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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."


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  • January 20, 2022 1:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On freezing cold January days, I like to find a patch of sun and curl up in it, cat-like, and dream of warmer times. Take a moment now to dream with me. Can you envision canoeing across some quiet water, surrounded by pine trees? Taking a hike through the woods with friends, just as the deep green summer leaves are starting to turn red on the edges? A picnic lunch with the sun warming our backs, or a camp fire with s'mores? How about morning prayers by the lake, or worship in an outdoor chapel?

    What do you say? Who needs a weekend away? 

    It was a year ago this week when Rev. Nick arrived and we sat down for our first meeting on a cold, dark January day. Vaccines were on the horizon but not yet available, and we had not held an in-person service or class in ten months, but we talked excitedly about our hopes and visions, and we sketched out pandemic-be-darned plans for reuniting our parish family. We’ve gotten to do a lot of what we talked about that day—Wednesday evening suppers, low-key evening worship services, festive coffee hours. And now, on this cold January day, I’m thrilled to announce that we are planning our first all-Parish retreat in many years. 

    Please mark your calendars for September 23-25, 2022, and join for us a two-night Parish Weekend Away at the Barbara C. Harris Camp in New Hampshire. 

    We’ve reserved lodge rooms and cabins, scheduled meals, and we’re just beginning to think about all the fun things we’ll do together on that late summer/early fall weekend: things our souls need like morning prayer, relaxing walks, time to talk, canoe rides, high ropes courses (for the thrill-seekers among us), fires, art, music, and worship in nature. 

    Details, options, costs, and everything else you’ll need to know will be forthcoming over the next few months, and we’ll begin registration in May. We hope all parishioners—every age, every interest—will join in. 

    May dreams of the September sun, good health, and the closeness of friends keep you warm and filled with light and hope in these days. 

    With love,
    Bryn

  • December 30, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish of the Epiphany wardens Suzanne Owayda and Dave McSweeney smiling into the camera at outdoor gathering. Suzanne wears a sleeveless orange shirt with embroidery; Dave wears a blue button-up shirt.For many years, my husband Brett has outwardly expressed his core value of gratitude. Gratitude for the little things and the big things. This intentional action has helped me develop my own sense of gratitude: for family, health, friends, meaningful work, food, shelter, clothing. Sometimes taken for granted, consistently reminded that they are not for granted, and with a balanced perspective around all of it.

    As we close out 2021 and look toward 2022, many of us are taking stock by making gratitude lists. Maybe if we compared our lists, we’d see themes in common; perhaps we would discover something new about each other. I’m sharing three items today that make up a portion of my Epiphany Gratitude list for 2021. 

    Many of you know that Epiphany is the sponsoring parish of my husband, Brett Johnson, for ordination to the Sacred Priesthood, scheduled for early next month. I am so grateful to you for the many ways you have supported us and held us as we enter this new chapter in our faith lives together. Your enthusiasm is so appreciated by both of us. I’m grateful for the many ways Brett has been called to this holy work, and I am both proud and humbled to be walking alongside him.

    Nick Myers joined us as our new rector in January of this year. What an amazing time it has been partnering with him as he inspires us to grow in new ways. Over this year I’ve discovered that Nick is a wonderful priest, pastor, and friend, and I am grateful to count Bethany, Bennett, Lennox, Bob, and Linda as new friends. 

    I often refer to Suzanne Owayda as my third sister. It’s hard to put into words the gratitude I feel for the partnership we’ve had as co-wardens at Epiphany for the past three years. Through all the challenges we faced together, Suzanne and I rarely disagreed on any issue put before us; if we did, we easily worked through it. This is Suzanne’s last year as warden, and while we won’t be serving together for much longer, I am grateful to have gained such a close sister in Christ, and a fantastic friend forever.

    What’s on your Epiphany Gratitude List?

    Blessings to us all in 2022!

