The Rector's Blog
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November 8, 2019, 9:00 AM

Rector's Pledge Letter



 

“You are the light of the world!
You are the light of the world!
But if that light is under a bushel,
It's lost something kind of crucial
You've got to stay bright to be the light of the world.”
                                                — Godspell

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

 These words, adapted from Matthew 5:14, remind us in a fun way that, although our light may be shining, “something kind of crucial” is lost if we don’t bring the light we have out into the world, for all to see, for the glory of our generous God and the building of the kingdom.

 This past year, I have seen that light demonstrated joyfully in our own parish: in our worship, learning programs, care for our facilities, and in our service to the wider community.

 You know the stories as well as I: new ministries, such as the Ladies Lunch Bunch Fun-Raisers and the Prayer Quilts, have taken root, while others, such as the St Cecilia Festival and the Annual Blessing of the Animals, have continued to grow to involve more members of our larger community, such that we not only offer grace and hospitality, we also receive it. The active roles you take on in the liturgy, the caring you bring to one another, the prayers we offer, and the blessings we share are all signs of the love of God let loose in our lives!

 I am, quite simply, overjoyed at the generosity of the people of Christ Church, because when we

bring our light out into the world, we express our gratitude, confidence, and willingness to take risks as agents of Jesus remaking the world. In making our light visible, we keep our salt flavorful, as Jesus puts it in these words from
The Message:

 “Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.”

 Indeed, our work, our prayers and our giving are all about making God’s flavors, colors, and love visible and available to all in our lives. And they are about our willingness to accept the challenge to stretch and grow, into our individual purpose, and into the mission of our church.

 I ask all of you to reflect on the gifts you have received, and to consider how God is calling you to risk “flavoring” the world with your time, talents and treasure. I pray that we will join together to give abundantly to bring light into our lives and the world around us. 

Faithfully,

      Evelyn+

 




October 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

The Holy Spirit and Sacred Renewal


Like St. Paul, I find myself beginning more and more of my writing with thanks for the work that God is doing in our midst, and for the faithful witness that you are providing in our church, in our neighborhoods and in the world. You bring many gifts, and more importantly, you bring your hearts to this journey we walk together.

I am thrilled to see new people coming, as well. Let’s not keep it a secret, what brings us here: it is the friendship and welcome, as much as it is the liturgy, that encourages and enheartens all of us. It is the love of God that we share with one another, through Word and in Sacrament, in coffee and song, in caring and sharing and holding in prayer. It is in our patience and tolerance and trust with and in each other as we work through the challenges life throws our way.

Thank you for all this. Thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to work here at Christ Church!

As we wind up our sermon series on the Baptismal Vows, we can see how closely linked they are to the Gospel. But did you know that most of the prayers, including the Eucharistic Prayers, are sourced in the Bible? If there is one good reason to amend the Book of Common Prayer, it will be to start listing the Scriptural references that lie hidden now. But there is another place we can look to see God’s Word and Work: in the World. Jesus himself points the way:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Mt 6:25-26)

And he’s not the only one: See Psalm 104, Job 12:7-10, and Wisdom 11:24-12:1, just for starters. 

Many find spiritual renewal more easily in nature than in church. Spending time outdoors is good for the body and good for the soul. After all, we, too, are of the earth, which God created for the joy and “good” of it.

 




August 29, 2019, 2:33 PM

Computers and other Glitches


Thank you, I had a brilliant vacation!  HOWEVER, once I got back I discovered that my google account has been hacked, and oh my, have I been struggling to update things and get squared away properly. It’s still an uphill battle. I know I didn’t log in from Moscow, Russia, so that’s a big clue right there!  Fortunately by Wednesday afternoon, all is cleared out, but now I have to put new passwords on all my accounts. 

While I was stressing about this, I attended the latest meeting of local clergy (The “Greater Madison Ministerial Association”) and asked their prayers (we all have prayer requests to pass along), and while we were in prayer, I felt that all would be well. I can’t explain it, but after that, my stress levels dropped, and I was able to just get on with the work that needed doing.

Prayer is a funny thing: we never really know what’s likely to happen in those moments when we offer something up to God, or in the time that follows. Sometimes we get what feels like an answer; other times, nothing seems to come through at all. Is it silence, or are we deaf? Is it God, or is it wishful thinking?

The best clue I can offer is this: if it brings peace, if it brings joy or release or love, then it’s likely from God, but if not, then not.  But we all know that Jesus wasn’t all sweetness and light, and the prophets make it pretty clear that God has frequently sent hard words to the people, so sometimes the Word of God is unwelcome and uncomfortable. That said, I think it’s safe to say that God will never tell us we are unlovable or unloved. God’s love never ceases; beyond that, we must remain open to hear all the words, and weigh them in our hearts, in our prayers and in our actions.

 




August 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

Keeping Sabbath


I’ve been reading a book by a friend of mine that I found at Village Lights.  It’s called Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, by Lauren Winner.  Lauren converted from Judaism, and remembers many of the rituals of Jewish life as formative of her life as a Christian as well. 

