News & Resources: Spiritual Spot


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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  • December 14, 2017 11:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    We hear many stories during this season of Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation. We know some of the stories by heart. The passages of scriptures that many of us heard last night at our Lessons and Carols service are etched on our hearts, as are many of the carols that we sing during this beautiful and holy season.

    Recently, I stumbled upon a book in my library at home that made me pause to pick it up again. It is called, Tracks in the Straw: Tales Spun from the Manger by Ted Loader. Ted is a Methodist Minister and prolific writer of poems and prayers. One of the chapters in his book entitled "Trillia Minor," is about a swallow that happened to fly into an ancient barn on the night that Jesus born. This common bird describes the scene:

    "That's how it was that night for me, an ordinary swallow. He saw me, Trillia, the only Trillia that ever was or will be. And when he did, there was a rush of fire and wonder in me that, ever since, I've poured out in a song that I taught other birds to sing. To me, it was as though that was why he was born. It was to see me; and to see everyone else in that stable, every other creature on the earth, to see us so we would forever know we are seen."

    We would forever know we are seen. The Christ that is in the world, that dwells in each one of us, see us in all our glory and brokenness, our joys and our grief, and our struggles. And in turn, Christ invites us to see each other - to see beyond our well-put-together selves, our "Sunday best" selves. Christ invites us to see those who are invisible in our culture: the unhoused person on the street, the hourly wage workers who serve us politely at restaurants, the gas station, the grocery, and so many other places of our privileged lives. Christ invites us to see those who are incarcerated, those whose religious and political practices differ from ours.

    And so, as we approach the Feast of the Incarnation in one short week, I wonder how we will prepare our hearts and minds for Emmanuel - God with us. How will our lives change? I pray that God will give us the eyes of Christ - that we will see one another and the stranger with compassionate and loving eyes, that when we greet one another and look into others' eyes, we will be as the Christ Child was to that little bird, Trillia, on the first Christmas. May we say to everyone we meet, "I see you, just as the tender, loving Christ does, I see you."


  • December 08, 2017 11:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25.

    During the sabbatical I explored reading poetry. For those of you who are lovers of poetry, or actual poets, I hope you’ll receive that statement as a confession, for I intend an amendment of life. The plain truth is that my formal education didn’t include much in the way of poetry. It’s only been in the last few years, and really the past few months, that I’ve taught myself to read and appreciate poetry. 

    The American poet, Edwin Markham, in his poem, How the Great Guest Came might initially seem a little trite for this season, but it wasn’t—it isn’t—for me. We all know the season of Advent is the time to celebrate God’s coming to us, as well as the time to celebrate his coming at the end of the age; we also know that Jesus is coming to us all the time, not just during Advent, but in the day-to-day ordinary, everydayness of life. This is where How the Great Guest Came comes to life and light for me.

    The poem introduces the reader to Conrad, a kind German cobbler who lives alone. Early one morning the Lord appeared in a dream and promised, “I’m coming your Guest to be!” Conrad sprang to his day to prepare for the coming of the Great Guest. He washed the floor, shined the shelf, and spread his table. The whole while Conrad watched his door for the Great Guest’s coming:

                    And his face grew still
                    As we he watched for the shadow across the sill.
                    He lived all the moments o’er and o’er,
                    When the Lord should enter the lowly door
                    The knock, the call, the latch pulled up,
                    The lighted faced, the offered cup.

    Even though Conrad was busy preparing, he wasn’t so busy that he did not care for three strangers who had come to the door. First a cold beggar, then a hungry woman, and finally a homeless child. As the day came to a close Conrad’s Great Guest had not come. He was confused, and disappointed, and prayed:

                    What is it Lord, that your feet delay?
                    Did you forget that this was the day?

    Then in the stillness of his heart Conrad heard the Great Guest speak:

                    Three times I came to your friendly door;
                    Three times my shadow was on your floor.
                    I was a beggar with bruised feet;
                    I was the woman you have to eat;
                    I was the child on the homeless street!

    Until the Lord Christ comes at the end of the ages we have to keep watch—every day—for him to come to us in other people. It was Jesus himself who said, “as you did it” to the least of his sisters and brothers, we are doing it to him. 

    I wish you a holy and beautiful Advent.

    Faithfully in Christ,

  • November 17, 2017 9:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It is that time of year when time, itself, is most accentuated. We just ended Daylight Savings’ Time. Now nighttime comes so early for New Englanders. In due time, the snow will start falling. In a few weeks’ time, Thomas returns from sabbatical. It is also almost time for the holidays. For some this time of year brings joy and hope, while simultaneously provoking nostalgia for times past. Others may, in fact, dread this time of year as the voids within the soul and the unhealed wounds of the heart cause melancholy and isolation. Time can surely assign meaning to all of our feelings and experiences.

