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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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  • September 17, 2018 7:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Friends,

    The summer whizzed by with such speed that it’s all rather blurry for me. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church happened in the first two weeks of July, and before I blinked, it was time to head north to the Saint Lawrence River for adventures and escapades, one of which involved a boat and a lot of laughter.

    On a late evening, after visiting friends at a neighboring island, Tom and I untied the lines from the dock and started the engine of our little boat. Within seconds I discovered that the wind’s strength was much greater than the tiny idle of the boat’s engine. And because it was dark and the stern light was hampering my vision (the captain makes excuses), within a few seconds all I could hear was the bottom of the boat and the propeller hitting rocks. I quickly turned off the engine, raised it out of the water, and watched as the shore of the island came within reach. No use in yelling for help for the sound of the wind and the waves. Tom pulled out his phone to text our hosts, but they were being good hosts and not using their phones, of course! There was only one thing to do: jump in the water and push-swim the boat back to the dock, about 30 feet away. So I did, and all was well. No damage to the boat or the propeller, and away we went landing safely at home about 10 minutes later. I laughed the entire way home and woke up the next morning still laughing, at the absurdity of jumping into the River to push the boat to the dock.

    Now, if you were to ask Tom about what happened he’d probably tell you a different story. The same event with two different perspectives, neither of which would deliver the singular truth. Taken together, however, an accurate picture of this “very River” scene would come into focus.

    I tell you this because it’s how I understand Holy Scripture. It’s God’s Word given to us in a multi-dimensional fashion, full of individual perspectives. The sign outside of a church in the Thousand Islands reads, “preaching the infallible Word of God since 1888”—I cringe every time I drive by it. In one sense my cringing is actually pity because seeking absolute certainty where it can’t be found—in literalism—has never brought about lasting security. The Bible always offers a fresh word for a fresh day, and when I approach it with that perspective, I almost always find grace or insight.

    In his book, How to Cure a Fanatic, the Israeli author, Amos Oz, believes that the perfect remedy for fanaticism is a sense of humor. He writes, “humor contained the ability to laugh at ourselves, the capacity to realize that no matter how righteous you are there is a certain side of life that’s always funny.” I think a sense of humor is required to know and to understand scripture, too. It’s the inconsistencies and disparities of the Bible that give its authors authenticity. Their different life experiences and outlooks lend a fuller shape to the truth.

    About the incident on Bluff Island and the boat that drifted to shore and hit the rocks? I swam really well, and afterward while soaking wet sat on my iPhone and ruined it. But don’t share that admission with Tom Mousin; he might laugh at my honesty.

    Here’s to a great 10th year together, to laughing and learning.

    Faithfully in Christ,


  • September 08, 2018 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    Labor Day has come and gone and many of us are bemoaning the fact that summer passed all too quickly.  Others are anxious for the fall – some return to school with enthusiasm and, no doubt,some  parents will greet fall with a bit of relief!

    I hope that the summer afforded you some time for rest and reflection. I feel privileged and blessed to have spent days in the Berkshires just looking out at fern-covered forests and listening to exquisite music at Tanglewood, as well as time on the Cape with family and friends, enjoying good food, good conversations, and time to spend with Lisa.

    While we had the resources to get away, the world in all its beauty and messy issues continued on. My prayer is that we have a renewed energy and resolve to be partners with each other and Christ to return or take up for the first time, issues and programs that connect us with each other, our faith, and those who need our advocacy.

    Here at Epiphany, there are many ways to deepen your spiritual life and to help others within our community and beyond. There will be a Ministry Fair on Sunday, 11 November after the 10:00am service. If you are a part of any ministries at Epiphany, I invite you to contact me and we will provide your ministry with table space in Hadley Hall. For those of you who are new to Epiphany, the Ministry Fair will provide information about the work of Epiphany from the Altar Guild, to Mission and Outreach, to the Choirs, to Faith Formation, to Property, to name just a few.

    All of these vital ministries are led by dedicated lay people – YOU! As Jesus said to his followers, “Come and see!”

