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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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  • November 24, 2020 1:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Here we are at the beginning of Advent, a season that is one of my favorites. Advent invites us to slow down amidst one of the busiest times of the year. We are invited to be quiet and to pray. It is a season of waiting and preparation. The scripture readings during this season focus our attention both on the coming of the Christ Child and of Jesus’ coming again. Unlike Lent, where we often turn our thoughts inward, in Advent we turn our thoughts to what the coming of Christ means for us, for our families, and for the world. We often talk about themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.

    This year more than ever before, I feel the need to prepare. This year our world has been filled with sickness, death, economic distress and racial inequality. At church our regular routines of worship, fellowship and caring for one another have been upended. Even many of our personal lives have been challenged by stress or loneliness. Thankfully, even in this season of darkness, there are signs of hope and light.

    It looks as though there will be much to celebrate in the year to come. New, effective vaccines are on their way which promise to bring us relief and to restore some normality to our lives. Our church has called a new rector, and Nick and his family will soon be with us to help lead Parish of the Epiphany into a new chapter. There will also be new leadership in our country that pledges to build bridges and to work for the good of all people.

    Of course, none of these things in and of themselves, will solve all of our problems. We all need to play a role in bettering our lives, our families, our church, our country and our world. We won’t return to everything being the same. Things will be different, and we will need find new ways to fit in. During this time of preparation, my prayers are going to be focused on what role I am supposed to play. I don’t know when those answers will come, but I do know that I look forward to celebrating the light of Christ coming into this world very soon. I also look forward to gradually finding the new ways in which I am supposed to take that light into the world.

    Faithfully,
    Craig Benner


  • November 20, 2020 3:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear friends at Epiphany,

    By now, we’re all familiar with what’s been called “pandemic time,” a sense that time feels different these days. Time seems more fluid, and the days seem to run together; there is something disorienting about it all. It’s not that time itself has changed; rather, our perception of time has changed. However we experience time, we live our lives within its bounds and we mark its passage in various ways – the calendar year, the academic year, the fiscal year.

    Yet as Christians, we live not by the calendar year or the fiscal year but by the church year. The church year is all about Jesus – his humble birth in a stable in Bethlehem; his suffering and death on the cross; his glorious resurrection from the dead; his promised gift of the Holy Spirit; and the inexhaustible depth of his teachings and ministry. Each time we gather for worship, the lessons, the hymns, the prayers, the colors in the sanctuary all signify a season in the life or teachings of Jesus. In a world that can be disorienting, the church year orients us to Jesus and helps us stay close to him and his way of love.

    The church year always begins on the First Sunday of Advent, which this year will be on November 29th. I hope that in the midst of “pandemic time,” the start of a new church year offers you an anchor in a turbulent sea and a compass to guide you to still waters. Let the seasons of this new church year help you stay close to Jesus and encourage you to extend his love into the world.

    Yours in Christ,
    Sarah

  • November 06, 2020 8:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As we head into the winter months, I have started looking for silver linings, particularly around how we live our lives with the pandemic. We typically take a warm weather vacation in February, but that won’t happen. We often gather with my extended family on Sunday afternoons, but that won’t happen either. I have learned over this past year to look for small ways to bring joy into my life. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have attended very few Evensong services that we do so well at Epiphany. Sundays at 5:00 pm, is just not a great time for me, it is the time that I have carved out to have a leisurely afternoon and dinner with my family and my 90 year old mother. But one of the silver linings of the pandemic is the ability (if you have internet access) to tune in to our services, and other services at a time that is more convenient for you. So even though I did not attend at 5:00 pm last Sunday, I did find some quiet time on Monday evening to watch; the service, the music, and the production was absolutely beautiful. It was wonderful to see and hear the full choir, it was just lovely. If you have not yet seen the November 1 Evensong, you can watch and listen here,

    Epiphany's plan is to provide streaming services even when we are gathered together in-person, so that you can participate in services remotely on the days that you cannot attend in person. Your completed pledge, will allow us to be fully accessible to all and to continue with these most beautiful special services.

    As you know, our Stewardship In-gathering is on November 22nd. Dave and I will be outside in front of Epiphany on Sunday, 22 November from 1:00 to 3:00 pm to receive your pledge form. We would love for you to stop by in person so we can see you and have a chance to say “hi”. As an added incentive we have a limited supply of Epiphany swag to give away (first come first served), it is just a small token of our appreciation, so stop in, we would really love to see you! If you have already pledged on-line you can still stop by, drop off your updated pledge form, and receive your little gift. As a friendly reminder, please wear a mask and we will practice social distancing while outside the church.

