approval.
We are very blessed to have someone of Peter’s talents and energy in our community. Thank you Peter!
It only remains for me on behalf of the Church Wardens and Vestry to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing you for the start of the Church’s new Calendar Year, this coming Advent Sunday!
 
Mark+

 

 

(Full Epistle for November 17)

Amidst the uncertainties and deep questioning of the post-election period, life continues, though amidst a sense that something fundamental has changed. The problem is, we are all so close to events that it’s difficult to see clearly, exactly what it is that has shifted and whether this shift is for better or worse? Helpful articles and op-eds will continue to appear on the St Martin’s FaceBook page offering us ways to clarify our thinking on issues such as- is  the Trump popularist revolt severable from the politics of white racism? Statements from the Episcopal Bishops have highlighted the need for reconciliation. Contrastingly, the President of the House of Deputies highlights the tension between reconciliation that avoids conflict and resistance.  Conversation continues.

Coming nearer to home, this coming Sunday 20th, November at 4:30 we celebrate our patronal festival of St Martin of Tours with Choral Evensong and parish feast. At Evensong, we will unveil our beautiful new nave altar, platform, and accompanying communion rails designed by Peter Lofgren. The cost of these has been born by the generosity of members who have given in memory of those loved yet seen no longer. Nick Voermans, Minister of Music has written a special Evensong setting for the choir in honor of this occasion. The patronal festival is a time to invite friends, neighbors, and colleagues to celebrate with us. It is also an opportunity to showcase our community to those who might benefit from belonging to a community of diverse- minded spiritual seekers. Could I ask you to be intentional about inviting at least one person to join you on Sunday for Choral Evensong and the feast.

On Tuesday, November 22nd we will host the annual St Martin’s-Temple Beth-El Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. This year our speaker will be Kathy Cloutier, CE of Dorcas International of Rhode Island – a nonprofit dedicated to the resettlement of refugees. Thanksgiving highlights our collective experience, as a nation comprised of immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, among whom a good number were refugees fleeing discrimination and violence.  On Thanksgiving Day, we will offer our usual Thanksgiving meal for those who don’t have anywhere more pressing to be. If you are coming to this and have not yet let the Office know please RSVP ASAP. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is Advent Sunday, which begins our four-week period of spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus in the celebration of the Incarnation.

In Advent as part of our program of deepening our spiritual lives we will begin a new venture of weekly meditation practice on Thursday evening, From 5:30 to 6:30pm, in the St Martin Chapel. This time facilitates catching folk on their way home at the end of the work or study, day. A small team of four people experienced in the practice of meditation will take turns to lead these sessions.

Meditation is often associated with Eastern religious and spiritual practice. Yet, it is a traditional Christian practice, often referred to in the past as contemplation and more commonly today as centering prayer. Meditation is a practice of stilling ourselves in order to open a space for listening. You can learn more about this new development and mediation more generally here.

One last thing, I would like to draw your attention to a communication in this E-News from Sarosh Fenn on the results to date of our 2017 stewardship campaign.

I look forward to welcoming you and your guests at St Martin’s Feast, 4:30 pm Sunday.

(Full Epistle for November 10)

After the initial rush of return to a new program year in September, things quieted down for much of October before ratcheting up once again as we move beyond All Saints All Souls into the weeks leading to Advent and Christmas. This Sunday, is our ingathering Sunday when we end our annual stewardship campaign with the request that all of you return your estimate of giving cards for 2017 by or on this day. This year, in keeping with our theme of Tender Competence, we have not overly emphasized money because in their letter the Church Wardens, and Treasurer laid out in plain language the financial ask for 2017. If you are unclear about this please refer back to your letter or contact the office. The leadership and the Rector trust all of you to prayerfully reflect on the importance of your financial investment in the future of our community, and that no one will remain in ignorance about the financial costs of maintaining a vibrant Christian community whose sole purpose is to enable us to do together, more than we are able to do alone.

Remember this Sunday is The Story discussion in Adult Forum Chapters 22-24 – Jesus. There are no prepared questions for this week.

I was looking forward to returning to my regular early evening ritual of the PBS 6 pm news; in the run up to the election I stopped watching all news. After Tuesday’s momentous result I now find I must extend my news embargo for fear of being analysis-ized to death. So it’s more of the Goldberg Variations, I’m afraid. But seriously, many in our community are still processing a deep shock occasioned by the election of President Elect Trump. I commend this interesting analysis from the National Catholic Reporter highlighting the danger posed by our national divisions. While a large section of the country supports the election of someone who will upset a political system hitherto non-responsive to their needs, and be prepared to break some fairly important rules to achieve this result, many especially women, LGBT, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities are now more fearful of what the possibilities of a paranoid social conservatism in the White House will mean. Perhaps freed from needing the support of the hard religious right, Mr. Trump will feel less constrained by their socially oppressive agenda? One silver lining is that despite accusations to the contrary, the fears of a rigged electoral system once again proved baseless.

It is important to refrain from unnecessary prejudgments that only inflame our fears as we wait to see how the campaigning Donald Trump will transition into a presidential Donald Trump. I admired this message from both Mrs. Clinton and President Obama and which shows a deep respect for democracy and the Constitution.  Yet, my Wednesday was brightened by reading Garrison Keeler. I too, look forward to taking up leaf raking with intense pleasure.

Remember that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, though perhaps at times not quickly enough for our liking. I commend the collect for social justice from the Book of Common Prayer. Let it reverberate at the heart of our own commitment to work tirelessly for a more just and equal society.

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us
grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace
with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom,
help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our
communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy
Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for November 3)

In conversation a number of you have shared with me your sense of shock and outrage at the video images coming out of North Dakota where First Nation peoples supported by others sympathetic to their cause are protesting the building of the Dakota Oil Pipeline. Four distinct aspects of this protest situation trouble many of us. Firstly, for the Standing Rock Sioux, this is sacred ancestral land, and the planned route of the pipeline constitutes an infringement of First Amendment Rights. Secondly, in crossing the Missouri River, the pipeline poses a serious environmental endangerment, for any breach in the pipeline estimated to carry 54,000 barrels of crude oil every day would result in catastrophic consequences not only for the local communities on the Standing Rock Reservation, but for all communities, downstream. Thirdly, the videos show the full extent of the troubling militarization of law and order agencies. Fourthly, at a time of heightened sensitivity to racial disparities in society the video footage of the protests should concern us. With the acquittal of white land protestors on Federal land in Oregon, and the arrest of Native American protestors on their own land; we see how systemic and institutional inequalities of race continue to play out in the melting pot. Please read the Presiding Bishop’s statement calling for prayerful solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.

Whatever your view of the North Dakota protests along with the deeper causes of our national and societal woes, we can all agree that we live in difficult times when there are few simple answers to what ails us. In the Book of Common Prayer we find collect prayers for various occasions. Three collect prayers stand out as being pertinent at this time in our national and civic life. I commend these to you in the days ahead and beyond.

For the Nation

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the
earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the
strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in
accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For Peace

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of
peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel
for the nations of the earth, that in tranquility your dominion
may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your
love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.

For stewardship of creation

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the
needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for
your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the
account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards
of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with
you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

This Sunday we will keep the feast of All Saints and All Souls. All Saints is the only festival in the Calendar that can be transferred to a Sunday. All Saints celebrates the examples given us by the saints, who now worship from a nearer shore. All Souls, commemorates the human experience of death as we remember those we love yet see no longer.

Hope to see you in Church this Sunday.

Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for October 27)

Our 11-year-old granddaughter has been feuding with her mother over the design for her Halloween costume. Whoever gets their way a costume will completely transform her appearance in preparation for her trick or treat escapades. Little does she know that the popular practice of trick or treating owes its origins to the great Celtic celebration of welcoming the transition of the seasons from autumn to winter. On Samhain, the door to the other world opened and feasts were prepared for the souls of the dead. Like our children today, our forebears protected themselves from harmful spirits by disguising themselves with weird and wonderful costumes and painting their faces into grotesque caricatures to hide their true identities from the evil spirits.

Following the English reformation, the celebration of Halloween was discouraged. For the English, the need for a lively celebration at this time of year was transferred to  November 5th, the commemoration of Guy Fawkes. Remember, remember, the 5th of November as the old street cry went marks Guy Fawkes or bonfire night as a celebration with bonfires and fireworks of another cultural form of vanquishing of demons,. This time it’s the Papist demon Guy Fawkes and his Jesuit friends, who failed in their attempt to blow-up the Houses of Parliament during a visit of the King James I. Incidentally, on that occasion of the King’s visit to Parliament, one Roger Williams, secretary to the Lord Chief Justice of England accompanied his patron among the courtiers and officials in attendance on the King that day. Failure of the plot meant a fortuitous escape for the future visionary and founder of the Rhode Island experiment in separation of church and state. In my childhood, though not much today, we would go from house to house carrying a straw effigy of Guy Fawkes. As householders opened their doors they were greeted with the cry not of trick or treat, but of penny for the guy. Among the Puritans who settled in this part of America, the celebration of Halloween was strictly forbidden because of its demonic overtones. It seems the popularity of Halloween takes root in America among the millions of later Scots and Irish immigrants who, in their own part of the British Isles, having maintained the old Celtic festival, brought it with them to the New World. The Church christianized the pagan Samhain festival through celebrating the Christian dead in All Saints and All Souls or the eve of All Hallows from which Halloween is derived on November 1st and 2nd. We will keep this great festival on the Sunday following, November 6th.

Remembering that if you are on the St Martin’s membership list then you will already have received the Wardens and Treasurer’s letter outlining our budget strategy for 2017 and enclosing an estimate of giving card. Last week I suggested three ways for a prayerful approach to completing your estimate of giving card for 2017. I repeated these in last Sunday’s sermon entitled Gratitude: reflected in three movements. Could I please remind you that gratitude is the first impulse of the spiritual life with everything else that matters to us flowing from its source.  It’s a short renewal program this year, just under four weeks, and we would like your completed card returned by or on November 13th, which has been designated as our Ingathering Sunday.

Like the experience of gratitude, our experience in worship provides another important reference point for the way we live out our spiritual calling in the world. I look forward to seeing you in Church, this Sunday.

Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for October 20)

October 23rd is the launch date for the 2017 annual stewardship renewal campaign. St Benedict speaks of stewardship as tender competence, which says so much about our attitude towards generosity of time, talent, and treasure. This will be my third annual renewal program at St Martin’s and already I am noting a difference, namely a renewed energy and vision among the lay leadership in addressing the financial challenges ahead.

Early next week, we will receive a letter from the Church Wardens and Treasurer, outlining the budgetary strategy for 2017. I do ask us all to take the time to read this letter. In an open and transparent way the letter seeks to communicate a bold and direct approach to the 2017 operational budgetary cycle. Enclosed with the letter will be a 2017 estimate of giving card – sometimes called a pledge card. The estimate of giving card is the way we estimate the level of giving we aspire to over the next 12 months. This is information that is vital for the Church to be able to budget with some accuracy.

Our completion of the estimate of giving card is an opportunity to take a spiritual inventory – a reflection on the state of gratitude, generosity, and service in our lives. As we contemplate our estimate of financial giving in 2017, here are three suggestions that might assist us all to enter a prayerful state of mind:

  • Recall a past experience when you took a risk to be generous. Remember how risky it felt. After taking the leap, how did this leave you feeling? Conversely, if you were afraid to leap, how did you feel?
  • Or, remember a time when you really felt up against it- in the sense that you knew you were totally dependent on God’s generosity for your hope or desire. Looking back how did a sense of reliance on God bear fruit for you?
  • Another approach – recall the consistent generosity that God has shown towards you throughout the ups and downs of your life. As you ponder, can you locate a deep source for gratitude – that no matter how often you have feared or doubted that you would be all right, that things would be OK, with hindsight you can see that God was caring for you, have always been, and therefore is likely to continue to care for you.

I trust these small pointers will help us prepare to complete and return our cards. Sunday, November 13th is designated in-gathering Sunday and we would like all cards returned by or on this day – more on that nearer the time. Sunday, November 20th will be thanksgiving Sunday in the morning and patronal festivalChoral Evensong in the late afternoon followed by a parish feast celebrating St Martin’s Day  – more about that in due course.

We are moving through troubling times in the life of the Republic.  Check out John Reardon’s sermon from last Sunday and remember that the ark of the moral universe always bends towards justice!

As I say each week in this E-column -See you in Church – on Sunday! It’s important for the community that each of us is here.

