November 14

This past Sunday was a great day in the life of our St. Martin’s family. I confess that, having encouraged everyone to come to the Evensong and Feast, we had expected low attendance at morning services. But what a delightful surprise to have many folks come both morning and evening, to worship and celebrate. 

And what a celebration it was; exquisite music, delicious food, generous hospitality and joyful fellowship—one could not help but go into the night having been well and truly fed in every way. Thanks so much to everyone, ably shepherded by Mary Jane Pagan and Linda Pope, who worked so hard to plan and execute such an intricate and time-intensive event, to all who decorated, cooked, served, set up, cleaned up, collected coats, ushered, rehearsed, sang, played, read, typed, proofread and folded—so many people behind the scenes and in front—none of it could have been accomplished without each one of you. Merci, merci beaucoup!

Sunday’s celebration was the culmination of a busy weekend for a number of us, since Diocesan Convention took place on Friday evening and Saturday at St. Luke’s East Greenwich. This is the annual gathering of the people of the Diocese, particularly clergy and lay delegates, in order to conduct the business of the church. That’s the official reason for Convention. But it is also an important time for fellowship and worship with our sisters and brothers in Christ from different congregations throughout the Diocese—many of them people we see only once a year. So it is a time to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and to make new connections as well. 

I was struck by a couple of things in particular this year. I discovered that Convention provided me with an opportunity for some really meaningful conversations besides the usual “How are things going at your church?” “Oh, fine, just the usual.” I observed people engaged in truly listening to one another, either one-on-one or in small groups, and was grateful that we had the time among the business of the day to be able to do that. Because where we are willing to be vulnerable to one another–where listening is present–healing can find an opening. 

This is something I often observe at St. Martin’s, especially on Sunday after services. I see tiny clusters of people speaking quietly in the pews, totally present to each other, islands of holy listening as the business of the morning continues around them. To be able to be present for one another is a real gift; in a way it is a continuation of worship: “Where two or three are gathered in my name…”

Worship was a theme that was woven through the weekend.  On Friday evening we had come together from all over the Diocese, all of us from a liturgical tradition that is centered on the Book of Common Prayer, yet expressed in worship styles, and even languages, that vary from congregation to congregation. At Friday evening’s Eucharist we worshiped in English and Spanish, with an American Sign Language interpreter. It was good to pray the familiar words of the liturgy, yet to be reminded of the breadth of the Episcopal household within an even more diverse Christian community.  

The Bishop’s annual address to the Convention emphasized the importance of worship for us in a troubled and divided world. Bishop Knisely reminded us, especially clergy, of something we tend to forget if we’re not careful– if we let ourselves get distracted from what we are really doing when we gather as the people of God to pray and celebrate Eucharist together. He showed us a slide with the warning, “Fasten seat belts” as he referred to a quote from Annie Dillard: It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.”

Friends, this is to say, lest we forget, that worship is powerful. To pray together, to come to the rail and kneel side by side with one another, young and old, red and blue, gay and straight, high church and low, each saying “amen” as the wafer is given to them, each holding the presence of Jesus in their open hands; that is powerful. It is the power of the Gospel to bring people together as the family of God. It is the beginning of listening to one another and of listening for God’s call to transformation and renewal.  

As the Bishop says, worship is what we’re good at. We just need to remember how powerful it can be, and let it work within us, between us, and in the world around us. 

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday, for more worship, listening, and fellowship.

Peace,

Linda+

November 7

This past Sunday, Bishop Nicholas and his wife Karen came to St Martin’s for their yearly Episcopal Visitation at which he confirmed Deb DePetrillo, and received John Lawlor (at long last), Mark DePetrillo, and Debbie Boedeker into full communion within the communion of the Episcopal Church. Welcome Deb, Mark, John, and Debbie!

We lived up to our legendary reputation for fine food and my thanks to the hospitality committee who produced a wonderful coffee hour with a host of delicious edibles. Keeping to the theme of bishops, the hospitality committee – which is one of our significant showcase ministries is doing double duty with back to back weekends. This coming weekend is the celebration of St Martin, bishop of Tours. Martin is our patron saint which means that when we are at our best, we exemplify some of the core values that Martin is remembered for.

According to the New World Encyclopedia, while Martin was still a soldier at Amiens, he experienced a vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. He was at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers when he met a scantily dressed beggar. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the unfortunate man. That night he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away and heard Jesus say to the angles “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me.” In some versions of the story, when Martin woke, his cloak was restored and was later preserved among the relics collected of the Merovingian kings of the Franks. Incidentally, the priest who cared for Martin’s cloak as it journeyed with royal court around France came to be known as the chapelain – custodian of the chapeau – French for cloak -from which we derive our word chaplain.

The dream confirmed Martin in his piety, and he was baptized at the age of 18. He served in the military for another two years until, just before a battle against the Gauls at Worms in 336, Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting. “I am a soldier of Christ,” he reportedly stated, “I cannot fight.” He was charged with cowardice and jailed, but in response to the charge, he volunteered to go unarmed to the front of the troops. His superiors planned to take him up on the offer, but before they could do so, the invaders sued for peace, and the battle never occurred. Martin then was released from military service to pursue a life as monk and hermit before reluctantly being elected bishop of Tours.

Martin was a man with a social conscience – who believed that violence was against Christ’s call. Martin was a man who devoted the rest of his life to the pursuit of holiness, at first for his own benefit but eventually in a wider service of community. Let us pray that following in his spirit we may not be found wanting in witnessing to Christ in our own day through lives of holy action.

As is our love of both beautiful worship and a good party, this Sunday we will celebrate Martin’s Day with Choral Evensong at 4:30pm, followed by the parish feast.

Remember, evensong at 4:30pm always means the possibility of a longer Sunday morning sleep-in. Who wants to let that opportunity pass the by?  Hope to see you then!

Mark+

October 31

A Thin Time
The arrival of November was understood by our Celtic forebears as a thin time when they experienced an increased permeability of the membrane separating the spiritual and temporal (time and space) dimensions. Consequently, this was the time of the year when they expected the souls of the dead to pass more easily through the membrane into this dimension; for them a fearful prospect hence the practice of face-painting and dressing in disguise to avoid being recognized by the dead. Halloween and All Saints-All Souls is the Christianization of this pagan Celtic festival.
All Saints is like flipping a coin. Heads the joyful celebration of All Saints November 1st.  Tails the commemoration of the departed or All Souls on November 2nd. All Saints is a joyful expectation of an expansive experience following biological death of resting in the love of God. However, for us, death is accompanied by the emotions of grief and sorrow. The Christian Tradition in its wisdom recognizes that within the larger joyful celebration of all the saints, room must also be made for the human experience of loss at a death.
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.
The reading of the year’s mind is a remembering of the names of those whose deaths are recorded in our parish funeral register during the previous 12 months and is normally observed on All Saints Day. This Sunday is Bishop Nicholas’ annual visitation and we will read the names of those who have died in the past year in the Prayers of the People at
8 am only. At 9:30 am Bishop Nicholas will confirm and receive four members of the parish into communion with him as members of the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Nicholas comes to St Martin’s but once a year. Therefore, can I encourage all of you who are regular communicants to be in church this Sunday? Many of us are less regularly in church on Sunday – an inevitable reflection of the more complex patterns of modern life. As your Rector, I know that even when you are not present in church you remain deeply committed to our common life together. However, it’s more difficult for Bishop Nicholas to gauge this subtlety. It’s not that I want us to make a good impression, although I do want this. More importantly, as one of the most vibrant and energetic parishes in his diocese, I would like us to be an encouragement to him as he experiences the fullness of our joyful energy and spiritual vitality in worship.
This year, All Saints Sunday is an even more important day to see you all in Church!
Mark+

October 24

On Scarcity & Abundance
It’s that time of year again to renew our yearly commitment to St Martin’s in the Annual Renewal Campaign (ARC), or Stewardship Renewal. Both annual renewal and stewardship invite faithfulness to God – expressed through gifts of time, talent, as well as treasure. Kick-Off Sunday is this Sunday, October 27th. The ARC will conclude on Ingathering Sunday, November 24th, in time for the l celebration of Thanksgiving. With everything else going on in our community, this year we want the campaign to be short and sharp.
Thanksgiving as a spiritual practice is a particularly important theme of stewardship renewal. The spiritual practice of thanksgiving focuses on gratitude for the many benefits that we enjoy – benefits we as Christians understand as given to us by God – not only for our personal enjoyment but as the resource for a generous engagement in the world.
  • Through generosity we make the world a better place.
  • Through a desire to give back we endeavor to embody the change we long to bring about in our daily living.
Next week you will receive an invitation from the parish treasurer who is currently Mary Gray. Mary will be asking you to renew your annual financial support for St Martin’s. In order to effectively budget for 2020, we depend on you returning your estimate of giving card – formerly known as a pledge card. Mary’s letter also lists some significant actions taken in the past year to become even more efficient and effective.
We know of your generosity in 2019 and we thank you! Will you confirm your sustained generous intention for 2020 so that we have as accurate a projection of likely income for the coming year?
As Rector, I am asking us to undertake a prayerful reflection as part of our participation in the ARC. Prayerful reflection is a term we all kind of understand – but are often not sure how to implement. Prayerful reflection needs to be anchored to a key question. May I suggest the key question to ask is:
What is your first memory of money – is it a positive or an anxious memory?
This is a searchlight question – illuminating the internal tussle between our life-long fears of scarcity, and our actual experience of abundance.
I find that unless I am careful and vigilant, my scarcity anxiety easily obscures my actual life-long experience of abundance. The result of this tension – if not kept at the front of my mind – unconsciously inhibits my desire to relate to the world from a place of gratitude and generosity.
***
On Sunday we had 169 people in church at 9:30. This was partly due to a large family baptism for Benjamin Isaac Edgar, but to have a fuller church felt wonderful. In addition to the visitors we also had three seekers for whom the joy and energy of last Sunday’s service was an attraction. I am aware that some members have yet to show up for Sunday worship this new program year. I look forward to seeing you in church, if not this Sunday, then a Sunday soon.
Mark+

October 17

We remembered Alfred Howes this past Sunday when some 75 people turned out for a beautiful and moving Evensong. Al, who died very suddenly from a fall in the summer, was a stalwart member of St Martin’s. He had left instructions that he wanted no funeral, but we had a need to honor him.
As sacristan, he ran the behind the scenes organization that enables our rich and complex liturgical life to run without a hitch. As an example, I was sitting waiting to begin a blessing of a marriage on one Saturday morning recently, when I noticed the left-hand candle on the High Altar flickering. I watched it wondering why it was behaving like this when it suddenly went out. It then dawned on me it went out because Al was not here to make sure the oil reservoirs in our candles were filled. This is but one small example of the many ways we are discovering what life now means without Al.
How is it we only ever know a small part of someone until a fuller picture of them emerges after their death? In the Eulogies we heard of the depth of Al’s literary sensitivity. A life-long friend read from the poignantly moving extracts of letters Al had written home during his time in the Merchant Marine – describing with exquisite eloquence his observation of the constellations at night, or of the black night-time ocean- seeming empty and yet pulsating with the divine presence mysteriously manifested in the vast emptiness. David Ely spoke of Al’s love of the Bard, as together they often rehearsed lines of greeting and departure taken from one or other of Shakespeare’s plays. To Al’s role as sacristan, David added that of under-sexton 2nd grade – climbing to 1st grade – a reference to the way Al always mucked in to help in the kitchen whenever needed.
Many remarked on the beauty of the sung Evensong led by our wonderful quartet of singers. Can I remind everyone that sung Evensong is a regular feature of our liturgical calendar on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 4:30 pm? Only Grace Church and St Martin’s offer this on a monthly basis. Remember, Evensong at 4:30 offers the possibility of a Sunday morning lie-in. So, give this some thought. If we can raise Evensong attendance, we can also increase frequency.
Sunday was a day of remembrances. Following the 9:30 Eucharist we interred Sharon Burnett’s ashes in the scatter garden. Almost all the congregation filled the scatter garden for the short committal service. I spoke about my sense of Sharon’s presence among us as an experience of being visited unawares, by an angel. I don’t mean that she was in any sense like the popular stereotype of an angel. There was nothing sweet and fluffy about her. A fiercely independent woman who guarded her privacy to the extent that none of us ever really knew if she was, as she often appeared to be without a permanent home. But she came Sunday by Sunday, sat at the back, and sang with such gusto, and then took part in our community life while at the same time keeping herself to herself. She died suddenly this past winter in a nursing facility in East Providence. Among her meager effects, the staff came across my business card and a short instruction. Like Al Howes, she did not want a funeral but only to have her ashes interred in our scatter garden; a place where in life, Sharon had often found tranquility and refuge.
________________
We are now holding a series of cottage gatherings inviting your ideas and hopes for our parish’s future direction. If you have not signed up, there is still time. For more information on the purpose of the cottage gatherings and the discernment phase, revisit last week’s
E-news. In this E-news you will also find a list of gatherings. If you have not signed up, please do so at church, call 751-2141, or email the office.
Don’t forget to look out for each other in church, this Sunday.
Mark+

October 10

On Tuesday evening we had a great turn out of hosts, facilitators, and scribes to the cottage gathering training with Maurice Seaton, our Capital Campaign consultant. Maurice laid out the process for the facilitated cottage gatherings as the central focus for our discernment phase, the first of two preparation phases in anticipation of a Capital Campaign in 2020. It was wonderful to feel the energy levels in the room rise as people discovered that they had all the skills needed to make the cottage gatherings a great success.

