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+