    You will also be seeing and hearing more about Stephen Ministry at Epiphany. Check out our page on our website here. Our trained Stephen Leaders, Barbara DeWolfe, Ted Kellogg, Gloria Korta, and Joan O’Connor will be talking about this amazing ministry of spiritual companioning on Sunday, 21 October at 11:15. Also, check out our bulletin board in the hallway outside of the Parish Office.

    Stephen Ministry is looking for volunteers who feel called to be a part of this caring ministry. The training offered is the result of 43 years of tried and true teaching, learning, praying, and evaluating the ministry of lay-led pastoral care in 15,000 member congregations, across many denominations, and now in several countries outside the US. If you would like more information about this ministry, please be in touch with me.

    I am so excited about our time together in this new Program Year. Working with each one of you is a joy and so energizing! I hope that you will join all of the staff and vestry on Rally Day next Sunday, September 16th. It is a wonderful time to welcome new folks in our midst and greet old friends. God has wonderful things in store for us and there are so many opportunities to serve and to grow together in our faith.

    Faithfully yours in Christ,


  • June 27, 2018 9:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is…

    • legislative assembly who create and/or change the constitution, canons, worship, and social policies of the Episcopal Church.
    • A series of daily worship services when about 10,000 people gather to hear God’s word and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.
    • bazaar where vendors and exhibitors sell wares, increase awareness for various causes, and invite participation/engagement. 
    • A family reunion where friendships are created and renewed.   
    • marathon in which for an entire fortnight deputies and bishops, vendors and visitors, volunteers and restauranteurs work from dawn until very late in the evening.

    Find us on social media

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deputynews/

    Twitter: #GC79 or @thomasjbrown

    What are the questions and concerns?

    To date, proposals cover a range of topics, including:

    • -Book of Common Prayer revisions 
    • -Evangelism and leadership in underrepresented communities 
    • -Safeguarding training on social media 
    • -Racial justice and reconciliation 
    • -Stewardship of creation

    Why does it matter?

    General Convention holds a space for Episcopalians to have a real and substantive conversation. It encourages engagement and relationship, across any and every kind of difference one can imagine. Whether testifying in open hearings before committees, speaking for or against resolutions in legislative sessions, or in chance encounters in the exhibit hall, General Convention keeps us talking — a profound witness to a polarized world. Our conversations here matter.

    Our Budget

    The draft budget for 2019–2021 is balanced at nearly $134 million dollars; most of the income side will be given from dioceses. In the same way that we make sacrificial financial gifts to the Parish of the Epiphany, so too does each diocese who supports the ministry of the Episcopal Church. The expense categories for the triennium include:

    • evangelism
    • racial reconciliation and justice
    • creation care
    • ministry of the Presiding Bishop
    • mission within and beyond the Episcopal Church
    • finance, legal, and operations

    I’m thrilled to see evangelism as the first priority and am particularly thrilled to learn recently that in the past 3 years the Episcopal Church has established nearly 80 congregations/ church start-ups.

    Look to the parish’s website, our Facebook page, and your email inbox for regular updates from GC79. 


  • June 26, 2018 10:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ten Facts about General Convention

    1. This is the 79th General Convention; the first was in 1785.
    2. This is the first time the General Convention has met in Austin, Texas. 
    3. There are 110 dioceses in our church, including 99 within the United States, plus eleven others: Colombia, Dominican Republic, two in Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, the Virgin Islands (both British and U.S.), and 16 parishes in Europe (the American Convocation). Each diocese sends 8 deputies (4 clergy persons and 4 lay persons), and its bishop(s). 
    4. The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops meet separately, and legislation must be approved in both houses. 
    5. Historically the House of Bishops was the more conservative. Now, the House of Deputies tends more slowly to change, especially when it comes to authorizing new forms for worship.
    6. The “official youth presence” comprises 18 teens and young adults who join in the deliberations and festivities, and are the ones responsible for making it fun.
    7. Bishop Barbara Harris, our retired Suffragan Bishop, has been to 19 General Conventions; her first was in Seattle in 1967!
    8. The vice-president of the House of Deputies, a layman from Boston, is the Honorable Byron Rushing, who is a legislator in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
    9. At the General Convention, the United Thank Offering is presented. It represents charitable gifts from every diocese in our church, all of which is given away in the form of grants. 
    10. Solomon Owayda, a member of the Parish of the Epiphany, is seeking re-election as a trustee of the Church Pension Fund. The House of Deputies will vote on this and many other church-wide elections.