October 22nd is the launch date for these gatherings. Some will be small hospitality events in people’s homes, providing an opportunity for couples who choose to, to attend a gathering together. We will also make use of the scheduled affinity group meetings: Women’s Spirituality Group, Gander, or the newly formed 20-30’s Group for a facilitated discussion process. There will also be a brunch at church during the Sunday forum slot where we will offer extended childcare for those of you with young children so you can be freed up to attend.

These facilitated cottage gatherings will encourage us to share our experience of St Martin’s around four key questions:

  1. Why did you come to St Martin’s?
  2. What do we do well and what could we, or would you like to, do more of?
  3. What building and development improvements would you like to see emerging from a capital campaign?
  4. What is your vision for our future?

A scribe will record the general themes of the group discussion while ensuring that personal anonymity is protected.

After five years as your rector, I do not doubt that laying good foundations for a successful Capital Campaign in 2020 is well within our grasp. The need to move forward with this is exactly the kind of divine nudge-invitation we need to focus our attention, stimulate our enthusiasm, and spur us to move to the next stage of our spiritual journey together.

In Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen wrote: “To set our hearts on the kingdom therefore means to make the life of the Spirit within and among us the center of all we think, say, or do”.

Our love of God is the source for all our loves in life. Experiencing God-in-community provides both an anchor as well as a direction finder– choose your metaphor – to help us in the difficult task of prioritizing the competing demands that afflict us in our over scheduled lives. The spiritual focal point of God-in-community is an aspect of what Nouwen means by the kingdom. God-in-community is an active experience of searching for the indefinable something more for our lives. That indefinable something more is not only an expression of our unrequited longing in life – but is actually the experience of God’s targeted longing for us – flowing into our often overly cautious and too anxious lives.

Welcome everyone, to the discernment process. Check out the facilitated gathering details listed in this E-News and please sign up.

Don’t forget to look out for one another in church, this Sunday.

Mark+

October 3, 2019

Every-member Ministry

It’s time. By which I refer to what everyone knows is coming. We are about to begin the first phases of preparation for a capital campaign in 2020. The emphasis at this point is on the word preparation. A successful capital campaign rests on two foundational pillars: a successful discernment phase and an accurate feasibility study. Both will heavily depend on the total involvement and enthusiasm of our every-member ministry community.

Discernment Phase – Facilitated Cottage Meetings – October- November 2019

Beginning on Sunday, October 13 th, we will post the range of facilitated cottage meeting venues for you to sign up to attend. We will restrict the size per meeting to a maximum of 6-8 invited guests in addition to the host(s), a facilitator and a scribe. Each meeting will involve either a brunch, cocktails, or dinner. Additional cottage meetings will also take place on site at St Martin’s. This will be a labor-intensive process within a concentrated period of time, so we need to make the effort count. Facilitated cottage meetings are where we will begin to identify and communicate needs, hopes, and aspirations for our community in answer to a key question: What is God calling our community to accomplish at this time?

We will need to hear everyone’s voice in order to shape an exciting vision for the future.

The information gathered from the cottage meetings will be compiled into a mission brochure outlining our agreed community development objectives and potential fundraising targets. This brochure will inform and inspire creative conversations in the next preparation phase of the feasibility study.

Feasibility Study – January – March 2020

The feasibility study involves two things. Firstly, a parish wide survey building on the work of the discernment phase. Secondly, Maurice Seaton, our campaign consultant from the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) together with a small team from the parish will initiate one-on-one conversations with other potential supporters; the purpose of which will be to provide valuable information on the restoration project, and to invite individual commitment for a capital campaign. The ECF will analyze the feedback from the feasibility study to give us a realistic estimate of the monetary target we should be able to meet.

Preparation Timeline

The discernment phase from October to November, will also run alongside our 2019-2020 annual renewal campaign (stewardship drive). Studies show that the discernment phase has an invigorating effect on stewardship as we become more engaged with the central question concerning what is God calling our community to accomplish at this time? The feasibility study will then be conducted between January and March 2020.

Spiritual Meaning

Having set out for you the process we intend to follow in order to lay firm foundations for a successful capital campaign in 2020, let me say that no rector wants to have to contend with a capital campaign on their watch! But let me also tell you of how I have, together with the parish’s leadership team already experienced a transformation from anxious dread to firm conviction, galvanized by the unexpected spiritual effects of completing the urgent restoration work.

You see, a capital campaign is really only a catalyst for the spiritual growth of a community such as ours. It’s the nudge or push we need to propel us into the next stage of our journey of becoming increasingly more fit for God’s purpose. In this process we are being called to cross borders together while learning to listen more deeply for God’s call in order to live more spiritually authentic lives, i.e. live like Jesus.

September 25, 2019

SPECIAL EDITION

Can You Believe It?

It’s been all hands to the pumps at St Martin’s since the start of the new program year. So, it is even more impressive that with everything else going on we were able to organize and hold the first of this program year’s Estate Sales. The sale was held over this last weekend. The increased foot traffic to the Great Hall was also good for business in the Thrifty Goose. Between the sale and the shop, we made $10,000 – an astounding achievement!

It’s vital for everyone to realize that an event like this requires careful planning and a lot of physical hard work. Literally hundreds of items must be washed and/or polished – we go through a gallon of Old English – then skillfully price and attractively arrange to entice the purchasers. I am sure those of us not involved in a hands-on manner cannot fully appreciate how much time and effort is required to organize and run a successful Estate Sale. I want to extend our congratulations and express our gratitude to Brigit and her trusty team of volunteers and helpers for their skill, time, and commitment to ensuring this sale was the success it became. Thank you to everyone who donated items – we could not have had such a fine result without your generosity.

Burnout in church life is always a danger. One of the key antidotes to burnout is feeling that what you give in terms of time and talent is recognized and appreciated by others. It’s so easy for the rest of us to keep our heartfelt gratitude to ourselves, so if you recognize faces in the picture above, do take a little time to communicate your appreciation for a job well done.

INTERFAITH SERVICE

The Interfaith Service this year will be hosted by Temple Beth-El on Tuesday 26th November at 7 pm. The quest speaker this year will be Dr. Annie De Groot from Clinica Esperanza (Clinic of Hope). St Martin’s is a supporter of the clinic’s work with undocumented women and children.

THANKSGIVING DAY DINNER

For as long as anyone can remember, St Martin’s volunteers have offered a Thanksgiving Day dinner to those who may find themselves alone on Thanksgiving Day. Last year we served around 70 meals and a similar number of takeout. Both Gail Peet and Elke Moonan have been the lynch pins of this amazing tradition – again for a long as anyone cares to remember. However, now it’s time for the baton to be passed to others in order to keep this long tradition alive.

Many of you love to volunteer your time in preparing and serving the dinner, so there remains no shortage of willing hands to help. However, what we are now in urgent need of is a person or a small team to step forward and take the leadership and organizational responsibility for this event. If you would like to take on this ministry of service for this year, let me assure you that you are not signing a contract to continue to do so in perpetuity. There is no reason why we can’t have different people from year to year, heading up the Thanksgiving dinner. It goes without saying that if no one steps forward we will not be able to offer a Thanksgiving dinner this year. If interested, please call the office.

RESTORATION WORK

Work has now begun on repairing the water damaged sections of the interior of the church. So, for the next six weeks or so, we will all experience some disruption in church on Sunday mornings. In addition to the continued cordoning off of the chapel, we are about to cordon off the east wall above the High Altar which will mean the High Altar chancel and organ pipes will be out of commission until Early November.

Your forbearance is appreciated during our restoration work and I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday!

Yours as ever,
Mark+

September 19

I received an email from a faithful parishioner this week expressing his disagreement with a statement in my Sunday sermon where I said that capitalism is exploitative. I am so grateful for this kind of feedback. Sermon soundbites have a useful function when they trigger an opportunity for more extensive conversation.

As a Christian leader, I struggle to articulate as clearly as possible a Christian politics. By a Christian politics I do not mean the politics of the white Evangelical right. These paradoxically conflict with a Biblically based Christian politics that takes as its inspiration the Bible’s consistent message; a message which from Moses to Jesus is remarkably consistent on social and economic justice.

Capitalism and Socialism are terms bandied about with increasing meaninglessness as we approach the 2020 election. The real difference is the degree to which the government regulates the movement of the free market. Most Western democracies, including our own, combine features of both systems to varying degrees. The central question is one of balance; what is best left to market forces alone, and when do these require regulation in the interests of a joined-up social policy that works in the interests of the many and not simply for the few?

This week I came across something that Dale Carnegie wrote in his 1889 book The Gospel of Wealth:

This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth: To set an example of the modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and, after doing so, to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community – the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.

Note Carnegie’s deliberate borrowing of the term Gospel to indicate his Christian values underlying his vision. But what happens when the wealthy no longer share Carnegie’s vision of self-regulation in the interests of the common good?  Regulation is essential for a stable society. Thus, this responsibility throughout the 20th-century increasingly fell to our democratically elected officials – to ensure a level playing field for everyone to achieve their hopes and dreams in a society dedicated to universal human flourishing. We can see that this has been a checkered process as the effects of special interests, class, and racial prejudices distorted a clear vision for government action.

Christian Capitalism is a capitalism where the creative forces of the free market are regulated according to a set of overarching Biblical values articulated by Moses, reiterated by the Prophets, and finally reemphasized by Jesus. This means that we can no longer leave healthcare and education to name but two burning issues simply to market forces. While market forces have a role to play in ensuring the efficient generation of resources, the Christian Socialist principle of free at the point of use relies on a well-regulated and fair system of taxation to collectively provide for the services that we all now increasingly rely on.

Winston Churchill described Christian Socialism as what’s mine is yours.  Between Carnegie and Churchill – great minds think alike.

September 12

New Opportunity

In this first E-News of a new program year we are aiming for a more streamlined appearance that invites easy access to the different sites of information that you are interested in knowing more about.

This last weekend we welcomed each other to a new program year with Homecoming Sunday and Ministry Fair. In my sermon address I spoke about the current restoration project on the tower and church roof. We began this 1.2-million-dollar restoration project in late spring, and we are on course to complete the work by Autumn’s end. We can feel proud of fulfilling our generational stewardship for the quality and scope of the work done will secure the Church from water ingress for at least another 100 years.

Throughout this summer’s tower and roof restoration project, those of us in leadership positions have learned many things. However, it’s about discipleship that we have learned most. We have found ourselves becoming transformed from a fearful and anxious state of mind to hold an attitude of courageous and energized confidence that this restoration project is but the catalyst by which God is nudging us into a new phase of a different kind of restoration in our life of discipleship. I hope you will visit the sermon blog entitled Restorationfor a full presentation of my thoughts about this. Although not included in the accompanying text, the audio track captures an off-the-cuff verbal snapshot of the parish drawn from my immediate experience over this past weekend.

Someone asked me did I think God was interested in stones? I answered that I thought God was interested in stones when they enabled a multi-generational community to flourish under the shelter of a roof and within the protection of walls that communicate the warm experience of fellowship, shared endeavor, and a numinous-mysterious encounter with God.

In life we don’t always have the option of careful and controlled planning before we have to act. Living according to pre-designed blueprint is safe but prevents the discovery of sources of courage that allow us to confidently set out on a challenging path – not simply to do what has to be done, but to become changed in the process by discovering spiritual benefits we could not have imagined.

