The Rector's Blog
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November 30, 2017, 9:58 AM

Happy New Year!

The Church’s “New Year” begins this Sunday, December 3, with the First Sunday of Advent.  Ironic, that:  Whereas the world is already deep into Christmas, and the new year is still five weeks away; the Church is already into the new year, but Christmas is still four weeks away!  Nothing contrarian about us at all, is there?

But that’s the way of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus brings us – and Isaiah makes the same point: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9.)

Advent offers us a chance to step back and look at the big picture of God’s plan of salvation for all people.  Advent offers us the opportunity to ruminate and reflect, to ponder, and to learn again what it means to wait for the truth to be revealed.

Usually by the time we all arrive at Christmas, we are quite sick of “Christmas” as the world presents it – with the commercial focus on buy-buy-buy, how to have the perfect Christmas dinner or the most beautifully decorated home or just the right gift for that special someone. The Hallmark channel is playing all the latest Christmas romance movies already. The whole modern-day mythology of Christmas is a presentation of an ideal that most of us will struggle to meet; and many of us regard with fear and trembling (and not the good sort of fear and trembling).

Don’t be misled into thinking that Christmas is about things or that Christmas will magically solve all our problems, find us a new partner, or make us supremely happy.  No human ritual can; no human mythology can do these things. 

And that’s okay, because that’s just the way of things.

So what can make us joyful? 

First, there is the anticipation of joy to come.  When I was a child, the fact that every few days another package with my name on it, wrapped in pretty paper, appeared under our family Christmas tree filled me with an almost unbearable tension of desire and hope. 

I’m older now, and presents under the tree are pretty much a thing of the past, but the feeling of desire and hope, and the tension between them, remains a vital part of my life.  Only now, instead of a new toy, I yearn for something less tangible: a reason to hold on, a reason to hope, a reason to sing, a reason to rejoice.  In short, I yearn for the grace and mercy of being able to love and be loved: the grace and mercy that are sourced in God alone.  I pray you find them, too!

Blessings to you all!  ~ Evelyn+




October 19, 2017, 11:25 AM

The Importance of Play

  When I get stressed – and I do get stressed! – I find that I like to distract myself with “binge” activity.  Usually this takes the form of either re-reading Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings (all the volumes) or of watching some TV series on Amazon Prime (I’ve watched Last Ship, Battlestar Galactica, and Mission Impossible (the TV series from the 60s), for hours and days.  I tell myself this is better than binging on chocolate cookies or wine… but it’s not always constructive.  It’s essentially an avoidance technique, and not really a way to resolve the underlying causes of my stress.  It’s also a sign of fatigue, in that I don’t want to do anything that involves actual effort on my part.

  Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.  I do know people who have made healthier and more constructive choices than just sitting down and “vegging out” – they go to the gym or go for a walk or pull out their pens or paintbrushes or camera, wash the dishes, call a friend, or play with their grandchildren and thereby make endorphins using their physical and cranial muscles to wind up with something to show for their efforts.

  But a small voice inside me asks if we are supposed to be “constructively engaged” at all times.  I think in many ways I was certainly raised to think so – but then I read about the negative side-effects of programming every hour of a child’s day with no time for free play, for running around outdoors, or for the benefits of kids learning to problem-solve without adult supervision.

  We are taught to fear for our children – someone will hurt them, someone will kidnap them, someone will teach them things we’d rather they didn’t know or think.  But some of the most beloved children’s movies have plot lines about kids doing their own thing – The Goonies, The Sandlot, Matilda, Bridge to Terebithia, My Neighbor Totoro, even Home Alone

  I think adults enjoy these nearly as much as children, because they evoke a world where adventure happens, surprises await, and heroines and heroes are born.  But (aside from the obvious fact that grownups made the movies) in all these stories, the children are the principals, and we see them learn and grow in ways that our modern programmed schooling and after-schooling lives may not leave room for.

  It’s the same after we grow up, too.  You and I are locked into our routines, our responsibilities, our expectations – many formed in childhood – and we may have forgotten how to play, or the importance of play.  We’re supposed to be serious.  We’re supposed to use our time efficiently and construc-tively.  We’re supposed to be serious about self-care, and we have to make play-dates (or real dates, even with our spouses) and we have to make plans and we have to schedule time, and we have to, have to, have to…

  Sorry, but that’s too bleak a prospect for me!  I’m not particularly good at playing, but all the TV I like to watch is about adventure, mystery, surprise, danger, and it’s about cleverness, wit, unexpected strength, and learning and growing.

  Something there is in the human spirit, I think, that needs to play.  We see animals playing – dogs who chase, cats who wrestle, elephants who surely look like they’re laughing.  Maybe in these days of high-stress politics, disputes about religious freedom, natural disasters that boggle the mind, we need to be out in the woods tracking down birds or down by the river tossing stones in the stream or playing stickball in a park – with friends, with our own kids and grandkids, with the guys from work – and just simply playing and having fun.  What do you think?

  Faithfully,

   ~ Evelyn+




October 5, 2017, 9:00 AM

A Journey to Generosity


“Put simply, life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are, to affirm our own true spiritual nature, claim our truth, appropriate and integrate the reality of our being, but most of all, to say ‘Yes’ to the One who calls us the Beloved.”

~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Dear Ones,

Life is an opportunity and a journey — a journey to saying “Yes” to the God who calls us Beloved.  Life is a journey to love, to welcome and to invite; a journey to create peace and to live generously.

