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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 11, 2019 2:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you” [Matthew 7:7]

    What? How can this be? All of us have experienced unanswered prayers, lost treasures, and closed doors. Surely, God is not Santa Claus doling out presents for good children who behave. Furthermore, I can’t believe we need prayers to convince God to take action or to inform God of our needs. God knows and acts and loves, without our prompting. So, why practice intercessory prayer? What good does it do?

    I’ve had several experiences in recent years that have made me, once skeptical of this spiritual discipline, a regular practitioner.

    First, an experience of asking for prayers. Several years ago, parishioner Brett Johnson asked if he might pray for my family. At his request, every few months, I send an email sharing specific joys and concerns of our family. Crafting this email is a centering and rewarding work. It forces me to think carefully about those I love. What do they need? What would help them grow? What blessings have they received recently? This task refocuses me on the most important issues in our life -- those experiences of grace that draw us into the abundant life Jesus promises and those experiences of suffering that hold within them the hope of resurrection. Asking for prayers transforms me. I wonder, how would our Parish be changed if each of us asked a fellow parishioner to share his/her deepest prayers with us?

    Second, an experience of offering prayers. For the last four years, I have had the privilege of helping to lead the prayer list team at Epiphany. Every week, one of us reaches out to members of our community who have asked us for prayers, either for themselves or those they love. We write to assure them of our prayers and to inquire about how their loved ones are faring. It’s deeply humbling work. I know how much trust and courage it takes to ask for prayers. When I write these emails, I’m filled with gratitude, humility, and connection. It’s one of those moments when I am sure that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Offering to pray for others transforms me. I wonder, how would our Parish be changed if more of us asked to place the names of those we love on our weekly prayer list?

    Finally, an experience of praying in community: Every Tuesday night, five to twelve of us gather in the Chapel at 6:00pm. We sit in a circle and recite the names of those who are on our prayer list. It’s a short, contemplative service. To be honest, there are weeks when my brain is racing through the first fifteen minutes. In these moments, I often imagine God smiling gently, waiting for me to return to the present. And I look around at the faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I also know that there are others who will receive the prayer list via email and have promised to lift up these needs to God. I feel inspired by their faith and welcomed by their love. Praying in community transforms me. I wonder, how would our Parish be changed if you (yes, YOU) joined us in person, or prayed with us at home on Tuesday night.

    And so, what good does intercessory prayer? Well, for me, it helps me return to the Good News of Christ Jesus - the promise that we are made for love, that we are called to deep connection with all of creation, and that we are never, never alone.


    Jacob Montwieler



  • January 04, 2019 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ). AFEDJ raises funds in the United States to benefit schools and hospitals that are owned and operated by the Jerusalem Diocese. Every three years the Board travels to the Middle East to visit some of the schools and hospitals in several countries which we support. I joined the Board on this year’s trip in October and so I visited schools and hospitals in Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, and Gaza.

    I had been to the Middle East before on an Epiphany pilgrimage. But there were to be few, if any, holy sites on this trip. This was all about people in need in today’s world. Before I left on the trip, I expected to see many sad things: a neglected people who are the victims of violence and political dysfunction, a lack of medical facilities and good education, and a lack of hope. I knew that the U.S. had just cut its aid to the Middle East and that that significantly affected two hospitals that we support. I guess I wondered where God is in all of this.

    On the trip, I saw much of what I had expected to see: evident poverty, unemployed people, shortage of water, heavily armed checkpoints and border crossings throughout, and obvious discrimination. What I had not expected to see in such abundance is hope. One such encounter was at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, in Salt, Jordan. The Institute cares for 140 deaf or hard of hearing, mostly residential children, nine deaf/blind children, and 75 disabled children who visit daily from the nearby Syrian refugee camp. I was particularly struck by the painstaking efforts involved in teaching deaf/ blind children. The work, almost all of which requires one teacher per student, primarily involves teaching hands-on sign language. To see a deaf/blind student smiling while learning is not something I will soon forget.