We’ve appointed a consultant from the Episcopal Church Foundation to guide us through the discernment and feasibility study phases in preparation of hearts and minds for the possibility of a capital campaign after Easter next year. In a matter of weeks, we will produce a discernment brochure outlining discussion points designed to excite a parish wide conversation. October and November will see a number of cottage meetings – small group get-togethers – inviting all of us to voice what St. Martin’s means to us and what each of us might like to see as the fruit of a possible capital campaign.

God seems to be using our buildings challenge to nudge us into a new stage of our journey into becoming a community more fit for the purpose we are being called to. This stage will test us, requiring a concerted and courageous effort from all of us. Benedictine wisdom on the nature of community observes a common pattern: young monks are fervent but not holy, old monks are holy but not fervent, and middle-aged monks are neither holy nor fervent. In as much as this might be a good description of our community, we will need all our monks – that’s you and me – to be both fervent and holy!

Mark+

June 27

This will be the last epistle from me until after Labor Day. Summer schedule changes are listed below in this E-News. On the focus for this last epistle until after Labor Day, I feel torn. I want to explain the recent review of the church office job descriptions and other changes with regard to office opening hours. Yet, as I write, the most horrendous things are coming to light with regard to the separation of children from families and their incarceration in facilities along the border that are grossly inadequate for the purpose.

The last living prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials speaks of this situation constituting a crime against humanity. The United States never ratified the Treaty of Rome which defined the scope of a crime against humanity. Maybe this explains why the American press and people remain ignorant and silent in the face of atrocities against migrants and refugees; women, men, and particularly children.
I commend to you:

Umair Haque’s article from June 18th The Last Prosecutor From The Nuremberg Trials Say’s We’re Committing Crimes Against Humanity – a mere 7 minute appearing in Medium. I will leave you to follow the link but let me cite a short quotation from the article:

That nothing- nothing – merits the stripping away of person hood, the systematic violation of a people, the removal of humanity. Not a thing- and definitely not being a refugee or migrant.
I also want to take this opportunity to write about the recent reorganization of the church office as a result of a review of office staff job descriptions. We have come up with the following job profiles and their holders:
·      Deborah will remain as Parish Administrator covering reception and routine office administration however this will now be a 20 hour a week job and from Labor Day, the public opening hours for the office will be 10 am – 2 pm, Monday to Friday.
·    Melinda will remain as Finance Administrator with an added responsibility to advise me on personnel matters.
·       Susan will continue as Assistant to the Rector and will be the overall Office Manager with continued co-ordination of internal membership and volunteer areas. She will take on new responsibility for the monitoring of facilities and contractors in coordination with the lay-led Property Committee.

·      The new 18 hour per week position of Events and Marketing Coordinator is a response to a growing need for one person to be responsible for events, marketing, and more actively profiling St Martin’s across social and print media and within the wider community. If interested in this position, please contact Susan Esposito.

Following the retirement of Missy and Gordon, the main purpose of the review has been to clarify the core elements of the existing positions, identify new areas of work such as a new integrated parish management & data system, and tighten up the boundaries for co-working between areas of responsibility. A good example of co-working across lines of job demarcation concerns our buildings. Oversight is Susan but routine buildings use i.e. bookings and rental remains Deborah, and Event hosting will fall within the new job profile of Event and Marketing Coordinator. All office positions are now classified and part-time, i.e. maximum of 20 hours per week.

Other changes: Brigit will continue as part time manager of the Thrift Shop. With Mario’s resignation as full-time sexton, David will continue as Sunday and events sexton with three additional weekdays. Ian, and new person and currently a student will fill in the two remaining weekdays. We have engaged a commercial company to carry out a weekly deep clean of the Church and other public areas. I am pleased to say we have managed this reorganization within current budget realities.

In particular I want to thank Melinda, Susan, and John (Bracken) who worked tirelessly to review and construct the new office job descriptions and roles.

Summer time invites a change of pace, for many this means some time off, but for all of us our attention shifts to a more measured pace of life. I want to wish all our members and readers a happy 4th of July and a peaceful and relaxing July and August.

Until September then, but remember Church attendance qualifies as recreation not work, and so is a very fitting summer-time activity!

See you on Sunday,
Mark+

June 20

Being fit for God’s purpose

Some of you will have attended Sunday’s presentation about the work currently being undertaken on the church. Peter Lofgren is our resident architect and the master supervisor of the restoration project. In his short 10-minute presentation, Peter outlined the three main areas of the project: the tower together with the chapel, chapel entry and the red doors; the East Window; and the church roof. The East Window work is already complete, as has the removal of the water damaged internal plaster and woodwork in the chapel, the plaster in the turret stairwell and chapel entry and the removal of the red doors. Work is currently underway on the roof capstones and flashings. Work on the tower roof and the weather proofing of the bell chamber windows will soon be underway. The major church roof work involves the replacement of the roof flashings – the copper interfaces that join the roof to the tower walls and the capstones atop both the east and west ends. It’s estimated the work will be completed in the fall.

Buildings are important. They not only house communities, but as in our case they also inspire communities to fulfill their wider mission to the world around them. Communities come to express the beauty and vitality of the buildings that shape them. A building such as ours is an inter-generational expression to the glory of God and all agree that St Martin’s induces a wow factor – a magnetic effect upon all who enter its doors. As with our architecture, our parish community is also developing a magnetism that is drawing new members to help equip us in the renewal of our mission.

Just after I arrived 5 years ago, we undertook the major restoration of the St Martin window. Why did this happen at this point after many years of watching the window’s slow deterioration? My simple answer is that with the arrival of a new rector, the community felt empowered and emboldened to meet this challenge. Having completed five years, I had been wondering about the next five, and in my conversations with God I asked to be shown the direction and priorities going forward.

What’s been revealed is the need to now tackle the major restoration of tower and roof. Who says God lacks a sense of humor? Ha-ha God! The point I want to make is that going into my sixth year, our community is now ready and empowered to face the restoration challenge which is so much more than about stones and flashings. With the restoration of the building comes the renewal of community in ways that have yet to be fully revealed to us.

The time is now right – the Kairos moment is upon us.

I am excited and confident of our will and capacity to meet the challenge of securing the future of our beautiful church for the next 100 years. I firmly believe that this is God’s pretext for inviting us into an encounter with the new opportunities that will carry us into the next phase of community renewal. As I say, we are a community on a journey. This is a journey to become ever more fit for the purpose God calls us to!

See you on Sunday,
Mark+

June 13

A Busy Sunday

This coming Sunday is the celebration of the Holy Trinity.  Did you know that more Episcopal churches are dedicated to the Trinity than to any other saint? Sunday is also Father’s Day and you can view its checkered history HERE.

The Trinity arises out of the experience of the first Christians who knew God as creator, but also in the person Jesus, and then through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine emerges much later as a means of protecting the mystery of God’s nature rather than explaining it. So, if you don’t understand it, that’s fine you are not meant to! Traditionally the three-fold experience of God was identified by the pronouns Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Patriarchal gender bias has led most of us to conflate the fatherhood of God with maleness, which brings me to Father’s Day.

The fatherhood of God is more than a projection of our human notions of fathers and fatherhood. The fatherhood of God is a communication of the masculine principle of creation, containment, and protection.

Here are three takeaways about the Trinity:

  1. The Trinity reveals God not as a solitary individual but as a community of love.
  2. Our desire to seek out relationships and to form communities is a reflection of being made in the image of God who is also relationship seeking and communal by nature.
  3. The gendered references to God as father, son, and holy spirit (which should take the feminine pronoun) recognize the relational not the gendered identity of God. I prefer the substitution of Lover, Beloved, and Love Sharer to bring out the relational aspect while avoiding the crude gender stereotyping.

Here are some pointers about Fatherhood:

  1. Fatherhood is the masculine principle of creation, and a counterpart to the feminine principle of receptivity motherhood – both equally core attributes of God.
  2. When our male fathers embody the divine principle of fatherhood, they become co-creators not just in the sense of biological procreation but as creators and protectors of an environmental and emotional space– within which the mother and infant experience an uninterrupted enjoyment of one another.
  3. Fatherhood as a masculine principle is not coterminous with male gender.
  4. Fathers need not be perfect but like mothers, need only to be good enough. They will sometimes fail in their early role as creators and protectors of the mother-infant relationship due to their own emotional unpreparedness for their role.

This Sunday let’s celebrate fatherhood, both as a core attribute of God and as well as our earthly fathers.

Trinity Sunday will also mark the beginning of my 6th year as rector. The last five years represent an energy-filled time when together, we have worked to strengthen the foundations of our parish community enabling us to take on new challenges going forward as exciting opportunities.  In speaking of challenges, this Sunday, we will hold a presentation in the Church immediately following-on from the end of the 9:30 Eucharist and preceding coffee hour at which our resident church architect, Peter Lofgren will take us through the aspects of the major work currently being undertaken concerning the tower, chapel, roof, and east window project. Although Trinity Sunday is a major celebration of the Church and the last Choral Sunday of the program year,

every effort will be made to ensure that the addition of the presentation will not greatly exceed the usual length of the 9:30 service. I commend the upcoming presentation as something of significant interest to all our members.

See you in church, on Trinity Sunday.

Mark+

June 6

Don’t be fooled by the fireworks

There are two ways of talking about Pentecost – the 50th day after Easter. The first is to focus on the pyrotechnics of the day: wind, fire, and an experience of instantaneous translation between the speakers of myriad of languages. The second is to develop a wider perspective on the fruits of the day itself. The ‘descent’ [a spatial metaphor] of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost literally changed the world. Listen to how Luke describes the birth of a new kind of community with a very distinctive way of living.

Awe came upon everyone, ….All who belonged were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.

This image of community shocks us – and so it should! For it stands as a perpetual indictment upon the values and practices of our own society. Luke describes a community of folk transformed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

For me, the spatial metaphors here are not up – heaven and earth-down, but side by side between parallel dimensions occupying the same location. At the Ascension the human Jesus carries our humanity into the divine community – triggering at Pentecost a reciprocal movement in the opposite direction with the divine Spirit of God moving back through the interdimensional membrane infusing and transforming the Our-Space with the energies of the God-Space.

Luke’s description of the early Christian community is a description of what the Our-Space infused with the energies of the God-Space looks like. Equity and magnetic inclusion become the hall marks of such a community where from all according to ability -to all according to need is the lived reality.  As a community the first Christians became magnetic, drawing increasing numbers of people into this new way of being human in community. They became a community configuring itself for those who had yet to show up.

Being a community that is continually (re)configuring itself for those who have yet to show up is the primary goal for us at St Martin’s. I am proud that we have embraced this as part of our mission identity. As a practical example of this mission I want to draw attention to our food pantry which is not only running precariously low at the moment but will likely remain so over the summer. Therefore, I am appealing for denotations of canned and packaged whole food items to the food pantry. You can deliver these either to the office or to the baskets at the back of the church.

Remember community is only as real as the energy we invest in building and maintaining it. In a community where many of us earn our daily bread in the financial investment sector, we all know the more you invest, the richer the personal return on your investment.

That which we can imagine for ourselves; that which through hard work and effort we can build by ourselves, pales in comparison to that which God can and will do in and through us, for the healing of the creation.

See you in Church, and don’t forget to wear red, on Sunday.

Mark+

May 30

Making Heaven On Earth

Lucas Johnson – our young up-and-coming tennis star swept to victory in the All State Tennis Doubles with his court partner Alex Caizzi over the weekend. You can see the write up and awesome pic of Lucas in the ProJo.

Tonight’s Episcopal East Side parishes celebration of the Ascension at St Stephen’s, presents an opportunity to address some questions about the Ascension from an imaginary parishioner.

Q: Why has the Ascension never registered on my spiritual radar?

A: Because it always falls on the last Thursday in May, 40 days after Easter and 10 days before Pentecost. Because most Episcopalians no longer attend weekday services, the Ascension is usually observed on the following Sunday.

Q: I can’t really take seriously the idea of Jesus floating up through the clouds with feet dangling into a separate realm three miles above the earth.