    As members of the Church, however, we have a unique relationship to time. We see ourselves not simply as mortal beings subjected to the whims of chronological time. Rather, we recognize that through God’s grace, we have the opportunity to exist as one community in a way that transcends time. More precisely, we live in the Kairos, on God’s time, when we act with kindness, compassion, and justice. When we embody true discipleship, we refuse to succumb to the many ways in which time’s dominion exploits our vulnerabilities and anxieties.

    I admit that any discourse, my own thoughts included, about time can be somewhat esoteric, if not downright confusing. Philosophers throughout the ages have struggled to comprehend time, even debating how it should be defined. Most frequently, humanity has pondered the question – what is time? Comprehending time in this way as some sort of object can be rather elusive. Hence, phrases such as “time is money” or “time is running out” are commonplace in our vernacular. 19th century Christian thinker, Soren Kierkegaard, reverts our understanding of time by rhetorically asking, who is time? The implied answer for Kierkegaard is we. We are time! Since we view ourselves as the People of God, it can be firmly asserted then that the Church is time!

    We are time when we love our neighbor and when we follow the Beatitudes. We are time when we work towards building God’s Kingdom. Kierkegaard’s view of time is both a blessing and a challenge, a timely one (pun intended) given that we approach the liturgical season of Advent. How do we manifest time? How do we use, to quote Mary Oliver, our “one precious and wild life?” How do we connect with the Saints of previous ages and also inspire the Saints of the future?

    Our entire being is time. We are time not when we trade a stock but when we exchange our hearts with someone who is lonely. We are time not when we sell a house but when we provide a space for someone to call home. We are time not when we hang Christmas decorations but when we welcome the refugee with hospitality. Our Savior, too, was born this way. We are time not when we do things on our own but when we gather and break bread together. May we commit to being time now and in the years to come!

    Paul Shoaf Kozak

  • November 15, 2017 2:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Monday, 13 November 2017
    The Rectory in Winchester

    Dearest Sisters and Brothers,

    The travel home from Malta last Thursday was seamless and pleasantly unwearying. It felt very good to land at Logan, and to walk through these doors to see Tom (Esther too). Those feelings led me to think about how good it will be to walk through the doors of our church, and to see all of you.

    There’s a ton to share with you about my time in Malta. It was at once exactly what I expected, and entirely surprising—some of which I welcomed and some of which unsettled me. I arrived the day after a car bomb killed the country’s most controversial journalist. Turns out the topography isn’t the only aspect of Malta’s landscape that’s a rocky. Then, there was the church, which I experienced as very English, and what I mean is that their colonial history, and what seemed a prevailing expat mindset which disregarded the Maltese people, convicted me of my unending work to live for gospel-based reconciliation, and to cultivate relationships from an open heart. Still, Malta had its charms and adventures, the people were filled with a hospitable spirit, and I delved deeply into the rich religious and cultural history.

    My original sabbatical plan included leaving today for a three day continuing education conference in North Carolina, called Gathering of Leaders. Unfortunately the event was cancelled because of transition in the organization’s leadership. This is mildly disappointing because before I left for sabbatical the staff’s and vestry’s discussions on evangelism and welcoming were based upon tools gleaned from Gathering of Leaders. I was ready to continue the connection. A silver lining is that I can incorporate the fruits of the sabbatical into daily home life, particularly the meditation and quiet, and also take a longer silent retreat at the monastery in Cambridge.

    A priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts wrote to me last week. She herself finished a sabbatical a couple of years ago, and she was writing to welcome me back, give me news from diocesan convention, and to offer counsel about re-entry. In part what I heard was, “make the last part of the sabbatical count. Your congregation needs this from you, as much as you do.” And so I shall.

    I know completely that Christ dwells richly among you; I wait eagerly to experience once again in all of you his peace and joy.

    All of this comes with my respect and love, and my constant prayers for the people of God called to be the Parish of the Epiphany.

  • November 03, 2017 5:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    The fall is flying by and soon our beloved Rector will return to us. There will be much to share on both sides – what we have learned, how we have grown in our faith and life, and how we have changed. We began the Program Year by looking at what it means to be a follower of Jesus, a disciple. We have been looking at our Baptismal Promises, especially the one that bids us “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.” We have asked the question, “who is our neighbor” as we invite those new to our community of faith and as we encounter the stranger in our daily lives.