    Dave McSweeney, Warden 

  • December 23, 2021 12:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish of the Epiphany's sanctuary filled with people at ChristmastimeMerry Almost Christmas friends! Christmas is only two days away and tomorrow evening we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord at three services. At 4:00 pm we gather for Holy Communion and Family Service (you can expect a bit of holy merriment with the little ones); at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm our services will be led by section leaders and a string ensemble. Please know that at the 10:00 service, we will be using incense. Both the 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm services will be livestreamed on our YouTube channel and you can join our services there if you are not feeling well or prefer to worship from home. Masks and social distancing will be required to attend, and seating will be available in the Sanctuary, Hadley Hall, and Upper Parish Hall.  

    This Christmas, you may find yourself choosing to worship from home, in-person or at our 10:00 am Christmas morning service; you may be filled with joy and hope or exhaustion and sorrow. Wherever you are, whatever you are feeling, I pray that you know the peace of God that passes understanding through knowing that while we may be apart we are never alone. While we may be feeling anxious, there is hope because of the promises we celebrate, together, this holiday. Together, we walk into the new year with faith and hope and love. Together, with God, we make a way forward. Christ is with us; God is Emmanuel. I am wishing you a blessed and merry Christmas, friends. God bless you and keep you.

    In Christ, 
    Nick 


  • December 09, 2021 10:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rugged wooden cross on the peak of a mountainIf you've ever climbed a mountain, you know the excitement of seeing the summit within grasp after a long trek. And, you likely know the great disappointment in realizing that what you see is not the summit, but a false summit. There is still more to come. In that moment, I usually have to steel myself and prepare for more by actually doing less. Typically, I pause, drink some water, have another energy bar, maybe put on another layer for the final push. I need to stop before I can keep going.

    This Sunday, the crowd who has been following John the Baptist think they see the summit in his witness; he quickly sets them right and says, "One who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals." The life of faith is like this. We are ready to substitute a false summit for the real deal. Scripture tells us, from the ancient stories of the Hebrews to the more recent writings of early Christians, we humans are given to substitute nearly anything for the one thing that truly brings life. We are ready to make God into an idol and idols into our gods. A sure way to know the difference is that God doesn't seek to control you, idols almost always do. God is the God of liberation and love—this is what the scriptures tell us. God frees us into a new way of being in this world that is defined by self-gift, embrace, freeing obedience, and immovable dignity.

    This Advent season is often defined by preparation for what is to come—looking towards the joy of Christmas. And yet, the great paradox of faith is that everything you long for and desire is already yours for the receiving. There is no promise from God that you can earn or acheive, no perfection or purity that will finally pull down the lever of a slot-machine god to dispense innumerable benefits. You are worthy, now. You are beloved, now. You are forgiven, now. You are cherished, now. It might frustrate or even anger the hearts of some to hear what is utter good news: there is no false summit to God's love. In fact, we followers of Jesus go even further: we say the hike up was done for us because God has come down. When we see this, we have begun to see the Christmas promise.

    See you on Sunday,
    Nick


  • December 02, 2021 1:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish of the Epiphany's sanctuary from behind, filled with people looking at the altar. Candles are lit and there is Christmas greenery.It’s beginning to look—and even better, feel—a lot like Christmas around here. The Christmas Fair was full of joy, treats, and friends. Advent greens covered Hadley Hall during our festive wreath making. The Christmas pageant costumes are being pulled out, and Advent music is floating through the halls. Children are wearing “I’ve been vaccinated” stickers (does that count as a sign of the holidays? It’s an amazing gift!). What a wonderful, joyous beginning! 

    A few weeks ago, we celebrated our first live and in-person Evensong in nearly two years. The final choral piece, The Road Home, perfectly held the feelings of so many as we looked into Advent. Here are the words:

    Tell me where is the road I can call my own,
    That I left, that I lost, so long ago?
    All these years I have wandered, oh when will I know
    There’s a way there’s a road that will lead me home?

    After wind, after rain, when the dark is done,
    As I wake from a dream in the gold of day,
    Through the air there’s a calling from far away,
    There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.