A: Yes, some very bad Ascension-tide theology in prayers and hymns pictures Jesus jettisoning his humanity like a discarded suit of clothes as he ascends through the clouds to heaven where a fine new set of divine clothes await him. This image is not only unhelpful for most of us today, it’s theologically toxic. The Ascension is actually the opposite from the popular image. Think of it like this. The Ascension of Jesus is God incorporating the fullest expression of being human – now represented by the post-resurrection human Jesus – into the divine identity.

Q: Where exactly is heaven?

A: Heaven is another way of talking about God-Space as compared with Our-Space. The first Christians didn’t think about heaven as somewhere up there; a medieval idea. Even though they pictured heaven being all around them, they made a distinction between heaven as God-Space and Our-Space with God-Space interleaving and interpenetrating the temporal dimension of Our-Space. To make a contemporary Sci-Fi analogy, God-Space and Our-Space are parallel dimensions occupying the same place or location.

Q: Wow, so, when I die, I will cross over into God-Space in the same way as Jesus at the Ascension?

A: Yes, you could put it this way. But being with God in God-Space is not the ultimate goal of our living. Our goal is to work tirelessly to implement the expectations of God-Space in Our-Space before we die. The human Jesus passed through the interdimensional boundary – from Our-Space to God-Space, in order that the dynamic Spirit of God could move back across in the other direction – from God-Space to infuse Our-Space.

Q: So, this dynamic Spirit the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?
A: Yes. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence penetrating the Our-Space dimension. The Spirit empowers us to act in participation with God in the work of repairing the creation.

Q: That feels like quite a responsibility.

A: That’s well put. Through being God’s agents in Our-Space we are assisting God in preparing for an eventual time when Our-Space and God-Space become One-Space. God’s incorporation of Jesus’ full humanity in the Ascension is a foretaste of what the Bible refers to in the language of a new heaven and a new earth.

Q: The Ascension really sets-out the Our-Space agenda then?
A: Exactly! The Irish poet John Donohue in his final stanza of Morning Offering captures it:
May [we] have the courage today
To live the life that [we] would love,
To postpone [our] dream no longer
But do at last what [we] came here for
And waste [our] heart[s] on fear no more.
Hope to see you tonight and if not, see you in church on Sunday.
Mark+

May 23

This week we were overjoyed to welcome Benjamin Isaac Edgar’s, 6 lbs., 9 oz. entry into the world and into the bosom of our St Martin’s community. Congratulations to Anna and Tim.
In a world increasingly hardening between either/or options it’s crucial to maintain the possibilities of a both/and response to some difficult issues. I was reminded of this in an experience on Wednesday when I went over to the State House for the purpose of attending the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition lobbying on fair and affordable housing. However, despite the intended purpose for visiting the hallowed halls of government, in the end I could not locate where my group was meeting; thus, I inadvertently got caught up in the pro-and anti-abortion millings-about under the Rotunda.
Dressed in a clerical collar – full Anglican round, not Roman tunnel I might add, I noted that the pro-life supporters greeted me with smiles and the pro-choice supporters looked at me warily. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable I spied the Planned Parenthood table and I asked the young woman in a pink tee shirt – did she have a sticker by chance? I took the “I support Planned Parenthood” sticker and stuck it on my shirt. Both sides now looked confused, but I felt better.
On the hot button issue of abortion, like most Americans, I guess I fall into the category of pro-life and pro-choice. Consider the suggestion that it should be made a felony offence for any man to cause an unwanted pregnancy. The ludicrousness of this proposition is immediately apparent and should alert us to the corollary – if it’s ludicrous attempting to legislate the outcome of men’s sexual activity then it’s equally ludicrous to legislate away women’s reproductive rights. Recall that old adage, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. We might say in this instance what’s sauce for the gander is also sauce for the goose. Nevertheless, the meaning of this adage is clear. Rights and protections cut both ways. I will make two further points and then beat a hasty exit.
1.      The stability of our social fabric rests on balancing the tensions between competing interests. The law’s ancient responsibility to arbitrate as fairly as possible in the balancing of competing and conflicting interests is a bedrock principle of our rule of law.
2.      In the area of moral theology, a distinction has always been maintained between the moral ideal or absolute and its pastoral application. It’s a very recent notion that the priest’s role is to apply the ideal regardless of the pastoral context and circumstances. Traditionally, the clergy (Catholic as well as Anglican) were trained to manage the distinction between the moral ideal and its pastoral application to real life situations. Two things always modify the direct application of the moral ideal. The first is pastoral need. The second is respect for the primacy of individual conscience. In moral theology the primacy of conscience -rooted in God’s gift of free will – cannot be lightly overridden by a decision of church authority. If you doubt me, then read a little Bernard Haring who was perhaps the most distinguished Catholic moral theologian of the 20th-century, and who at one time taught at Brown.
This coming Sunday is Memorial Sunday. For those still in town I hope you will be able to join us at 9:30 for a service of Solemn Remembrance of those who have given their lives in the service of a grateful nation. On Thursday, May 30, I hope many of you will be present for St Martin’s, St Stephen’s, and Church of the Redeemer’s joint celebration of the Ascension of Our Lord, this year at 7 pm at St Stephen’s, George St.
Looking forward to seeing you in Church.
Mark+

May 16

On A Couple of Matters…
I always have the fantasy that after Easter the pace will ease-off a bit with the summer months of July and August beckoning on the horizon. Alas not so. The winding up of the academic year for many families alone is enough to raise heart beats and bring on sleepless nights!
The final weeks of May bring two dates to mark in our calendars. The first is Sunday, May 26th in the Memorial Day Weekend. Although still in the Easter Season, at St. Martin’s we will commemorate those who have given their lives in the many wars stretching back to the Civil War. Here are eight things you might want to know about Memorial Day.
The Memorial Day commemoration comes this year against the background of the increasing drum beat of military escalation aimed clearly at Iran. Iran is certainly no innocent actor on the Middle East stage, but the provocation potential of the current buildup of our forces in the Gulf should give us pause for thought for what we fail to remember we are destined to repeat!
The second date to mark in our Calendars is May 30th, Ascension Day. Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday marking the 40th day after Easter. The fullest depiction of the Ascension of Jesus occurs in Luke’s Gospel, where it forms a kind of literary device that signals the resurrected Jesus’ physical departure as a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, the 50th day after Easter. Because it’s always a Thursday, the Ascension observance is, these days, most commonly observed on the Sunday after the Ascension.
However, last year, St Martin’s, St Stephen’s and Church of the Redeemer – the three Episcopal parishes on the East Side – marked Ascension Day with a joint celebration. Last year St Martin’s hosted, and I believe, this was the first occasion – at least in recent memory -when the three parishes had come together in worship – a fact that should also give us pause for thought. This year St. Stephen’s will host our combined Ascension Day celebration with a Solemn Eucharist at 7pm followed by a simple reception.
At the risk of sounding like an anxious coach pep-talking his team’s supporters for an away game event, I do hope many of our St Martin’s community will fill the pews in Smokey Steve’s (the common nickname for St Stephen’s among the incense adverse) to celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord with our Episcopal friends and neighbors. So, please mark your calendars for Thursday, May 30th, 7 pm! I can promise it will be a totally different style of worship from the one we are used to – so why not live dangerously.
See you this Sunday when we will baptize Amaya Hershberger, daughter if Ianthe and Anthony, and granddaughter of Angelita and Dharman Hensman into membership of Christ’s Body on earth.
Mark+

May 9

Mother’s Day is coming. I always get in trouble with my mother because I can’t remember if in NZ it’s Mother’s Day, the second Sunday of May, or Mothering Sunday the 4th Sunday in Lent, on which the opening sentence begins with Rejoice! Whichever it is, I am bound to get it wrong; sorry Mum.

So, what’s the difference between Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday? Mothering Sunday is a festival of the Church on the 4th Sunday in Lent. Its origins lie in the 16th century as the day that people revisited the church in which they were baptized i.e. their mother church. The local cathedral, as the mother church of the diocese also qualified for a visit if one’s own mother church was too far away. People were said to have gone a mothering on Lent 4. In Britain in 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis‘s efforts in the United States, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921 she wrote a book advocating the revival of the festival.  British merchants saw the commercial opportunity in the holiday and relentlessly promoted it; by the 1950s, it was celebrated across all the UK.

The first American celebration of Mother’s Day – the 2nd Sunday in May was in 1908. From 1905, Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Grafton, WV, which to this day houses the International Mother’s Day Shrine – who knew?

In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all U.S. states observed the holiday. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the 2nd Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers. Like its British counterpart, American commerce was not slow to see seize an opportunity. Jarvis roundly decried the commercialization of this day, however, soon after its inauguration, Hallmark Cards started producing Mother’s Day cards.

Many of us have complex emotions with regard to our mothers. Our mother’s face is the first face we come to know, the first eyes we behold our reflection in, the first smell we register, the first voice we hear. Such a crucial relationship is vulnerable to a mishap, no matter how good-enough – a phrase coined by Donald Winnicott, the renowned 20-Century British pediatrician, and psychoanalyst. Mothers needed to be good enough and not perfect, remembering that the quest for the perfect in this arena of life is certainly the enemy of the good. Yet an early experience of a disinterested or unavailable mother will leave its mark. But lest you think I place too much responsibility at mother’s door, let me add that the success of the mother-infant bond is crucially dependent on the way the mother herself, is supported by the father or significant other. Mothers are supported not only by fathers or significant others but crucially by all of us through the kind of society we want to be.

Mothering is an essential attribute of God – who is also mother as well as father. Mothering is broader than just women; mothering is a transgendered responsibility. Men also can be good-enough mothers! Mothering sets the tone for children’s early development and emotional security. We as a society frequently fail the women and men who are responsible for mothering through our failure to promote social and economic policies supportive of family life and child development. In a country that eulogizes mother and apple pie, the US ranks very low down on the scale of nations where public policy supports family life and child development; such as maternal and paternal paid leave, supported childcare, public preschool and free kindergarten education.

For many of us, Mother’s Day is an opportunity to express feelings of gratitude for the love our mothers gave us. For some of us, Mother’s Day will be an opportunity to reaffirm the forgiveness of heart that is the only antidote preventing difficult memories of being mothered continuing to blight the quality of our future life.

Come celebrate mothers and mothering, both the human and institutional kind, with us in church this Sunday!
Mark+

May 2

Sanctuary – a contentious issue for our time

A society reveals a great deal of its shadow side through its treatment of the vulnerable stranger. On Sunday, I announced an initiative being spearheaded by First Unitarian for the formation of a Sanctuary Coalition of faith communities and other non-profits serving the needs of the wider community. It’s natural to find among communities such as St Martin’s a range of attitudes to the notion of Sanctuary. Sanctuary has a long history. Under the Law of Moses, a fugitive could claim sanctuary by clasping the horns of the altar in the Tent of Meeting and later the Jerusalem Temple. It’s not clear how sacrosanct this protection was but offering sanctuary protection in the holiest of holy places was clearly the intention of the Law. Medieval Christian practice enshrined in Common Law practice continued this Biblical protection. A fugitive able to gain entry to a church was protected from civil arrest.

In ancient societies, the point of sanctuary was to provide a break on the very instinctual human desire for instant vengeance – a discouragement to those whose first impulse is to take the law into their own hands. Translated into the contemporary American context, sanctuary seeks to draw our attention to the way our law enforcement agencies – in this case, ICE, aggressively executes its powers against the most vulnerable, often it seems in direct contravention of State legal protections and Federal statute covering the right to claim asylum.

This nation was built on the desire of our forebears to build a life free from the age-old persecutions of class, race, and religion as practiced in Old Europe. Today’s tide of migration towards the US is similarly motivated. People don’t leave their homes and families unless circumstances are driving them to risk life and limb in pursuit of a place to live and work in relative safety from persecution. The real task is to renew funding to support the development of civil societies especially in the Central American Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. However, as a society, our export of guns and import of drugs provide a toxic mix that only further destabilizes civil society in the countries to our global south.

Regardless of whether you are in favor of creating places of safety from arbitrary arrest rooted in the historic Biblical and Common Law protection of sanctuary or not, can we not all agree that the way we are currently dealing with the immigration crisis on the border betrays our deepest values as Americans and constitutes a deep affront to everything we stand for as Christians? We have to solve this crisis. We can disagree on the best way to do this. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the way the migration pressures are currently being responded to in our name.

