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News & Resources: Spiritual Spot

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

You'll find here occasional writings, a few rants, and hopefully some insights too, about Christian discipleship, the Episcopal Church, and on faith community's life at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, Massachusetts. At the Epiphany we understand ourselves to be "a welcoming Episcopal community, united in God, called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to transform the world with love and generosity."


  • November 26, 2016 11:02 AM | Anonymous

    The Episcopal Church, along with many other Christian communities, shapes its life and worship from what we call the liturgical calendar. Here's the Episcopal Church's version

    I confess that I prefer one that's more oval or round-shaped, like this version:  

    We sometimes refer to it simply as the "church year." On this calendar there are fixed dates, such as Christmas (25 December), and several other days and seasons which are not fixed, such as Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. 

    I think of the calendar not so much as a thing, but as a way to walk, a pilgrimage, in which the trek through life and death, joy and pain, is made alongside people from my life now, as well as with all the biblical characters an spiritual ancestors who surround us. 

    My favorite season is Advent. I love its colors and I love that it's so counter-cultural. I spent much of this past weekend planning for how to get ready for the season, thinking carefully about how to decorate our home not for Christmas, but for this season of waiting and anticipation. Christmas will come soon enough (or too soon maybe), but tomorrow begins Advent, a new year, and that is a present worth more to me than anything I'll find under the tree on December 25th. 

    There are several resources for this season here are three:

    1. A great book (and I mean fantastic) is Sybil MacBeth's, The Season of the Nativity (Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2014). It's perfect for those with lots of knowledge of this season and those with no knowledge. I highly recommend it.
    2. My spouse, the Reverend Thomas N. Mousin, produces an annual Advent Devotional Calendar. Copies will be available at the back of the church. You can also view it here
    3.  A daily reflection will be posted every day during Advent at this blog, Spiritual Spot
    4. A Quiet Day (a mini-retreat) with the Reverend Martin L. Smith is Saturday, 10 December from 9:00 until 12:00. Come for as much or as little as you can. For more information visit our website
    Faithfully in Christ,


  • November 11, 2016 9:08 AM | Anonymous

    My maternal grandfather was John Darwin Rea, known as Darbie. He lived with my family following the death of my grandmother for about a decade, until his own death. He was a veteran of World War II, and among the memories I have of "Grandpa Rea" is watching him sit at the kitchen table every morning making little crepe paper poppies for the local VFW post's auxiliary to sell. I bet he made 10,000 of those little lapel flowers. And it was from him that I learned that the poppies are really for Memorial Day, whereas Veteran's Day is to remember all veterans, as much the living as the deceased. The poppies, he said, "should be worn on both days."

    I don't have a red poppy lapel flower today. What I do have is a deep sense of gratitude of the men and women (and their families) who served in our armed and medical services. 

    May God keep them. 
    Faithfully in Christ,

    Thomas


  • November 04, 2016 2:53 PM | Anonymous

    In 1998, the foodie scene in Berkeley, California was at least a generation old. Artisan bakeries, the original Peet’s Coffee, a local grocery chain, and, of course, Alice Waters’s acclaimed restaurant Chez Panisse were established, and each was a destination for gourmet enthusiasts from around the Bay Area. I was a young professional volunteering as a priest associate at a church in San Francisco, while being paid a good salary at the seminary for teaching a few pastoral care courses and managing the alumni fundraising department. I was 27 years old. Finally, after seven years of education I could save money, and, at long last, I could spend it without guilt.

    A new place had just opened two doors from Chez Panisse, César, a tapas and cocktail bar. Remember this was 1998: high-end tapas bars were found mostly in Spain and Switzerland. César quickly became my new spot and it was at César, over Marcona almonds and ham and cheese bocadillos, where my friend, the Reverend C. Robbins Clark, taught me something I shall always remember.