    Another such encounter was at Gaza’s Al Ahli Arab Hospital. The situation for people living in Gaza grows more desperate almost daily. The area is isolated by border restrictions that surround it, with a 44 percent unemployment rate and with 33 percent of children being undernourished or suffering from malnutrition. I was happy to learn that many of the children treated for malnutrition, when given an affordable, nutritious diet recommended by the hospital, regain full health. We saw one happy father blow a kiss to his child’s nutritionist. Gaza is predominately Muslim with 900 Christians living among a population of 2 million. The hospital serves 38,000 patients per year and survives largely on charitable contributions and government support. Recent reductions in U.S. aid have cut $40,000 per month from the hospital’s income. One particular aspect of the unfolding tragedy is that the hospital possesses equipment to perform mammograms but does not possess the equipment to perform radiation oncology. Such equipment exists nearby in Israel, but 40 percent of medical requests for travel to Israel are denied. While I was following the hospital director, she stopped in front of a woman sitting on a bench waiting to see a doctor. The patient pointed to me and said, in Arabic, “We desperately need medical access to Israel and only two people can make that happen: God and you.” God is in her heartfelt appeal and will be in whatever I do with that appeal.

    Robie White


  • December 21, 2018 8:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On this day before Christmas, I’m put in mind of the way this particular Advent unfolded in my life and that of my family.

    For starters, my father and step-mother visited Tom and me for the first time in many years. I wouldn’t say we’d been estranged as much as we’d gotten stuck in a pattern whereby Tom and I were the ones who traveled to see them. It was a wonderful reunion, and they loved being here for the Christmas Fair, and for the rededication of the Chapel. I put them in their first-ever Uber early on Monday, December 3rd, to Logan to catch their flights home.

    Then Tom and I scurried to turn around the guest room for our friend, Fr. Martin Smith, who arrived in time for lunch that day. Meanwhile, I was preparing to leave for New York to chair a Church Pension Fund board meeting. Early that evening Tom was hit by a car while walking our dog. Suddenly everything was disrupted, and nothing was sure. A kind, young police officer returned the dog, told Martin the news, and waited for me to arrive so he could describe the event. He said, “this will be very hard for you, and I think it’s best for you and your friend to get to the hospital in Boston.” On the drive into Massachusetts General Hospital, I imagined all the horrible things I might learn: that Tom was dead, or gravely injured, or that he was just fine. I suppose there was a kind of shock response happening, but you know what I remember feeling more than anything? Calm and trust. Fear wasn’t absent, and I was anxious, for sure, but more than fear and anxiety, I remember feeling calm and trust.

    As most of you know Tom is at home now following two weeks at a rehabilitation hospital. He has a broken pelvis and is expected to make a full recovery.

    In the midst of all the disruption grace abounds on every side. A wonderful bishop who has cared for each of us; neighbors and friends from all over who have called or visited; your care and prayers, along with those from the people at St. John’s in Charlestown - all of it reveals a river of love and embrace.

    Tonight and tomorrow, Christians everywhere will celebrate the great truth that in Christ things earthly and heavenly are gathered into one, and we are filled with the sweetness of inward peace and goodwill. Nothing else matters.

    Wherever you are today, take a moment to thank God for the way Jesus Christ is being born yet again—right now—inside your heart, and in the hearts of those whom you love. Today, more than any other moment in the church’s life, we proclaim that there is a light that cannot be overcome. For some of us the light is bright and beaming; for others it’s fragile and barely flickering. However, whether it’s big or small, light dispels darkness; think of the small candles we’ll hold tonight and how they do likewise. 

    Every Advent Tom Mousin writes a poem to accompany the Advent calendar he designs. Here’s 2018’s, and it comes with my greatest love:

    When doubt or sorrow fills the soul, come, O longed for promised word.
    When lies and falsehoods take their hold, come, O truth that must be heard.
    When fear is stirred with words of hate, come, O perfect love to reign.
    Our hearts with fervent hope await: come, O Christ, be born again.

    A happy and holy nativity to you and yours,



  • December 21, 2018 7:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “God, are you the one who is living life?” 
               The Book of Hours II, 12, Ranier Maria Rilke

    There are periods in life when you just know that it is God who is doing the living, and you are fortunate to be tagging along!  So it is with me now. 

     In my late 50s, when the pre-retirement question “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” filled my waking and sleeping hours, both the urgency of that question, and the inspiration for the answer, came not from me but, clearly, from God.
    God’s answer: “GIVE BACK!” 
     Me: “How?”
    God:  ACT with Love in Community. 

    So for the past five years, I have served as Co-Chair of ClassACT, an initiative I founded with my Harvard-Radcliffe ‘73 classmates, to allow us to work together to create significant positive change.  The “ACT” stands for “Achieving Change Together.” Our slogan, which harks back to our Vietnam War, Civil Rights activist, Feminism-filled college days is “It’s not too late to change the world!”   

