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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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  • 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

  • September 09, 2021 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Gospel procession with crucifers at Parish of the Epiphany, WinchesterAt our home, the camp sleeping bags and life jackets have been replaced by backpacks and lunchboxes as the school year begins. It's quite a shift for us all, isn't it? Whether we have children in the home or only occasionally drive by a school, the summer is coming to an end. As a parish, we mark this transition with Rally Sunday this coming Sunday, September 12. We will have a festive lunch outdoors after the 10:00 am service (thank you to everyone who prayed for good weatherall signs point to "yes"), games for the children, and a good time to reconnect after a long time away. If you are not comfortable joining us for in-person worship in the sanctuary or Hadley Hall, but want to join the lunch, we hope you'll come by around 11:15 am and join the fellowshipall are welcome! To those returning to school or work, we hope you'll bring your backpacks or lunchboxes or briefcases to service as we offer a backpack blessing to start the year. A reminder that masks are required for indoor worship (both in the Sanctuary and in our additional seating in Hadley Hall); masks are optional outside.

    This is not the first Rally Sunday any of us would hope for as a parish or the beginning of a school year as a society. On Sunday, we'll hear Jesus tell us that those who want to follow after him will need to take up their cross and follow him. Not easy words to hearnot the exuberant, celebratory scripture we might choose. But I think it might be the one we need to hear in this time of real frustration, anxiety, exhaustion, and hopelessness. Why? Because it is an invitation to "never go it alone," to "joining up with another," to "staying close to Jesus" by doing exactly what he does. Following after the one who goes ahead of us. There is our good news. It's for you and me: Don't forget that Jesus goes with us, that God is with us. Follow me, Jesus says. We don't walk alone, but together, here at Epiphany. And Jesus leads the way. This Sunday, let's celebrate that double gift of being community together, of knowing God is with usno matter what. That's a hope beyond all hope. And, it's yours.

    See you Sunday,
    Nick

  • August 18, 2021 8:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish of the Epiphany's bell tower next to fall foliageLate August always feels bittersweet. I love summer, but this point in August teases that fall is coming and I can't help but be excited. Backpacks are on sale, stores are full of notebooks and pencils, new announcements and schedules come out. Fall manages to be the beginning of what’s new and next, but within traditions that feel like they haven't changed much since I was a child. Yes, it’s 85 degreesbut don’t you want to get out those sweaters and sharpen some pencils?

    Biting at the heels of my enthusiasm for new program years and all-things-fall is that ubiquitous disquiet we’ve all learned to walk with; that anxiety that comes with yet another season of pandemic questions. What will this fall look and feel like? What can and can’t we do, andnow especiallyhow will we keep the children safe? Are we even up for another season of pivoting and experimenting? I think many of you are wondering these things, too. It is hard, friends; so very hard. 

    There are many thing that continue to look or feel different, here at church and everywhere, and there’s a lot we don’t know right now. But, somehow, at root most things will be the same as they’ve always been when we jump into this fall. We will celebrate the start of another year together. We’ll see how much the children have grown. We’ll congratulate each other on making it this far. We will sing and eat in every way we can (and never take those simple things for granted again!). We will smile, with our eyes in the sanctuary and our mouths outside. We will welcome newcomers as new friends; ask real questions; and offer community. We’ll read our old stories and tell new ones. We’ll sit quietly together, whenever we need it. Let’s not forget that even if some of our questions around how, when, and where aren’t answerable right now, we know who we are and what we do. We are a family who loves and serves God, each other, and our neighbors--in any and every way we can. Enjoy these last days of summer, and together let’s jump into fall confident in the love and sustaining hope of Jesus. 

    With love, 
    Bryn


  • August 12, 2021 1:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Painted rock with the word "Hope" on top of a pile of painted rocksThe title of this week’s letter reminds me of summer vacations we would take with my family when I was a kid. My aunt was a year-round resident of Sandwich, MA; her modest cape home looked out over the beautiful salt marsh and boardwalk, and the stunning town beach was a short walk away. Many Thanksgiving Day meals were also enjoyed in this magical place.

    We would pile into the car and make the 2-hour trek from Rhode Island. Inevitably, we would be moaning “Are we there yet?” about 60 minutes in, somewhere along Rt 195 East. Cape Code traffic was also horrible then.

    Last week, I was fortunate to be able to enjoy a vacation with my husband Brett in Ogunquit, Maine – an annual event for us that we ended up cancelling last year because of the pandemic. It was good to be back and to try to unplug and relax, with mixed results. I was so hopeful at the beginning of the summer as many things in our lives were opening up and resembling something more familiar. To be honest, that hope has been tempered by the pandemic’s seemingly relentless presence. So here we are, approaching the middle of August, and I’m asking the question “Are we there yet?”