    Robbin, as she was known, was the rector of St. Mark’s Church, the rather-big-deal Parish on the other side of Berkeley, a parish known as much for its outstanding music program as it was for challenging its clergy (including Robbin). In a sense, Robbin and I were bookends. She had been ordained right after our church said “yes!” to women in the priesthood, and now, having persevered and succeeded well at St. Mark’s, she was looking forward to retirement. I, on the other hand, had been ordained a little over a year, and was, I’m sure, sickeningly eager and earnest.
    “I’m saving money” I said with pride, awaiting her compliments and praise.
    “You’re spending it too,” replied Robbin-the-schoolmarm. I can’t remember what I said next but it was something about the two things one does with money: spend it and save it.

    And that’s when Jesus showed up, that is, that’s when Robbin said, “there’s a third thing to do with money, something other than spending it and saving it.” I confess I had no idea what she was talking about. I was puzzling over her words as one does with the clues in the Times crossword. Finally she said, “you can give it away.” The proverbial penny had dropped, the light bulb had gone on: I had just learned a life lesson. From that moment I committed to work toward giving 10% of my income away. That first year it was less than 1%; in 2017, my goal is to be at 9.2%, which represents a very slow commitment to the third way.

    This Sunday, what we’re calling Joy Sunday, we’ll present to God our intentions for giving away our time and our money. In addition to our pledges, we’ll bring hundreds of pounds of foodstuffs for the Council of Social Concern, and form a grand procession of these outward and visible signs of an inward grace, the third way.

    In addition to the stewardship committee’s work, you can hear how Andy & Charlene Sanna, Bruce Glabe, and Ginny Morse testified to how they’ve experienced God giving away God’s own self. In the final analysis our ability to listen, pray, and go is really about giving it all away; a third way to which neither César nor anything else in this world can hold a candle.

    With love and respect I am your friend and rector,






  • October 27, 2016 7:27 AM | Anonymous

    What’s All Saints Day? 

    A Christian festival (1 November) when we honor the lives of exemplary models and guides, and we ask their prayers for us. A broad understanding would also say that through baptism all of us are included in the celebration, the living and the dead. 

    What’s the Communion of Saints? 

    All Saints’ Day connects us to our belief in the Communion of Saints: that all of God's people, in this earthly life and in the various states of the larger life, are connected in one communion. In other words, traditional Christians believe that the Saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly praying on our behalf. While the saints aren’t divine, or even omnipresent or omniscient, we do believe that through Jesus Christ our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians. 

    How does it work.. the communion of saints? 

    Think about it as a celebration of a relationship, a relationship with people around us today, and also as a relationship with those who have gone before us in every time and place.  

    Is this really Christian?

    No and Yes. No, because it’s rooted in Judaism. At Passover Jews remember and look back so that God’s goodness and love can become present. Yes, because the primary way Christians do this is when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. 

    The Reverend Roger E. Nelson said All Saints Day had pagan roots. Does it?

    Think about Easter and Passover. In the Northern Hemisphere these are associated with rebirth and spring. Conversely in autumn thoughts turn toward death and eternity; days are shorter, darkness grows longer, and food is gathered for the winter. So it’s natural for the church to remember loved ones who made us who we are today. 

    What’s All Souls Day?

    A Christian festival (2 November) when we pray for all the departed brothers and sisters. We borrow this custom of praying for the dead from Judaism, and some of our earliest teachers (Cyprian and Tertullian) testify to the regular practice of early Christians praying for the souls of the dead. Spanish-speaking countries call this Dia de los Muertos, and in the Middle East it’s Yom el Maouta. 

    Isn’t it terribly Catholic to pray for the dead?

    No. Initially many Protestant reformers rejected All Souls Day because of the abusive practices of paying for Masses for the Dead, but today the Episcopal Church and many other Protestant churches celebrate All Souls’ Day and pray for the dead. 

    Why do Episcopalians seem to mix together All Saints and All Souls?