    What are we doing? 

    We established and run The Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program in honor of our assassinated classmate, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This program‘s mission is the advancement of democracy, women’s rights, education for all, and religious reconciliation in predominantly Muslim countries. It achieves this through providing fellowships to Harvard’s Kennedy School Government for mid-career leaders from predominantly Muslim countries, working with leaders from the region of South Asia, and educating Americans about these cultures and the challenges they face. 

    In America, we are helping to found an organization dedicated to strengthening STEM education through sports analytics in our own country’s most challenged schools.  We have provided targeted assistance to nonprofits working in NOLA, the Bay Area, DC, New York, Maryland, Kenya, Haiti, Ghana, Mexico, and Costa Rica.  The range of those organizations’ service includes medicine, music, education, human rights, food, clothing, and criminal justice reform.  At present, there are a couple hundred classmates sharing their time and talents in these various endeavors.  

    This all seems something of a miracle. God’s miracle!

    Through this work, I have met the Attorney General of Afghanistan, a champion of women’s rights.  I have spent time in the home of a social activist in the Treme neighborhood of NOLA who is changing the lives of the children there.  I have listened to former prisoners describe the work they are doing to combat the racism inherent in the US criminal justice system. And, in early December, I met with Malala, whose love for others is changing the world.  

    What I have learned afresh is that we are all one in God’s love. That love creates community and produces action. And it seems to me that though it may appear that the “Body of Christ” is exclusively Christian, people across the globe live God’s love in, and for, the world.  Isn’t that Christ’s Body?  I think so, and I am so grateful to be part of it. 

    Marion Dry 
    Parishioner




  • December 13, 2018 1:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This Friday, 21 December, will be the longest night of the year. Some celebrate the Winter Solstice, the day with the fewest hours of daylight in the whole year, and where the sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky. This year, we will be one day short of a full moon, which will light up the sky on the longest night of the year.

    For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, this great happening in nature coincides with our anticipation of the Feast of the Incarnation – Emmanuel, God with us and taking on human flesh and dwelling among us. Christ is our Light. As John writes in his gospel, “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

    In just one short week we will celebrate the Incarnation, beginning on Christmas Eve. Will our hearts and minds be ready? Every year we seem to fall into a flurry of activity and much of it is good, very good. Some things can distract us from this Holy Season and in the rush to get everything done on our to-do list, we may grow short on patience, compassion, and understanding.

    My prayer for all of us is that we will carve out some time in the coming week to be fully present to what really matters: our family and loved ones, those who make our lives easier and more pleasant, those who need a smile or a word of encouragement, or those who have no one to care for them.

    And then there is God. God is just waiting, longing for us to take a moment to be still and hang out with the One who created us – the One in whom we live and move and have our being. Just a moment or two, that’s all.

    I offer to you this prayer I came across recently that really spoke to me. I hope it will speak to you as well.

    A prayer at the shortest day

    From the rising of the midwinter sun to its setting
    Scatter the darkness with the light of Your love, O Shining One.
    Make me short on mean thoughts, long on offering words of comfort.
    Make me short on being driven, long on paying attention.
    Make me short on focusing only on my own, long on looking beyond.
    Make me short on obsessive lists, long on spontaneous acts of kindness.
    Make me short on mindless activity, long on time to reflect.
    Make me short on tradition as habit, long on re-discovery and re-owning.
    Make me short on rushing and tiring, long on walking and wondering.
    Make me short on false festive jollity, long on stilling and rooted joy.
    Make me short on guilt, long on being merciful to myself.
    Make me short on being overwhelmed, long on peaceableness as I set forth this day.

    ~ Tess Ward, from Celtic Daily Prayer, Book Two.

    Faithfully yours in Christ,





  • December 07, 2018 3:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It has impressed me since I have become a member that Parish of the Epiphany offers so much to reach out to so many with varied needs. That is, to serve and be served, to worship, to be comforted, to be challenged. What we know is that there occurs at times in our lives an unexpectedly difficult time, grief, loss or other crisis. I know from my work as a physician that the most healing thing at that time is not a "fix" to the problem. It is rather a kind presence, a listening and accompanying; that is what's really needed. This is the kind of care that a Stephen minister can provide.