    Despite the fact that our Rector, our Interim Director of Music, and our Youth Minister have been absent for a good portion of the fall, we have continued to thrive and grow. Many of you have stepped up and given even more of your time to help keep our programs vital and engaging for our children, youth, and adults, and for that I am truly grateful.

    Now we are in the heart of our Annual Commitment Campaign. Our Neighbor to Neighbor program for stewardship is moving into its third and final week. If you have not received the blue 3Crowns bag yet, please let us know. We need everyone’s commitment, even if your circumstances have changed since last year. Rather than saying that you cannot pledge at all, I invite you to make some pledge as a sign of your commitment to God and to the ministry of this Parish. For those of us blessed with resources, I hope that you will prayerfully consider increasing your pledge by five percent. This increase will help us go beyond the programs and ministries already in place.

    As some of you know, we are excited about starting Stephen Ministry here at Epiphany. Stephen Ministry is a special training program for lay people that deepens the pastoral care already in place here and offers one-on-one companionship with those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, employment, illness, or other life transition. Stephen Ministry has been in existence for over thirty years and over one hundred different denominations all over the world have benefited from its training and resources. We would like to send four lay people from our Parish along with me to a week-long training in January. These four will then become the trainers for our Epiphany Visitors, Lay Eucharistic Visitors, and Prayer team, along with those who wish to become a Stephen Minister.

    In a Parish of our size, having someone on staff who can administer the many aspects of communication is crucial to our common life. With your increased pledge we may be able to hire a part-time communications person to keep our website fresh and engaging, help us keep Epiphany current with social media, and find new ways to invite those who are looking for a faith community.

    We have much to give thanks to God for as we look forward to Thomas’ return. It will be a huge gift to him if he sees how much our love of God has grown and our commitment to this Parish has grown. Let’s make this Annual Commitment Campaign the best ever!

    In gratitude and faith,

  • October 27, 2017 12:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Sunday, 15 October, Epiphany's Adult Forum had the pleasure of a presentation and discussion on Discipleship and the Episcopal City Mission, (ECM), led by the Reverend Arrington Chambliss, ECM Executive Director, and assisted by Brother Michael Melendez, the Deacon of Community Engagement at ECM. Truly enlightening. Now, some of you were not able to attend and some of you who did attend may have further questions about ECM. So here is a very brief summary and a link to enable you to learn more or even to become more involved.

    Episcopal City Mission (ECM) is a faith rooted organization whose purpose is to build relationships of collective power for more just, whole, and equitable urban communities in Massachusetts as an expression of God's transforming love. ECM partners with grassroots and faith-rooted organizations working for racial, economic, and immigrant justice through the integration of three roles: Funder, Convener/Mobilizer, and Prophetic Leadership Facilitator. By way of example, today ECM has programs to:

    • Develop the prophetic listening capacity of your congregation by attending ECM's Prophetic Listening workshop and learning how to listen for how God is calling you to seek justice alongside your wider community in early February 2018 (exact date TBD).
    • Funding for community-based parish partnerships and initiatives that focus on racial, economic, and immigrant justice. Funding is particularly focused on Boston and gateway cities of MA.
    • ECM is building a Rapid Response network; an organized team of people who are committed to resisting oppression, and responding to communities in the event of a crisis which would threaten racial, economic, and immigrant justice. You can join our rapid response network by signing up for our newsletter on the ECM website.

    Join ECM on Wednesday, November 8th, from 11:00am to 1:00pm as ECM stands with our partners at Centro Presente and other local organizations to demonstrate support for TPS at the State House.

    Jack & Peggy Roll

  • October 20, 2017 3:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I was lucky enough to spend a part of this last summer in Alaska. I spent the bulk of my time performing on stage at Perseverance Theater, the largest union theater company in Alaska. We had a very successful run of our show in Juneau and I will be heading back in November to complete the last two weeks of my contract in Anchorage.

    While I was in Juneau, the theater company put me and a couple of the other performers up in a house out in what the Alaskans called “the Valley.” This was a stretch of land twenty minutes outside the city where we were surrounded by wildlife. We were constantly warned about moose being around the corner, bears kept opening up our ‘bear-proof’ trash cans, and seeing bald eagles outside our window became routine.

    The most beautiful sight around was a sprawling, 14 mile-long, glacier that was situated a half mile from where I lived. I visited it often, not really sure about what kept me going back. It may be the sheer size of the thing, or the deep blue that never seems to come out properly in pictures, or the bears that were often seen around it. Or it could simply be the atmosphere of the place. This thing is beautiful. I’d google it if I were you: Mendenhall Glacier.