    History. When the Church of England was being born it fused these two days. However, our current Prayer Book (1979) officially separated them and adopted the more universal Christian custom of claiming again November 2nd as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (All Souls Day).

    When are we celebrating these holy days?

    • All Saints Day we’ll move to Sunday, November 6th at the 8:00 and 10:00 services (Holy Baptism at 10:00). This is one of a few feasts days that can be moved to the following Sunday, underscoring that it’s a big, big deal. 
    • All Souls Day we’ll celebrate on the actual day, Wednesday, 2 November at 7:30am. You’re invited to send us the names of your deceased loved ones; Miriam and I will read them just before we celebrate the Eucharist. 
    • Another observance of All Souls will happen on Sunday night, November 6th at 6:00pm with a requiem (Faure) with our choir and the choir of Christ Church in Hamilton-Wenham. This is a sung Mass to celebrate All the Faithful Departed. 

    How can I talk about All Souls Day with my children and grandchildren?

    Teach them to revere the dead by taking them to a cemetery, talk about nature shedding her old garb (leaves on a tree) to make herself ready for something new. Tell them stories of deceased family members, and how they influenced your life. On All Souls Day take out family albums, and share stories with the youngest in our family. Pray for deceased relatives at bedtime. 

  • October 23, 2016 6:48 PM | Anonymous

    The following video was created just before Evensong this evening, thanks to the videography taken of Tia Landry-Kennedy. It is intended for parents of young children, but might well have something for everybody who wonders about what to some folk might seem strange choreography.


  • October 20, 2016 8:29 AM | Anonymous

    In the early 1980s religious communities of every stripe were gathering around Harold Kushner's best seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Rabbi Kushner had just buried his fourteen year old son, Aaron, from progeria, a rare disease which causes rapid aging. Kushner was outraged at God for the unfairness of it all. He goes through all the various justifications for suffering, but in the end lays down his burden by asserting that none of are worth considering because all of the arguments assume that God causes human suffering. 

    The book looks at the story of Job, and explores all the interactions between Job and God, and through that, Kushner made a remarkable discovery, a contribution to theology which has shaped the past 35 years of teaching and preaching: God is loving and just, but God is simply not powerful enough to banish all evil and suffering. Why doesn't God stop it all? Because God can't. What Kushner hears in Job's and God's conversations is this: God says, "Job, I am doing the best I can, but I am not in control of all this. Managing evil is not an easy task, even for me." 

    The real invitation for Christians, at least as I hear it, is to proclaim that Jesus, who became flesh and dwelled among us, is involved in our pain and suffering, and stands (or sits) with us. It's one of the most powerful magnets of Christianity...that Jesus is intimately involved in both my joy and my suffering, right there with me every step. 

    Psalm 23 comes to mind, doesn't it? Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. For a sermon on the
    23rd Psalm click here.

    Peace and blessing for your day. 
    Faithfully in Christ,
    Thomas


  • October 18, 2016 9:09 AM | Anonymous

    Today is the Feast of St. Luke. Our tradition holds that St. Luke was a physician, and so today is a particularly important day for all those who work in medicine and the healing arts. 

    For the past several days our houseguest, a family nurse practitioner, has been attending a nutrition conference at the Boston Convention Center, some 8,000 dietitians and nutritionists. One of the hot topics is food security. Of course it is, along with everything else focused on security--economic, border, data, home. Without diminishing the need for food security I have to say it's all a bit much, this focus on security. 

    Security and invulnerability are values deeply embedded in the culture and political system of our nation. Triple locks, safe havens in the suburbs (like Winchester), bigger police forces, longer prison terms, et cetera. The problem is that pursuing security in worldly terms will ultimately cost us the fullness of life in what Martin Luther King, Jr., called the "beloved community of God."

    To become our fullest selves maybe our basic stance in life needs to shift from one of fearful self-protection to one where we take chances, to a posture in which we open ourselves to care for others. This seems to be the way of God revealed in Jesus.

