The Rector's Blog
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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  In fact, that was my original plan; the offer, originally made a few months ago, had been renewed just this past Monday the 15th, and my hope was to run it by Vestry on Tuesday and then by the congregation, beginning on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.


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?



March 28, 2019, 11:41 AM

Away for Easter?

I know many of you will not be in church during Holy Week and/or Easter.  Some will be traveling, others will be spending time with unchurched family members; others maybe will have to work, or are busy, or are tired, or are ill, or even may just be discouraged, or wonder why, if we are saved by grace, this particular commemoration even matters to them.

If you will be traveling, I want to invite you to attend Holy Week and/or Easter services where you are.   Even if it's not an Episcopal Church!  Even if (or especially if) the language is not English!  Steep yourself in the experience of difference.  Pray.  Listen to the music and the silences.  Do a visual survey of who is present.  Watch how the presiders conduct the worship.  Notice what strikes you as new and wondrous or grating.  Write down your reflections; what feelings did the experience evoke?  What did you particularly like?  How did that speak to you?  What was difficult?  Was there an "aha" moment or a moment that made you uncomfortable - how so?

Families - if they don't go to church, ask why.  What pushed them out the door?  What brings you back?  Do you ask about their faith journeys? Do you tell them about yours?

Have we so normalized the Good News in our lives that it no longer excites us?   Or are we "done with church"?  How do we know the difference?  If our Sunday attendance is less regular, is it because we don't feel the need for worshiping together in community?  Is it because worship is boring?  Is it because we get our spiritual sustenance elsewhere, and if so, where and what does that look like?

The questions are important, but the answers - those are the things that will tell us something useful.  The answers tell us we are not immune to the larger cultural context in which we find ourselves.  Until we talk about the answers in community, we will not be able to figure out our common way forward.  If we're going to continue to be church, we'll need to figure out what Christ Church is when worshiping the way we always have, inside our lovely, beloved, historic building, isn't working.

Here's an example:  an adaptation that I must make:  We had only one person sign up to help at the Great Vigil of Easter!  So, after discussing this with Bp Jennifer and Starla, we will hold the service in the Great Hall.  Historical attendance is fairly low; and with suitable decoration, the Great Hall will be a more intimate space for this.  How will we do it?  You'd best come and see!  But there is a whisper about champagne….

Much love and many blessings to you all!

February 28, 2019, 12:00 AM

Busy Busy!

First, I want to thank the members of the Liturgy Committee:  Aaron Lynch, Karen Scroggin, Peggy Hans, and Starla Raley, for their ideas and assistance in planning for our worship services in Lent and Holy Week.   We’ll be issuing a brochure soon with service times.  Please note it's not too late to sign up to assist with the extra services, including Ash Wednesday (March 6).  We need readers for the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday with the Bishop (April 14, 9 AM).   (Else you may find yourself handed a script when you come to church that morning, whether you signed up or not!)

Then, I would like to thank Starla and the members of the Christ Church Choir, who are working on some outstanding music for Sundays and Wednesdays Evensong in Lent:  Allen Watson, Ann Farnsley, Bert Fitzgerald Camille Fife, Dave Sloan,  Deb Wickham, Lisa Rosenberger, Mike Raley, Tabitha Tolbert, Tammy Moore, and Richard Dickie (and of course, Starla). 

We will have new and familiar mass settings: a Kyrie written by Terry Fullam, which is an oldie-but-goodie that some of you may remember from years past, and a Sanctus to the tune of Land of Rest, and if you know the hymns "I come with joy to meet my Lord," or "Jerusalem my happy home," that's the tune.  We also have new settings for the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Evensong, where our musical choices are intended to be meditative and contemplative (and slightly medieval in tone).

Next, my thanks to Allen Watson, Aaron Lynch, and Sarah Vosmeier for leading the class on Race in America., and for all the many people who came - we had amazing turnout for this class!  Don't forget to come this Sunday to hear from the Hanover Students about their trip and their learning. And thank you to everyone who provided an abundance of snack and healthy food for their travels!

If you are interesting in further discussion or learning about the topic of Race in America, there are several options available.  First, Bishop Jennifer is offering a book study ("One Book One Diocese") during Lent, with a web-based discussion of Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas.  For details, see page 7 of the E-Pistle for February 28-March 27.

A second option is a web-based series called Sacred Ground, featuring films, videos, and readings: it's particularly well-suited to small group settings (but is a greater time commitment that our usual Sunday between the services framework).  Find out more here.   Sign up here.  This program is free; just send in your email address and download the material!

Switching gears, we are offering a class on the Historical Jesus for the first five weeks of Lent, around five questions:  who was Jesus (what had been written in and outside of the gospels); where was Jesus (what was it like in Palestine in those years?); when was Jesus (his life before the destruction of the Temple and how the gospels reflected that setting); and why was Jesus seen as the Messiah and how does that reflect the church's interpretation in the present day.  Many thanks to Aaron Lynch for pulling this together!

And, finally, we will be distributing copies of Living Well Through Lent: Practicing Forgiveness with all your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind¸ from Living Compass.  In prior years we have used books from this series for Sunday Christian Ed.  If you are interested in a group discussion, using this book we will need to find another time that works for folks.

Much love and many blessings to you all!

Faithfully,  Evelyn+

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