    In response to the Hebrew Bible reading from this past Sunday’s services, Rev. Nick preached about grief. Over the course of this year, he has been encouraging us to be open to experiencing grief and sharing it with each other. His terrific sermon (click here if you haven’t heard it) was another opportunity for us to ponder how grief touches our lives and can lead us to a closer relationship with God and with each other. 

    Before the pandemic, I would often read at bedtime and over the course of a weekend.  That habit shifted – we replaced our bedtime reading with Compline, weekend routines changed, and so on. As a result, I ended up with a “book pile” that was collecting dust. On top of the pile was a partially read novel Abide with Me, by Elizabeth Strout, which I finished last week while on vacation. The next book in the pile is Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times by Bishop Michael Curry. I’m halfway through this wonderful book, and for me, some of that lost hope I mentioned above is being restored. Bishop Curry writes, “The purpose of this book is to explain what the way of love looks like, even as we walk it in a world that feels at times closer to a nightmare than to the dream.”

    This pandemic journey is taking longer than expected. While it tries our patience as we continue to adjust, I am confident in God’s love, and thankful to be on this journey with all of you.

    May God bless us and keep us!

    Dave McSweeney

  • August 05, 2021 9:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parish Choir singing in the choir loft at Parish of the EpiphanySing to God a new song; sing to God all the whole earth.
    Sing and bless God's holy Name; proclaim the good news of salvation from day to day.
    Declare 
    God’s glory among the nations, God’s wonders among all peoples.
    For God is great and greatly to be praised.     Psalm 96: 1-4

    Over and over again in the Psalms, we are told to sing God’s praises. In fact, all of the Psalms are meant to be sung. Singing together in worship creates a sound and an energy like nothing else. Singing lifts our hearts and soothes our souls, and each voice that joins in adds to the wonderful sound. I believe that congregational and choral singing can move us in ways that nothing else can. It is one of the things that I have missed the most during Covid.

    For well over a year now, we have all learned new ways to sing our praises to God. For many of you in the congregation, this has meant singing your favorite hymns from your living room on Sunday morning while watching the service online. Choir members have had to learn music and make recordings on their own so that their voices could all be combined on the computer to form a choir. It was wonderful that technology allowed us to continue our worship in song, but as lovely as all of that was, it didn’t lift my spirits in the same way as singing with others in person. What a joy it has been to have all of you singing each Sunday as we have been regathering this summer!

    As we look ahead to the fall, we hope to continue our regathering with the return of the choir singing in person. We will, of course, still be mindful of Covid as we will be singing with masks and allowing for a bit more space in between singers. In spite of these limitations, I look forward to rehearsing and singing together again. Working with each other and blending our voices can be truly a mystical experience. 

    If you enjoy singing, we would love for you to join us. Our first choir rehearsal is scheduled for Thursday, September 9 at 7:30 pm in Upper Parish Hall. The choir plans to be back in worship on Rally Sunday, September 12 for a festive service with trumpet, organ, and piano. For more information, please email me at cbenner@3crowns.org. I look forward to hearing all of your voices soon!

    Faithfully, 
    Craig Benner

  • July 28, 2021 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rich Goldhor volunteering as sound engineer for Parish of the Epiphany's livestreamed worshipWe are indeed a blessed community. We are blessed with a beautiful building and grounds, and with very talented people who frequent that building. I am sure many of you know that we livestream the 10:00 am service and will continue to stream this service indefinitely. This completes our goal of accessibility to those who may not be able to attend in person but do have access to a computer to watch the service at home on YouTube. Livestreaming also gives all of us the opportunity to watch and participate in the Sunday morning service at a time other than Sunday morning, and, even if you attended the service, you may want to watch and listen a second time to pray, sing, and to hear the sermon again. All of our services are listed by date here on our website, under the worship tab. 

    If you were in attendance this past Sunday, you heard Father Nick preach a provocative sermon on the Old Testament reading (2 Samuel 11:1-15) about Bathsheba and David. I found his sermon very insightful and meaningful, and I commend it to you. If you were not present, and even if you were present on Sunday, you can watch and listen to it here; the sermon starts at minute 28:42.

    I was so intrigued by the Ugandan women’s group discussion of which woman in the Bible they most admired, you will have to watch to find out more…

    I was on vacation July 11 and not able to attend our worship service in person, but very grateful to participate later, through YouTube and hear Reverend Bob Davidson preach. His fine sermon helped me get to know him better and increased my understanding of our baptismal vows.

    Streaming our services is made possible by our lay leadership. Jason Kinchen and Rich Goldhor have led the effort, but we need more people who are willing to be trained. Both Jason and Rich are good teachers and anxious to train others for both the video and the audio in this ministry. I have even learned how to do the streaming. I am not particularly tech savvy, but you do not have to be; you just must be willing to learn a new skill. Quite frankly, it is fun to sit in the back, with the headphones on, looking important and setting up the takes (technical word for artistic streaming shots). Please consider being a part of this ministry. To continue this important ministry, we really do need to expand the pool of trained parishioners.