Mark+

(Full Epistle for October 13)

It’s not just Haiti that has been drastically affected by hurricane Matthew, but our hearts also go out to the people of the eastern part of North Carolina. Having already suffered the effects of the hurricane many now await the cresting of rivers. For some this will inevitably result in the flooding of their homes and businesses for the second time in as many years. There is talk that some towns and communities now face the reality that they are no longer viable places to live and do business.

El Niño years, roughly one in every ten, bring heightened weather events. This in itself is well known, yet we fail to take into account, even it seems when it directly visits disaster upon us, that the base line for the El Niño event is shifting as a result of global warming and climate change. Human exacerbation of climate change remains the elephant in the room with little to no discussion of it in the presidential election run up. The human propensity to hide from the inconvenience of truth is now reaching an alarming stage. It seems that the vehemence of climate change denial among those who still believe the earth is flat, is now a ready and ever-present danger to human kind. The deniers and gainsayers continue to intimidate politicians whose only priority is not to risk the electoral ire of this section of the populace. If you would like to support relief efforts to help those most affected, please go to Episcopal Relief and Development and find out how to help.

Human political folly and the experience of catastrophe has been the theme of recent chapters in our reading of The Story: the continuous story of God and God’s people. In chapters 16-19 we read of Judah’s catastrophe with the destruction of Temple and the nation. Now in chapters 19-21, we learn about the recovery from exile and the rebuilding of both the Temple and Jerusalem. This was not simply a restoration in stone and mortar, but also involved a renewal of faith with a return to faithful observance of the covenanted relationship with God.

This coming Sunday we will hold our monthly discussion on The Story and you can review the summary and questions for chapters 19-21 here.  These three chapters draw our exploration of the continuous Biblical narrative as it unfolds within the Hebrew Scriptures to a close. In chapter 22 we will be introduced to the transition from Hebrew to Christian sections of the continuous story of God and God’s people.

I trust that many of you are still keeping up with reading the epic story of God and God’s people. Over the summer some of you may have lost the momentum and so I encourage you to catch-up and come explore your reactions to events on the Biblical timeline, this Sunday. Remember that to fully understand our place within this long epic, we need to know how the epic begins and has developed throughout history until now.
Mark+

(Full Epistle for October 6)

The challenge facing us at St Martin’s is how to adapt to the societal changes that are pressuring organized church life. Like the first disciples of Francis of Assisi, this task routinely draws us toward the strengthening of bricks, mortar, and organizational structures. Yet, to meet the challenge of the times in which we live requires something more of us. We are being required to move beyond the mere maintenance of our institutional life as a church into something more magnetic and world changing. 

Each Sunday we announce the saints feast days for the upcoming week in the last section of the Prayers of the People. Every Wednesday morning around 10-12 folk gather at 7am to celebrate Eucharist together. Here, we commemorate either the saint designated for that day or the major saint of the week – the Calendar does rank some saints more important than others. This is followed with breakfast pastries and coffee in the kitchen. At the service, the atmosphere is quiet and reflective as we greet the new day. As Dave Whitman comments: ‘this gives a real spiritual boost to the middle of my week’. This last week, St Francis of Assisi was the major saint of the week. Francis is the most universally admired of all the saints. Yet paradoxically, he is the least emulated – although Pope Francis is trying to show us some of what emulation of St Francis looks like.

Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone around 1182, the son of a wealthy merchant family. Eschewing the life planned out for him by his family Giovanni retreated to the Umbrian countryside to pursue his call from God, taking the name of Francis. His life was marked by a remarkable degree of openness to God. Consequently, Francis’ life became more and more magnetic, attracting others to him so that by the time of his death in 1226 a community known as the Friars Minor had formed around him.

Those of us who came to the flower of youth in the 1970’s will have a special affection for Francis beautifully portrayed in the soft hues of a gentler time through Franco Zeffirelli’s film Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

As in our own time of change and challenge, the 13th-century saw the beginnings of the rapid development of an urban mercantile economy based on money, not land. This shift required a new response to the Gospel. Hitherto, the focus of religious life had centered on monks and nuns who lived out their lives in rural monasteries, centered on farming. With the rise of a more urban society, something new was needed a new religious movement of mendicant friars, emerged. The difference between a monk and a friar is that a monk stays put and a friar roams about. The monk’s settled life of prayer and work is replaced by the friar’s itinerant life of preaching, teaching, and what today we would call pastoral care, and social action.

Despite the communities of Franciscan men and women drawn down the centuries to lives in emulation of Francis, he himself did not found the Franciscan Order. In fact he died revered but largely marginalized by his more worldly followers intent on creating an earthly institution in his name. The simple, mystical Francis, touched with the generosity of God, had no such earthly interest.

It is Francis’ quality of being touched by the generosity of God that is his indelible gift to the generations of Christians who have come after him. Francis was a mystic. A mystic is a conduit for the divine energy to flow through them into the world around and beyond through the stimulation of imagination and vision. Francis as energetic conduit transformed and continues to transform our perceptions of God, of one another, and of the natural world around us, because his legacy is that he was counter-intuitive change agent, enhancing our collective imagination of God.

There is a need for a renewed response to the Gospel message of love. Justice is the outworking of love. We are being challenged in the St Martin community to adapt to the changes that challenge organized church life, so as to pass onto the next generations the legacy bequeathed to us. Like the first disciples of Francis this task routinely draws us toward the strengthening of bricks, mortar, and organizational structure. Yet, to meet the challenge of the time in which we live requires us to move beyond the mere maintenance of our institutional life as a church into something more magnetic and world changing.

Do we have the courage to allow ourselves to be touched by the generosity of God so that our community may become a conduit through which the generosity of God flows into our spiritually parched world? Individually, we may not match up to Francis. Yet, as a community we can display Francis’ quality of magnetism and so change our world as he changed his?  Do we have the courage to take such a risk?

See you in church, this Sunday!

Mark+

(Full Epistle for September 29)

Some of you may have heard about recent events at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Broadway, Providence. For further information I refer you to the article of Monday this last week in the Providence Journal.

Many of you will also be aware that the Episcopal Church (EC) no longer shares the Roman Catholic Church’s view of homosexuality as a moral disorder. The majority of Episcopalians welcome the Church’s progressive stance on issues of human sexuality. Yet, I suspect that many do not fully understand why the EC is able to take this stand. On the face of it seems to contradict the two oft quoted Biblical texts prohibiting homosexuality – Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-28. Are we, simply giving into culture, as some other Churches like to accuse us of doing? Let me respond to these two points.

  1. Bible Texts are always interpreted within a context – The EC believes that the interpretation of Scripture evolves and changes over time in response to the challenges that each age presents. We accept that both the challenges of our current secular age as well as advances in understanding about human sexual variation require us to grope towards more humane and inclusive interpretations of passages hitherto appealed to in order to justify a myriad of social and legal injustices – the moral arc of the Kingdom of God always bends towards justice.
  2. Church and culture – Anglicanism has a long tradition of viewing culture positively because we place a strong theological emphasis on the goodness of God in Creation. Creation is good not evil. As it’s God’s world, secular culture can also be an instrument for good in God’s hands. As secular culture continues to moves in the direction of greater inclusion, it challenges the Church to reclaim Jesus’ practice of inclusion and love of neighbor and to really place these at the heart of how we live in the world. It is Jesus’ command to love and his practice of inclusion that propels us to challenge some Biblical texts and their homophobic-cultural interpretation.
  3. Psychology of human development– advances in the psychological sciences open up a view of human sexuality no longer confined to the polar complementarities of male and female. Thus, sexual identity flows back and forth along a dynamic continuum between the complementarities of the masculine and feminine. Both masculine and feminine principles together, constitute what it means to be human. Homosexuality is thus seen no longer as a disturbance to nature but as a natural variation in the range of possibilities for human sexual identity.
  4. A contemporary Christian understanding – In Genesis 1 we learn that humans are made in God’s image and that both forms of male and female reflect the image of God. Genesis 2 envisions a complementarity between male and female that reflects the relational nature of God, again in whose image we are fashioned. Yet, God is neither male nor female but both masculine and feminine energy is present within the divine nature – deducible from the same energies being present in us. Therefore, same-gendered and cross-gendered sexual relationships both represent the possibilities for masculine and feminine complementarities the support human mature and reciprocal relational seeking.

St Martin’s defines itself as an affirming community. This means, that in line with Episcopal Church teaching LGBT persons are welcomed on the same terms and conditions as everyone else. I hope if you who have personal contacts with those now excluded from St Mary’s or from any other faith community on the basis of their sexual identity you will welcome them to come as they are, grow with us in faith, and go forth with us in peace.

 

Mark+

(Full Epistle for September 22)

This Sunday passed, we completed up to chapter 19 of The Story: the Bible as one continuous story of God and his people. In preparation for October 16th we are now reading chapters 19-21. Remember you can visit the discussion pages here.

This Tuesday passed, we held the first of the Temple-Church Conversations with a study of Exodus 3 by Rabbi Vos Altman and my exploration of the question: What do we believe and how we feel about the tone of the current civic discourse? The event was well attended and an opportunity to reflect more deeply about what we believe and how this helps us to think about events in the political sphere, especially with regard to the run up to the Presidential election.

In my presentation, I emphasized the theme of the loss of our common faith story – a story of the evolving relationship between God and humanity, unfolding within and through time to meet the challenges facing each new generation. Traditionally this common faith story has facilitated public connection and interaction in the civic space. I referenced The Political History of the Bible in America, a book that formed the anchor of my summer reading – see what a fun guy I am. Here, Paul Hanson notes a world where the moral truth of shared traditions, practices and institutions has become reduced to the subjective awareness of the individual and his/her ideological affinity group. The problem with this is that modern individual consciousness is no longer shaped nor informed by the tradition of virtue and the values that underpin the common good lying at the heart of our shared Judeo-Christian Biblical epic.

Many Americans believe that it’s possible for individuals to easily read and apply the Bible to all situations. Unfortunately, this approach to the Bible does not expose a believer’s own prejudices about race, politics, and economics to the testimony of a scriptural tradition that often runs against the grain of prevailing cultural values. To know what to do, we first need to know who we are. We discover both of these when we ask: what is the story of which we are part?

Reflecting back on the evening there are two takeaways for me. The first is the public opportunity for Rabbi Howard Voss Altman and myself to demonstrate the growing strength of our relationship as colleagues in religious leadership. Secondly, as a Christian religious leader I valued the opportunity to share with the Jewish community how important are the Hebrew Scriptures -those we Christians call the Old Testament – for the way we make sense of the world in which we all live.

Our next event will be the interfaith Thanksgiving service on November 22, this year at St Martin’s. The next Temple-Church Conversation will be in January, date TBA. Future conversations will continue to develop opportunities for more in-depth exploration of our common faith tradition’s influence upon the way we engage with civic and social action. More information can be found here.

Please remember to offer your best wishes to your Jewish friends and neighbors for the upcoming celebrations collectively known as the High Holy Days. Among the five festivals celebrated between  October 3rd and 25th, Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are of particular importance.

As we move towards October, I look forward to seeing more and more of you returning to Church, beginning with this Sunday!

Mark+

(Full Epistle for September 15)

On Monday September 19th, a panel discussion hosted by The Massachusetts Bible Society. Called The Great Bible Experiment: exploring the Bible in America’s least Bible-minded cities. The discussion will take place in the Providence Public Library at 6pm. I would like to encourage St Martin’s folk to attend as a useful part of our Embedding the Bible in parish life. Attendance is free and if you are able to attend you can register here.

This brings me to a reminder that in our monthly community Bible discussion we will review chapters 16 -18 of The Story: the Bible as one continuing story of God and God’s people in the Adult Forum time at 10:45 am this coming Sunday. Please visit the study guide questions for Sunday here. I hope to see many of you for an enthusiastic discussion of these chapters.

On Tuesday September 20th, we will hold the first in what we plan to be a quarterly program of Temple-Church Conversations. Visit here  for further information. Jews and Christians are joint participants in the unfolding story of a god named YaHWeH who heard the cries of a people, freeing them from bondage. We are constituted by this core historical experience out of which, God invites us to live together according to a covenant, i.e. a set of mutual promises. As we confront the issues of our own day this story offers profound implications for the way we see the world.
This Sunday, the youth are being given a pass to replace worship with kitchen duty. More specifically, as we begin a new program year, the youth group will experience the fellowship of cooking breakfast tacos together. Maybe this will be one Sunday when parents won’t have to work so hard to get the kids out of bed and into church!