Sometimes the only thing left to us when the organs of representative democracy fail us is to protest. Protest is a sacred duty. Put simply, I am very reluctant for St. Martin’s to become a sanctuary community. Therefore, this compels me to support communities bolder and braver than we might feel able to be. It is for this reason that I encourage those of you who feel able to, to support the establishment of a Sanctuary Coalition of faith communities and possibly attend the meeting planned for Monday, May 20th at the First Unitarian Church on 1 Benevolent St.

See you in Church, on Sunday.

Mark+

April 25

Glorious is not a word I feel we get to use much these days, but Easter at St Martin’s was indeed glorious. The pulse beat of the liturgical journey through Holy Week grew steadily stronger as the Great Three Days of Easter approached. The intimacy of Maundy Thursday, the exuberance of the Good Friday Walk, the severe elegance of the Good Friday Liturgy, and the mystical atmosphere of the new fire of Easter- opening us to a communal act of remembering the great events of our long faith story, all played their part in preparing us for the glorious celebration of the resurrection on Easter Morn.

It was so wonderful to see many old friends alongside visitors and new faces among the 400 strong Easter Day attendance. It is times like this when it really comes home to me that we are connected to a much larger community who identify with St Martin’s and for whom this church holds a special place in memory and affection.

If you are getting this e-message for the first time it is because you gave us your email details on Easter Day – enabling us to now add you to our weekly E-News mailing. Thank you for doing this. We trust that our weekly internet communications will help you to feel better connected to all the activities and energies bubbling away within the St Martin’s Community.

Of special interest will be the information about our portal ministries, so named because they open a door for members of the wider community to participate in an aspect of St Martin’s life:
·        the monthly Women’s Spirituality Group.
·        the multiple group activities of Gander, the men’s spirituality group.
·        and a new initiative called Askesis (little school) for the 20-30’s age group.
·        The Knitting Ministry’s production of beautifully crafted shawls which are given

to the sick and those facing crisis points in life.

Let me conclude with thanking all who worked hard to make Easter so glorious: hospitaliers, choir, altar and flower guilds, and of course the brilliant and hardworking staff. Thank you all!!
See you in Church, this Sunday.
Mark+

April 18

We all have the iconic images etched into our mind’s eye of Notre-Dame de Paris in flames. A catastrophe on such a scale afflicting such a world-famous site evokes deep mourning in us for the loss of important heritage. However, the world will rally and is indeed as I write already rallying to the cause of rebuilding Our Lady of Paris.
Perhaps less familiar to us is the picture appearing opposite my words. This is the church of St Mary Baptist, Port Barre, LA which was burned in an act of arson on March 26th. Since then two other historically Black churches have also burned and these events evoke the deepest shame recalling the reign of terror of the Jim Crow decades.
We may want to contribute to the rebuilding of Notre-Dame, but remember charity begins at home, and with a much smaller target in terms of fundraising we can at the same time signal our commitment to -never again – in reference to the dark national history of racism.
In Holy Week we trace Jesus’s journey from the judgment hall to the cross. We have a tendency to want to keep this as a private and internal journey – a spiritual journey made in our hearts and imaginations. But the events of Holy Week culminating on Good Friday were very public events with a huge political implication. God’s purpose for Jesus is worked out painful step after painful step not in the privacy of the spiritual imagination but in the public glare of politics as the political forces of Roman oppression find invidious alliance with the religious oppression of the Temple Authorities. Both represent in our own day the collusion between the politics of oppression and exclusion and a religious system that seeks through the exercise of naked power to impose its own grotesque version of the gospel on the conscience of the nation. You see, centuries may pass but unless we are vigilant – systems remain the same.
In Holy Week, we witness something all too familiar to us in our own time- the intersection of the storylines of political and religious oppression, clashing with a popular longing for liberation at whatever cost. It is into this volatile mix that a third storyline comes into play -the story of God’s love for the world expressed through the events of Good Friday and Easter Day. Which storyline has most influence over you?
Visit here for background on the Louisiana church burnings and here for the link to the go-fund-me site where you can contribute to the Louisiana churches rebuilding.
Keep an eye out for E-blast messages on times and descriptions of services coming up over the Great Three Days of Easter at St Martin’s. Hope to see you there!
Mark+

April 11

The Judeo-Christian story is called an epic.  An epic is a story that continues to unfold and develop over time and through the events of human history. This epic story is the one we look to for the wisdom reveals the choices to be made if we are to live fruitfully amid what the Prayer Book refers to as the changes and chances of this life.

We are also influenced by competing stories, narratives rooted in an unquestioning support of the status quo – business as usual approach to life in 21st century America. These are stories of power and powerlessness; of life as a zero-sum gain; of material prosperity and personal success; of the pursuit of personal satisfaction, of what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is potentially mine tomorrow.

What are the stories that shape the way you live your life? To what stories do you go for wisdom and guidance in the day-to-day making of decisions? What stories shape your priorities? If you consider yourself a person of faith, is the Christian epic story of faith at the center of your awareness? Or is it just one possible story among others, a kind of bolt on extra to an otherwise conventional life? This question challenges us to become more aware of how different and conflicting stories will push us off course if we remain unaware of their power over us.

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday when the crowds stripped the fronds from the palm trees to carpet the road for Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Their enthusiasm for Jesus is real, but they greet him in misguided expectation of an earthly warrior king.  At the same time as Jesus was entering Jerusalem from the East, Pilate and his Roman Legions were entering the city from the West. Pilate lived in the seaside Mar E Largo of Caesarea Maritima. He hated and feared Jerusalem, with its labyrinthine alleyways, teeming with discontent. But once a year his governorship depended on making a show of force to police the Passover.

Both the crowds and Pilate are under the sway of a common story – a story about the competition for power – Jews verses Romans. We have two processions – one a demonstration of the nature of God’s involvement in our world. The other a demonstration of naked worldly power. Each is a story competing for our allegiance. Which will we heed?

Jesus saves. But what in your life story will Jesus save you from?  Episcopalians are a liturgical people. That means we celebrate our faith through the communal activity of worship. In worship we together reexperience the events of Holy Week   https://stmartinsprov.org/holy-week/   and the Great Three Days of Easter. Will you join us and by your presence strengthen our participation in our Christian story, commemorated and celebrated through the cyclic drama of our worship? I hope the answer is yes.

See you in Church for the drama of Palm Sunday.

Mark+

April 4, 2019

A Teachable Moment

I have received a request to explain about the Last Rites in response to my writing about administering the Sacrament of Extreme Unction more commonly referred to as the Last Rites, as Lois Atwood lay dying this last weekend. This got me thinking about all the other questions that people would like answers to but have become anxious about asking. Therefore, I would like to invite anyone with questions – spiritual, theological, biblical or church related, that they have become afraid to ask, to let me know. In a series of E-epistles after Easter, I will try to give space to answering some of these to the best of my ability.

Returning to what is the Last Rites? In its fullest form, i.e. when the person dying is still fully conscious, the administration of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction or Last Rites involves inviting confession and pronouncing absolution, laying on of hands and anointing with holy oil, and the administration of Holy Communion, all within a service of readings and prayers that anticipate and acknowledge for the benefit of all present the immanence of death. When the person dying is unconscious, as was the case with Lois, the laying on of hands and anointing with oil are the significant actions. Because no confession can be heard, or Holy Communion received, forgiveness of sins is presumed through the grace of anointing. The Last Rites resolves all the outstanding spiritual issues that otherwise may seem to be left unresolved and assures the dying and their loved ones that all is well as they navigate the transition from biological life to the next phase of the spiritual life.

The Anglican Tradition of the Episcopal Church while it shares a common sacramental practice with the Catholic Church, is a pastoral, not a juridical or law-based tradition. I will address this difference in a future E-epistle. Anglican understanding of sacramental action is driven by a responsibility to respond to actual human needs. Thus, the Episcopal Priest, except in very exceptional circumstances will refrain from making any moral judgment about the required spiritual state of a person before administering Holy Communion, Baptism or the Last Rites. Jesus reminded his disciples that it is the sick not the healthy who are in need of the doctor’s remedy. Therefore, no one is refused either at the communion rail, the font, or on the death bed. Such judgment is a matter for God and not the Church, which is simply a channel through which God’s grace flows and becomes available at the point of need.

Therefore, in the Episcopal Church, Last Rites is not a gatekeeping action, i.e. those who get it pass easily into heaven and those who don’t, don’t. Like all sacramental action it is a pastoral response that addresses a person at their point of spiritual need, offering comfort to the dying, but it also comforts the grieving – those who keep watch with their loved one as biological death approaches. Although there is a divergence of opinion among the clergy as to whether Last Rites can be administered immediately after death, it continues to be my practice to administer Last Rites in circumstances where the person has just died as a pastoral response to the needs of the family.

This Sunday is Lent 5, the beginning of Passiontide, the week preceding Holy Week. I invite you all to make your experience this Easter as complete as possible by being present as the liturgy carries us as a community through the dramatic events of Christ’s passion, his death and resurrection. See you in Church then.

Mark+

(continuation of the Bishops Letter)

we see God’s creation was “very good,” providing all that humans would need for abundant, peaceful life. In creating the world God’s loving concern extended to the whole of it, not just to humans. And the scope of God’s redemptive love in Christ is equally broad: the Word became incarnate in Christ not just for our sake, but for the salvation of the whole world. In the Book of Revelation we read that God will restore the goodness and completeness of creation in the “new Jerusalem.” Within this new city, God renews and redeems the natural world rather than obliterating it. We now live in that time between God’s creation of this good world and its final redemption: “The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for . . . the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-3).

Affirming the biblical witness to God’s abiding and all-encompassing love for creation, we recognize that we cannot separate ourselves as humans from the rest of the created order. The creation story itself presents the interdependence of all God’s creatures in their wonderful diversity and fragility, and in their need of protection from dangers of many kinds. This is why the Church prays regularly for the peace of the whole world, for seasonable weather and an abundance of the fruits of the earth, for a just sharing of resources, and for the safety of all who suffer. This includes our partner creatures: animals, birds, and fish who are being killed or made sick by the long-term effects of deforestation, oil spills, and a host of other ways in which we intentionally and unintentionally destroy or poison their habitat.

One of the most dangerous and daunting challenges we face is global climate change. This is, at least in part, a direct result of our burning of fossil fuels. Such human activities could raise worldwide average temperatures by three to eleven degrees Fahrenheit in this century. Rising average temperatures are already wreaking environmental havoc, and, if unchecked, portend devastating consequences for every aspect of life on earth.

The Church has always had as one of its priorities a concern for the poor and the suffering. Therefore, we need not agree on the fundamental causes of human devastation of the environment, or on what standard of living will allow sustainable development, or on the roots of poverty in any particular culture, in order to work to minimize the impact of climate change. It is the poor and the disadvantaged who suffer most from callous environmental irresponsibility. Poverty is both a local and a global reality. A healthy economy depends absolutely on a healthy environment.

The wealthier nations whose industries have exploited the environment, and who are now calling for developing nations to reduce their impact on the environment, seem to have forgotten that those who consume most of the world’s resources also have contributed the most pollution to the world’s rivers and oceans, have stripped the world’s forests of healing trees, have destroyed both numerous species and their habitats, and have added the most poison to the earth’s atmosphere. We cannot avoid the conclusion that our irresponsible industrial production and consumption-driven economy lie at the heart of the current environmental crisis.

Privileged Christians in our present global context need to move from a culture of consumerism to a culture of conservation and sharing. The challenge is to examine one’s own participation in ecologically destructive habits. Our churches must become places where we have honest debates about, and are encouraged to live into, more sustainable ways of living. God calls us to die to old ways of thinking and living and be raised to new life with renewed hearts and minds.

Although many issues divide us as people of faith, unprecedented ecumenical and interfaith cooperation is engaging the concern to protect our planet. And yet, efforts to stop environmental degradation must not be simply imposed from above. Those most affected must have a hand in shaping decisions. For example, we welcome efforts in the United States to involve Native American tribal leaders and to empower local community organizations to address environmental issues. Similar strategies need to be employed in myriad communities in various locales.

Our current environmental challenges call us to ongoing forms of repentance: we must turn ourselves around, and come to think, feel, and act in new ways. Ancient wisdom and spiritual disciplines from our faith offer deep resources to help address this environmental crisis. Time-honored practices of fasting, Sabbath-keeping, and Christ-centered mindfulness bear particular promise for our time.

