The Rector's Blog
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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+




June 27, 2019, 12:00 AM

Peace and Justice - Montgomery AL


Thank you, it was a good vacation.  Not always easy; in fact there were some pretty hair-raising moments, but all in all, the challenges were probably good for me.  I won’t say that backing my car into a post in a pouring rainstorm felt great, but fortunately, I was going very slowly and there is no damage done to me or the car—or the post!

If you were in church or have looked at our Facebook page, you know that I went to the Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery, AL.  You can read or hear about it in my June 30 sermon on our website.   This memorial remembers over 4,400 people who were lynched in our country from the 1870s up till 1950.  And although I know that the KKK was founded in Indiana, I was shocked to learn that 18 persons were lynched in our state between 1878 and 1930.  I can’t imagine the level of hate that allowed such crimes to be committed; and I still wonder at the level of invective that people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, and so many others are still subjected to.  It isn’t right, people.  It isn’t right.

I also spoke about local efforts to address harassment and hostility in our community.  There are many people dedicated to improving the situation, to help with reconciliation and healing, and to offer learning and training to open our eyes and our hearts to those among us who are not like us.  There is a lot of angry discourse in the public arena; the best answer to that is discourse that stresses the benefits of love for our neighbors, and to stand up for those who are marginalized. 

 




May 30, 2019, 2:18 PM

The World's Deep Hunger


Sometimes I feel as if I live in some kind of bubble.  I am rapidly feeling silenced by more and more outrageous events to which I can only respond with a gaping mouth and a breaking heart.  Gay couples should not have their cars set on fire, or be shot at, by their neighbors.  Refugees and asylum seekers should not be dying in the desert or in custody.  Our country should not be subjected to election interference by Russia or any other nation.  Children should not be shamed at school because their parents did not pay the lunch fees.  Oklahoma should not be drowning, and the Arctic should not be melting.  But all these things are happening, and there is no obvious end in sight. 

I preach about loving God and loving our neighbor because I firmly believe that this is the best way to follow Jesus.  But I also am afraid that  the damage we see around us will not be resolved any time soon, and to resolve it will take much more effort and much more hardship than most of us have any idea is needed, or desire to undertake.  What  then shall we do? 

Let us remember that God is with us, present among us, making Godself known to us in ways that we don’t expect and can’t predict.  How has Jesus, in the forty days since his Resurrection, presented himself alive to us, to you?  God is ready to show us our next steps; can we wait for God to do that?  We live in a world in such deep need, even in our own need—what has God given us that we can offer in this hour?

Frederick Buechner has defined each person’s calling as  “the place where [one’s] deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. ”

What is your deep gladness?  What world’s hunger does it meet?

 

 


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