    We are blessed to have the knowledge to continue livestreaming our services; we really want to share that knowledge. Please contact the office if you feel called to this new and important ministry.

    Yours in Christ,
    Suzanne Owayda, Warden

  • July 22, 2021 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Photographed from behind, a father and two red-headed children holding hands at Parish of the EpiphanyA question we ask a lot: “How are you doing?” Perhaps over the past 18 months we’ve noticed that we answered that question differently than we had at previous times in our lives. Maybe we felt it more deeply—noticing how hard it’s been. I’m noticing that when I ask that question, people are starting to respond in old and familiar ways: “Fine.” “Good, how are you?” I, too, notice in myself a desire to sum it up like I once did. But here’s the truth I know for me and likely for so many others: things are not fine. But, honestly, who wants to dwell on that anymore? Yes, we’re over the masks. We are over the pandemic. We are a divided society. We are over being tired. And yet, these things are not over with us. With the Delta variant on the rise, and the youngest among us still without access to a vaccine, the masks are here for a while longer. Our society continues to double down on division and partisanship and a desire to reduce everything to political and partisan identity--when the work of justice is always complex. If I’m honest, there are times I’m reticent to talk about how exhausted I am because I’ll be too overcome with emotion to keep going. I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone in all of this. 

    When I ran the Marine Corps marathon with my brother in Washington, D.C., there came a point where I was absolutely dragging. I didn’t have anything left in the tank. And, we still had two miles to go. He turned to me and said, “Come on, you can do it. Just think of the burger and fries that await you!” I turned to him and said, “I don’t want a burger and fries. I want to stop running.” And you know what—I did. I stopped running and I walked. Then, my brother stopped running and walked with me. We didn’t talk much. It was an odd combination of feeling both relief and disappointment. We walked for the next half mile, people passing by us, others walking at a similar pace. Then, he grabbed my hand and said, “Shall we keep running?” We did. And we finished the race running together. It’s okay to walk and not run. Sometimes, it’s the best thing for us, our health and our wholeness.

    The slower pace of the pandemic may lead some of us to believe that we’ve been walking all this time. But that’s not the truth. We’ve been running like crazy—emotionally, physically, spiritually. So, I’m encouraging you and I’m claiming for myself the reasonability of walking for the coming year. God chose to join us at 3 miles per hour in the person of Jesus. And Jesus walked everywhere he went. This coming year, we are going to walk together, making space as a parish to be in relationship, reflect together about what we’ve all been living and where God is calling us. One way we will do this is by our Midweek offering of a meal and simple formation on Wednesday evenings. Another way to engage will be the occasional offering of small groups to engage our health and wellness as we are invited into Circles of Trust—places we can ask, “How might I live a more integrated and full life of faith?” It all begins by making space, to intentionally slow down, and allow God to do God’s slow work in our lives. A verse that I have prayed with so very often is Psalm 127: 1-2, and I offer it to you this day: “Unless God builds the house, the laborers work in vain… It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for God gives sleep to the beloved.” You are God’s beloved. It is good to rest. It is good to walk. 


    See you Sunday, 
    Nick

  • July 12, 2021 10:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Headshot of Bryn Hollenbeck, Director of Faith Formation at Parish of the EpiphanyOn one of our first Sundays of online worship back in March 2020, Rich Goldhor preached, and from the pulpit he looked out over the empty pews and he saw us. He pointed to where we usually sat and called out to many of us by name. We were, Rich said, “a veritable cloud of witnesses.” 

    What he saw was a combination of memory and hope; and it was one of my most poignant and holy pandemic worship experiences as I sat listening, surrounded by Legos, on my living room floor. 

    It has remained Rich’s way of seeing, that first Sunday, which has given me “hope sight” through the shutdown. It was a long year (and then some) while the staff and I worked here in our nearly-empty church building   photocopying mailings, writing emails, making recordings, or packing faith-at-home boxes. We knew the privilege of being onsite and were always grateful, but it was also lonely and often sad here in this big, dark, unoccupied church. It wasn’t the same place without you all.

    But like Paul in Romans 8, we hoped for what we did not see but waited for it patiently. I often envisioned us back together again, reunited and growing stronger as a community. I’ve seen you in pews and around tables, in classrooms and walking down hallways. And now! We can truly see again. We can be together, pass the peace, and share coffee as we talk face to face. Grab this joy with me, friends!

    While we celebrate our homecoming, this summer is also a period of vigorous planning here at Epiphany. Your vestry, staff, committee members and leaders are all holding these past months prayerfully before us while looking, with hope, into our future together. Over these next weeks of summer as new ideas and plans are shared, you will be asked to join in, to try new things, to help, and to lead with us as we plan for days full of hope. I look forward to walking these new roads together.

    With love,
    Bryn

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