Fasting disciplines and heals our wayward desires and appetites, calling us to balance our individual needs with God’s will for the whole world. In fasting we recognize that human hungers require more than filling the belly. In God alone are our desires finally fulfilled. Commended in the Book of Common Prayer, fasting is grounded in the practices of Israel, taught by Jesus, and sustained in Christian tradition. The ecological crisis extends and deepens the significance of such fasting as a form of self-denial: those who consume more than their fair share must learn to exercise self-restraint so that the whole community of creation might be sustained.

Sabbath-keeping is rooted in the Book of Genesis, where the seventh day is the day in which God, humans, and the rest of creation are in right relationship. In our broken world, keeping the Sabbath is a way of remembering and anticipating that world for which God created us. Sabbath requires rest, that we might remember our rightful place as God’s creatures in relationship with every other creature of God. Such rest implicitly requires humans to live lightly on the face of the earth, neither to expend energy nor to consume it, not to work for gain alone, but to savor the grace and givenness of creation.

The practice of Christ-centered mindfulness, that is, the habitual recollection of Christ, calls believers to a deepened awareness of the presence of God in their own lives, in other people, and in every aspect of the world around us. Such spiritual perception should make faithful people alert to the harmful effects of our lifestyles, attentive to our carbon footprint (ii) and to the dangers of overconsumption. It should make us profoundly aware of the gift of life and less prone to be ecologically irresponsible in our consumption and acquisition. In assuming with new vigor our teaching office, we, your bishops, commit ourselves to a renewal of these spiritual practices in our own lives, and invite you to join us in this commitment for the good of our souls and the life of the world. Moreover, in order to honor the goodness and sacredness of God’s creation, we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, commit ourselves and urge every Episcopalian:

  • To acknowledge the urgency of the planetary crisis in which we find ourselves, and to repent of any and all acts of greed, overconsumption, and waste that have contributed to it;
  • To lift up prayers in personal and public worship for environmental justice, for sustainable development, and for help in restoring right relations both among humankind and between humankind and the rest of creation;
  • To take steps in our individual lives, and in community, public policy, business, and other forms of corporate decision-making, to practice environmental stewardship and justice, including (1) a commitment to energy conservation and the use of clean, renewable sources of energy; and (2) efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and whenever possible to buy products made from recycled materials;
  • To seek to understand and uproot the political, social, and economic causes of environmental destruction and abuse; (iii) 
  • To advocate for a “fair, ambitious, and binding” climate treaty, and to work toward climate justice through reducing our own carbon footprint and advocating for those most negatively affected by climate change.

May God give us the grace to heed the warnings of Jeremiah and to accept the gracious invitation of the incarnate Word to live, in, with, and through him, a life of grace for the whole world, that thereby all the earth may be restored and humanity filled with hope. Rejoicing in your works, O Lord, send us forth with your Spirit to renew the face of the earth, that the world may once again be filled with your good things: the trees watered abundantly, springs rushing between the hills in verdant valleys, all the earth made fruitful, your manifold creatures, birds, beasts, and humans, all quenching their thirst and receiving their nourishment from you once again in due season (Psalm 104).

RECTOR’S MUSINGS

This Week

February 28

Last week, Linda+ and I were at the annual Presbyters Retreat. Presbyter is Greek for elder, and it is the original word for priest. We were bemoaning Lent’s imminent arrival and debating among us the practice of ashes-to-go. Some of my colleagues are sold on this relatively new practice of trooping out with ashes to impose on the foreheads of all in sundry. I don’t favor ashes-to-go because ashing is part of a larger liturgical and spiritual process, and it loses significance outside of a community gathered together in worship. Other colleagues argued that ashes-to-go is an important evangelical opportunity, spreading the practice and its significance to people who don’t come to church. I can’t decouple the action from the context in which it derives meaning. I don’t mean ashes to go has no meaning, but it has a different meaning from that intended in the Prayer Book’s introduction to the keeping of a good Lent.

There is a connection in church life between what you attract people to and what you attract them with. Offering as the primary attractor superficial experiences severed from their larger significance simply promotes a consumerist approach to religious practice. In modern consumerist religion worship is replaced by individualism, plush auditorium seating, a great floor show, and a Starbucks in the foyer. My concern about ashes-to-go is that it feeds into a kind of consumerist, magical thinking.

It is the practice of the Church to begin Lent as a 40-day period of reflection and repentance with the imposition upon the forehead of ash made from the burnt palm crosses of the previous year’s Palm Sunday. This action signifies our transient mortality. It takes place within the community at worship.

Contemplating our own mortality is something that strikes terror into contemporary hearts. Ashing challenges us to do so. Only when we contemplate the transience of life can we more fully invest in the living of life. Contemplating our own mortality reminds us that in life, we have not a moment to lose. Whether it is your personal practice or not, I would welcome seeing many of you at one of our three Ash Wednesday Services: 7am, 12pm, and 7pm.

This Lent, we will meet on Tuesday evenings for our Lent study course: A Life of Grace for the Whole World  https://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/episcopal-church-house-bishops-issues-pastoral-teaching; the bishops pastoral teaching on the care for the environment in the face of the climate emergency. We have purchased 50 adult work books which are available as part of the Tuesday night food and study package. We suggest a voluntary $60 contribution covering the five weeks of the program. For those attending Sunday’s adult forum, the book can be purchased for $10. Copies are also available on Amazon Smile in both Kindle and paperback formats.

Lent is a time for an intentional shift in the pace of our lives by paying attention to the spiritual quality in our living. Lent’s different rhythm offers a chance to review the values and attitudes that will otherwise, continue to hold us in their grip.

See you in church, this Sunday, Mark+

February 7

I have often wondered why God omitted giving me the gene for team sports. What an omission given that I had to grow up in a culture every bit as fanatical about team sport as the US – but for us it was Rugby and Cricket, not American Football (didn’t it used to be called Gridiron?), and Baseball. God did not leave me completely defenseless in a sports-mad culture, he endowed me with the God-like gifts of a track athlete, a sprinter to be exact.

Fast forward to Superbowl Sunday. I watched the game in the firm belief that this time, the spirit of my transformation into a US citizen would usher me into the sacred company of football worshipers. Well, the spiritual life is full of disappointments. Nevertheless, even I can appreciate the Patriots achievement as something to be celebrated. I have been struck by how many commentators explain their evident success on a commitment to tight team and gamesmanship discipline and an egalitarian team spirit. Tom Brady may be the David Beckham of American Football, but as Bill Belichick is always quick to point out, he has 80 men on whom the team’s success rests. Discipline and equality are two spiritual values I can appreciate.

Following a wonderful Annual Meeting two weeks ago and a successful Vestry team-building last Saturday – no I didn’t make them build a suspension bridge out of matchsticks – we move forward into 2019 with confidence and expectation of good things to come. The season after Epiphany is one of those elastic ones that stretches and contracts as needed to fit in with the wandering date of Easter, this year mercifully a later point in the Luna calendar cycle. We have five weeks until the first Sunday in Lent which gives us some time to explore several Christian Essentials in Sunday’s adult forums. This last Sunday, 21 of us crammed into the Stearns Room for a take no prisoners – head-on the encounter with the questions: what and who is God? After each session, you can find the handout from the sessions on the Adult Formation page of the website.

On the theme of formation, this year’s Lent Program will be A Life of Grace for the Whole World which will explore pastoral teaching on the environment from the House of Bishops. More details will follow but this year we will run the program in our traditional Tuesday evening format with community supper and also on Sunday mornings in the Adult Forum time so that parents with children for whom Tuesday evening is an impossible time will have an opportunity to participate as we explore a pastoral and theological focus on the current environmental crisis.

This Sunday coming, we will have someone from ECC (Episcopal Conference Center) to speak at announcement time. ECC has an ambitious development plan that among other things includes a solar farm which will eventually benefit parishes with a reduced price of electricity.

Don’t forget Evensong at 4:30 pm this Sunday.
Mark+

January 24

Because of the cold snap last weekend, numbers were down – though still good for the conditions. Could I remind you all that we are collecting non-perishable food items for PICA and Camp Street food banks. We appreciate your help, and items can be left in the baskets at the back of the church.

Sunday is the parochial Annual Meeting at which we will be saying thank you and farewell to Missy Bennett and Gordon Partington, who between them have over 100 years of service to St. Martin’s. I hope you will be able to join us for parish brunch and honoring of Missy and Gordon before moving onto the meeting agenda. We will also commission Gabe Alfieri as Choirs (adult and children’s) Director, and Steven Young as Church Organist. Remember, the Annual Meeting is the way we make ourselves accountable to one another for the good governance of the parish.

Looking ahead, on February 3rd the adult forum will start up again with 5 forums on what I call Christian Essentials which is a more interesting approach to what otherwise covers the terrain of Episcopal 101. Essentials cover questions about the nature of God, Jesus, the Church, the Bible, Anglican-Episcopal history, worship and spirituality, and personal accountability. There is much more material than can be comfortably covered in 5 sessions, but we will make a start.

The 5th week will take us up to Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lent Program which this year will run twice a week on Tuesday evenings and in Sunday morning’s forum slot. It is hoped that Sunday morning will fit better with the needs of families. Childminding will be provided while adults attend the program. Not all the details have yet been worked out, but we will focus on the area of a pastoral and theological engagement with the urgency of climate change.

I hope to see many of you, in church, this Sunday. Remember only one service at 9:30 am.

Mark+

January 17

(cont. from E-News)

Give grace to your servants, O Lord: To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to
fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

 All of us have such deep hopes and aspirations for good government and many of us experience levels of increasing frustration, anger, and even hopelessness; that those elected to offices of public service will, or even can work together for the good of the nation.

It’s so easy, yet equally pointless to get into the blame game so tempting at the moment as an expression of our loss of confidence in both executive and congressional government. And so, the final collect in this section offers a salutary reminder that we all bear some responsibility for this situation in our obligations to exercise sound judgment beyond a slavish party-political spirit:

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to
accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they
may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for
the well-being of our society; that we may serve you
faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as
head above all. Amen.

As I prepare to be sworn in as a new U.S. citizen on January 24th, these prayers express a timely poignancy for me. Also, may I ask for your thoughts of good will and prayers for my beloved United Kingdom at this time of national crisis. As we are all too familiar with on this side of the pond, a crisis largely exacerbated by the hubris of the political class.

Remember Sunday 27th January – only one service at 9:30 am. See you in church, this Sunday!

Mark+

(full text)

I think all of us are growing more and more concerned for Federal Government workers and their families as the partial government shutdown drags on into an unprecedented fourth week and beyond. St Martin’s regularly supports two local food banks: PICA and Camp Street Ministries. We would like to increase our level of support to both food banks during the period of the shutdown and appeal for contributions of nonperishable food items to be brought to church on Sundays. Baskets will be situated as you come into the church through the main doors and if you are delivering during the week, you can always gain entry to the church through the atrium entrance.

Evensong on Sunday evening provided an opportunity to use the Prayer Book’s Collects (set prayers) For Sound Government. Most of us probably don’t know that these exist and if so where to find them, but they express our Anglican concern for the institutions of government and civic society. These prayers form part of the section headed Prayers and Thanksgiving on page 814 and the Collects for Sound Government can be found beginning on page 821.

I felt a deep collective sigh emanating from those around me in the congregation gathered within the intimate space of the chancel choir stalls as I prayed the lines

Give grace to your servants, O Lord: To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to
fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

 All of us have such deep hopes and aspirations for good government and many of us experience levels of increasing frustration, anger, and even hopelessness; that those elected to offices of public service will, or even can work together for the good of the nation.

It’s so easy, yet equally pointless to get into the blame game so tempting at the moment as an expression of our loss of confidence in both executive and congressional government. And so, the final collect in this section offers a salutary reminder that we all bear some responsibility for this situation in our obligations to exercise sound judgment beyond a slavish party-political spirit:

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to
accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they
may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for
the well-being of our society; that we may serve you
faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as
head above all. Amen.

As I prepare to be sworn in as a new U.S. citizen on January 24th, these prayers express a timely poignancy for me. Also, may I ask for your thoughts of good will and prayers for my beloved United Kingdom at this time of national crisis. As we are all too familiar with on this side of the pond, a crisis largely exacerbated by the hubris of the political class.

Remember Sunday 27th January – only one service at 9:30 am. See you in church, this Sunday!

Mark+

January 10

(cont. from E-News)

has held the position of director, more recently renamed minister of music, a post that combined responsibility for both choir and organ. After a long period of advertising and given the half-time nature of our position, we have not been able to attract the kind of person I and those advising me consider able to develop our musical direction in the combined role of minster of music (choir director and organist). I therefore, have decided to continue the interim arrangement of a separate choir director and organist.