    The journey into the vulnerability of Jesus has at least three components:

    1) As Jesus did, so we too must become vulnerable to God and to trust God.
    2) To become vulnerable is ultimately to accept ourselves.
    3) To follow Jesus is to become vulnerable by loving others.

    Who knows? Maybe St. Luke, the beloved physician, longs us to walk in the healing way of being vulnerable. God keep you this day and always. 

  • October 06, 2016 8:18 AM | Anonymous

    Two days ago from Amazon arrived a gift from a friend, a book that I did not have, but have coveted for a long while. It's Mary Oliver's collection of poems, Why I Wake Early (2004, Beacon Press). The title of the book is also the first poem. I hope it's a blessing for you today as much as it was for me:

    Why I Wake Early

    Hello, sun in my face.

    Hello, you who make the morning

    and spread it over the fields

    and into the faces of the tulips

    and the nodding morning glories,

    and into the windows of, even, the

    miserable and the crotchety---


    best preacher that ever was,

    dear star, that just happens

    to be where you are in the universe

    to keep us from ever-darkness,

    to ease us with warm touching,

    to hold us in the great hands of light---

    good morning, good morning, good morning,


    Watch, now, how I start the day

    in happiness, in kindness.


  • September 29, 2016 6:46 AM | Anonymous

    Were we in England today we would call today "Michaelmas," or, more literally, "Michael’s Mass," one of the famous and well-observed feasts of the Anglican Communion. 

    In a few minutes I’ll drive to Arlington Heights to say Mass and to be with the Sisters of Saint Anne. It’s always a great day to celebrate Mass with those five women religious of our church, but today is, as our friend Fran Elliott might say, “special.” 

    Of the angels spoken about in scripture, only four are named: Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and Michael. Reminds me slightly of the four Ninja Turtles, but they are the angels we have inherited from Jewish lore and theology. Michael is depicted to be the powerful agent of God who wards off evil and at death brings people to their place of peace. 

    The order of and concept of angels or servants of the deity seems to have been a borrowed one that found expression in our Old Testament. In our Christian history and resources, which includes Hebrew scripture, angel simply means, "messenger" and could be a supernatural being or, as often was, a human messenger through whom the word and way of God came to be expressed.

    I have never really experienced angels, at least in the supernatural sense, but it’s really our purpose, isn’t it…to be messengers of goodness?

    • Are we not as "little Christs," (that is what "Christian" means) to be messengers, supporters and protectors of one another? 
    • Are we not supposed to look after one another? 
    • Are not supposed to have compassion and defend, harbor, and enlighten one another to the best of our ability? 
    • Are we not messengers of hope to the despairing? 
    • Are we not conduits of miracle and power? 
    • Are we not responsible for empowering one another to be the best we can be? 
    • In other words, are we not also to be God incarnate? 

    We are indeed! We’re the ones called to “flesh out" the grace and love of God within ourselves, and Jesus says this, that we’re his sons and daughters in St. John’s gospel. 

    You see, it’s not that I don’t believe in angels, it’s just that what some say they do has been our job all along. Maybe that’s why the Prayer Book calls today “St. Michael and All Angels”—emphasis on the all. 

    When I think of angels I don’t think of winged creatures hovering supernaturally over us and trying to protect us in a world of hurt, tragedy and fear. I think, instead, of Carol Niemi, the woman who taught me to play the Hammond spinet organ for church. My own parents were facing a rather horrific time, and Carol took an interest in me and in "all her kids" as she called us. She was not the best teacher I ever had. Her musical knowledge was limited. Her methods and her theology were dated and her answers were too pat and prescribed, but that never mattered because what we all saw in her was the compassion and grace of Jesus. Above all else she cared, she was there, she loved us. Through college and seminary when she found out I was home she would drop by to see how I was, and to have some coffee and sit and talk around the table. I’ve never seen or experienced Michael or any other angels. But I’d say Carol was my angel incarnate. 

