The Rector's Blog
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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.




August 10, 2017, 12:00 AM

Vacations...


I love vacations – and this one was particularly restful because resting is pretty much all I did.  Some days I didn’t even get out of bed, except to eat or feed the cats!  It felt like I was trying to make up for six months of doing too much, trying to do too much, worrying about too much, and never feeling relaxed.

So it was a great vacation!

It also brought home to me the need for me – and perhaps many of you – to take care of ourselves!

I struggle with that, I really do.  I feel responsible to you and accountable to God for how well I do my job – but I’m not sure that my definition of “doing my job well” is actually the same as God’s definition.  Because somehow I think that if I did it by God’s definition, I wouldn’t be skating around the edges of physical, emotional, and spiritual burn-out. 

It’s not that God doesn’t have high expectations!  God says “love God, love neighbor,” it’s true.  But God also says “love your neighbor as yourself.”  So if I drive myself so hard, do I actually do that from love?  And if I drove you that hard, would you feel that I actually love you?  Somehow I don’t think so.

That means that I need to spend a little time hearing from you, what is most important for you that I could do for you, as a congregation.  And then to drop the things that don’t feed your spirits – or mine.  And it might mean that there are things you can help with that I don’t really need to be doing.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on that!

Meanwhile, I’m really looking forward to our conversation on August 20.  Don’t forget there is a combined service at 9 AM, rather than two separate services at 8:00 and 10:00, followed by a pitch-in brunch.  I know that this may upset your usual pattern, and I apologize for that, but I hope you will make a special effort for the event, just as you do for the annual meeting. 

This conversation will provide much needed feedback to the Vestry and to me about your hopes and dreams for Christ Church, and where you think God may be calling us to deepen and grow in both a spiritual and a mission sense.

Son of God, in the light of our faith, we offer our prayer: May we closely follow your lead. For all the places in this world that yearn for new life, grant the light of your saving grace.  For all the joys and concerns of our hearts, hear us, teach us, and restore us, and may your light shine in our hearts and in all the world.  Amen.

(Adapted from Daily Prayer for All Seasons)


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