Gabe Alfieri, our professional bass section leader for many years, has accepted my invitation to make permanent his interim appointment as choir director. Gabe has a Ph.D. in Musicology and is a specialist in voice with a long experience of teaching, directing, and publication. Most importantly, Gabe has long experience as a choral singer himself, and carries the affection and confidence of the members of the choir. He will be responsible for the selection of all service music, the direction of the choir, and development of our children’s music ministry.

Steven Young is our new organist. Steve comes most recently from a position as minister of music at St Thomas’ Taunton, MA. He is currently Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Bridgewater State University, MA. Steve is looking forward to not having any choir responsibilities and will focus on his role as church organist. We are hugely fortunate to have found two highly accomplished and experienced church musicians. Both Gabe and Steve will be formally instituted on Sunday, January 27th, thus beginning an exciting new chapter in music ministry at St Martin’s.

In It’s a Matter of Choice on Christmas Eve I explored the multiple ways the Bible tells the same story of Jesus and God in the incarnation. To Matthew and Luke’s nativity and John’s pre-dawn of creation versions of the incarnation story, this Sunday we will add yet a fourth Biblical incarnation story deriving from Mark’s story of the baptism of Jesus. Although we will hear it from Luke this Sunday, Luke is simply retelling Mark’s original story of incarnation as adoption. Don’t miss the next installment of the story of God and Jesus.

See you in Church, on Sunday!

Mark+

(full text)

My main focus in this week’s column is to share news about certain staff changes. On January 27th at the Annual Meeting we will honor the retirement of both Missy Bennett and Gordon Partington. Missy has served as financial administrator since 1975. Gordon has in one capacity or another been involved with taking care of our buildings since 1955.  Both represent not simply loyal and faithful service to the parish, but their retirement marks a huge transition in the continuity of our collective memory. Fortunately, both have indicated that they will remain available to fill in the institutional memory gaps that will inevitably open up, but we will no longer have their wisdom and skill contributing to the day-by-day management of the parish. I am deeply grateful to have had their support during my transitioning into the parish as rector. I cannot express how much I will miss the inexhaustible good will of their institutional as well as their personal support.

Melinda Del Chioppio is to be our new financial administrator. Again we are hugely fortunate to have someone of Melinda’s financial, organizational, and spiritual experience. Over the last couple of months Melinda and Missy have managed, seamlessly it seems to me, what might otherwise have been a tricky role transition. With respect to a replacement for Gordon – John Bracken, Peter Lofgren, and I have decided on a period of assessment to see exactly how we might best fill the vacancy left by Gordon because in truth, there is no one out there who will be able to simply step into his shoes.

I trust that many of you who have over the years appreciated Missy and Gordon will be able to celebrate their retirement with us on Sunday, January 27th.

I can now report on new developments in our music program, which have been incubating since last September.  At St Martin’s, for the last 62 years one person read on, has held the position of director, more recently renamed minister of music, a post that combined responsibility for both choir and organ. After a long period of advertising and given the half-time nature of our position, we have not been able to attract the kind of person I and those advising me consider able to develop our musical direction in the combined role of minster of music (choir director and organist). I therefore, have decided to continue the interim arrangement of a separate choir director and organist.

Gabe Alfieri, our professional bass section leader for many years, has accepted my invitation to make permanent his interim appointment as choir director. Gabe has a Ph.D. in Musicology and is a specialist in voice with a long experience of teaching, directing, and publication. Most importantly, Gabe has long experience as a choral singer himself, and carries the affection and confidence of the members of the choir. He will be responsible for the selection of all service music, the direction of the choir, and development of our children’s music ministry.

Steven Young is our new organist. Steve comes most recently from a position as minister of music at St Thomas’ Taunton, MA. He is currently Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Bridgewater State University, MA. Steve is looking forward to not having any choir responsibilities and will focus on his role as church organist. We are hugely fortunate to have found two highly accomplished and experienced church musicians. Both Gabe and Steve will be formally instituted on Sunday, January 27th, thus beginning an exciting new chapter in music ministry at St Martin’s.

In It’s a Matter of Choice on Christmas Eve I explored the multiple ways the Bible tells the same story of Jesus and God in the incarnation. To Matthew and Luke’s nativity and John’s pre-dawn of creation versions of the incarnation story, this Sunday we will add yet a fourth Biblical incarnation story deriving from Mark’s story of the baptism of Jesus. Although we will hear it from Luke this Sunday, Luke is simply retelling Mark’s original story of incarnation as adoption. Don’t miss the next installment of the story of God and Jesus.

See you in Church, on Sunday!

Mark+

January 3

(cont. from E-News)

  1. Hope is a perception that what is needed will happen. The very act of investing ourselves in the process of hoping for achievable outcomes makes the reality of our hope present to us in the here and now, by bringing us into a relationship with the object of our hope in real time.
  2. Hope is fueled by desire. We don’t hope for what we already have. We marshal all our energies and invest them in hope for what we feel deprived of. The very experience of deprivation provides the necessary fuel of desire that brings hope alive.
  3. The action of hoping is akin to projecting ourselves onto the blank screen of the future to envision our lives being different from what they currently are. Hope establishes a compass bearing that sets a new direction of travel into the yet to become known future. Yet, the vision of our hope also becomes a lived reality in our present. Hope enriches our experience in real time.
  4. Hope and hoping place us at risk of being disappointed when the object of our hopeful desire is not realized within the time frame we imagine. For instance, universal healthcare may not be achieved in 2019, yet without our hope-filled investment in its eventual realization in the present time, it will never be realized at all.

On a lighter note I thought you might be interested in a little Church Calendar trivia. This Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany and only once in every eight years does this celebration fall on a Sunday, enabling the Baptism of Jesus to occupy the following Sunday. The Epiphany is a major feast in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, where it, rather than December 25th is the time for celebrating the arrival of the Christ Child with the visit of the Kings bearing gifts. Normally for us, the Epiphany gets short shrift when January 6th falls in the week because the Sunday after the Epiphany is always the Baptism of Jesus.

On Christmas eve we enjoyed record breaking numbers at both services, and I trust this might be an indication that St Martin’s has once again reached a tipping point when the expanding energy and magnetic attraction of the community begins to register in the continued arrival of new members.

So, see you in church this coming Epiphany Sunday.

Mark+

(full text)

Happy New Year everyone!

We say this to one another but what does it actually mean? I suppose at a basic level it’s a hoping that the events the New Year will bring will be propitious ones. So, the typical new year greeting is an expression of hope. It would be nice to believe that the content of our hopes will be realized. Yet, do we really have a lot of confidence in this being so?

Firstly, it’s important to have a clear sense of those things we are hoping for.  In our personal and family lives there are certain outcomes that we hope could be realized in the coming year. Our civic life is deeply polarized, and our political processes and institutions fractured and in need of healing. In 2019 what do we hope might be deliverable outcomes for the good of the nation and in particular, for the flourishing of people across all walks of life? I am asking us all to give some conscious thought to answering this question for ourselves, while we are still in the early weeks of the New Year.

Hope and the action of hoping is more than being optimistic. Optimism is born from signs that things are moving in a better direction. Hope and hoping is what we cling to when there seems no obvious signs for such encouragement. I want to list several characteristics of hope and the process of hoping

  1. Hope is a perception that what is needed will happen. The very act of investing ourselves in the process of hoping for achievable outcomes makes the reality of our hope present to us in the here and now, by bringing us into a relationship with the object of our hope in real time.
  2. Hope is fueled by desire. We don’t hope for what we already have. We marshal all our energies and invest them in hope for what we feel deprived of. The very experience of deprivation provides the necessary fuel of desire that brings hope alive.
  3. The action of hoping is akin to projecting ourselves onto the blank screen of the future to envision our lives being different from what they currently are. Hope establishes a compass bearing that sets a new direction of travel into the yet to become known future. Yet, the vision of our hope also becomes a lived reality in our present. Hope enriches our experience in real time.
  4. Hope and hoping place us at risk of being disappointed when the object of our hopeful desire is not realized within the time frame we imagine. For instance, universal healthcare may not be achieved in 2019, yet without our hope-filled investment in its eventual realization in the present time, it will never be realized at all.

On a lighter note I thought you might be interested in a little Church Calendar trivia. This Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany and only once in every eight years does this celebration fall on a Sunday, enabling the Baptism of Jesus to occupy the following Sunday. The Epiphany is a major feast in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, where it, rather than December 25th is the time for celebrating the arrival of the Christ Child with the visit of the Kings bearing gifts. Normally for us, the Epiphany gets short shrift when January 6th falls in the week because the Sunday after the Epiphany is always the Baptism of Jesus.

On Christmas eve we enjoyed record breaking numbers at both services, and I trust this might be an indication that St Martin’s has once again reached a tipping point when the expanding energy and magnetic attraction of the community begins to register in the continued arrival of new members.

So, see you in church this coming Epiphany Sunday.

Mark+

December 27

(Full text)

Although still technically in the 4th week of Advent, (I allow the Christmas trees to go up but forbid the lights to be turned on – I know call me old fashioned) the Community Carol Sing on Sunday afternoon launched an enthusiastic start to Christmas celebrations. What a tremendous success this was when 150+ people, many visiting St Martin’s for the first time, raised a joyful Christmas sound. Thanks to those who brought friends and neighbors to experience the joy and energy of the St Martin’s community. We excel at these kinds of low-key social outreach opportunities that show-case for others in the wider community why our church commitment means so much to us. Our thanks to Lauren Hill and her team of volunteers who ensured the runaway success of this event. The other lovely aspect from Sunday was to see how the children’s choir is really growing in confidence as well as numbers under Gabe Alfieri’s friendly, yet firm tutelage.

This Friday, December 21st, on the Winter Solstice, our Christmas celebrations begin with the Blue Christmas Service at 5:30. To experience a loss or to remember the anniversary of a loss at this time of year can be somewhat isolating as everyone around you is in full festive swing. Blue Christmas is best described as a time of reflection for the sorrowful in a season of joy. Again, I hope many of you will see this as an opportunity to invite others for whom Blue Christmas might be a helpful and healing experience.

On Christmas Eve, we begin at 4 pm with a wonderful and exuberant multigenerational celebration in which the focus is upon our children’s dramatic telling of the Christmas story in their colorful pageant. This is a time when three or more generations of family members get an opportunity to worship together. In terms of numbers, 4 pm is now our largest Christmas celebration, so do remember to arrive a little earlier to get a seat.

Except for Anglo-Catholics, Episcopalians as a rule don’t refer to the Eucharist as Mass except on Christmas eve. At St Martin’s, we have found that with changing patterns of church attendance many of us find it more and more daunting for a variety of reasons to venture out at midnight. Therefore, we have brought all the solemnity and beauty of the traditional Midnight Mass back to the more manageable hour of 9 pm.

On Christmas Day at 9:30 am we will have a simple, spoken Eucharist with no music for those who eschew all the pomp and circumstance of Christmas worship. On Sunday, December 30th, our normal Sunday service is a celebration of the Eucharist in which lessons and carols replace the normal liturgy of the Word.

Hope to see you in Church this Sunday for Advent IV.

On behalf of the Church Wardens, Vestry, and Staff at St Martin’s have a Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year – I have a feeling we might need them.

Mark+

December 13

(cont. from E-News)

children need firm boundaries. But not just children, all of us thrive best within the limits of prescribed boundaries – contained spaces where there’s enough gravity to keep our feet on the ground. Between the Incarnation – Christ’s first coming, and the Parousia, the theological name for the second coming, lies the transgenerational terrain of Christian living.

If our Advent is only waiting for God’s first coming in Christ, then after Christmas it’s literally back to business as usual. Christ has come – so what? It’s like attending a play comprised of an endless repetition of the first act only. There’s a final act in the drama of salvation. Knowing this helps us focus on the way the action unfolds between first and final acts of the play. Focus is the operative verb here. Without an outer boundary, energy to focus on the present will lack urgency and direction (gravity) and will continually dissipate.

The present time in which we live lies somewhere between the first and final acts of the drama of salvation. The early Christians emphasized Christ’s immanent return so much because they understood better than we how necessary it was to know there was a final act – an outer boundary that refocused their attention on their present lives. We don’t need to know when or how the second coming will occur, we just need to know that at some point God will fulfill the promise to renew the face of the creation and that which has grown old will be made new.