  • June 12, 2018 9:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jane White gave a comprehensive report about recent productive conversations between the vestry and mission and outreach leaders, emerging conversations around creating a more broader and more transparent culture of committee chair recruitment, our continuing efforts and plans to make the building more accessible (including a little bit about how we might supplement the $530,000 currently available to fund the elevator), and ongoing work to create a master plan for landscaping, which we hope to show off in September

    Suzanne Owayda spoke about the Diocese of Massachusetts, noting that Bishop Gates has created three positions to assist congregations and clergy (and he and Bishop Harris): regional canons. The diocese has been divided into three geographical regions, each will have its own canon. The Parish of the Epiphany is in the North-West Region. An announcement of these three appointments is expected this summer.

    Suzanne Owayda also announced that Thomas Brown has been elected the chair of the board of trustees of the Church Pension Group. He has been a trustee since 2009; Thomas will become the chair in mid-July and serve for three years. In addition to Thomas, Solomon Owayda is also a trustee. At the General Convention in Austin, Texas, next month Solomon hopes to be re-elected to a second term as a trustee. In this context Suzanne spoke about the many people at the Parish of the Epiphany who serve our church beyond Winchester, describing the ways such service strengthens our entire church, locally, regionally, and globally. 

    Craig Benner updated us about the assistant director of music search. , which unfortunately, is now suspended. Over the past two months the assistant director of music advisory committee has been receiving resumes and conducting interviews. After the first round of interviews Craig and the committee felt that none of the candidates were a good fit for this new position. We are now in the process of rethinking the job description so that it might be more attractive to someone who has recently retired from a church music position, or someone who doesn't want to have a weekly commitment. Thomas Brown, on behalf of Carolyn Hughes (who was teaching the confirmation class), reported on the search that is just beginning for a youth minister. The position is posted, and an advisory committee is being formed. 

    Thomas gave a high-level “coming attractions report” about the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, which begins on 2 July. A handout about General Convention is available here



  • June 01, 2018 1:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Yesterday, we celebrated Gratitude Sunday. It was an opportunity to thank folks who have volunteered their time heading up committees, teaching Sunday school, and leading Children’s Worship. We thanked Jake Athyal, our Youth Minister, who has made a difference in the lives of our youth, and we thanked Paul Shoaf Kozak, our Intern, for being our companion in worship and giving us fresh perspectives on the world and some of the most vulnerable in our midst. 

    It was the official end of our program year. But more than that, it was an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for what we have been as a community of faith, the people of God here at Epiphany. There are not many places left in our culture where you can find a caring, loving community. There are very few places where you can imbue your children and grandchildren with core values that will sustain them throughout their lives and equip them to be joy-filled, caring human beings. There are very few places where people are cared for when they are ill or grieving the loss of a loved one. There are many aspects of our common life here at Epiphany and all of them are grounded in our worship, our coming together week after week to be fed in the Eucharist, to give thanks to God for all the blessings of this life, and to ask for courage and strength to meet the challenges of daily living. Prayer and reflection, reading the Holy Scriptures and applying them to our particular life situation helps us to do the work that God has given us to do.

    And then there is gratitude. Research has proven that people who live their lives with gratitude live longer and are happier. People who are ill recover more quickly. Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in a Greater Good essay, “Why Gratitude Is Good.” “First,” he writes, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

    In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.” (greatergood.berkley.edu)

    One of my favorite quotes on gratitude is by Albert Schweitzer: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” I know that I have experienced that spark from my spouse, our amazing staff with whom I have the privilege to work, and so many of you who bring such faith, commitment, and joy to everything you do. Saying “thank you” or showing our gratitude builds community and strengthens the bonds between us. It helps us look at our lives in a positive way and helps us engage the world differently.

    There are many, many references in the Bible about giving thanks. Here is one from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” For me that is what Gratitude Sunday is all about. Thanking each other, even for the little things, is so important. I give thanks to God for all of you!