We began the new program year last Sunday with a bang.  I presented the key challenge facing us as the need to grow. I am not at all interested in growth as a sign of success. Growth indicates that we are becoming more fit for the purpose to which God calls us, i.e. to make real in our own time and place the expectations of the kingdom of God- namely: inclusion, justice, and peace. Becoming more fit for purpose is a matter of becoming more magnetic as we reach out into our lives – into the communities of friends, neighbors and colleagues and invite them into the experience we so greatly value.

Looking forward to seeing you – in Church – this Sunday!
Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for September 9)

On NPR last week I heard the reference to Labor Day as the end of summer. Like all seasonal transition dates it feels a bit artificial, but with this coming Sunday being our Beginning-of-the-Year Story Sunday (formerly Homecoming), I guess we are now about to launch into a new program year, whether we feel ready or not.

Our new program year begins with the pleasure of welcoming Nick Voermans as the new Minister of Music at St Martin’s. Last Sunday was Nick’s first at the organ bench and a number of folk got to meet him then. This Sunday, we look forward to welcoming him more officially as the choir returns to residence. Nick is a wonderful addition to our ministry team. His enthusiasm and energy, not to mention his musicianship, will open-up new and exciting directions for music in the parish and strengthen our musical links with the wider community, beyond.

On Sunday after the sung Eucharist, there will be a build-your-own bagel coffee hour. Nick will join Linda, teachers and kids upstairs for his first music session. He wants very much to bring engaged music into our children’s formation program. In the Great Hall we will have a concise introduction to various ministry options. We’re not doing signup this year. Instead I will introduce the ministry leaders and say a few words about each ministry in the hope of whetting appetites for service. I will also present a brief Table of Contents for the Beginning-of-the-Year Story.

This autumn, the catchword I want to give you is investment. You know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it requires investment by each and every one of us to raise a healthy, vibrant, and spiritually anchored community. St. Martin’s is an every member ministry parish. This means there is no illusory other person to do that which we are not willing to do. When we become excited about our investment we become points of magnetic attraction, drawing others in because it’s exciting to be around committed people, invested in a common vision.

What do we believe, and how does this shape the way we feel about the current tone of civic debate in America? On Tuesday, September 20th at 7pm at Temple Beth-El, we are launching the first in a series of Temple-Church conversations. The proximity of Temple and Church to one another identifies the corner of Orchard Ave and Orchard Place as a spiritual vortex – a focus for spiritual energy on the East Side, or as the Celts refer to such locations- a thin place. This is an event hosted by both Temple and Church and open to the wider public at which we will explore together our feelings concerning the current state of civic debate in America. For a little background and further information about the 20th please visit here.

Join us, this Sunday – it’s an exciting time to be at St. Martin’s!

Mark+

 

(Full Epistle for September 2)

It’s great to be back after three glorious weeks away. I return to a number of important projects in full swing and folk excited and engaged.  I was able to fully relax and disengage. A sign of this was to not read work emails. All of this was possible knowing that the parish was in Linda’s capable hands and I am appreciative of the staff’s efforts over the summer.

Sunday 11th, marks our Beginning of the Year Story -formerly known as Home Coming Sunday. It will be wonderful to be able to formally welcome Nick Voermans as our new Minister of Music. In actuality, Nick will take his place on the organ bench this coming Sunday. I hope you will take an opportunity to show him how much we have been looking forward to his arrival.

Labor Day marks the seasonal transition in mood. It’s great to have a long weekend to say farewell to summer. Compared to the British with their bank holidays, Americans have so few three-day weekends. Yet, the holiday atmosphere can obscure the importance of the commemoration. For, Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. At a time when we are told American workplace productivity is falling again, ordinary people feel less and less secure and appreciated in the work place. I wonder if the politicians have noticed the possibility of a connection here. Looking more deeply into the current widespread demoralization in our worlds of work, we can see how productivity can be adversely affected. At a time when we seem in thrall to the disproportionate rewards of celebrity entrepreneurship, Labor Day constitutes a yearly national tribute to the unsung contributions of ordinary working men and women to the strength, prosperity, and continued well-being of our country.

Remember to check out last week’s sermon entitled, Table-talk. Table fellowship as a symbol for hospitality is a core value of the Gospel. This last Wednesday we celebrated Aidan bishop of Lindisfarne. By the time of his death in 651, Aidan, an Irish monk of Iona had spearheaded the re-Christianization of the North of England. Apparently, his style of evangelizing was to walk everywhere and to talk to everyone he encountered along his path. Folk were impressed by his personal and personable qualities. These made an impression on them, making them curious about his faith. We could say that they caught faith from him and over many years Aidan built strong and enduing foundations for Celtic Christianity in northern England. He is known as the apostle to the English. We can find him commemorated in the bottom row of English saints in our own St Martin Window.

As we move into a new program year, we could take no better model than that offered by Aidan as we endeavor to move beyond being a welcoming Church to becoming and inviting Church. I wonder what’s your sense of the difference between these two states?

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Church this Sunday.

Mark+

 

(full epistle below July 29)

This coming Sunday will be the last Sunday for Jay MacCubbin, Director of Music. We celebrated Jay’s 30-year tenure on June 5th, but July 31st is actually his last Sunday, and many of us will want to say a final farewell to him on Sunday.

Last Friday, Nicholas Voermans accepted our appointment as Jay’s successor in the post of Director of Music, which from now on will be known as Minister of Music. Nick is a young man who brings a skilled and enthusiastic experience to the vital ministry of music, a ministry we value as one of the central planks of our community renewal.

Nick is originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin. He began his organ studies at the age of six and began serving his home congregation at the age of twelve. He completed his undegraduate studies at Iowa State University studying organ under Dr. Lynn Zeigler and Dr. Tin-Shi Tam. Nick holds a Masters degree in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College where he studied organ and choral conducting. In the Summer of 2010, he was invited to serve as a Choral Scholar at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. At St. John the Divine, Nick was given the opportunity to regularly conduct The Cathedral Choir of Girls, Boys, and Adults. Prior to his appointment at St. Martin’s, Nick served congregations in Wisconsin, Iowa, Alabama, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina. Additionally, he has attended and participated in both public and private masterclasses led by Joseph Flummerfeldt, Weston Noble, Bruce Chamberlain, and Charles Bruffy. Nick has also participated in organ masterclasses led by Janett Fishell and Tom Trenney. You can see a fuller version of his biography here.

Nick is a man of energy and is committed to his membership of the Christian Community. In his previous post he was involved with the development of an outreach project to build a community garden for the purpose of community education in healthy eating as well as making fresh produce available to low income families. We are delighted to have him join our staff team. His first Sunday will be September 4th and the choir will return September 11th.

There are two groups I especially want to thank. Firstly, thank you to the members of the music discernment team, who since the end of April have worked tirelessly on the task that has led to Nick’s appointment. Cheryl Bishkoff, Evon Burge, and Gordon Partington provided sound professional music guidance, Fla Lewis and Beth Shearer represented the choir perspectives, Pat Whitman and Denny Scott brought a congregational wisdom to the search, and Laura Bartsch represented the Vestry. I am especially appreciative of the way Mary Gray chaired the team. Having been the chair of the discernment team that led to my appointment, Mary is skilled in supporting my strengths and balancing my enthusiasms. Secondly, I want to thank the members of the choir who generously gave of their summer time to attend practice sessions with two of the candidates for the post; a huge thanks to both our choir volunteers and the professional section leaders.

During August the Rector’s Epistle will be taking a holiday.

Numbers have been holding up well over the summer despite the escalating heat inside the church. Thank you to all who endure the discomfort. I hope to see many of you again, this Sunday in Church.

Mark+

(continue reading July 22 here)

Our website is our big red doors in cyberspace, our window on the wider world giving a way for those who are curious and church shopping to come in an visit with us. I encourage you to visit also. Our website is an educational and informational hub, e.g. see the explanations in worship and the glossary.  Check under the visit us menu tab.

The home page lists links to various areas of the site of topical interest. The sermon page is an important page to visit. It is easily accessed through the icon at the bottom right of the home page, where you also will find other icons to take you directly to sites of topical interest such as this E-news and our Face Book site. On the sermon page you can read the full text of previous sermons as well as listen to the audio podcast of the actual sermon as preached. Last Sunday I spoke about Martha and Mary as archetypes of a spiritual tension between action and contemplation, a tension we all struggle with. This coming Sunday we have Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer and I will be endeavoring to set Jesus’ only specific and instructional teaching on prayer within the larger context of his own ministry and Jewish context before drilling down into the prayer to discover its implications for the coming of the kingdom among us, today.

I look forward to seeing you in Church, this Sunday.

Mark+

(full epistle below July 22)

I want to personally thank those of you who have so generously responded to the financial call to eliminate the operating deficit not just for this year, but hopefully, for the years to come. This, to me, is an indication of a new confidence in the parish as people feel able to invest themselves to the building-up of our future together. This investment is not only financial, but taps into all areas of our responsibility for good stewardship and to exercise what St Benedict called tender competence. An updated message from the Treasurer, Sarosh Fenn, follows this Epistle in E-news.

This week is the first week for a while when I have not felt a pressing issue to communicate about in my E-news Epistle. Summer must really be here. Yet, our world is full of pressing issues, but at the moment it seem that the desire in many of us given the endless commentary on events that we are subjected to in the media, is less is more. There is only so much we can take in.

I want to take an opportunity to direct your attention to the website stmartinsprov.org. This is a great place to get the most up-to-date information. It’s a place where you can view the recent videos from the End of Year Story. These are so much better than having been there because in this case editing creates a much better experience than the live performance. Here you can revisit the monthly questions and chapter summaries guiding our reading of The Story. You can brush up on St Martin’s history, the history you never knew, thanks to Larry Bradner’s wonderful video series in the history  section.

Our website is our big red doors in cyberspace, our window on the wider world giving a way for those who are curious and church shopping to come in and visit with us. I encourage you to visit also. Our website is an educational and informational hub, e.g. see the explanations in worship and the glossary. Check under the visit us menu tab.

The home page lists links to various areas of the site of topical interest. The sermon page is an important page to visit. It is easily accessed through the icon at the bottom right of the home page, where you also will find other icons to take you directly to sites of topical interest such as this E-news and our Face Book site. On the sermon page you can read the full text of previous sermons as well as listen to the audio podcast of the actual sermon as preached. Last Sunday I spoke about Martha and Mary as archetypes of a spiritual tension between action and contemplation, a tension we all struggle with. This coming Sunday we have Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer and I will be endeavoring to set Jesus’ only specific and instructional teaching on prayer within the larger context of his own ministry and Jewish context before drilling down into the prayer to discover its implications for the coming of the kingdom among us, today.

I look forward to seeing you in Church, this Sunday.

Mark+

 

(continue reading July 15 here)

We are working our way through The Story, three chapters at a time. On the 3rd Sunday of each month, even during these two summer months of July and August we meet in small discussion groups during the adult forum. Already, many of us have become excited by the experience of discussing the impact the salvation story is having on us. For instance many of us have never had the opportunity to voice our dislike of the bloody and barbarous events recorded in the early books of the Hebrew Scriptures. We are all learning that the image of God seems to evolve over time, and it’s possible to dislike the image of God presented in these ancient texts, and to say so! The vengeful and tribal God encountered by Moses and the Israelites seems such a long way from the compassionate and inclusive God presented by Jesus. Yet, there is a consistent theme of relationship and the struggle to remain faithful in relationship with God, running as a timeless truth all the way through our salvation story.

We are learning that to say the Bible is true requires an ability to distinguish between timeless truth and what now seems to us to be very context related and context limited storyline material. Contextual material, an expression of the time and place of the original writing, is not necessarily binding upon us because we live in a very different context. Good examples of changing contexts are both Old and New Testament teaching on slavery, and the power relationship of men over women. We see these issues very differently in the 21st-century. It is the timeless truth about the nature of what it means to be human, the quality of the experience of being in relationship with God and one another, the inclusive love of God that calls us through Jesus’s example to the highest expressions of our humanity. This is the timeless truth still guiding us as it steered our forbearers in their respective generations.

Remember this Sunday, July 17th is the next installment of our discussion of The Story. Please have read chapters 10-12 in preparation. You can find the discussion questions already posted here.