Bishop Robert C. Wright of Atlanta has written:

When we give, we are participating in the personhood of God. We are participating in what is most real in the universe — God's inexhaustibleness!  We are making God real in the world by lending God our flesh through partnership.”

The “Journey to Generosity” is about participating in God’s inexhaustibleness. But first we must believe that God’s love, healing, and forgiveness are inexhaustible.  We must overcome our
trepidation about God’s nature so that we can say “Yes” to God’s call to partnership.

If this sounds like a great risk, consider also these words of Bishop Wright: “When we give, you might say, we are rolling the dice in a game, the outcome of which we are already certain. God is love. And loving is giving.”

I invite you this year to take the risk of believing the outcome is certain and to participate in the inexhaustibleness of God by confidently joining our journey to greater generosity.

Please consider committing to a standard of giving that reflects your standard of living. For many, that means giving 10 percent (the biblical tithe) of their income to God’s work through Christ Episcopal Church.  For others, tithing is a goal they are working toward by increasing their giving two or three percent each year.

Let us walk together on this Journey to Generosity so the glory of God might shine brighter through the mission and ministries of Christ Church!

     Faithfully,

   ~ Evelyn+




September 21, 2017, 12:00 AM

Lots of Holy Spirit Action!

I honestly can’t tell you how excited I am with our current vestry members and with our parishioners.  I do believe the Holy Spirit is doing some new things here, and we’ve only just begun to find out what’s in store. This is a great time to be part of this wonderful church community.

Cindy Armstrong and Ted Todd braved a sunny Thursday evening to host a table at the Hanover Student Activities Fair earlier this month, while I got to tour all the other organizations, both college- and community-based, that were reaching out to the new arrivals. It was fascinating to meet them all.  There’s a group that does improv comedy (what if we invited them for an evening show?), another group that enjoys archery (I haven’t shot an arrow since high school and was soooo tempted to sign up!), and service groups that tutor local students in Madison and Hanover, and many more!

I always hope that we might find ourselves a student or two, and we may yet.  Because … we have the opportunity to “host” evening prayers at Brown Chapel coming up (October 8 @ 5:45) – so let the cookie brigade get to work!  All are welcome to attend this event!

I’ve also been in touch with some of the groups I am part of outside of church about the possibility of offering occasions for silent meditation or contemplative prayer – either here in the church or at another quiet location.  Let me know if you’re interested in that, please.

I will be participating in a prayer service on October 10 for National Coming Out Day – it’s geared for members of the LGBT community and will be held at Hanover Presbyterian church.

Thanks and Blessings to all who make Christ Church the BEST church I know!

~ Evelyn

 




September 7, 2017, 9:00 AM

When Things Are Awful

From the Rector

Do you ever feel like the world is going to [ahem] “in a handbasket” as my grandmother used to say?

’Cause it feels like that now.  So I want to remind you that this is not the first time people have felt like this!

Now for some, the obvious parallel is the 1850s – when the country is divided along political theory lines, and folks are struggling to make a living and  no one seems to care if they do or not.  There are families in south Alabama that are living with hookworm because the county requires them to install their own septic systems, but they can’t afford them. That would be like the 1850s right there. 

Or we could talk about feudalism – where the serfs are dependent on the nobility – and compare that to some of the labor arrangements in place here today.  In some states, it is actually allowed by law for a company to outright prohibit people from taking better jobs in competing companies, so once you’re in a job, you have to stay and stay and stay…

We could talk about the Roman Empire, when the networks of family connections were the only things that provided support for individuals, so if you had a falling out with your pater familias, you might starve to death.  And today, we hear about families kicking out their kids who come out as LGBT, and the children wind up homeless on the streets, and even take their own lives because of the rejection.

So, yes, we can find parallels in history to the way things are now – and we can choose (yes, we can choose) to see those parallels as signs of our human depravity or as signs of the continuing need to pay attention to what is important:  connection, community, care, and … what was the other thing?  Oh yes, GOD.

Because these systems, these patterns, these divisions are all man-made.  God’s systems and patterns and connections (not divisions) are all the other way

I read somewhere that there are something like 95 or 97 or 98 or so passages in the Bible that tell the people of the covenant (Israel) to welcome foreigners and aliens.  These instructions are often accompanied by the reminder that the Israelites were once aliens in a foreign land, which did not treat them well, so they ought to remember what that felt like and strive to do better.

God through the scriptures is always calling God’s people – us – to a higher standard, a standard of caring for one another, of praying for enemies, of doing good, and not counting the cost.

The question is, how do we do that in the face of so much tribulation?  Does it help to know that tribulation seems to be the usual state of humanity?  Whether personal to “me” or universal to “us,” I think it may – because we’ve survived this far; we’ve fought these battles before; we’ve climbed out of the muck and the mire – and the fire – more times than we can count … and all because of the grace of God.   Willie James Jennings, an African-American theologian, recently wrote, “The prophetic word always comes at the times when hope is drained, because God will not allow hope to die in this world.”

I don’t lay claim to being a prophet, but I will say this:  God desires us more than we know, and will never stop and once we accept that, and really accept that, and finally accept that, we can do what we need to do and live without fear!  Those who are unafraid can stand up with and for those in need; those who are unafraid can stand up and with those in trouble; those who are unafraid can speak hope to a despairing heart, not because they are untouched, but because they are in touch with the source of all things.


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