    Everyone I spoke to about it also seemed entranced by its effects. At the church I visited, the pastor weaved it into the sermon. When getting directions everything was based on heading to or away from the glacier. The whole town had been taken in by its spell.

    Yet there was a definite tone of sadness when I mentioned this was my first time seeing this mighty giant of a creation. They’d tell me, “You should have seen what she looked like before.”

    The glacier was receding. Fast. I was told by tour guides in the area it had retreated over 100 feet since this time last year. According to the National Geographic, Mendenhall Glacier has retreated 9,000 feet since it was measured in 1911.

    Despite Alaska being a red state, most of the Christians I met there didn’t dispute climate change. They could see its effects first hand. I don’t know if I imagined the sense of guilt they felt when talking to me about the glacier’s retreat. I did hear their woe about it slowly being taken from them. It really struck home for me: God gave us this great, beautiful planet, but it’s up to us to take care of it. And wouldn’t true Christians do great things to protect this great gift from God? And figure out how to properly bear proof our trash cans. How is this still a problem?

    Jake Athyall
    Youth Minister

  • October 12, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Healing Team at the Parish of the Epiphany has 12 ministers dedicated to offering prayers during the 10:00am service every Sunday. We take turns being at the healing stations, during the distribution of communion, one in front of the lectern and the other in the rear of the Church. About once a month my turn comes up to serve, as I dress that morning I pray for the serenity to meet God as a channel for companioning another in prayer.

    I arrive at Church a little early. Inside, it is busy with the warmth of friends greeting friends. As I slip into a familiar pew, I pray again. Then the service begins. When the consecration ends, I walk quietly up to the altar to receive communion before taking my place at the healing station. I stand and pray while people begin to file up for communion. A woman whose husband died a week or so ago passes by me. I send up prayers for her to find comfort in her sorrow. A woman with a cane limps by in visible pain. I pray for her healing. A man with his arm in a sling walks past. I give thanks because I know he is doing better. Soon people begin to find their way back from the altar rail. Not everyone who needs healing stops to ask for prayer, but a line does begin to form by the prayer desk. A young boy asks for prayer for his sick dog. He fears his dear companion will die. A woman asks for a prayer of Thanksgiving for her son's graduation. A disabled man comes up but he doesn't mention his physical pain. He prays for healing of a broken relationship. He regrets the wound he may have caused by what he said. Next, a father has been suddenly laid off. We pray for support and strength to find his way through this crisis. In the background I can hear the congregation saying the post communion prayer. But there are two more people waiting.

    A young woman kneels in prayer. She tells me she has been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. She is very afraid. Afraid of the terrible struggle she is facing. Afraid of what will become of her family if she dies. Together we ask God to stay by her side with strength and healing. There is one last person. He tells me that today is the anniversary of his wife's death. Together we give thanks for their long and devoted marriage. We pray for peace. We pray for new life. There is no time for more prayers. I hear a processional hymn beginning. I replace the chrism (healing oil) in the prayer desk and return to my seat in the pew. I'm so filled with prayer that I can't sing...surely we are an amazing parish family. Surely this is what communion is -- to pray together for one another, to uphold one another in sorrow and in gladness in the context of the Eucharist. I am grateful to be here at the Parish of the Epiphany.

    This reflection is offered in the hope that it will help give our congregation a better sense of what is happening during the communion time in our service. The details of each situation have been changed to protect the privacy of those who ask for prayer. We on the healing team have a covenant of confidentiality. We do not speak to anyone of the prayer that is shared with us. We do not "follow up" to ask how the person is doing. We serve only to speak the prayers of those who ask for them, to accompany each one in a prayer of joy, or a prayer of sorrow, or a prayer of need. Our ministry is confidential prayer. We invite you to visit one of the prayer stations at the front or back of the Church. Jesus has promised, "wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them." He is most certainly there with us when we pray. He is very present in the Parish of the Epiphany every Sunday morning.

    Gayle Pershouse Vaughan

  • October 06, 2017 2:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Once a month, I sit in front of my computer, close my eyes, and breathe. I remain in silence for a few minutes and then open the Parish prayer list.

    As a member of the Intercessory Prayer Team, I have the opportunity and responsibility to reach out and contact parishioners who have requested prayers for themselves or others. While I sometimes struggle with what to say, I find these moments of ministry to be deeply centering. I feel my faith strengthened as I read and respond to parishioners. The trust that they demonstrate in sharing these requests fills me with gratitude and humility. As I begin typing, I sense that the Kingdom is near.