At the End-of-Year Story, Sean Mulholland presented our immediate budgetary challenge. The Finance Committee and the Vestry want to be transparent and to update the congregation concerning the follow-up from the Executive’s letter, sent out the day after the End of Year Story. In this E-News you will find a communication from Sarosh Fenn reporting the latest update on the call for all of us to help bridge this year’s operating deficit in order to avoid drawing another percentage point on the Endowment. Please read Sarosh’s note. You might note the pleasing dollar amount of the response alongside the less encouraging percentages of those who have, and have yet to step-up to the plate!

You might like to check out the sermon for last week, titled- Race: the current lightening rod for otherness. Looking forward to seeing you in Church, this Sunday.

Mark+

(full Epistle below-July 15)

Remember our End-of-Year Story on June 26th? You can see the presentations online here. Take a look please. Even if you did attend, the videos are so much better than the real thing. For instance you can actually see the slideshow that both Sean and I are talking to, which on the day was not so clear.

Over the last two weeks I have reviewed numbers 2 and 3 of our three strategic RenewalWorks priorities: Engaging Our Passion and The Heart of the Leader. This week I want to review priority number 1: Embedding the Bible in parish life.

The most direct way to deepen the spirituality of a community is to engage in some form of collective Bible Study. In the first year of implementing this priority we have chosen to read together something called The Story. Our purpose is to literally discover the narrative flow of our salvation story by starting at the beginning and working through to the end. Even though we know how the story ends. It ends with Jesus, or more correctly, through Jesus the story continues with us, the people seeking to live faithful Christian lives amidst the turmoil of this part of the 21st –century. We can’t really understand the ending until we know how and where it begins.

We are working our way through The Story, three chapters at a time. On the 3rd Sunday of each month, even during these two summer months of July and August we meet in small discussion groups during the adult forum. Already, many of us have become excited by the experience of discussing the impact the salvation story is having on us. For instance many of us have never had the opportunity to voice our dislike of the bloody and barbarous events recorded in the early books of the Hebrew Scriptures. We are all learning that the image of God seems to evolve over time, and it’s possible to dislike the image of God presented in these ancient texts, and to say so! The vengeful and tribal God encountered by Moses and the Israelites seems such a long way from the compassionate and inclusive God presented by Jesus. Yet, there is a consistent theme of relationship and the struggle to remain faithful in relationship with God, running as a timeless truth all the way through our salvation story.

We are learning that to say the Bible is true requires an ability to distinguish between timeless truth and what now seems to us to be very context related and context limited storyline material. Contextual material, an expression of the time and place of the original writing, is not necessarily binding upon us because we live in a very different context. Good examples of changing contexts are both Old and New Testament teaching on slavery, and the power relationship of men over women. We see these issues very differently in the 21st-century. It is the timeless truth about the nature of what it means to be human, the quality of the experience of being in relationship with God and one another, the inclusive love of God that calls us through Jesus’s example to the highest expressions of our humanity. This is the timeless truth still guiding us as it steered our forbearers in their respective generations.

Remember this Sunday, July 17th is the next installment of our discussion of The Story. Please have read chapters 10-12 in preparation. You can find the discussion questions already posted here.

At the End-of-Year Story, Sean Mulholland presented our immediate budgetary challenge. The Finance Committee and the Vestry want to be transparent and to update the congregation concerning the follow-up from the Executive’s letter, sent out the day after the End of Year Story. In this E-News you will find a communication from Sarosh Fenn reporting the latest update on the call for all of us to help bridge this year’s operating deficit in order to avoid drawing another percentage point on the Endowment. Please read Sarosh’s note. You might note the pleasing dollar amount of the response alongside the less encouraging percentages of those who have, and have yet to step-up to the plate!

You might like to check out the sermon for last week, titled- Race: the current lightening rod for otherness. Looking forward to seeing you in Church, this Sunday.

Mark+

 

(full Epistle below-July 8)

As we entered this time last year, I began to speak about our plans to participate in the RenewalWorks program in the coming fall. One year later it’s gratifying to be able to point to the fruit of this experience, a fruit that is already enriching us and will clearly be the loadstar guiding us as we negotiate our way forward.
From our participation in RenewalWorks, three key priorities have emerged:
  1. Embedding the Bible in parish life
  2. Engaging our passion
  3. The heart of the leader
Last week in my epistle I explored what lies behind priority 3, the heart of the leader. This week explores priority 2-engaging our passion. Next week, I will talk about priority 1. This week I want to explore our second priority:
Engaging our passion represents a renewed focus on raising the energy levels of member engagement across all our ministry and program areas. Already we see:
  • Three new active and inspirational spirituality groups for women, men, and the under 30’s meeting monthly
  • The Knitting Ministry – an expression of skill and love toward those encountering health crises
  • Expansion of the Lay Pastoral Care Team – visiting the sick and housebound with Holy Communion, forming a vital link for our members separated from participation in worship
  • The continued work of the Hospitality Ministry
  • The Property Committee’s comprehensive survey of buildings and infrastructure needs and developing a work schedule for completion, e.g. the current refurbishment of the Kitchen, and also the church’s interior repainting and plaster damage repair work in the fall.
  • The Thrifty Goose thrift shop and Cloak are models of collaborative ministry that recycles clothing and housewares to the public, and clothing and toiletries for the homeless, while at the same time producing a healthy income for the parish
  • The Advent gift program for Children in DCYF care and St Mary’s Home for Children
  • The week-by-week dedication of the Choir, the Altar and Flower Guilds whose efforts elevate our worship
  • The renewal of our Newcomer Welcome Ministry
I believe our purpose at St Martin’s is to reshape ourselves in order to welcome those who are not yet here. We are especially equipped to be a community where individual spiritual seekers, the spiritual but not religious of the research polls, can anchor their spiritual restlessness in community. An early Church Father, Tertullian, commented that one Christian is no Christian, meaning to be Christian is to be spiritual within community. Here the rich and ancient faith story of Christianity informs and empowers our engagement with the very real issues we face in this part of the 21st century.
The bottom line for St Martin’s is that we need to grow in order to thrive. This is not just growth for growth sake, it’s growth to sustain and further equip us to become better fit for the purpose God has for us. Engaging our passion is about becoming a more magnetic community, making full use of our human and imaginative resources to attract others to us.

Among us, the spirit of welcome and open hospitality should inform all that we do. Furthermore, we are an every member ministry community. This means welcome and hospitality are for each of us core concerns. An attitudinal mind shift is required, so that welcome and hospitality cease to be aspects of community life that can be safely assumed to be someone else’s responsibility.

If you are not away, I look forward to seeing in you in Church this Sunday.
Mark+

(continue reading July 1 here)

In the English Church 98% of all ordinations take place on Peter and Paul. These two great figures represent the fundamental tension running through the practice of our faith. For Peter, it seems all things were forbidden unless specifically allowed. For Paul, all things were allowed unless specifically forbidden. We see each of them struggling to reconcile their worldview with their personal experience. It’s odd that the warm and impulsive Peter and the cerebral, yet passionate Paul should each have embraced the side of the tension less in keeping with their personalities and personal inclinations. Which side of this tension are you by default inclined towards?

Remember from this Sunday until the end of August there is only one Sunday service at 9:30am, no adult forum except for the 3rd Sunday of the month discussion of The Story, and no public Morning Prayer on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. The normal Wednesday schedule remains unchanged. Let me know if you want to be part of a virtual Daily Office group.

Make the most of summer, but if in town I look forward to seeing you in Church on Sunday.

Mark+
(full Epistle below – July 1)

I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to attend the End-of–Year story last Sunday.  The presentation from Sean and myself was videoed and will appear in due course on our website, so if you missed the day there will be a chance to watch the video.

From our participation in RenewalWorks last fall, three key priorities have emerged:

  1. Embedding the Bible in parish life
  2. Engaging our passion
  3. The heart of the leader

Because of the more leisurely pace of summer, over the next two weeks I would like to take each of these priorities and explain what lies behind them and their importance for our future direction. This week I will begin with number 3, the heart of the leader.

The heart of the leader focuses on the vitality and quality of leadership in our community. One of the issues we flagged on Sunday was being able to pay our way forward. When we have a realistic view of what it costs to run a community like ours then we move beyond the year-on-year funding of operational deficits from a further depletion of our modest endowment. Our current Vestry is determined to confront this situation and has stepped forward to contribute either a 12% increase on individual pledges and or a personal gift of $500 in order to demonstrate the quality of leadership you have a right to expect from them. Following their example of this inspiring display of leadership, I hope that we too will experience the confidence to invest in our future as we move into our second century of life.

Many of you will have received a letter from the Executive, i.e. the Church Wardens and Treasurer. What the leadership is intending is simply to give you the facts to help you recalibrate your giving, not only for this year, but going forward. Spiritually speaking, gratitude and a renewed sense of confidence in our future together should be your guide as we seek to invest in a new century of community life together. In doing so we follow the example of previous generations who 100 years ago did exactly that. They built the parish. Our job is now to steer it into a renewed engagement with the modern world, so that we remain fit for God’s purpose!

This last Wednesday we commemorated Ss. Peter and Paul. This is a special day for me as it marks the 30th anniversary of my ordination as priest. In the English Church 98% of all ordinations take place on Peter and Paul. These two great figures represent the fundamental tension running through the practice of our faith. For Peter, it seems all things were forbidden unless specifically allowed. For Paul, all things were allowed unless specifically forbidden. We see each of them struggling to reconcile their worldview with their personal experience. It’s odd that the warm and impulsive Peter and the cerebral, yet passionate Paul should each have embraced the side of the tension less in keeping with their personalities and personal inclinations. Which side of this tension are you by default inclined towards?

Remember from this Sunday until the end of August there is only one Sunday service at 9:30am, no adult forum except for the 3rd Sunday of the month discussion of The Story, and no public Morning Prayer on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. The normal Wednesday schedule remains unchanged. Let me know if you want to be part of a virtual Daily Office group.

Make the most of summer, but if in town I look forward to seeing you in Church on Sunday.

Mark+

 (full Epistle below – June 24 here)

Summer is officially here! On Sunday July 3rd, we will go to summer schedule, which this year is not such a big change. For the months of July and August the worship and office schedule is listed in E-News and on our website.

I have compiled an email list of those who want to participate in our virtual Daily Office group, and I will send out details of how this might work. If you are interested in joining us and would like to know more background to this initiative please see my epistle for June10th.

This coming Sunday, June 26th, at the coffee hour and forum we will celebrate our End-of-Year Story. By end-of-year, I mean the end of the program year that runs from September to July. Our end of program year falls neatly at the mid point of our calendar year. Our outgoing Senior Warden, Sean Mulholland and I will share the podium on Sunday. The overarching theme we want to present is one of renewed investment for our future as the parish prepares to move into its second century. We have a real sense of what we have accomplished so far. We also now have a map for the direction of travel, going forward.

Our continued forward movement can be characterized as a process of spiritual deepening. Moving forward is completely dependent on our willingness to invest ourselves in our parish’s community and spiritual life. We will be outlining how our Vestry and RenewalWorks leadership teams, picture this. We will also flag up a couple of key issues, one to be addressed immediately and the other looking into the future.

I do hope to see as many of us as possible for our final program year Sunday, both the Eucharist at 9:30am and the End-of Year Story at 10:45am. See you then!

(continue reading June 17 here)

There is a legitimate fear of foreign and domestic acts of terror, but as history shows we are far more vulnerable to the violent actions of mentally and emotionally unstable individuals, nearly always men whose fragile ego stability attracts them to participate in the online addiction to violence. As other societies can demonstrate, public safety is enhanced when the connection between disturbance and availability of weapons of indiscriminate killing, is broken.

This last Wednesday, we remembered Evelyn Underhill, one of the greatest exponents of Anglican spirituality in the interwar years. These years from 1918 – 1939 were characterized by economic collapse, widespread social unrest and anxiety, and the steady resurgence of the dark forces that populate our collective unconscious. History shows us that as Freud put it – what we fail to remember we are destined to repeat. Writing of the upwelling of the power of the Holy Spirit in times of distress, Underhill wrote:

The stronger the forces of destruction appeared, the more intense grew the spiritual vision, which opposed them. … Mystical consciousness … does not wrap its initiates in a selfish and otherworldly calm, isolate them from the pain and effort of common life. Rather, it gives them renewed vitality; administering to the human spirit not – as some suppose-a soothing draught, but the most powerful of stimulants. (Practice Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People)

As Christians we need the stimulant of which Underhill speaks in order to further God’s expectations for the coming of the Kingdom. This Sunday we will toll the bells 49 times.