    Stephen ministers offer a practical way to respond to Christ's commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12). People who are hurting have a compassionate companion - a caring Christian friend who provides spiritual and emotional support. The Stephen ministers grow themselves as they serve others. The relationship between a care receiver and a Stephen minister is confidential. Men are matched with men and women are matched with women. When a care receiver's needs exceed what a Stephen Minister can provide, the Stephen ministry team makes a referral to an appropriate mental health professional or another community resource.

    As a Stephen Leader, I look forward to the process of training the new Stephen Ministers. The training is extensive and practical. I see ways in which it can be helpful in other areas of our lives. I see it as an opportunity to grow spiritually as well. Those who cannot serve as ministers should know about what we do and look for opportunities to help to get care for others in our Parish and in our community. The training will begin after the New Year. May there be many blessings as we work to bring Christ's love to hurting people.

    Gloria Korta



  • November 30, 2018 1:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One story in four parts and persons: Hartley, Ranier Maria, Michael, and Joanna

    Part One: Hartley asks, “Where’s the page in the Prayer Book to find the date of Easter Day?”

    When he died in the summer of 2015, Hartley Rogers had been a member of the Parish of the Epiphany for more than four decades. He and Adrianne lived just two doors from the rectory (Adrianne still does), so he was a neighbor, and in that capacity we became friends. Hartley was retired from a distinguished career at MIT where he had taught mathematics. He had studied in prestigious schools, both in the United States and England, but you’d never know that from him; Hartley didn’t lead with “I went to Yale” or “I got my doctorate at Princeton.” The closest thing one might figure out about his education was seeing him in winter with a ubiquitous repp stripe scarf from Cambridge University. A former rector, John J. Bishop, once said to me, about Hartley, “He’s a real Episcopalian from New York.” READ MORE.
    (I’m not sure what that meant, exactly, but Hartley was born in Buffalo, loved the tradition of his church, supported the Rector, and gave generously (I guess that made him a real Episcopalian from New York). Hartley would occasionally come to the back door of the rectory with a brief story; sometimes we’d go for a short walk down Mystic Valley Parkway, usually, he stood on the steps, demurring an invitation to come inside, always he had a question about something I’m pretty sure already he knew the answer.

    Part Two: Fr. Koester says, “think about reading some of Ranier Maria Rilke”

    One of the monks at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist has accompanied me at various times in the last 20+ years. I made my first confession (the sacramental rite of reconciliation of a penitent, as the Prayer Book calls it) with Fr. James Koester, effecting a cementing bond. James is Canadian, through and through, and a treasure. It was more than 15 years ago when he said, “think about reading some of Ranier Maria Rilke.” My first-ever experience of the great Austrian poet-philosopher (1875-1926), was from a paperback which I promptly bought following James’s directive, The Selected Poetry of Ranier Maria Rilke (edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell, 1989).

    Part Three: Christmas is not your birthday: make Advent count

    A midwestern United Methodist pastor wrote a little book a few years ago, Christmas is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving like Jesus - Michael Slaughter laments our consumeristic ways of this season and makes a great case for reminding us that Christmas is not about getting gifts. Here’s my pitch to all of us: make Advent count. The Church of England is moving toward making it six weeks, instead of only four; that has appeal, I admit. The music and the colors get me, and so does any Advent wreath, they all have this effect of stopping me in my tracks. As I grow older Advent feels less like waiting for the glory of Christmas Day, and more like living the glory of waiting, just waiting. Advent isn’t Lent, but I do try to change my routine during Advent, to carve out a little more time to pray, or to read, or to do something that makes the season count.

    Part Four: A gift from Hartley, and Hartley’s sister

    One Sunday morning, as I was getting ready for church, I was doing what I do every Sunday morning: bustling about half-listening to Krista Tippet’s show on NPR, On Being. It was a re-run, and the woman Krista was interviewing was talking about Rilke, a Joanna Somebody. My ears pricked! I remember Hartley once mentioning his sister, Joanna, was a Buddhist. Suddenly it dawned on me that the woman being interviewed was the great Rilke scholar and translator, Joanna Macy, Hartley’s sister! Of course, I made the connection with Hartley later that morning. True to form, a few days later, Harley arrived on the doorstep of the rectory with A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Ranier Marie Rilke (translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows, 1996).

    It’s been a few years since I’ve spent much time with Rilke, but on this second day of Advent, I assure you that he’ll be a fantastic companion for me in these next four weeks. Maybe he will be for you, too. In any case, I look forward to hearing and seeing how Advent goes for you in 2018.