    Are you curious about Epiphany’s Prayer List ministry? We would love to talk with you about our own experience. There are lots of different ways to participate:

    1) You might consider joining us on Tuesday night for our prayer service. Every week, we gather at 6:00pm in the chapel. One volunteer reads each name on our Parish Prayer List. We repeat the name and sit in silence, lifting this person up to God. It’s a quiet service that usually lasts thirty-five minutes. For me, it provides a time to step away from the busyness of a work day and to be centered in the Holy Spirit.

    2) You might consider signing up to pray with us. There are over thirty people who receive our Prayer List on Tuesday night. They commit to remembering those in need by praying for them. Some folks pray on Tuesday night from home; some take the List when they are out for a walk; others start each morning by prayerfully reading it. There’s no right way. This ministry is an opportunity to add a new dimension to your relationship with God. You can also sign up to pray for immediate needs that are sent out in an email alert. These requests usually arrive when someone begins a serious medical operation.

    If you are interested in signing up for either Prayer List (the Tuesday Night Prayer List or the Emergency Prayer Chain), please send an email to prayer@3crowns.org. For our dedicated partners who have received these Lists this past year, please also send an email if you would like to continue this ministry for another year.

    3) Finally, we invite you to share your prayers with us. When you are in need of prayer, or have friends and family in need, please send us an email or fill out a prayer request form on our website (https://3crowns.org/prayer). It is an immense gift to receive these requests. Each one reminds us of our interconnectedness. When we ask for prayers or pray for others, we are living as the Body of Christ.

    We hope you’ll consider joining this life-giving ministry.

    Grace and Peace,

    Jake Montwieler, on behalf of the prayer list team,
    Barbara DeWolfe
    Brett Johnson
    Martha Lewis
    Gayle Pershouse

  • October 06, 2017 2:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thursday, 5 October 2017

    Dear Epiphany Family,

    The time at Thousand Island Park was everything for which I had hoped. The weather wasn’t great the first month, but this past month it suddenly turned to summer and there’s been ample time to enjoy The River; more boating than swimming, but I’m not complaining.

    Tom and I have never been here for this length of time, nor so late in the season when so few cottages are occupied. The quiet is bliss. Typically our 4.5 mile morning walk is interrupted because of conversations with neighbors and friends, but these past three weeks we often encounter only the birds and squirrels. Esther loves being able to run free.

    We had grand intentions of worshiping in Canada, at least for a few Sundays. There’s a nice cathedral in Kingston (only 30 minutes drive), and several parish churches nearby, but it was too enticing to hop in the boat and drive across The River to Clayton, to Christ Church, where we have gotten to know a few people, and even took part in their major fall fete to raise money. We did miss one Sunday, however. We started out for Christ Church from the boathouse admitting that it was pretty foggy, but we both felt certain the fog was lifting; we could see the island just across from ours. But no sooner were we underway when another blanket of fog rolled in. It took us 20 minutes to go only 2 miles, and we were both a little rattled. So we landed at a friend’s island where “the liturgy” that morning included coffee and breakfast. We didn’t get home until after 11:30 because it took that long for the fog to lift. So we’ve had some adventures, of course.

    A week from today we fly to London. Neither Tom nor I have been to Durham, and we hope to scoot up there for worship on Sunday the 15th. On Tuesday the 17th I leave for Malta, and Tom will stay in London for a few days before heading home. I promise to write to you from Malta. You might have read that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were there this week giving a boost to the Cathedral’s fundraising efforts. I’m sure my colleague, Fr. Simon Godfrey, has been busy preparing for the royal visit. I’ll wait until early next week to remind him that I really am planning to be at Holy Trinity Church in Sleima on the 17th. I hope he is planning on that, too!

    Among the blessings of such extended time with Tom has been a regular practice of saying Evening Prayer together. It’s something we’ll cherish from these weeks, and through it God continues to connect my heart with each of you. Your prayers, and mine, are offered up in the wake of hurricanes, and the aftermath of violence in Las Vegas, so that even though we’re physically separated, we remain with one another in Christ Jesus.

    On a more personal level I’m thankful for your prayers for Tom’s cousin-in-law, Vic. Tom’s cousin, Linda, with whom he’s very close, and her husband, Vic, were vacationing in Cooperstown, New York, last week; they live in Orange County, California. Vic had a major heart attack, and has since been air-lifted to Rochester. He’s not out of the woods, by any measure. Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind.

    When I wrote to you in August I said, “I promise to be present where I am, to keep you in my daily prayers, and to trust God who does infinitely more than we can desire or pray for. May God keep you.”—all of that remains true!

    With my deepest love and respect I am faithfully yours,

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