 

(full Epistle below – June 17 here)

In the wake of the tragic slaying in Orlando our airwaves are filled with commentary, some informative but most of it simply media filling space on the airwaves.  Is it a terrorist attack, or a hate crime? Is it the work of a mentally ill man or more motivated by his internal struggle with his own ambivalent sexual feelings? Certainly, from the testimony of his ex-wife, Omar Mateen seems to have been a personality disordered and violent man, like all the other mass shooters a man with deep and irreconcilable flaws in their characters.

One concern is that the Christian Church, when it acts as an institution of patriarchal society is a principal source and support for homophobia, albeit disguised as religious belief.  It took the Church 1800 years to come to terms with the clear Scriptural support for slavery and the subjugation of women, and declare such Scriptures expression of historical context and contradictory of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Today, a section of the Christian voice continues to practice a deep hypocrisy that champions the selection of texts isolated from their original context and contradictory to the teaching of Jesus, as support for the view that God shares their pathological hatred for homosexuals.  Thus a loud Christian voice continues to energize homophobia –an attitude of hatred and the source of violence against the LGBTQ community. Isn’t time we admit our culpability and repent?

Another concern is that Congress has failed to enact legislation to ensure the public safety of the citizenry. I refer to the inability to legislate against the possession of military grade assault weapons and ammunition. The rights conferred by the Second Amendment is a completely different matter from the commercial availability of military hardware to individuals, who in simply desiring to own such weapons signal a danger to others. In other areas of life we certainly legislate against instruments of public and personal endangerment in the interests of public safety. I detect the operation in the philosophy of the NRA another kind of a religion – one that equally plays on fear. It’s time congress admitted its culpability and act upon the will of 80% of Americans across the political spectrum.

No society can offer its citizens watertight protection from harm at the hands of unstable individuals.  There is a legitimate fear of foreign and domestic acts of terror, but as history shows we are far more vulnerable to the violent actions of mentally and emotionally unstable individuals, nearly always men whose fragile ego stability attracts them to participate in the online addiction to violence. As other societies can demonstrate, public safety is enhanced when the connection between disturbance and availability of weapons of indiscriminate killing, is broken.

This last Wednesday, we remembered Evelyn Underhill, one of the greatest exponents of Anglican spirituality in the interwar years. These years from 1918 – 1939 were characterized by economic collapse, widespread social unrest and anxiety, and the steady resurgence of the dark forces that populate our collective unconscious. History shows us that as Freud put it – what we fail to remember we are destined to repeat. Writing of the upwelling of the power of the Holy Spirit in times of distress, Underhill wrote:

The stronger the forces of destruction appeared, the more intense grew the spiritual vision, which opposed them. … Mystical consciousness … does not wrap its initiates in a selfish and otherworldly calm, isolate them from the pain and effort of common life. Rather, it gives them renewed vitality; administering to the human spirit not – as some suppose-a soothing draught, but the most powerful of stimulants. (Practice Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People)

As Christians we need the stimulant of which Underhill speaks in order to further God’s expectations for the coming of the Kingdom. This Sunday we will toll the bells 49 times.

(continue reading June 10 here)

I think the important thing is to change gear. For some this means changing down a gear or two, while for others it might mean switching up into new and novel explorations of spiritual practice, made possible in a quieter, less hectic time of year. Over the coming weeks, in this weekly e-news epistle I will suggest some ways to do this.

The first section of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is given over to something called the Daily Office. Office here means not a place of work, but work, itself; Daily Prayer is understood to be the work of the People of God. The pattern of morning, midday, evening, and night prayer is our Anglican rendition of the monastic pattern of prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours, or as one modern writer refers to it – seven sacred pauses. There are three things I want you to know about the Daily Office of prayer.

  1. This prayer is public not private. Even when you pray the Office alone, you are participating in the prayer of the whole people of God, which continues 24/7 like a continuous radio signal circling the globe. When we pray the Office, we are like lamps plugging ourselves into the electric circuit of worldwide prayer. We become lights in the dark world.
  2. The daily pattern of prayer punctuates the rhythm of the day. For us it’s four sacred pauses giving us time to pause and transition, to end one activity before beginning another, to move with the flow of our biorhythms in response with the changing mood –morning, midday, evening, and night- of the day.
  3. Today, because of the revolution in portable electronic communication devices, laptops, smartphones, tablets we don’t need to physically have the BCP and a Bible wherever we happen to be. Through apps we can access the electronic prayer book , the lectionary, and sites such as Mission St Clare give us immediate access for praying or simply listening to the Daily Office. A list of electronic sites and apps can be found here at the bottom of the page.

Picking up on the idea of this being public prayer, as in the prayer of the whole Church, I would like to suggest that we form a virtual Daily Office group over the summer. While the Daily Office is a worldwide virtual community of prayer, it’s helpful to personalize this by knowing the names of persons in our community who want to participate in praying the Office together. As we pray the Office alone, we do so in the knowledge of others in the group likewise praying the Office with us, thus forming a virtual sub-community of a greater virtual community of Christian prayer, everywhere. If this interests you or you would like to know how this might work and what it involves in more detail, please contact me to talk further.

 

(full Epistle below-June 10, 2016)

I would like to thank everyone who made Jay MacCubbin’s official farewell on Sunday such a lovely occasion. For those of you who may not know, our Music Director of 30 years is retiring at the end of July. This last Sunday, as the section leader bad us farewell for the summer, we took the opportunity of celebrating Jay in sound, song, PowerPoint and poster collage. The process of searching for a successor to Jay continues. I would ask for your prayers please, for the members of the discernment team as well as for the applicants. I do believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding this process but she needs us to play our part. The appointment of the next minister of music is a crucial one because music is a key factor in shaping our vision of our future as a community.

In last week’s epistle I highlighted a need for spiritual practice over the summer. Summer is a period when many take a well-needed break from the routines of everyday life including Sunday church attendance. But does a break from Church mean a break from relationship with God?  I think the important thing is to change gear. For some this means changing down a gear or two, while for others it might mean switching up into new and novel explorations of spiritual practice, made possible in a quieter, less hectic time of year. Over the coming weeks, in this weekly e-news epistle I will suggest some ways to do this.

The first section of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is given over to something called the Daily Office. Office here means not a place of work, but work, itself; Daily Prayer is understood to be the work of the People of God. The pattern of morning, midday, evening, and night prayer is our Anglican rendition of the monastic pattern of prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours, or as one modern writer refers to it – seven sacred pauses. There are three things I want you to know about the Daily Office of prayer.

  1. This prayer is public not private. Even when you pray the Office alone, you are participating in the prayer of the whole people of God, which continues 24/7 like a continuous radio signal circling the globe. When we pray the Office, we are like lamps plugging ourselves into the electric circuit of worldwide prayer. We become lights in the dark world.
  2. The daily pattern of prayer punctuates the rhythm of the day. For us it’s four sacred pauses giving us time to pause and transition, to end one activity before beginning another, to move with the flow of our biorhythms in response with the changing mood –morning, midday, evening, and night- of the day.
  3. Today, because of the revolution in portable electronic communication devices, laptops, smartphones, tablets we don’t need to physically have the BCP and a Bible wherever we happen to be. Through apps we can access the electronic prayer book the lectionary, and sites such as Mission St Clare give us immediate access for praying or simply listening to the Daily Office. A list of electronic sites and apps can be found here at the bottom of the page.

Picking up on the idea of this being public prayer, as in the prayer of the whole Church, I would like to suggest that we form a virtual Daily Office group over the summer. While the Daily Office is a worldwide virtual community of prayer, it’s helpful to personalize this by knowing the names of persons in our community who want to participate in praying the Office together. As we pray the Office alone, we do so in the knowledge of others in the group likewise praying the Office with us, thus forming a virtual sub-community of a greater virtual community of Christian prayer, everywhere. If this interests you or you would like to know how this might work and what it involves in more detail, please contact me to talk further.

 

(continue reading June 3rd here)

  1. How does the practice of worship, prayer, and study – better translated now days as work – shape us together to be effective agents for the expectations of God’s kingdom in the world – thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in this world as it is in heaven?

The conclusion of our program year on June 26th is pertinent to this question. The Vestry will be hosting a celebration coffee hour following the 9:30 Eucharist on the 26th, when I hope we will be able to do two things. Firstly, to tell the end-of-year story – that word again– of our real achievements since September of last year. And secondly, to identify a couple of key issues crucial for our moving forward in our unfolding community story. The aim of the End-of-Year Story is to give us an overall sense of where we are in our growing into becoming more fit for God’s purpose. Please mark the date!

What happens to spiritual practice when many of us will be physically elsewhere over the summer? Apart from a sigh of relief, summer is a very necessary change of gear. Hopefully, the pace calms down and we take some time for essential re-creation. Yet, does this mean taking a holiday in our relationship with God? I recall the Principal of one of the Oxford seminaries answering this very question. He answer was: during my holiday, it’s God, and me – my way! Now, he was a very mature Christian and so I assume had a good picture of God, and him – his way. I took him to be referring to a certain freedom from the formalities of worship, daily prayer, study and work, allowing for refreshment of soul.

Most of us are not sure what God, and us – our way looks like. Paradoxically, for us, it might not mean a holiday from formal spiritual practice, but time to explore different options of how to practice. Using this Epistle column, I hope to make some helpful suggestions over the coming weeks about spiritual gear shifting, and exploring new ways for spiritual practice, so that while being absent from church, we will not necessarily be absent from God.

This Sunday we say goodbye to Jim Kelleher, our trainee intern for the diaconate. Jim will be ordained a vocational deacon at St Paul’s Pawtucket on June 11th at 10am. Please also remember that this Sunday’s coffee hour is in honor of Jay MacCubbin’s retirement as Director of Music at St Martin’s. I hope to see you then.

Mark+

(full Epistle below-June 3, 2016)

Trinity Sunday was my second anniversary as Rector of St Martin’s. Like all rectors, I arrived with my own baggage. Through a process of trial and error, the last two years have felt to me like a process of being folded into the ethos and culture of St Martin’s. One key emphasis in my worldview is spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is the living out on a daily basis of our calling as Christians. Spiritual practice can be very solitary and intimate at one end of a continuum, and very public and active at the other end. The question is:

  1. How does the practice of worship, prayer, and study – better translated now days as work – shape us together to be effective agents for the expectations of God’s kingdom in the world – thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in this world as it is in heaven?

The conclusion of our program year on June 26th is pertinent to this question. The Vestry will be hosting a celebration coffee hour following the 9:30 Eucharist on the 26th, when I hope we will be able to do two things. Firstly, to tell the end-of-year story – that word again– of our real achievements since September of last year. And secondly, to identify a couple of key issues crucial for our moving forward in our unfolding community story. The aim of the End-of-Year Story is to give us an overall sense of where we are in our growing into becoming more fit for God’s purpose. Please mark the date!

What happens to spiritual practice when many of us will be physically elsewhere over the summer? Apart from a sigh of relief, summer is a very necessary change of gear. Hopefully, the pace calms down and we take some time for essential re-creation. Yet, does this mean taking a holiday in our relationship with God? I recall the Principal of one of the Oxford seminaries answering this very question. He answer was: during my holiday, it’s God, and me – my way! Now, he was a very mature Christian and so I assume had a good picture of God, and him – his way. I took him to be referring to a certain freedom from the formalities of worship, daily prayer, study and work, allowing for refreshment of soul.

Most of us are not sure what God, and us – our way looks like. Paradoxically, for us, it might not mean a holiday from formal spiritual practice, but time to explore different options of how to practice. Using this Epistle column, I hope to make some helpful suggestions over the coming weeks about spiritual gear shifting, and exploring new ways for spiritual practice, so that while being absent from church, we will not necessarily be absent from God.

This Sunday we say goodbye to Jim Kelleher, our trainee intern for the diaconate. Jim will be ordained a vocational deacon at St Paul’s Pawtucket on June 11th at 10am. Please also remember that this Sunday’s coffee hour is in honor of Jay MacCubbin’s retirement as Director of Music at St Martin’s. I hope to see you then.