In the book of Exodus, God tells the people to remember the Sabbath, but in Deuteronomy, God says to observe the Sabbath.  Lauren writes that “one story the rabbis tell about the difference … has to do with ordering time.”  So on Sunday-Tuesday, one remembers the previous Sabbath, and on Wednesday-Friday one prepares for the next.  She says that we know from Paul, that observing Jewish customs and rituals is not required for salvation, but setting aside some particular time as holy/sacred when no work is to be done can still be a powerful spiritual discipline, because, as the rabbi Moishe Konigsberg says, “when we cease interfering in the world we are acknowledging that it is God’s world.”  (emphasis added)

For Christians, of course Sabbath is not just about rest, but also about Resurrection.  It is about renewal as well as refreshment.  It is about starting over, and not just taking a breather. It is about dying, and then rising to new life.  And it is, just as with Judaism, a time to acknowledge that it is God’s world, and our lives are God’s, and our choices are important, and our decisions matter, and our attention should be drawn to things eternal, to things outside ourselves, to God’s desires, to the needs of others, and to all the things that are not just about us/ourselves.

Sometimes it is a good thing to simply stop doing, and to focus on being

 




July 22, 2019, 12:00 AM

Letter to the Parish - July 21 2019


Letter to the Parish                                                                                 July 21, 2019
 

Having announced that we had been the recipients of the donation of a piano, and that Vestry had approved the donation, I have had some feedback (both affirming and critical) from members of the congregation. Aside from the question of whether a piano is something we want, there was a strong sense that this question should have been discussed with the parish before the donation was accepted.  In fact, that was my original plan; the offer, originally made a few months ago, had been renewed just this past Monday the 15th, and my hope was to run it by Vestry on Tuesday and then by the congregation, beginning on Sunday, and only then let the donor know if we were prepared to accept their offer.

So why didn’t that happen?  We received word on Tuesday the 16th that the piano needed to be taken out of the place where it was before Friday, or it would no longer be available (it was in a house under foreclosure proceedings). Therefore, I asked Vestry whether they thought we should accept the offer, and those present at the meeting on Tuesday agreed.  We were able on very short notice to put together a work crew to help move the instrument on Thursday morning. 

Because the discussion could not take place before the offer was accepted (since we would lose the opportunity if we delayed), that is why a wider discussion with the parish will take place now.  I apologize that this is how things worked out. 

Let me stress:  No further steps will be taken until we have discussed the situation, and our options as fully as people wish/need to, and until we come to a sense of the right way forward, as a community, as the Body of Christ. Here are some thoughts I believe we should bear in mind.  There may be others that you can suggest (in which case please do!)

First, if the congregation vetoes the idea, the piano finds a new home.  If the decision is ratified, we will make every effort to limit the disturbance to the space.  We are not seeking the one perfect answer.  We are seeking an answer that we can live with.

Second, we are a community, a family, and all of us are equal in God’s eyes and heart. Our feelings are valid, no matter what feelings they are. Therefore, all voices should be heard, understood, taken in, and considered in a generous spirit. All who are here are entitled to be heard, no matter how long they have been or will be here, no matter how much they do or do not give financially or in any other way. All who worship in this space are called here by the Spirit for a reason. We need to respect that.

Third, this is a sacred space, a holy place where prayers have been said and/or felt for 169 years.  That we are still here is testament to our ability to weather challenges together. We know that worship has changed here in the past.  We know we have weathered those changes, some more easily than others, but none without some controversy and the exercise of patience and even forbearance. We have seen changes that drove some from the church, and other changes that have called people into the church.  Or, on occasion, both.

For some of, this sacred space represents one of the few places of stability in a world that can seem to be careening out of control.  Our hearts cry, “Is nothing sacred?”  For these, the unchanging nature of this place speaks of serenity, balance, order, beauty, and, ultimately, the eternity of God.  The altar is the focus of our worship; and all our sight lines lead there. To place a piano, even one as beautiful as the one we have received, in that mix will upset that pattern, and has the potential to distract us from our true focus.

For others of us, this sacred space is indeed beautiful, but also constraining; its form functions to constrain the possible, to limit how the Spirit of God may act in our community. For these, the lack of change may portend the impossibility of survival. We see music as one of our most important attributes as a worshipping and mission community: we have amazing talents and a great deal of enthusiasm. Adding a piano to the mix can impact our worship and our outreach in positive ways.

Fourth, there is an expression about the Anglican/ Episcopal approach to worship:  “Prayer shapes believing.”  How we pray and what we pray affects our understanding of our faith and of our God.  The corollary, that “Belief shapes prayer,” is equally true:  we pray from our understanding of faith and of God, within that conceptual universe of our worship.  So we can understand that the installation of a piano, should we decide to do that, would definitely have an effect on some things in our worship, in our hearts, in our sense of place, and even our identity.

We may find, as discussion proceeds, that we do not all share the same sense of identity, of who we are and why we are her. This is a good thing, because by this we know we can live, work, and pray together with those who are different from us, who have different perspectives, hopes, and fears. We have come to this knowledge and this existence by living Jesus’ commandment, to love God and to love neighbor, to the best of our ability. It means we are already able to forgive, to work with, and to respect the dignity of one another, because we have done so again and again and again. We see each other as beloved of God.

Finally, if we can model, in this discussion, the way of love and reconciliation, of forbearance and peace, then we will know we can do this in all the other places where differences distance, and hostility threatens. 

We will be living the Gospel.  That’s all I can ask.

In the name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

                                                          Evelyn+


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