    I enjoy watching our on-line streaming service, but I discovered that I also enjoy tuning in to the services from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., particularly when the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is preaching. On All Saints’ Day he preached on the Sermon on the Mount, one of my favorite bible passages. If you were not able to join the Adult Formation Series on The Beloved Community, take a few minutes and listen to Bishop Curry’s sermon entitled, Holding on to Hope, it is a perfect summation of all that was discussed but with the eloquence and passion of our presiding bishop. You can view it here.

    On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
    all other ground is sinking sand,
    all other ground is sinking sand.
                Lyric by Edward Mote, 1982 Hymnal

    Yours in Christ,
    Suzanne Owayda, Warden

  • October 30, 2020 10:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear friends at Epiphany,

    Many years ago at a clergy gathering, we were asked to complete this sentence: “The mission of the church is _______.” We were given time by ourselves to reflect and to write our answers, and then we came together in small groups to share our answers. In my small group, most of us had written long and detailed responses, thoroughly defining the mission of the church in all its varied aspects. And then a retired priest, Anna Caskey, shared her answer with the group: “The mission of the church is extending love.” After the session, I left my carefully crafted answer in the recycling bin. In two words, she had eloquently and memorably expressed the mission of the church.

    I have been thinking of Anna’s simple yet profound definition of the church’s mission as we endure the intense anxiety of this election season; as we continue to grapple with the destructive effects of systemic racism and, for those of us who are white, our complicity in it; and as we cope with the ongoing suffering, isolation, and disruption imposed by the pandemic. We are living in troubled times, and for many of us it’s hard enough sometimes just to get to the end of the week (or the day!), much less cope with these extraordinary challenges.

    Yet Anna’s words offer a way forward. In a sense, our vocation as Christians is simply to extend love in all we do – because in so doing, we are in some small way imitating God. God, who is love, extended unfathomable love to us by entering our sinful and broken world in the person of Jesus Christ, “to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us” to God (from Eucharistic Prayer A, BCP p. 362). Love lived among us in Jesus, and love lives among us always in the Holy Spirit, who inspires every loving act, no matter how small it may seem. In any situation, when facing any challenge, we can ask, “What is one loving thing that I can do right now? How can I extend love in this situation?”

    Extending love is not always easy or accomplished quickly; it sometimes calls us to listen to hard truths, and to commit time and resources to ensure the wellbeing of our neighbors. This Saturday, November 7th, delegates from each parish in the diocese will gather online for our annual convention. Susan Almquist, Marion Dry, and I are Parish of the Epiphany’s delegates to the Diocesan Convention this year. The resolutions we will take up include one that calls on parishes “to explore their historic involvement in and present wealth derived from the forced labor of enslaved people.” Another asks congregations “to expose the greed at the root of the destruction of God’s Creation…through preaching, education, and outreach.” (Click here to learn more about these resolutions and the convention.) These are challenging resolutions that will demand patient and prayerful work. I believe they are also, at their core, about extending love.

    Thank you – each of you at Parish of the Epiphany – for the many and beautiful ways you extend love to the world.

    Yours in Christ,
    Sarah

  • October 22, 2020 1:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of the things that I love about the Episcopal Church is that like the seasons, it is cyclical, some may say boring or predictable but I find it comforting. I like that one could go to most any Episcopal church at this time of year and hear a sermon about and plans for stewardship.

    Last Sunday, Sarah preached on Matthew 22 15:22 which includes the famous line, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Sarah asked us, when thinking about how much to pledge, to think about pledging from Jesus’ perspective, and ask ourselves “What do I have that doesn’t belong to God? If I belong to God what do I have that doesn’t belong to God? Jesus’ perspective challenges our assumptions that we are self-made, proud possessors of all that we have.” Sarah’s question has stuck with me as I think about stewardship and pledging to Epiphany. I think about the choices that I have made after prayerful listening to God’s voice in my life and how that contributed to all that I have and am so very grateful.

    Yesterday during the service, we heard from Warren McFarlan and Solomon Owayda, co-chairs of the stewardship committee, urging us to pledge and explaining to us why they pledge, you can hear those messages here. In upcoming Sunday services we will hear from other parishioners about why they pledge.

    Now to some of the logistics of pledging. You all have received or will soon receive by mail the stewardship packet, it is also on the 3crowns website, click here, describing REJOICING REUNION RENEWAL. Included in the packet is a pledge form, we are encouraging parishioners to pledge on-line but we would still like for you to return the pledge form by mail or during our special drive-up Stewardship Ingathering. Please look carefully at the pledge form to check that your information (name, address, email) is correct. Please pay special attention to your phone number, if you only use your cell phone number and it is not listed please include it with your information.