Mark+

(continue reading May 20th here)

The first on June 5th is the farewell to Jay MacCubbin, our Director of Music these last 30 years. We will celebrate Jay, and his wife Susan’s ministry, thankful for the rich contribution they have made to the life of the St Martin community. On June 19th we will meet for our third small group discussion of The Story, chapters 7-9. The question guide from our most recent discussion of chapters 4-6 is posted on the parish website here, where the upcoming question guide will also be posted in advance of June 19th. This link to the Adult Formation page of our website will also be included in the E-news on Friday, June 17th. On Sunday June 26th we will end our program year with a coffee morning following the Eucharist during which we will present the End of Year Story. For some of us leaving for the summer is a metaphorical event, for others a very literal one. Either way, together with focusing our attention on a couple of issues going forward, we will conclude our program year with an opportunity to recall and celebrate our real achievements.

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday. For the first Christians, their experience of God had become a complex matter. As Jews, they knew God as the Creator, God of their ancestors. In their experience of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection they had a new and immediate experience of God as Savior. Finally, at Pentecost they encountered God as an indwelling perpetual spirit transforming their experience. The Trinity is a doctrine that for many of us the very mention causes our eyes to glaze and our minds to fog. The Trinity emerged as a way of both protecting the ultimate mystery of God’s nature and of articulating the early Christians trifold experience of God in the everyday heart of their lives. Using Aristotelian philosophical concepts they arrived at an articulation of God who is both a single entity – of one substance, and at the same time also a community – of three personsin one God. Today, few of us find Aristotelian logic accessible. Without reducing this ancient doctrine to only that which we are able to comprehend, an ever present modern temptation, it’s important to find our own way of approaching the mystery of the Trinity. I will be speaking about this in the sermon on Sunday.

(full Epistle below-May 20, 2016)

Our Senior Warden, Sean Mulholland, his wife Angela Dills and their children, Julian, Porter, and Ryn will be leaving St Martin’s and moving to Western North Carolina in July. Angela has been appointed to a named chair and Sean appointed as full professor in the economics faculty at Western Carolina University. This is a wonderful professional opportunity for them both, and the added bonus is to be within half an hour of family. We will miss this wonderfully committed church family. Speaking personally, I will miss Sean and our close working relationship of Rector and Senior Warden. For me, Sean has been a source of wise counsel, enthusiastic support, and warm friendship. We will say a formal goodbye to them on June 26th and wish the Mulhollands God’s speed, an expression that derives from the Anglo-Saxon phrase God’s speden, meaning God’s prosperity.

June will see three significant events. The first on June 5th is the farewell to Jay MacCubbin, our Director of Music these last 30 years. We will celebrate Jay, and his wife Susan’s ministry, thankful for the rich contribution they have made to the life of the St Martin community. On June 19th we will meet for our third small group discussion of The Story, chapters 7-9. The question guide from our most recent discussion of chapters 4-6 is posted on the parish website here, where the upcoming question guide will also be posted in advance of June 19th. This link to the Adult Formation page of our website will also be included in the E-news on Friday, June 17th. On Sunday June 26th we will end our program year with a coffee morning following the Eucharist during which we will present the End of Year Story. For some of us leaving for the summer is a metaphorical event, for others a very literal one. Either way, together with focusing our attention on a couple of issues going forward, we will conclude our program year with an opportunity to recall and celebrate our real achievements.

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday. For the first Christians, their experience of God had become a complex matter. As Jews, they knew God as the Creator, God of their ancestors. In their experience of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection they had a new and immediate experience of God as Savior. Finally, at Pentecost they encountered God as an indwelling perpetual spirit transforming their experience. The Trinity is a doctrine that for many of us the very mention causes our eyes to glaze and our minds to fog. The Trinity emerged as a way of both protecting the ultimate mystery of God’s nature and of articulating the early Christians trifold experience of God in the everyday heart of their lives. Using Aristotelian philosophical concepts they arrived at an articulation of God who is both a single entity – of one substance, and at the same time also a community – of three personsin one God. Today, few of us find Aristotelian logic accessible. Without reducing this ancient doctrine to only that which we are able to comprehend, an ever present modern temptation, it’s important to find our own way of approaching the mystery of the Trinity. I will be speaking about this in the sermon on Sunday.

 

(continue reading May 13th here)

And since I firmly believe that naming is a creative act, it is a good one.

“Name this child.”
I have a vivid memory, as a youngster, of hearing these words whenever a baby was baptized, just before water was splashed on its head. The name a person has at baptism is the one that counts; it is the name that we claim as members of the ministry of the baptized. And it is the sharing of our naming, and of our baptism, that marks us collectively as the Body of Christ.
My first identity as a priest, then, is as a member of the ministry of the baptized. My vocation to priesthood is rooted in that existential fact, and thus the most important naming of my priesthood begins with my name at baptism.
So the first part of the answer to the question, “What shall we call you?” is, Linda. It’s my Christian name; the one that counts. As to the issue of title, well, that is more complicated. First, you don’t have to use one at all; just Linda is fine. But if, for example, you want your children to use one as a matter of respect for grownups, a title may be something to consider. That being said, I have had a challenging time figuring out which one to use. So I will leave it to you.
If you’re from a Roman tradition, “Father” may be customary for addressing a priest, so “Mother” might be a comfortable title for you if you desire a gendered equivalent. Or, if you see “Father” as a neutral title for any priest, “Father” would be as good for a woman as for a man. (And I have met one person, to my amusement, who has indeed declared that he will address me as Father.) If you are from a more Protestant tradition, “Pastor” may fit the bill, and “Reverend”, while technically an adjective, is an acceptable non-gendered option. (If our language has changed to accommodate “impact” as a verb, I will get used to “Reverend” as a noun.)
So I am happy to let us be co-creators of my name, beginning with my Christian name, so use a title (or none) that is comfortable for you. I’m sure we’ll grow into it together as we all explore the exciting new opportunities that God is calling us into as members of the ministry of the baptized.
Peace,
(Reverend, Mother, Father, Pastor)
Linda+
(full Epistle below – May 13, 2016)

Dear Friends,

What a wonderful celebration we had last Saturday morning! There are so many, many people to thank for making the occasion of my ordination to priesthood such a marvelous and smoothly-run event. The Hospitality Committee, led by Jane Taylor, worked tirelessly to cater, bake, serve and decorate for the festive brunch reception. Bob Amarantes, Barbara Blossom, and Mary Worrell created the gorgeous floral arrangements in the church. Our Sacristan, Al Howes made sure everything was in perfect order for the Eucharist. Jay MacCubbin and the choir provided beautiful music throughout the service. Our Head Verger, Meg Lopresti, and head ushers, Peter Lofgren, Peter Dennehy, Cathy Bodner, and Greg Piper, helped everything run smoothly during the liturgy. The St. Martin’s staff including sextons Mario Costa and David Ely went above and beyond behind the scenes attending to details no one thought of; they were truly unsung heroes of the day. And our young people were admirably represented by acolytes Rebecca Loell, Alex Potter, and Erin Welshman, and oblationers Abby and Emma Marion. Thank you, all of you!

Thank you also for your generous contributions to my Discretionary Fund, and for the gift certificate from CM Almy. I have yet to meet a clergy person who does not delight in the opportunity to shop for vestments, and I am no different!

Most of all I am deeply grateful for your prayers and support as I have made the journey from lay person to priest. Your faith in my vocation has meant more to me over the past two years than you can possibly know.

“What shall we call you now?” This has been a common question lately. BREAK HERE And since I firmly believe that naming is a creative act, it is a good one.

“Name this child.”

I have a vivid memory, as a youngster, of hearing these words whenever a baby was baptized, just before water was splashed on its head. The name a person has at baptism is the one that counts; it is the name that we claim as members of the ministry of the baptized. And it is the sharing of our naming, and of our baptism, that marks us collectively as the Body of Christ.

My first identity as a priest, then, is as a member of the ministry of the baptized. My vocation to priesthood is rooted in that existential fact, and thus the most important naming of my priesthood begins with my name at baptism.

So the first part of the answer to the question, “What shall we call you?” is, Linda. It’s my Christian name; the one that counts. As to the issue of title, well, that is more complicated. First, you don’t have to use one at all; just Linda is fine. But if, for example, you want your children to use one as a matter of respect for grownups, a title may be something to consider. That being said, I have had a challenging time figuring out which one to use. So I will leave it to you.

If you’re from a Roman tradition, “Father” may be customary for addressing a priest, so “Mother” might be a comfortable title for you if you desire a gendered equivalent. Or, if you see “Father” as a neutral title for any priest, “Father” would be as good for a woman as for a man. (And I have met one person, to my amusement, who has indeed declared that he will address me as Father.) If you are from a more Protestant tradition, “Pastor” may fit the bill, and “Reverend”, while technically an adjective, is an acceptable non-gendered option. (If our language has changed to accommodate “impact” as a verb, I will get used to “Reverend” as a noun.)

So I am happy to let us be co-creators of my name, beginning with my Christian name, so use a title (or none) that is comfortable for you.  I’m sure we’ll grow into it together as we all explore the exciting new opportunities that God is calling us into as members of the ministry of the baptized.

Peace,

(Reverend, Mother, Father, Pastor)

Linda+

(continue reading May 6th here)

As I said, many of us find it hard to know how the Ascension relates to our everyday lives. I think the best way to think of it is as a bridge between the end of the disciples post resurrection experiences of Jesus and their transformation into apostles through the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; a transformation process that we also undergo through baptism. In the adult forum on Sunday I will be speaking more about this.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Linda is to be ordained priest. This is a huge event in her life and we want members of the community to join us at 10am for her ordination service. If you are staying for brunch please let Susan Esposito know. Linda’s ordination is also a major event in the life of our St Martin’s community. It has been some years now since we have enjoyed two priests on staff. Linda’s ordination as priest is for me, highly symbolic of our process of deepening and growing as a community. After her priesting, Linda’s title will be Director for Christian Formation and Assisting Priest. At a practical level it also strengthens our ordained ministerial capacity, something that can only aid us on our onward journey.

Baptism is also symbolic of our growing and deepening and this coming Sunday we welcome into the community of faith Ionie Rose Hershberger. This week we also learned of the wonderful news of the birth of Rory, son to Robin McGill and Andrew Gammon.

May is an eventual month with finals and the end of the academic year for many. We keep all our students prayerfully in heart and upon mind as they complete their end of year tasks. Remember next week, May 15th, is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church. It’s also the day we will hold the second of our discussion forums on chapters 3-6 of The Story . Make sure you are up to date and have read up to chapter 6. Come with your turbulent feelings and responses. A few copies of The Story are still available from Susan Esposito.

(full Epistle below – May 6, 2016)

Easter-tide lasts for 50 days. This last Thursday, with the feast of the Ascension we entered the final stretch. From Ascension it’s 10 days to Pentecost. Pentecost means the 50th day. The Ascension is the feast of the Lord that many of us find hard to relate to. This is an event only recorded by Luke, and he seems to take the ascension of Elijah as his template. The ascension of Elijah and of Jesus is primarily about passing on authority, from Elijah to Elisha, and from Jesus to the Holy Spirit.

Luke is often referred to as a physician. Yet, his true vocation was as the first historian of the Christian Church. Luke takes the central experience of the Resurrection, an experience pregnant with mystery, and he separates out into discrete events the elements of resurrection, ascension and the transformation of the disciples on the day of Pentecost. He separates them by locating them in space and time as three chronological events. As I said, many of us find it hard to know how the Ascension relates to our everyday lives. I think the best way to think of it is as a bridge between the end of the disciples post resurrection experiences of Jesus and their transformation into apostles through the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; a transformation process that we also undergo through baptism. In the adult forum on Sunday I will be speaking more about this.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Linda is to be ordained priest. This is a huge event in her life and we want members of the community to join us at 10am for her ordination service. If you are staying for brunch please let Susan Esposito know. Linda’s ordination is also a major event in the life of our St Martin’s community. It has been some years now since we have enjoyed two priests on staff. Linda’s ordination as priest is for me, highly symbolic of our process of deepening and growing as a community. After her priesting, Linda’s title will be Director for Christian Formation and Assisting Priest.  At a practical level it also strengthens our ordained ministerial capacity, something that can only aid us on our onward journey.

Baptism is also symbolic of our growing and deepening and this coming Sunday we welcome into the community of faith Ionie Rose Hershberger. This week we also learned of the wonderful news of the birth of Rory, son to Robin McGill and Andrew Gammon.

May is an eventual month with finals and the end of the academic year for many. We keep all our students prayerfully in heart and upon mind as they complete their end of year tasks. Remember next week, May 15th, is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church. It’s also the day we will hold the second of our discussion forums on chapters 3-6 of The Story. Make sure you are up to date and have read up to chapter 6. Come with your turbulent feelings and responses. A few copies of The Story are still available from Susan Esposito.