    We have a lot in store for you at the Parish of the Epiphany, check the website, and resources] and there are wonderful resources beyond Winchester, click here. 

    Whatever we do, or don’t do, I hope we’ll make it count.

    Faithfully in Christ,




  • November 19, 2018 2:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A note from the publisher

    What follows is a reflection from parishioner Gayle Pershouse, who is the first of several leaders who will occasionally write to us about ministry and faith. I am grateful to Gayle for her time and thoughtfulness, and grateful to you for valuing one another’s ministries and gifts. Suffice to say the writers of this column needn’t be limited to the clergy and program staff! If you are interested in writing what we refer to as “the pastoral article” please contact me at tbrown@3crowns.org; I would be glad to describe the process and help you inspire our parish’s faith.

    Faithfully in Christ,

    Healing My Black Swallowtail

    Yesterday, a beautiful butterfly tumbled into my basket as I stood in the garden picking cherry tomatoes. As it fell to the bottom, a few tomatoes rolled over it, pinning its wings to the bottom of the basket. “Oh dear,” I thought, “he’s too weak to get up.” He flapped his wings a little trying to get out from under the round, rolling fruit. I took out all the tomatoes in order to help the butterfly. He couldn’t climb up the side of the basket to get out, much less fly, but he didn’t look at all injured. His wings were perfect and none of his legs or antennae seemed to be going off at odd angles. Was he sick? Was he dying?

    Frank loves butterflies. He’s taught me how to recognize a few different kinds. I knew this one was very special, not one we’ve ever seen in our garden. Black swallowtails are rather rare around here. I carefully helped him climb up onto a leaf. From there he clung to a slender stalk, as still as a statue. He didn’t even wave his wings the way butterflies usually do. I decided to try to give him some healing. So I cupped my hands loosely around him and began to send him healing energy. Normally black swallowtails are pretty wary. They won’t let you get within a foot or more of them. This one clung quietly to his stalk while I cupped my hands within 3 inches all around him - even though my hands were putting him in the shadow. Butterflies don’t like shade.

    I kept my hands around the little creature as long as I could. It started to rain. “ What am I doing healing an insect? Am I crazy? Can he feel anything? Is this healing energy strong enough to actually help him fly again?” I doubted it could do any good. He sat very still on his stalk. I could see tiny eyes looking at me. I took a picture and went in out of the rain figuring I’d never know.

    Today I was making lunch when Frank came in from the garden with the tomato basket in hand. He set it down and went over to the kitchen window. “Look! There’s a butterfly trying to get out!” I came over to the window to see, and there was our rare black swallowtail flying up and down in front of the closed kitchen window trying to escape! We put him into the small basket and carried him out to the garden to release him. But how did he get into the kitchen? It’s a mystery because all the doors and windows were closed.

    Did he come back to say “Thank you! I’m going to live. I can fly now.”? Was the Holy Spirit trying to say to me “healing is very real? Don’t worry about your upcoming MRI. Your cancer is already healed.”? Yes, I know it was.

    Gayle Pershouse


  • November 16, 2018 11:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    He sat down opposite the treasury and NOTICED the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

    The Gospel of Mark 12:41-44 


    On 13 September 2018, excessive pressure in natural gas lines owned by Columbia Gas caused a series of explosions and fires in as many as 40 homes, with over 80 individual fires, in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. There was much news coverage in the days that followed about the tragedies and loss. Then we heard about mammoth plans set in motion to replace the 45 miles of pipeline that had been damaged. My first reaction was to try to help in some way, I donated to different funds, checked in on friends, cooked for those whom I thought could use it, and then was done. I moved onto other things. Now, two months afterward, any information about this continuing story can be found on the back page of the newspaper, if that. It is no longer front page news. I easily slipped back into my “busy” life and among all of the news I hear, I placed the pipeline news with all of the other news. At the beginning of his sermon on 11 November 2018,Thomas said of himself with regards to the recent spate of horrific news, “I am desensitized.” I am desensitized too. But it is getting cold and many are still without heat.

    My youngest daughter Gracie attends Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA. I drive her to and from school. During the week, I leave my beautiful office in Winchester in the afternoon and drive up to Lawrence to pick her up. I drive through downtown Lawrence and then cut through the city again by another route to get home to Andover. Lawrence is a very different place than Andover, as is any city. There are many apartments and multi-family houses and in the warm weather, Gracie and I see families sitting outside on the city sidewalks socializing with neighbors. I know that many are beginning to seek other housing. I know this because on our drive home, Gracie and I drive by a park in the city and, as the days have gone by, the park has been slowly populated by camping trailers to house those with no heat.

