RECTOR’S MUSINGS

This Week

November 15

(cont. from E-News)

delivered the St Martin’s Day sermon which was well received. I hope to post Howard’s words as soon as he gets them to me. What some marveled at was the sense of synchronicity between rector and rabbi’s messages, delivered morning and evening last Sunday. I was warning about a return to the instabilities of 1914 in international relations. Taking the prophet Isaiah’s dream of universal inclusion as his starting point, Howard, echoing Edmund Burke’s complaint that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, warned about our society’s gradual and almost imperceptible desensitization in the face of a rising barrage of racist and fascist rhetoric – which only a short time ago would not have been tolerated in the public space.  I am deeply appreciative of the warm and mutually supportive relationship that Howard and I enjoy; a current expression of the long affection between Temple Beth-El and St Martin’s.

New energy at the Women’s Spirituality Group meetings is nothing new, yet, with a spectacular evening of water, fire and Celtic lore at Pet Gray’s last Monday evening, the St Martin’s Men’s Community seem to have caught the same energy.
Don’t forget to bring your completed estimate of giving (pledge) cards to church, this In-gathering Sunday.
Mark+

(full epistle)

This Sunday is In-gathering bringing to a close the 2019 Annual Renewal Campaign. More on this to follow in a special email to land in your inbox tomorrow.

I don’t know how many of you have paid a visit to the Thrifty Goose lately, but if so, you will have probably been greatly surprised. The Thrifty Goose has morphed from a traditional church charity shop into a swank repurposed clothing and accessories shop. This amazing transformation is attributable to the committed team of volunteers who have worked so hard to embrace new changes. This last week, in the online publication, Providence Daily Dose, Beth Comery wrote glowingly about the new face of the Thrifty Goose. Beth says:

I had no idea. The Thrifty Goose at St. Martin’s Church is a cut above your ordinary church thrift, and it’s huge. This is primo vintage, and lightly used, clothing and housewares. The site is fresh and clean and even has two changing rooms . . . with mirrors!

Other changes signal the new energy in the parish, much in evidence this last Sunday. Attendance at the morning Remembrance Day observances was very gratifying and although I feared this might have resulted in a smaller attendance to celebrate St Martin in the afternoon, this was in fact not the case. 133 attended Choral Evensong and we had around 122 stayed for the parish feast that followed. The feedback on both the Evensong and the feast has been enthusiastic. It is a joy to be able to congratulate the choir for their wonderful singing and to congratulate the feat’s organizers and volunteers who ensured this was a tremendously joyful occasion; the first parish celebration in our beautiful refurbished Great Hall. Thank you all!!

Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman delivered the St Martin’s Day sermon which was well received. I hope to post Howard’s words as soon as he gets them to me. What some marveled at was the sense of synchronicity between rector and rabbi’s messages, delivered morning and evening last Sunday. I was warning about a return to the instabilities of 1914 in international relations. Taking the prophet Isaiah’s dream of universal inclusion as his starting point, Howard, echoing Edmund Burke’s complaint that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, warned about our society’s gradual and almost imperceptible desensitization in the face of a rising barrage of racist and fascist rhetoric – which only a short time ago would not have been tolerated in the public space.  I am deeply appreciative of the warm and mutually supportive relationship that Howard and I enjoy; a current expression of the long affection between Temple Beth-El and St Martin’s.

New energy at the Women’s Spirituality Group meetings is nothing new, yet, with a spectacular evening of water, fire and Celtic lore at Pet Gray’s last Monday evening, the St Martin’s Men’s Community seem to have caught the same energy.

Don’t forget to bring your completed estimate of giving (pledge) cards to church, this In-gathering Sunday.
Mark+

 

November 8th

This Sunday

This Sunday falling on November 11th means a busy day at St Martin’s. November 11th is Veterans Day when a grateful nation honors past and present members of the armed services.

At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice brought the First World War, the bloodiest global conflict in human history, finally to an end. November 11th, 1919, saw the first commemoration of Armistice Day. Throughout the interwar years, the annual commemoration of the Armistice carried with it the hope that WWI had indeed, been the war to end all wars.

Following WWII, Armistice Day with its particular association to WWI was renamed Veterans Day in 1958. This shifted the emphasis away from a commemoration of the war dead to an honoring of the living both those retired and those still serving. Memorial Day, an older commemoration dating back to the Civil War, thus became the day Americans honor their war dead.

Today, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa commemorate November 11th as Remembrance Day with its enduring symbol of the red poppy. All across Flanders (Northern France and Southern Belgium) a vista of red poppies blossomed amidst the war ravaged landscape. The Canadian poet, John McCrae memorialized this in his poem In Flanders Fields. Listen here   to Leonard Cohen’s moving recitation. Visit these two links to view Remembrance Day poppy installations in Manchester,  and at the Tower of London.

November 11th, 2018 marks the centenary  of the 1918 Armistice.  At both 8 and 9:30 am services we will honor this anniversary with the theme and special readings for Remembrance. Lapel poppy stickers will be handed out, courtesy of the American Legion.