The first Christian generations changed the world in real time as the world had never before been changed. Like them, Christians in any generation who understood the priority to align themselves with the eventual fulfilment of the reign of God’s justice, will change the world in real time as a prequel to God’s final renewal of the creation in the resurrection of the world.

The first Christians lived with a sense of urgency that there is not a moment to lose. What if like them, we too could live with a sense of urgency for change; sharing their realization that there is not a moment of time to be lost in changing the world for the better –i.e. changing it in our real time? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves this Advent!

See you in Church on Sunday and don’t forget our much-anticipated Community Carol Sing at 3pm.

Mark+

(full text)

The New Testament writers took very seriously the expectation of Christ’s second coming. Because these writers of the New Testament believed that Christ would return any day now – to complete the work begun, their imperative was to be ready.  Here we are 2000+ years later and Jesus has not yet returned in triumph to judge the world. I have lived most of my professional Christian life, treating the Parousia -the theological word for Christ’s return, as a form of early Christian wishful thinking.

Journeying back in time we would discover that traditionally, Advent focused on the Four Last Things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell – a rather grim message. Beginning in the 20th-century mainstream Christians reframed Advent as an exploration of faith, love, and hope, within the existential struggle of waiting. This Advent, I have found myself asking the question – yes waiting – certainly the most difficult of all human experiences – but waiting for what?

Psychologically, we don’t thrive well in a vacuum created by a sense of endless possibilities. As any parent knows children need firm boundaries. But not just children, all of us thrive best within the limits of prescribed boundaries – contained spaces where there’s enough gravity to keep our feet on the ground. Between the Incarnation – Christ’s first coming, and the Parousia, the theological name for the second coming, lies the transgenerational terrain of Christian living.

If our Advent is only waiting for God’s first coming in Christ, then after Christmas it’s literally back to business as usual. Christ has come – so what? It’s like attending a play comprised of an endless repetition of the first act only. There’s a final act in the drama of salvation. Knowing this helps us focus on the way the action unfolds between first and final acts of the play. Focus is the operative verb here. Without an outer boundary, energy to focus on the present will lack urgency and direction (gravity) and will continually dissipate.

The present time in which we live lies somewhere between the first and final acts of the drama of salvation. The early Christians emphasized Christ’s immanent return so much because they understood better than we how necessary it was to know there was a final act – an outer boundary that refocused their attention on their present lives. We don’t need to know when or how the second coming will occur, we just need to know that at some point God will fulfill the promise to renew the face of the creation and that which has grown old will be made new.

The first Christian generations changed the world in real time as the world had never before been changed. Like them, Christians in any generation who understood the priority to align themselves with the eventual fulfilment of the reign of God’s justice, will change the world in real time as a prequel to God’s final renewal of the creation in the resurrection of the world.

The first Christians lived with a sense of urgency that there is not a moment to lose.  What if like them, we too could live with a sense of urgency for change; sharing their realization that there is not a moment of time to be lost in changing the world for the better –i.e. changing it in our real time? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves this Advent!

See you in Church on Sunday and don’t forget our much-anticipated Community Carol Sing at 3pm.

Mark+

December 6

(cont. from E-news)

I think the answer is that it’s the National CATHEDRAL – that is the national cathedral of the Episcopal Church. But when the nation celebrates and when it mourns, the National Cathedral takes on a role as the NATIONAL Cathedral – that is the nation’s cathedral. Partly this might be a function of architecture – the Gothic style articulates a confident cultural strand in pluralistic American life. Yet, it’s the Anglican DNA that marks out the Episcopal Church generally, and the National Cathedral particularly, as vehicles for the expression of powerful national sentiments that bind the nation as one, in either celebration, or mourning.

How might I sum up Anglican DNA? It’s about dignity and a balanced aesthetic, both qualities much in evidence at the elder Bush’s state funeral. But at heart, it’s the articulation of the notion of church as servant of the civic community. Episcopal churches are non-sectarian, whether as cathedrals or parish churches, they embody the principle of church the connects spiritual and civic community. The Anglican genius to which the Episcopal Church is heir results in the kind of church that serves through ministering to all regardless of whether they are our members or not.

This week we mourn not only President Bush’s passing but that of a daughter of St Martin’s, Judy Mitchell, priest. It was at St Martin’s the Judy discovered and was encouraged in her vocation to priestly ministry. She served a number of churches in the Diocese, the last of which being All Saint’s Memorial Church. Periods of her life were marked by years of chronic illness. Yet at the same time Judy was a model of human resilience. She finally died late last week, after some days in a coma. At this point we believe a memorial service will be held for Judy at All Saints after Christmas. More news of that to follow.

This Sunday, being the second in the month means Evensong at 4:30pm. Sung by the members of our choir quartet the emphasis of this service is on a balance between musical beauty and prayerful intimacy and where possible we seat those attending in the choir stalls. Evensong is an important string in the bow of Episcopal-Anglican worship – a service particularly sensitive to our energies as daylight fades and night draws on. If you are unfamiliar with it, do come, taste, and see!

See you in church this Sunday!
Mark+

(full text)

Ross Douthat commenting in the NY Times about the upwelling of nostalgia for George Bush Sr. as one of the last representatives of the WASP Establishment that ruled American Society for most of the late 19th and 20th-centuries, ends his piece with:

So if some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

As an Episcopalian, and especially as the rector of St Martin’s, I try to embody the highest ideals of what might be considered WASP values while at the same time being very aware of traditional WASP culture’s pronounced elitist and ethnocentric bias. Despite the sins of WASP culture, its virtues are personal humility and responsibility, commitment to public service and fostering the common good, alongside a valuing of institutional loyalty – all the qualities currently being identified with the late George H.W. Bush. Douthat’s point is that the WASP virtues exemplified by George H.W. Bush have not been inherited by the current meritocratic elite which is clearly defined by its narcissistic and cravenly materialist-transactional culture. We are more than nostalgic for the loss of WASP values, we deeply mourn their passing. But as Christians, not to mention Anglican Christians, we continue to hope for their revival in forms appropriate to our present age.

At the National Cathedral on Wednesday morning the Anglican DNA of the Episcopal Church was fully on display. A question: do you think it’s the NATIONAL Cathedral, or do you think it is the National CATHEDRAL?  Write your answers on a postcard and return to …. read on  I think the answer is that it’s the National CATHEDRAL – that is the national cathedral of the Episcopal Church. But when the nation celebrates and when it mourns, the National Cathedral takes on a role as the NATIONAL Cathedral – that is the nation’s cathedral. Partly this might be a function of architecture – the Gothic style articulates a confident cultural strand in pluralistic American life. Yet, it’s the Anglican DNA that marks out the Episcopal Church generally, and the National Cathedral particularly, as vehicles for the expression of powerful national sentiments that bind the nation as one, in either celebration, or mourning.

How might I sum up Anglican DNA? It’s about dignity and a balanced aesthetic, both qualities much in evidence at the elder Bush’s state funeral. But at heart, it’s the articulation of the notion of church as servant of the civic community. Episcopal churches are non-sectarian, whether as cathedrals or parish churches, they embody the principle of church the connects spiritual and civic community. The Anglican genius to which the Episcopal Church is heir results in the kind of church that serves through ministering to all regardless of whether they are our members or not.

This week we mourn not only President Bush’s passing but that of a daughter of St Martin’s, Judy Mitchell, priest. It was at St Martin’s the Judy discovered and was encouraged in her vocation to priestly ministry. She served a number of churches in the Diocese, the last of which being All Saint’s Memorial Church. Periods of her life were marked by years of chronic illness. Yet at the same time Judy was a model of human resilience. She finally died late last week, after some days in a coma. At this point we believe a memorial service will be held for Judy at All Saints after Christmas. More news of that to follow.

This Sunday, being the second in the month means Evensong at 4:30pm. Sung by the members of our choir quartet the emphasis of this service is on a balance between musical beauty and prayerful intimacy and where possible we seat those attending in the choir stalls. Evensong is an important string in the bow of Episcopal-Anglican worship – a service particularly sensitive to our energies as daylight fades and night draws on. If you are unfamiliar with it, do come, taste, and see!

See you in church this Sunday!

Mark+

November 29

(cont. from E-news)

such as the Cloak Ministry which collects toiletry and clothing essentials and distributes them to several homeless shelters. Advent is marked by additional degrees of generous living.

This Advent:
  1. will mark exceeding our target benchmark of raising $20,000 for Episcopal Charities.
  2. we will directly disburse St Martin’s Outreach Grants to the tune of $5,000 – $7,000 from Outreach Ministries and an additional $2,000 from a tithe (10%) on the revenue surplus generated by the wildly successful Thrifty Goose.
  3. KidsZone will assemble upwards of 75 packs of socks, underwear, and toiletries (all the fruit of our members’ generous donations) for distribution at the weekly Epiphany Soup Kitchen – a meal site that offers 80- 90 people (mostly working poor) a weekly three-course meal. In addition to our volunteers hosting ESK once a month, St Martin’s folk occupy key positions on the ESK board.
  4. 90 people from the community were fed at the Thanksgiving Day Dinner with a further 30 take-out meals distributed.
  5. through our support of the DCYF (Dept. for Children, Youth and Families) Christmas Appeal, this year we will buy Christmas presents for 45 children aged 6 months to 14 years old, and provide $100 gift cards for young adults who as part of VEC, a voluntary extension consent program run by DCYF, who are aging out of youth services and establishing themselves in the world.

This year, let’s wait or at least try to practice a spirit of waiting. Postponing our desire for instant emotional gratification (I’ve decided not to buy the kimono you all so admire on me) helps us to listen to a deeper and more generous rhythm of living. Good things are worth waiting for because they only come in their own time. In the meantime, thank you to everyone for ensuring that our community is becoming better fit for God’s purposes.

Have a fruitful Advent and see you in Church, this first Sunday in Advent.

Mark+

(full text)

Advent marks the beginning of a new Church Year. The Church’s year begins four weeks before the birth of Jesus, a period designed to allow time to prepare. In a culture when Christmas is celebrated as a non-stop commercial season from Black Friday onward, the older rhythms of preparing with anticipation seem quaint.

Quaint they may be, yet the Church’s seasons speak of an older wisdom about the rhythms of life. The modern world of instant gratification means effectively that gratification is reduced to a momentary experience, no sooner achieved then forgotten. The cumulative result is that we are never satisfied. Real satisfaction is the fruit of anticipation, preparation, and of course the most difficult emotional state of all – waiting.

Tolerating the experience of waiting is a process of becoming better oriented to God’s activity in the world around us. Becoming better oriented is measured in degrees of living generously. In addition to our yearlong programs such as the Cloak Ministry which collects toiletry and clothing essentials and distributes them to several homeless shelters. Advent is marked by additional degrees of generous living.

This Advent:

  1. will mark exceeding our target benchmark of raising $20,000 for Episcopal Charities.
  2. we will directly disburse St Martin’s Outreach Grants to the tune of $5,000 – $7,000 from Outreach Ministries and an additional $2,000 from a tithe (10%) on the revenue surplus generated by the wildly successful Thrifty Goose.
  3. KidsZone will assemble upwards of 75 packs of socks, underwear, and toiletries (all the fruit of our members’ generous donations) for distribution at the weekly Epiphany Soup Kitchen – a meal site that offers 80- 90 people (mostly working poor) a weekly three-course meal. In addition to our volunteers hosting ESK once a month, St Martin’s folk occupy key positions on the ESK board.
  4. 90 people from the community were fed at the Thanksgiving Day Dinner with a further 30 take-out meals distributed.
  5. through our support of the DCYF (Dept. for Children, Youth and Families) Christmas Appeal, this year we will buy Christmas presents for 45 children aged 6 months to 14 years old, and provide $100 gift cards for young adults who as part of VEC, a voluntary extension consent program run by DCYF, who are aging out of youth services and establishing themselves in the world.

This year, let’s wait or at least try to practice a spirit of waiting. Postponing our desire for instant emotional gratification (I’ve decided not to buy the kimono you all so admire on me) helps us to listen to a deeper and more generous rhythm of living. Good things are worth waiting for because they only come in their own time. In the meantime, thank you to everyone for ensuring that our community is becoming better fit for God’s purposes.

Have a fruitful Advent and see you in Church, this first Sunday in Advent.

Mark+

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+