    We’ve waited for this season, friends. Last year we all worked hard—worship videos, choir videos, pageant videos, videos videos videos—and it was a testament to the strength and love of this community that we carried on. But this year, we can come home. Come, join us this Sunday as we light the second Advent candle. Come, be part of Adult Formation’s Advent offerings at 11:15. Come, join our children’s pageant rehearsals. Come, join us for a Midweek full of cheer on Wednesday evenings. Come, rehearse with the choir for Lessons & Carols. Come to the services, Bible studies, dinners, and pageants. This parish opens its doors wide to you, and we hope and pray you will come and join fully in this most wonderful season together. 

    With love, 
    Bryn 

  • November 24, 2021 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thin, white lit candle against black backgroundThis coming Sunday, November 28, is the beginning of the season of Advent. It is a time when we prepare for, with reflection, joy and expectation, the celebration of Jesus' birth and the fulfilment of God's promise to come be with us always. Advent promises impossibilities. Advent promises hope. In this season of Advent we are reminded that "a light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1:5). I don't know about you, but I am in need of God's gift of hope each and every day. It's easy to lose touch with hope. We may feel that hope is a fool's errand these days with the state of the world—from climate change to systemic racism to a global pandemic to, yes, even the challenges of being church today. Hope may be the last thing we want to strive for in the midst of the realities we face. And yet, hope is more real than the realities we face, for hope sees the possibility and the promise each moment, each challenge holds hidden in itself. This is the power of faith, it is the power of hope—and such strength transforms our lives and our living beyond what we see, now.

    Advent is a time of rooting ourselves down into the promises of God. As we enter this holiday season, I pray that together we can hold fast to one another, to God's promise in Jesus Christ, and stay close to the hope God that is offered to us each day. Friends, I am sending you my love and deep gratitude this Thanksgiving week. I am grateful for you and for our life together.

    See you Sunday,
    Rev. Nick

  • November 11, 2021 1:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Three golden crown images, with a golden sunbeam above them. Below, pink text reads: "Renew + Rebuild." Golden Text below reads: "Stewardship 2022"Over the past few weeks, we have heard about how our pledges support our church community and mission and how a commitment to increase our pledges will allow us to expand our ministries as we look to Renew & Rebuild. Stewardship, however, goes beyond enabling our ministry: it is also, or can be, spiritual — a way to grow deeper in relationship with God through Christ.

    Although the stewardship campaign is in the fall, acting out our role as stewards is truly an all year, daily activity. Stewardship is defined as caring for something entrusted to one’s care. Stewardship is a way of life that calls us to make God the priority in all things. As Christians, we strive to be disciples of Christ. And being a disciple is connected to discipline. And that is one way that pledging is spiritual; the discipline of regularly giving to God and being part of what God wants to, and can, do through the people in his church, with the resources he has given them. And by pledging, we remind ourselves throughout the year that all we might have is really from God and is God’s. A weekly pledge check can be a regular, palpable reminder of our commitment and connection to God.

    As Christ says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)  By pledging, we are showing that our heart is with Christ, seeking to do his good work. This is another way pledging is spiritual; we are walking in Christ’s way to give of ourselves for the growth of Christ’s community and to grow closer to and more Christ-like.

    Earlier this year the choir sang this anthem in a most beautiful arrangement:

    I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.
    I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.
    I believe in God, even when God is silent.    (Mark A. Miller (b. 1967))

    We believe that together, with everyone’s help, commitment, and generosity, we can do more together and Renew & Rebuild and extend our community in Christ. What do you believe?  

    ~ Jonathan Foot

  • October 14, 2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I don’t know about you, but for me the arrival of fall seems to be associated with a whirlwind of activities. At the church, it is a time when new programs begin. This year that has meant planning and beginning Midweek @ Epiphany and Family Worship services, as well as the usual choir rehearsals, Sunday morning services and preparing for approaching Evensong and Lessons and Carols services. For many of us there are also busy school schedules and a return to regular work schedules after our summer vacations. Add in all the seasonal activities that we all try to fit in before the winter weather hits, and it is no wonder that fall flies by and we quickly find ourselves in the in midst of Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas.