April 29, 2016

It was with considerable sadness that many of us learned that Maybury Fraser died peacefully in her sleep during Wednesday night-Thursday morning. Although, having been at St Martin’s a relatively short time, I have many fond memories of Maybury. The last time I saw her was in Hallworth House during her recent convalescence following a short stint in RI Hospital for heart issues. To my surprise she agreed to let me bring her Holy Communion. I was surprised because for most of this winter, Maybury had not been able to attend Church and when I asked her if could I bring Communion to her at home, she exclaimed: “Oh good heavens no, dear Mark! It’s very sweet of you to offer, but I can’t get used to the idea of Communion outside of going to church”.

Maybury’s response is typical of an older generation of Episcopalians who lived faithful lives dedicated to the community of the church. They were unstinting in their investment of time, talent and treasure. While deeply committed to parish life, for Maybury’s generation the idea of a personal relationship with Christ was not something much thought about. This is reflective of a rather lovely sense of humility. It’s as if Maybury was saying to me: “Oh, God has too many things to worry about without troubling himself over me”.

Yet, she was a woman of deep faith and keen intellect. She was interested in my sermons and never failed to comment on them. Although in some ways very much a product of a more formal society, she was open and progressive in her views. Although over this last winter, not as frequent in Church as she would have liked, she kept abreast of developments and through email, never failed to encourage and compliment others. Whenever, I would phone her she was always on the phone, or so it seemed.

What I enjoyed most about her was that she was a shrewd judge of character with a devilish sense of humor. Just before Easter, I suggested I come for afternoon tea. She told me that tea would be much too much trouble, so I could just come for a scotch. This I did, and as usual we had a delightful gossip together. When I declined a refill she exclaimed with mock surprise: “you know you can’t fly on one wing”.

Maybury will be deeply missed. She was a symbol of all that is good about St Martin’s; an Eastsider to the core she lived her whole life no further than five blocks from where she was born. Maybury was a dear saint, acquainted with sorrow, but formed by love. Like so many of her generation we shall not see the like of her kind again. One more soul is now added to that great cloud of witnesses surrounding us; one more voice to egg us on, from a ringside seat upon a nearer shore.

There is to be a funeral service for Maybury at St Martin’s on Wednesday, May 4th, at 11am.

Let me conclude with two additional items. Firstly, you can view the advertisement and job prospectus for the Minister of Music search here. Secondly, this Sunday May 1st is the proverbial St Martin’s May Breakfast. You can checkout the details here.

See you in Church, this Sunday. Mark+

transfer point from April 29th E-News

They were unstinting in their investment of time, talent and treasure. While deeply committed to parish life, for Maybury’s generation the idea of a personal relationship with Christ was not something much thought about. This is reflective of a rather lovely sense of humility. It’s as if Maybury was saying to me: “Oh, God has too many things to worry about without troubling himself over me”.

Yet, she was a woman of deep faith and keen intellect. She was interested in my sermons and never failed to comment on them. Although in some ways very much a product of a more formal society, she was open and progressive in her views. Although over this last winter, not as frequent in Church as she would have liked, she kept abreast of developments and through email, never failed to encourage and compliment others. Whenever, I would phone her she was always on the phone, or so it seemed.

What I enjoyed most about her was that she was a shrewd judge of character with a devilish sense of humor. Just before Easter, I suggested I come for afternoon tea. She told me that tea would be much too much trouble, so I could just come for a scotch. This I did, and as usual we had a delightful gossip together. When I declined a refill she exclaimed with mock surprise: “you know you can’t fly on one wing”.

Maybury will be deeply missed. She was a symbol of all that is good about St Martin’s; an Eastsider to the core she lived her whole life no further than five blocks from where she was born. Maybury was a dear saint, acquainted with sorrow, but formed by love. Like so many of her generation we shall not see the like of her kind again. One more soul is now added to that great cloud of witnesses surrounding us; one more voice to egg us on, from a ringside seat upon a nearer shore.

There is to be a funeral service for Maybury at St Martin’s on Wednesday, May 4th, at 11am.

Let me conclude with two additional items. Firstly, you can view the advertisement and job prospectus for the Minister of Music search here http://www.stmartinsprov.org/new-music-director-search/. Secondly, this Sunday May 1st is the proverbial St Martin’s May Breakfast. You can checkout the details here http://www.stmartinsprov.org/may-breakfast-3/.

April 22, 2016

Today is Pesach, which is known in English as Passover. Pesach recalls God’s instructions through Moses to the Children of Israel on how to keep as a timeless memorial the memory of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. You can read about this at Exodus 12. Easter is a lunar feast tied to the date of Pesach. Unusually, this year there is a larger gap between Easter and Pesach. I understand this has something to do with 2016 being a leap year in the Jewish calendar. That being as it may, we send our neighbors at Temple Beth-El and all our Jewish friends our best wishes for this most significant of religious commemorations.

This past Sunday, we gathered for Adult Forum and the first monthly group review of our community reading of The Story.

transfer point from April 22nd E-News

We discussed chapters 1-3, which cover the whole of Genesis up to the beginning of Exodus. Around 50 people attended and the atmosphere was electric as folk risked sharing their thoughts and reactions to the story so far. A number clearly disliked the image of God portrayed in Genesis. The story begins well. Genesis opens on a grand vista of creation with humanity as its crowning glory. Men and women seem equal and God seems to hint at the possibility of humanity being a reflection of divinity itself. But things thereafter seem to go pear shaped. From chapter 2 on, God increasingly is portrayed as authoritarian. In chapter 2, women are inferior and subservient to men. Events in the garden further stigmatize women. I was pleased to see that people were able to give vent to the visceral nature of the impact of this kind of portrayal, upon them.

Someone commented, why do we have to read this stuff? My answer is because we are storied beings and we are shaped by our faith family narrative. We read this stuff because this is where that narrative starts. It’s important to remember it’s not where it ends, it’s only where it starts, and like most things in life, it’s always helpful to start at the beginning. In preparation for our next discussion on May 15th please read chapters 4-6 in The Story.

This last Sunday I also met for the first time with a group of 20-30-somethings for our first experience of Lectio Devina. The title 20-30-somethings is rather inelegant and from henceforth this group decided that they will be known as The Seekers. I did point out that they were all too young to remember the 60’s Australian folk group by that name, so I felt it was timely for a rehabilitation of the name. For me especially, this group is a very exciting and fruitful development in our parish life. I hope that The Seekers will become another portal of entry for Millennials into our enriching community life.

Please note this Sunday a special Eucharistic intention will be offered in thanksgiving for the life of Marge Day. Remember May Breakfast on May 1st.  For details click on the Events tab on this website. Your prayers and presence is requested on May 7th at 10am for Linda’s ordination to the sacred order of priests (that’s the official terminology). This is an exciting development in our community life. Once again, St Martin’s will benefit from having two priests on staff.

Re-dedication of All Saints’ 

On Sunday afternoon, April 24th at 4pm All Saints’ Memorial Church on the West Side  will be rededicated following the repair of extensive storm damage. St Martin’s choir is joining with All Saints’ choir for choral evensong at which the Bishop will rededicate the building.

There is a bond of affection between St Martin’s and All Saints’ Memorial, formed by the fact that the Rev. Dr. David Ames is currently vicar at All Saints’. Under his wise leadership, the parish has turned a corner and is growing again as a congregation of Providence’s Liberian community.  Many St Martin’s folk remember the invaluable service that David’s ministry has offered to us at periods in our past and I know he is held in affection by many. If you are free and able to come along, please note the date and time.

Community relies on people showing up. So see you in church, this Sunday.

Mark+

April 15, 2016

Just before Easter, I mentioned that Jay MacCubbin had announced his retirement to me. Jay’s last Sunday will be July 31st. Acknowledging this, just before Easter, allowed us to realize the depth of our sense of gratitude and appreciation for Jay’s ministry as our Director of Music. Our music during Holy Week and on Easter was spectacular.

Although Jay’s last Sunday will be July 31st, we will honor him on June 5th at a special coffee hour following the main service. June 5th is the last Sunday that the Choir’s paid section leaders are with us in this musical program year.

Jay has served our community as Director of Music for 30 years. His going marks a huge change and introduces a period of transition in our worship life. As such, it is a moment of sadness and loss, alongside other feelings of curiosity and excitement, matched also by feelings of concern for that which is yet to become known to us. The summer gives us a short window of time during which the process of seeking a replacement for Jay will take place. Therefore, I wanted to outline the process of seeking a new Director of Music.

transfer point from April 15th E-News

I have invited Mary Curtis Gray to chair the Discernment Team (DT) of 10 members including myself. Mary chaired our last rector discernment team, and so I have full confidence in her experience and expertise in this area. The team comprises representatives from our various constituencies: those with musical experience – Cheryl Bishkoff, Evon Burge, and Gordon Partington; Choir members – Fla Lewis and Beth Shearer; Vestry – Laura Bartsch; and Congregation – Pat Whitman and Denny Scott.

A profile for the Director of Music will be placed on the parish website. An important element in the profile of the person we seek is someone committed to the encouragement of congregational participation in our music. I invite members of the congregation to email or write to Mary as DT chair with any comments or thoughts they would like to communicate to the DT. The Church Wardens and I will meet with the Choir on a Sunday morning – date yet to be decided – to listen and respond to initial questions arising at this time. The DT will then meet with the Choir to listen to their thoughts, suggestions, hopes, and expectations for the next Director.

Once applications are submitted, the DT will review, sift, and then invite for interview suitable applicants. In broad terms, the kind of person we will be considering is someone who is a member of the American Guild of Organists and the Association of Anglican Church Musicians, with a proven experience to contribute to the shaping of a new chapter in our music life at St Martin’s. The hope is to have someone in post by October at the very latest.

I hope many of you will take the opportunity to express your appreciation to Jay for the long and rich contribution he has made to the music life of the parish.

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Church this Sunday and for the first (chapters 1-3) of our small discussion groups in our community reading of The Story.

 

April 8, 2016

The Resurrection is an expansive story. It’s not a story to be believed or explained but to be built into the way we live. It’s a story that shapes the way we understand the nature of the world around us. So the question I ask myself is one I also put to you – in what way does the resurrection story enhance and strengthen the way you live and perceive the world around you? Because this is a question for each of us it quickly becomes the question for us as a community. Peter in Acts 10 describes the experience of being changed by his experience of the Resurrection. He seems not to be alone in this. Resurrection was credible to the first Christians not because it made sense but because it changed them, making them bolder, less afraid, imbued with a new vision of themselves their experience of the world.

To keep our spiritual momentum moving forward as we move into the 40 days of Eastertide, I announced last Sunday the beginning of a community reading of the Bible, using something called The Story. The Story is an edited highlights of the Bible to bring out an uninterrupted flow of the story of salvation that runs throughout. The Resurrection is the culmination of the unfolding of the Bible’s very big story.

We are offering one copy of The Story to each family or couple/individual. Each month at the Adult Forum on the 3rd Sunday we will hold small group feedback sessions on what we have been reading and its impact upon us. In preparation for April 17th you need to have collected your copy and read the first three chapters. For families we hope you might read together as a family experience.

So, we still have work to do before the summer, which as yet is but a faint glimmer on the horizon.  I usually end with saying: see you in Church, this coming Sunday. Here’s a different twist on the same idea: you don’t have to be here, but remember the community is impoverished by your absence.

Mark+

April 1, 2016

Reading The Story together will take us over the summer and into the fall as we work through its 31 chapters. We have 75 copies and will offer one complimentary edition per person/per couple, or one per family. We can order more if required but will begin distributing them on Low Sunday and a couple of Sundays in April. We will read assigned chapter blocks so that we will be all reading the same sections as the same time. One suggestion for families is to read the assigned chapters together so that it’s then possible to talk about what you are hearing. Beginning on April 17th and then on the third Sunday of the month, the Sunday morning Adult Forum will be given over to small discussion groups for us to share our responses to what we have been reading and hearing.
This is one of the key initiatives flowing out of our RenewalWorks experience. Evidence shows that one of the ways to bring about maximum deepening in a parish’s spiritual life is to explore the Bible together as a community. We have chosen The Story http://thestory.com/rather than the more ambitious Bible Challenge http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/the-bible-challenge/what-is-the-bible-challenge/ to provide us with an easy way to access the experience of the continuous flow of the Biblical narrative. As Episcopalians, we hear a lot of Bible in church. Yet we are least likely to read the Bible between Monday and Saturday. Hearing and not reading the Bible has been likened to the difference between riding as a passenger in a car not paying any attention to direction and being the driver who charts and pays attention to the route. Maybe having read The Story together, we will feel up to The Bible Challenge, next year.