I mentioned it’s going to be a busy Sunday because November 11th is also the commemoration of Martin, Bishop of Tours, who died 397. At 4:30 pm we will honor our patron with Choral Evensong followed by the annual parish feast. I am delighted that Rabbi Howard Voss Altman, Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth-El, has agreed to be our guest preacher. Howard’s participation in our patronal festival continues as an expression of not simply the long friendship between St Martin’s and Temple Beth-El, but a continuance of the strong working relationship between Rabbi and Rector.

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Church this Sunday, to commemorate both Remembrance and our beloved St Martin.

Mark+

Last week

November 1st

Since I wrote last week, we have all been trying to come to terms with the murderous events at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. On Monday evening over a thousand of us gathered for a community vigil in front of Providence’s Jewish Community Center. If it ever needed to be demonstrated, this event communicated the deep solidarity we all feel with our Jewish friends and neighbors. To paraphrase President Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner,   in resisting antisemitism, we all must proclaim our solidarity with being Jewish. At Monday’s vigil Bishop Nicholas spoke from the heart, making us all proud to be Episcopalians. You can read his moving words through the link at the bottom of this E-News located below the photo of the vigil.

November 21st is the evening we traditionally hold the East Side Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. This year it is St Martin’s turn to host. After discussions around the need to revitalize this event, I want to notify everyone that we intend to proceed with an interfaith service of readings, prayers, and music built around 4 or 5 significant aspects of gratitude and thanksgiving. I will write more as the date approaches and plans materialize.

I write on the eve of All Saints- All Souls, more popularly known as Halloween. Having lived in Arizona where the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) dominates the popular imagination regardless of culture, it’s interesting to come to New England where the Celtic tradition of Halloween expresses remarkably similar themes.

Our human imaginings about our relationship with the dead plumb cultural themes that emerge from the deeper layers of the collective unconscious. Despite the surface appearance of difference, cultures deal with death with remarkable similarity. Death in most cultures is an event that is both feared and celebrated. In a time when cultural divisions are exacerbated by the politics of fear, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos bridge across cultural divides. This is something to be welcomed and cherished.

Traditionally, All Saints on November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd were commemorated as two distinct elements of a greater whole. On All Saints, which originates as a Christianizing of the Celtic Halloween festival, we celebrate with joy the ancient Biblical expectation that the souls of the faithful will rest in the hands of God. For Christians this is a joyful expectation of passing through the event of biological death into a more expansive experience of self,  made complete in the loving mind of God. Yet, the event of biological death, while from a theological perspective is one of joy and celebration, remains at a human level an experience of loss, grief, and sorrow, themes captured by the separate commemoration of All Souls.

St Martin’s follows the current practice in most Episcopal Churches of transferring All Saints- All Souls to the following Sunday. This has the advantage of linking the celebration with a greater number of people’s Sunday observance, but it loses the more meditative reflection on the transitory nature of physical life captured by a separate commemoration of All Souls. Nevertheless, the necrology, the reading of the names of those whose deaths are recorded in our parish register during the previous 12 months will be observed in the Prayers of the People this Sunday.

An important day, so see you in Church, on Sunday.

Mark+

October 18th

In the Episcopal Church, we are asked to refer to the fall pledge drive – a phrase much used by NPR and PBS stations, as the Annual Renewal Campaign (ARC). I know, I know! I can hear some of you thinking that this is just another gimmicky phrase to obscure the fact that all the church is concerned with is money.

I remember growing up among cynics who often complained that all the church was concerned about was money. Often this was a backhanded way of expressing the naive assumption that the church shouldn’t need money – after all, God will provide. However, there was also an element of legitimate complaint that the church seemed unaccountable for how it spent our money.

Our annual budget is the way we make ourselves accountable to each other for the way St Martin’s spends our money. Yet, before a budget becomes possible, we need to know what our income is likely to be in the coming year. That’s why it is important you complete and return your estimate of giving (pledge card) on or before the 18 November, the day designated as Ingathering Sunday. The cards will be snail-mailed next week to accompany a letter, this year from Fla Lewis, the Chair of Finance, along with some additional material we hope will be helpful.

In 2017 your generosity exceeded expectations, which brings me to the renewal part of the Annual Renewal Campaign. Where does the impetus for generous living come from? In our spiritual tradition, generosity is an outward expression of gratitude. The review part of the ARC process invites us to take a spiritual inventory. We experience gratitude for good life, for loving family and friends, for good fortune and success, for the skills to negotiate challenges and opportunities in a difficult world. We connect with the source of our deepest gratitude when we realize that all we possess is actually a gift – given to us not simply to enjoy for our exclusive benefit but in order to also contribute towards the welfare of our neighbors. No one is an island, to paraphrase John Donne, and no one is self-made in the sense that our success is completely down to us without any help from social connection and infrastructure. The fact is that our individual prospering is interconnected with our neighbors flourishing.

Americans use the expression give back, which I find delightful. I remember a neighbor who in response to my telling him what I did exclaimed: “Wow, you really give back”. Whether this is actually true or not I would like it to be, because for me, giving back is what brings me alive.

St Benedict had a lovely phrase about good stewardship. He called it – the exercise of tender competence. My hope is that the renewal piece of our Annual Renewal Campaign will invite you to give thanks and give back in gratitude for the many aspects of tender competence that are just part of your everyday life.

See you in church, this Sunday!

Mark+