    Finally, on Sunday, 22 November we will have our “Stewardship Ingathering”, it won’t be our usual ingathering luncheon but it will be fun. Your wardens and other members of the Stewardship Committee will be outside the church from 1:00 to 3:00pm to collect your pledge forms. Dave McSweeney and I really miss you and would love to see you in person, please wear a mask and stay socially distant, but we would like the chance to greet you and thank you in person. Even if you have already pledged online, we would like an updated paper pledge form and the opportunity to see you. We really hope to see you on November 22 and working on a special way to entice you, so stay tuned…

    If you have any questions about this year’s stewardship campaign please feel free to contact Warren McFarlan, Solomon Owayda or me.

    Yours in Christ,
    Suzanne Owayda, Warden


  • October 15, 2020 2:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear friends at Epiphany,

    As Election Day approaches, our nation is deeply divided; and we are living in a time of great distress and uncertainty. In the midst of such division and anxiety, the Episcopal Church’s tradition of common prayer is a powerful source of unity for us. Indeed, our tradition of common, shared, corporate prayer is so essential to us as Episcopalians that our prayer book is called The Book of Common Prayer. Our common worship binds us together across all that might divide us. And right now, we need to be bound together in prayer more than ever. And so I encourage us to come together as a parish to pray for our nation, the upcoming election, and all who hold public office in our country. Here are several opportunities for prayer:

    Election Eve Prayer Vigil, Monday, November 2

    The Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston is hosting an online prayer vigil on Monday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m. Please register here to receive the Zoom link to join.

    Election Day Prayer Services, Tuesday, November 3

    On Tuesday, November 3, Epiphany parishioners will have two opportunities to gather online for prayer, silent reflection, and special prayers for our nation and the election, using The Book of Common Prayer. The services will last about 15-20 minutes; the Zoom links will be emailed to you on the morning of November 3.

    12:00 p.m. – Noonday Prayer with Silent Reflection and Prayers for the Nation & the Election

    7:00 p.m. – Compline with Silent Reflection and Prayers for the Nation & the Election

    A Season of Prayer for an Election, October 27 – November 4

    Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations are sponsoring “A Season of Prayer for an Election.” For each day of this season, a prayer from The Book of Common Prayer has been selected, to help focus our petitions in this time. To access these prayers, click here.

    Please offer your prayers for this election and for our country whenever and in whatever ways you can. God lovingly hears and receives each prayer we pray, and uses them in mysterious ways to enable God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, as Jesus taught us to pray.

    Yours in Christ,
    Sarah

  • September 17, 2020 1:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    O sing 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

    Psalm 96:1-2

    This fall as we begin a new program year, these words from Psalm 96 take on new meaning for me. It probably won’t surprise you that when I think of “singing to God,” I think of choirs and congregations joining their voices together as we all “Proclaim the good news of salvation.”

    Over these past few months, I have become keenly aware of the importance of choral and congregational singing. I have been reminded that singing in a group is more than the sum of its parts. There is something magical that happens when we all sing together, one voice blending with another. Think about singing your favorite carol on Christmas Eve with a full choir loft and an overflowing congregation. It really doesn’t matter if your voice cracks, croaks, or soars. When we sing together, one sound feeds off of another, and it creates a mood and feeling like no other. For me, it is truly heavenly.

    I must confess that I have done my share of mourning over the fact that it will still be some time before we can experience this little bit of heaven in person here at Epiphany. But as I thought about a new program year, the words of Psalm 96 kept coming to mind. We are in fact trying to do just what the Psalmist says. We are singing new songs and we are doing that in new ways.

    Here are just a few ways we will be singing new songs this fall. Choir members will be meeting on Zoom each Thursday to practice music for Sunday anthems, an Evensong, and even Lessons and Carols. Sadly, the technology doesn’t allow for us to hear each other all at once during a rehearsal, but it does make it possible for us to learn music with the help of a keyboard playing or a section leader singing. Apps on our phones and ipads make it possible to blend our voices together, and for a few times during the fall, you will be able to see whole virtual choirs made from individual video and sound recordings. Section leaders will be meeting monthly to have recording sessions in the nave of the church where they can spread themselves out over a large distance and record hymns and anthems.

    There is an important role for all of you as well. I hope you will join in, whole-heartedly singing your praises from home. I have no doubt that God can hear each of us singing together from our respective homes just as well as if we were all here together at Epiphany. If singing hymns, Psalms and service music from home doesn’t seem like quite enough, I invite you to join us for a Zoom choir rehearsal. While it may feel a bit different, I can promise a warm community and new ways to “Sing and bless God’s holy name.”

    Faithfully,
    Craig Benner
    Director of Music


  • September 02, 2020 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear friends at Epiphany,

    The pandemic has left many of us feeling isolated, both physically and emotionally. And yet, we are now more keenly aware of our connection with our neighbors who are frontline workers, those who risk their health and safety to keep grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, restaurants, and other businesses open; drive buses and trains and cabs; deliver the mail and packages; care for those in hospitals and nursing homes.