 

March 18th, 2016: 

Two weeks ago, our organist and choir director, Jay MacCubbin, announced to me his decision to retire from his role at St Martin’s on the 31st of this coming July. I informed the Vestry of this on Wednesday evening, and Jay told the Choir on Thursday evening. Jay has been our music director for 30 years, a truly amazing achievement.

Over 30 years, not much stays the same in today’s world. In good times and bad, Jay has modeled a ministry to our music life of perseverance, consistency, and faithfulness. I am aware that sharing Jay’s announcement with you at the start of the most momentous week of the Christian Year may run the risk of distracting us from our necessary focus on Jesus. However, I suggest that because we often don’t appreciate people until we face the prospect of their leaving us, we might now see this coming Holy Week and Easter as a very poignant opportunity to become aware of our sense of gratitude to Jay for his long and fruitful ministry among us. After Easter, we can plan how to honor Jay’s ministry before turning to reflect on what comes next.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, marking Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Thus begins Holy Week. Holy Week leads us day-by-day through the events of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. The Triduum is the name we give to the great three days of Easter, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. We owe a debt of thanks to Cyril Bishop of Jerusalem 346 whose commemoration is March 18th. He created the shape of Holy Week and Easter commemorations as we now have them.

Episcopalians are liturgical people. This means we mark the events of Holy Week and the great three days of Easter through the medium of the liturgy. Liturgy means the work of the people of God.  Liturgy is the toolbox for that work. Another analogy is of liturgy as a vehicle, like a train, that transports us through sacred time, enabling us through worship to participate in the events of Christ’s passion and resurrection.

Whichever metaphor strikes you – both require being present, either to lend your hand to the work, or to take your seat for the sacred journey. There is only one thing I would wish for you, there is but one request I make of you. It is to give yourself the opportunity to be present for the experience of Holy Week and the great three days of Easter. This will take some planning and some commitment. It’s possible to parachute in for Good Friday and then again on Easter Day. But to do so is to rob yourself of richer possibilities, richer opportunities for significance and a meaningful spiritual experience. We have come this far on our journey through Lent so let’s make sure we finish the course!

On the website under Events or click the link here to visit Holy Week 2016. Here, you will find a full explanation of the liturgies and times for Holy Week and Easter.

Bishop Nicholas has asked that we all read the Good Friday Message from the Episcopal Conference of Bishops.

I am looking forward to greeting you this Holy Week and Easter, in Church!

Mark+

 

March 11th, 2016: Creating a Rule of Life

For me, there is some sense of consolation in tiredness being the happy result as people continue to commit with energy to our spiritual learning this Lent. This coming Tuesday we will hold our last 2016 Lent Program evening. We have the task of condensing Phases 5 & 6 in the workbook into one session with the major emphasis on allowing for enough time for us to write our rule of life.

As modern people, our culture has sensitized us to feelings. When supported by the way we feel we are able to perform many things. Yet, lack of feeling, or by the wrong kind of feeling, easily discourages us and so we avoid many other things that might also be helpful and good for us.

As a culture, we are in many ways still in a kind of adolescent reaction against the excessively rule-bound approach to life characteristic of previous generations when duty and doing one’s duty was the thing that mattered most. So, it’s difficult to find ways to speak about the necessity of developing a rule of life without conjuring up images of being rule-bound.

Yet, managing the ups and down of mood, along with the incessant demands of modern life and work underscores the urgent need to develop a spiritual rule of life. The Rule of the Society of St John the Evangelist notes: 

Each individual is in some way a miniature community, subject to internal and external pressures to avoid or neglect some aspect of her or his wholeness …. 

The rule continues to identify the nature of wholeness. It’s the experience of being whole through being in relationship with Christ. In short, a rule of life is the essential foundation for not only a creative work-life balance, for stability in our emotional relationship to self, others, but is essential to grow in our capacity to be open to the power of love in our lives. For Christians, all manifestations of love are encounters with God.

Whether attending the group or working the program at home, please give some thought to the task outlined in Phase 6; Create a Solid Garden Plot. Give some time before Tuesday to meditating on the video questions at the bottom of the opening page of Phase 6. Remember that your rule has four sections covering your relationship with God, with self, with others, and with creation. Each section can be viewed from the three perspectives of seasonal, weekly, and daily practices.

I look forward to many among us engaging with writing our own rule of life; a prospect that is both challenging as it is exciting. And remember:

A rule of life is not a rigid law that makes daily life into the working of a machine. Rather, it is a kind of constitution or bill of rights that makes sure that all the different elements of a Spirit-filled life in Christ are valued and given their due place in the whole. Rule of the Society of St John The Evangelist.

You can now visit Easter 2016 

See you for your weekly spiritual practice in Church, this coming Sunday.

Mark+

March 4th, 2016  Lent Program

We are having a very active Lent at St Martin’s. I would like to thank everyone who is participating in one or more of three ways. Firstly, many of you are taking advantage of the Tuesday evening program where we have been regularly attracting around 30 folk for dinner and 40+ for the program class. Secondly, others of you not able to make the Tuesday evenings are following the program online, viewing the daily videos and using the workbook from the Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE) (add

We are having a very active Lent at St Martin’s. I would like to thank everyone who is participating in one or more of three ways. Firstly, many of you are taking advantage of the Tuesday evening program where we have been regularly attracting around 30 folk for dinner and 40+ for the program class. Secondly, others of you not able to make the Tuesday evenings are following the program online, viewing the daily videos and using the workbook from the Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE) (add link here). at home. Once we get into the mindset, the gardening metaphor for creating a rule of life seems to be bearing good fruit among us. Thirdly, there is the possibility of attending the Sunday morning Adult Forum and we have been attracting between 50 and 60 to our exploring in greater detail the four elements of traditional Anglican spiritual practice. You can find the Sunday morning session handouts here 

I am sure some of you are wondering where to look for the signs of the long-term application of RenewalWorks. I will talk more about this over time. Our approach to Lent this year is the first application of what we learned from RenewalWorks i.e. our stated desire to deepen our spiritual lives. St Benedict spoke of the monk’s life as a mini Lent, which raises the question, so how does Lent play into the rest of our yearly lives? I am not suggesting that our lives should be a mini-Lent, but that they bear the fruits of our intentional endeavors in the Lenten season.

Several ideas are already emerging from our exploration in Lent 2016 on spiritual practice 

  1. Daily Common Prayer Groups – small groups that don’t need to physically meet but would undertake to pray at least one of the Daily Offices – morning, midday, evening or night prayer – intentionally keeping the other members of the group and the whole community, in mind. This can be done most conveniently using the electronic phone and tablet apps listed here  when you don’t have easy access to a Book of Common Prayer.
  2. Lectio Divina groups – small groups meeting in one another’s homes following this ancient practice of reflecting on a short piece of Scripture to prayerfully encounter God’s invitation to focus on what needs our attention over the next 5-7 days .
  3. Meditation, either in a group, or individual practice. Here, we can begin to learn a number of ways to practice meditation, best defined as piercing through the peripheral chatter that fills our heads to encounter God in the silence that lies towards the center of our lives.
  4. Community Bible reading. After Easter we are proposing to begin a parish-wide reading of The Story  

and more on  that to come.

We are going deeper, as we do so our priorities become reordered, bearing richer fruit in our commitment to God, to our core relationships, and to our community membership, and civic consciousness. In these ways we will become more fit for purpose; the purpose that God has for us, in this world.

See in church, this Sunday!

Mark+

February 26th, Second week of Lent

We are now coming to the end of the first week in Lent, and we had a great first night of the Lent Program this last Tuesday with around 36 attendees. If you have not done so please sign up to the program at SSJE. We also had around 50 for the Sunday morning adult forum during Christian Formation Hour for the first of several sessions on spiritual practice, drawn from Michelle Heyne’s book In your Holy Spirit: Traditional Spiritual Practices for Today’s Christian Life.

What both experiences are revealing to us is that the theory of the spiritual life can be complex, but the practice of the spiritual life is always simple and get’s simpler, the closer we come to God. Judging from a few conversations I have had with folk, simplicity is something that is taking us a bit by surprise. Episcopalians are on the whole very intellectually curious. This is a great attribute, making our community life stimulating and challenging. Yet, because of this, we are people who like to learn, like to know about things and when we approach spiritual practice we come often with this orientation.

The program Grow a rule of life is really very simple and our fear initially might be it’s too basic for us. Yet, the program comes out of two spiritual powerhouses of the Episcopal Church – the Society of St John the Evangelist and the Virginia Theological Seminary. In our Lent group experience we came to see in our first session that there is a great deal more material that puts flesh on the workbook outline. My concern is for those of you doing the program at home. I suspect some might be finding it hard to engage with just the video clips and workbook alone without the weekly group experience.

My suggestion is to make the daily video clip the focus of each day’s Lenten reflection. Build some time around viewing it to listen to it several times and let it form an impression with you. The clips are not informational, in that we don’t learn much about the theory of spiritual practice. They are spiritually reflective, with each brother speaking from his own heart of experience. Get into a reflective zone with this by building 15-20 minutes around the experience of online listening and focus on the key question at the end of each clip. Each question can become enormously challenging if we let it.

At the end of each week there is a compilation clip of all the week’s videos. Sit with this in one sitting and let this be a kind of review of your journey during the last 7 days. Then make the appropriate recordings in your workbook or journal, or draw- paint, or work with your body in some form of bodywork like swimming, walking, yoga, tai chi. Please remember Linda and I can address any questions that arise for you. We would love to hear from you especially if you are feeling frustrated or disappointed by the experience so far. There is a handout of model rules of life to help you formulate your own style of rule. If you would like this please email church@stmartinsprov.org and we can send one out to you.

A spiritual hint for keeping a Holy Lent: deny yourself something that you know is not good for you. Every time you want to indulge, the experience of deprivation will remind you of your desire to want to grow closer to God.

See you in Church, this Sunday. Mark+

February 12th, Managing our flow

St Benedict, the father of Western Monasticism speaks about the need to punctuate our day with frequent pauses. Everything has a beginning and once begun, everything has an end. Between the end of a current activity and the beginning of something new lies a moment best described as an opportunity to pause. Benedict organized the monastic day into activities punctuated by a moment for prayer – a moment to pause before going on. Throughout a 24-hour period, the contemporary Benedictine writer, Macrina Wiederkehr refers to these as seven sacred pauses .

The major source of stress in our lives is our inability to manage the flow of energy throughout each day. If you are like me, then the pattern that takes over the flow of our days is one of accumulation. A new activity is begun without the previous one coming to an end. Because there is no ending before a new beginning, there is no space for pausing. I reach the close of the day exhausted by the accumulation of non-ended activities akin to a multiplicity of tapes endlessly running over each other in my overtaxed mind.

By ending, Benedict did not mean completion of a task, simply a time to stop doing it before moving to the next thing awaiting us. This is both good and bad news for those of us who suffer from completion neurosis. It’s sometimes hard to stop before the task is completed, but one can always return to it. Tasks may remain incomplete, but nevertheless, must be ended, because other priorities await our attention.

I came across this quote from the author and activist Anne Lamott, which I suspect Deborah pinned to the soft board in the Church office: Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. Like electronic devices we need to be frequently rebooted in order to preserve our energetic and psychic resources. We are going to pay special attention to this truth as we now enter upon our Lenten journey for 2016. You might like to take a look at the full description of our Lent program at Lent 2016  and signup for the program at SSJE . The daily video clips are now rolling out. Here’s  an example from Ash Wednesday.

I mentioned to Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman at Temple Beth-El that I was going to try to practice pausing more often as part of my practice this Lent. He replied – never mind pausing, how about stopping – now wouldn’t that be something for a spiritual leader? 

Our Lenten focus is to grow a rule of life; a kind of metaphorical trellis. Spiritual practices are like the plants that grow upon the trellis of our rule of life. Managing the flow of energies throughout our day is one of the building blocks of living spiritually. I hope you will join us, whether for the weekly group program over the next five Tuesday evenings, or individually following the online SSJE program at home, and /or our Sunday morning adult formation hour to experience more, this Lent. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you –copy this out and attach it to your fridge door. See you in Church, this Sunday!

Mark+