    During busy times like this, I find that I value moments that make me pause and reflect on something other than my own busy schedule. One of these moments occurred last week after our choir rehearsal. The choir had been working on an anthem for this coming Sunday. It isn’t particularly difficult, but it is quiet, with a rather haunting and lyrical melody that sticks in your head. The music was composed by David Ogden and text comes from words written by Teresa of Avila. 

    Christ has no body now but yours,
    No hand, no feet on earth but yours.
    Yours are the eyes with which he sees,
    Yours are the feet with which he walks,
    Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands. Yours are the feet. Yours are the eyes.


    As the beautiful text and music played over and over in my head for the next few days, I began to realize what a wonderful message these words contained. No matter what we are doing, or how busy we are, we are called to be the light of Christ in the world. How wonderful that with a little thought and intention, we can do this even in the midst of our busy, daily lives.  

    Faithfully, 
    Craig

  • September 24, 2021 11:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Aerial shot of people gathered for dinner under canopy tents in Parish of the Epiphany's Cloister GardenGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46

    A few Sundays ago, during the State of the Church session we held in Hadley Hall, Rev. Nick remarked that asking each other how we are doing is taking on new meaning, maybe even a new urgency as we continue our journey together as a community of faith. Sharing that we are not OK is actually OK, and an important step on this path as we reflect on what has happened over the past 18 months of pandemic time, and as we discern what’s ahead.

    Last time I wrote the lead article in our newsletter, I shared some aspects of how I’m not OK, balanced by how I am OK. Several weeks later, I’ll admit that there have been many days when I’ve been feeling less OK. Withdrawn, tending toward isolation. And, reflecting further, those are days that I’m feeling less connected to my faith life and, by extension, to all of you. The good news is that God always promises us with the opportunity to return and renew.

    One of the things that attracted me to Epiphany and has remained constant since joining in 2012 is that as a community we can experience wholeness and brokenness and hold them both. We have such a deep well of strength, capability, and love for each other; I continue to be amazed and inspired by it. I know that God is in that, and that is of great comfort.

    Since Nick’s arrival in January, he has been engaged in finding creative ways for us to be together in community; his energy has created a great deal of forward momentum. Seeing our community turnout in large numbers at Rally Day, the following Sunday for State of the Church, and for our first Midweek @ Epiphany is a testament both to his leadership and to you. As always, I remain grateful for you!

    Dave McSweeney

  • September 23, 2021 8:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Group of people eating lunch and laughing around an outdoor table at Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, MAChange is happening. In our house, we've noticed some changes. Leaves are changing to autumn colors; Saturdays are now changed by soccer; our garden is changed by cooling weather; my father-in-law, Rev. Bob, will soon be changed by knee-surgery; mornings will be changed as Bethany begins a position with MGB. Change is happening over here!

    Yesterday, we had our first Midweek @ Epiphany gathering. About 80 people of all ages joined together for a wonderful dinner outside under lighted tents, formation for all ages, and simply a time to connect and share our lives with one another. While Midweek might be a change to the rhythm of our lives, I'm wondering if it also speaks to a change in us. A hunger we've had for relationship, connection, laughter, and shared faith. I certainly sense a change in me, noticing the energy, gratitude, and joy such a time together brought to me. We are mindfully changing how we've been as church during these past 18 months. I know that I've gotten used to a different rhythm of churchsome of it not for the better. I'm ready to change my view towards a new chapter, new engagement, to being church in both familiar and changed ways as we seek to be a more intergenerational, connected, and growing church. Growing churches are filled with people who are growingin faith, hope, and love.

    This Sunday, we continue some changes by returning to the familiar and rebuilding ourselves in new ways. Church School begins this Sunday in the Bishop Garden under tents; at 3:00 pm I'll host an ice cream social with youth (6th-12th grade) to talk about our hopes for a Director for Youth; join us at 5:00 pm in the Cloister Garden for outdoor worship and Communion.

    Change is happening. And through it, God invites us to be changed.

    See you Sunday,
    Nick

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