    To me, being church is not about great preaching or spectacular music or gothic cathedrals, as much as I love and adore and need all of those. The bottom line of Church is to be vulnerable to one another, there for one another, to teach and hold and love and bind up and heal and to be present. So we need to be angels to one another, to protect and defend and hold one another in community. That is who we are. That is what we do, first, last, always, and regardless. 

    So, Michael, if you are hovering somewhere nearby this morning, I am thankful for you because you and I, and all of us, are on the same team. And you and your "Michael’s Mass" remind me of my angelic responsibilities and privileges. 


  • September 21, 2016 7:59 AM | Anonymous

    I came out as a gay man early-on during college. It was a relief to many, even if for me the process of telling this truth was a kind of hell. Interestingly the struggle wasn’t with God or Jesus, or with my family, but with adults who were in charge of the church, an institution I cared about a great, great deal. Throughout the coming out process God was always on my lips and in my heart. There were many angels who came in the form of family and friends, lovers too, to support and to guide, and within a couple of years I had made peace not only with myself, but also with the church. Like most people I grew tremendously during college. By the time I graduated, in 1992, my mind, my spirit, and my heart were at least five times the size they’d been when I first arrived. I had grown up during those years, not completely, but measurably. 

    A companion to me in those seasons, really a mentor, was a then-young professor in Counseling Psychology (in the graduate school), James M. Croteau. He wrote articles and taught courses, and in short order Jim was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor, and eventually to full professor. Countless men and women sat at his feet to learn about undoing racism and advocating for those who have no voice. At the time of his appointment Jim was the only self-identified, gay faculty member at Western Michigan University.  And because Jim was never my professor we were able to have a friendship that was free of the requisite boundaries which rightly define how teachers and students interact. To me he was “just Jim.”  Like me,  Jim struggled with overeating, so we’d sometimes go to Bill Knapps Restaurant for au gratin potatoes and hot fudge sundaes. Unlike me Jim dove head-first into all kinds of athletic pursuits, almost obsessively. His partner, Darryl, was also a friend, and in a real sense Darryl and Jim were my first experience of a gay couple.  Jim & Darryl were the first people from whom I heard the words, “Ogunquit, Maine.” They have visited there since the year they first dated, now 31 years. 

    Last Thursday Jim messaged me on Facebook to say that he was going to be in Ogunquit in October. He wondered if we might meet half-way for a meal. I responded by suggesting that we meet for supper in Ogunquit on Thursday, 13 October at 6:30pm. It was the first time in several years that we’d been in touch. 

    This past Sunday night I was afflicted with insomnia (unusual for me) so I looked at Facebook. There was an odd post from a woman I’d never met who referred to  Jim in the past tense. A reply from another person used the word “memories” My ears pricked up, but Facebook's siren was silent, so I chalked my ominous premonition to midnight stupor, and went back to bed. On Monday morning a mutual friend texted me asking, “is this still your cell number? I need to talk to you.” I knew immediately that Jim was dead. I just knew.

    Early on Sunday morning Jim set off from his house in Kalamazoo for a bike ride. Evidently before he was out of the subdivision he was dead from a cardiac arrest. Jim had no history of heart disease; he was 59 years old. Darryl is devastated, and as he stated in a text yesterday, “numb like I’ve never known in my life.”

    I can’t rejoice in Jim’s death, but I do give thanks for his reaching out last week; for the idea that we would have had a reunion over some rich meal in a fabulous restaurant in Ogunquit. The friend who texted me on Monday morning encouraged me to keep the date, and to toast Jim on 13 October; he thinks Jim will be there.  Today, I give thanks for the way Jim led me from death to resurrection. And, I give thanks that he lives now with the angels.

    As you go through your day today find, or call, or email at least one person to say, “I love you.” 

    O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days;that, when we shall have served you in our generation, we may be gathered unto our ancestors, having the testimony of a good conscience; in the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope; in favor with you our God; and in perfect charity with the world. All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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