    We can offer our gratitude each time we receive their help. And at the end of each day, we can say to God, “Thank you for everyone who helped me today,” and give specific thanks for the cashier who rang up our groceries, the letter carrier who delivered our mail, the attendant who pumped our gas, the customer service representative who took our order over the phone. We needed their help, and they were there for us.

    Perhaps in this way we are living a prayer from the service of Compline in The Book of Common Prayer: “O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (p. 134).

    In this time, we know in a different and deeper way how much we depend upon each other. God willing, we will never stop weaving a web of gratitude for the gift of one another’s labor.

    Yours in Christ,
    Sarah


  • August 27, 2020 1:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear friends at Epiphany,

    That title is a bit misleading, because the Psalms are always in season. The Psalms – those hymns of ancient Israel – have been prayed for centuries by Jews and Christians alike. They are treasured for their authentic expression of the range of human emotions; they teach us to bring our whole lives before God: our joy and sorrow, gratitude and lament, faith and fear, anger and tranquility. The Psalter – the collection of all 150 Psalms, found in the Old Testament – is so essential to prayer that it is included in its entirety in our Book of Common Prayer. St. Athanasius wrote of the Psalter, “within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul.”

    Because we are in a season that troubles our souls, the Psalms can be especially helpful to our prayer – and by prayer, I mean the unique way each of us communicates with God.

    When we think of our beloved church and long to gather again within its walls, we can pray, How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord. (Ps. 84.1)

    When we hear the news of Jacob Blake’s shooting in Kenosha, we ask, How long, O Lord? (Ps. 13.1) And we can remember that the Lord will give justice to the orphan and the oppressed, so that mere mortals may strike terror no more (Ps. 10.19). And we can prepare ourselves to act for justice by taking to heart God’s command to all people: turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Ps. 34.14).

    When we are moved to work for a more sustainable world, we can recall with wonder that The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein. For it is he who founded it upon the seas, and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep. (Ps. 24.1-2)

    When we seek peace in the midst of turmoil, we can pray, as countless others have before us, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Ps. 23.1-2)

    If your prayer seems dry these days, or if you’re not sure how honest you can be with God, I encourage you to read the Psalms. Start by reading one each day. Let it be your prayer, let it give voice to your longing, your anxiety, your fear, your hope, your joy. In praying them, may you be able to say, with the Psalmist, that God revives my soul (Ps. 23.3).

    Yours in Christ,
    Sarah


  • August 21, 2020 9:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Wednesday morning of last week, I was waiting in line to enter the Winchester Hospital Family Medical Center in Wilmington, right down the street from where we live. I was there for routine lab work a few days after having my annual physical. It was 7:25 am, and the doors weren’t open yet. There were purple circles outside the building, spaced 6 feet apart, to help keep us from crowding the door, and to help keep us safe. There were about a dozen people in line already when I arrived. Everyone was wearing a mask. It was orderly, organized, and eerily quiet.

    The door opened at 7:30, and there were more purple circles in the ample indoor space. And more waiting. My brain thought a few times, surely some of these circles are closer than 6 feet apart! On closer inspection, I’m sure they were just fine.

    I shared with you all last December that I have trouble waiting, sometimes it makes me uncomfortable and anxious. And at the time, I also shared that my faith tells me God is with us on our journey, we have to notice. I could have used my own advice as I pondered purple circle spacings, experiencing unfocused anxiety in a medical center during the pandemic, wearing a mask, and waiting to have my blood drawn.

    So much has changed in our world since December; it does seem so very long ago. New sources of discomfort and anxiety have surfaced as we move forward together through this pandemic. Are we noticing God through this journey? Psalm 27 tells us: Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Comforting words, indeed.

    In re-reading that article from December this week, I wrote that we were entering the 9th month of preparing for a new rector. Now, in August 2020, we are in our 18th month of preparing for a new rector. Our rector search committee tells us we are entering into our final phase of the search! Our potential rector finalists will be visiting Epiphany over the next few weeks, and we plan to make the call for our next rector in October. Ideally, our next rector will join us at the start of the new year. Talk about noticing God through the journey. Surely our search committee’s work is a blessing and a gift to us all. The Holy Spirit continues to be at work through this discernment process. I am grateful. I am grateful to God for the search committee and for all of you who are waiting alongside me. Our parish is stronger because of our waiting together. And, hallelujah, God already knows the outcome.

    Gracious God, we ask your direction and guidance for those who shall recommend to us our new spiritual leader, that we may receive an upright and faithful rector who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries. May they help us ask anew what it means to be the Church in our time, our place. And may we all welcome according to your Spirit the one you are sending to us to lead us into the new days ahead. Amen.

    Faithfully,
    Dave McSweeney,
    Warden


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