    Hundreds of camping trailers have been brought in and there is now row upon row of them in several places in the city. As the weeks have gone by, the number of families living in them has increased. There is fencing around the park for security. It is not only cold, but it has also been raining a lot and the park is muddy. In the morning as I drive by this park, I see moms and dads coming out of their trailers with their children and they trudge through the mud to the sidewalk to wait for the school bus. Such a normal family scene but this is in a makeshift campground in a park in a city, a few miles from my house. I NOTICE.

    Many people and agencies have stepped in to help these families. Perhaps these angels have done so out of thankfulness for what they have. For me, I am thankful for what I have, but this is not what drives me to respond to all of this, but I pray that perhaps someday it will. I think for me right now when I notice, my response is one of empathy. When I see a mother climb out of a trailer in the morning with her little girl, hurrying her along because she is late for the bus, strapping a pink backpack onto her daughter, I can relate to this. I imagine what it was like to spend the night crammed in with other families in other trailers and know that there but for the grace of God go I. Thanksgiving is this week and these families will not be spending it in their homes.

    The flashy news is gone and I have witnessed how these people are living into their reality. I am grateful that my daughter and I see how the rest of the story is unfolding away from the news cameras. The hard work of living on is not glamorous. I pray that through this experience, I will notice others who are in need, who are suffering, who are mourning, and I pray that I will not be too busy.

    I pray that I will NOTICE THEM – everywhere.

    Love,



  • November 08, 2018 1:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For the last two weeks, I have had the chance to talk with many of you about the role that music, and particularly singing, plays in our worship. In the adult formation class, we talked about the history of hymn singing and about reformers, lyricists and composers who contributed to the hymns we sing in worship. In the Episcopal 101 class, we learned that the English Choral School tradition made music a very important part of Anglican worship, and that some elements, like singing Psalms to Anglican chant and service of Choral Evensong, are uniquely ours.

    One question that I was asked by several people after both presentations was, “How does the music for our services get selected?” The quick answer is that choosing music for worship is part of my job as Music Director. Thomas and Miriam certainly have the final say in what happens in our worship, and they occasionally might suggest a hymn that they think would work well with something they are preaching about, but nearly all of the music you hear has been planned by me.

    I actually love this part of my job and take this task very seriously. As I plan music for a Sunday, I start by looking at the lectionary passages for the day. I read through the passages and begin to write down themes that I see. Sometimes a hymn or anthem immediately comes to mind because the words might have been taken directly from the passages appointed for the day. Other times, it takes a little while to look through hymn texts and find the words that I think will work well for a particular day.

    There are many hymns to choose from as we draw from the Hymnal 1982, and two supplemental sources, Wonder, Love and Praise and Lift Every Voice and Sing. Thankfully, our denomination has asked some very knowledgeable people to come up with some recommendations for hymns on any giving Sunday. I look at these hymns as a place to start. Sometimes I find hymns on those lists that I think are perfect. Other times I am less satisfied and go searching for other ideas. In the end, I narrow the choices down to a handful of hymns.

    At this point, I begin to ask myself several questions. “Are any of these hymns new to the congregation?” I try not to have more than one new hymn in a service?" “Is there a hymn that is joyful and would be an inspiring way to start the service” “Do any of the hymns have a more contemplative nature that might work best in the middle of the service?” “Do we have a variety of old hymns that we love and new hymns that will challenge us?” By the end of the process, my goal is that scripture, spoken word, and music will all work together to inspire us to take what we have learned out into the world.

    The hymns we sing can be powerful ways for us to internalize what we believe. Setting words to music helps us to remember them. Hymns can also bring back memories of events, people, and emotions from times past. Hymn texts are often poetry, and as such, they have many layers of symbolism and meaning. All of this is really why we sing so much of our service. I think the first verse to one of my favorite hymns from our Wonder, Love and Praise hymnal sums up why our singing is so important.

    As newborn stars were stirred to song when all things came to be,
    as Miriam and Moses sang when Israel was set free,
    so music bursts unbidden forth when God-filled hearts rejoice,
    to waken awe and gratitude and give mute faith a voice.




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70 Church Street
Winchester, MA 01890
Phone: 781.729.1922
office@3crowns.org

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