    Faithfully,


  • May 28, 2018 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Wikipedia notes that the 1549 Book of Common Prayer was the first prayer book to include the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship printed in English. It contained Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the Litany, and Holy Communion and also the occasional services in full: the orders for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, "prayers to be said with the sick", and a funeral service. It also set out in full the "propers" (that is the parts of the service which varied week by week or, at times, daily throughout the Church's Year): the collects and the epistle and gospel readings for the Sunday Communion Service. Those elements remain today making our Book of Common Prayer truly a time-tested, living work.

    The church does not revise the Prayer Book lightly or frequently. The current book dates to 1979, which replaced the 1928 version. The General Convention (the Episcopal Church's triennial meeting) asked, in 1997, that the Standing Liturgical Commission, as it was then known, develop a comprehensive plan for prayer book revision. The group did so, and the General Convention approved it in 2000, but it failed to provide adequate funding. However, that effort resulted in the liturgical commission’s developing a series of supplemental liturgies known as “Enriching Our Worship.” [editor's note: the Parish of the Epiphany uses these supplemental rites on a regular basis for our 10:00 worship services]

    The 2015 General Convention charged the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music (SLCM) with presenting to the 2018 General Convention in Austin, Texas (this coming 5-13 July), a plan for a comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer. After considering four different approaches, the SCLM will offer a comprehensive plan for revision, as requested, as well as a way for the church to spend time discerning the future shape of its common prayer. So ... stay tuned as our church continues to work to keep this very special book relevant.

    This article was written by Priscilla Burns, a member of the Parish of the Epiphany, and the parish administrator at St. John Church in Charlestown, as well as Christ Church in the City of Boston, also known as "Old North." Priscilla notes that she consulted the book, Planning for Rites and Rituals, A Resource for Episcopal Worship, and the internet pages of Wikipedia and the Episcopal Church.


  • May 17, 2018 3:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Pentecost is here! Whose got the Spirit?! We do! I am not one to overuse emphatic punctuation in my writing. However, if there is one time of year when the use of exclamation points should be embraced, it would now during Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is not only one part of the Holy Trinity. She is that divine spark that resides in our hearts and consciences inspiring us to manifest God’s Kingdom here and now. This truth about our faith must be exclaimed not only within our churches, but also to our fractured and fragmented world that cries out for healing and redemption. Every year to conclude Easter, we testify that God is still with us and that we are a Spirit filled people.

    I love Pentecost, and I don’t just mean to say that I love bright, red pants and blinding orange shirts. I love being intentionally reminded in our liturgy and lectionary that we are living into our covenantal relationship with God. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he must go so that the Spirit, the Advocate, will come. He even adds that the Spirit will always be with us.

    Is the Spirit not in our community or what?

    We felt the Spirit on May 13th, which was both Mother’s Day and Youth Sunday. She was present in the singing of our children and the preaching of our young adults. The Holy Spirit is present when we witness outside of the ICE facilities in Burlington and Boston. She has compelled us to be a part of the sanctuary movement, which heeds the biblical mandate to welcome the immigrant. The Holy Spirit is both embedded in our doing and our discerning.

    She is operative in prayer and silence when we seek to listen to the new ways in which God is calling us to be Church. When we walk with the Spirit, our hearts stay open to what God might have in store for us, which is always something bigger than we could have initially imagined. The Holy Spirit empowers us to embody joy and awe and wonder. May we pray with hopeful hearts that the Holy Spirit, the reason for Pentecost, accompany us in our daily living!

    Paul Shoaf-Kozak,
    Intern


  • May 17, 2018 3:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Decoration Day is what we used to call today; a day originally set aside to honor those who died in the Civil War. But when the first World War came, and went, the sentiments of Decoration Day broadened so that our nation honored all deceased military personnel. It wasn’t until 1971 that the last Monday of the month was declared a federal holiday, and its official title was given: Memorial Day.

    In the Letter to the Romans St. Paul writes, “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5.

    On this Memorial Day maybe you’ll be helped to remember that St. Paul is not glorifying suffering, but asserting that in a grace-filled world we have all the resources we need to grow through the challenges of life. We are not victims, but actors and artists in the transformation of our lives and the world. In our walk with the Lord character is everything, and our character is grounded in moment by moment choices to look beyond our self-interest to embrace the well-being of others.

    We’re living in a political time, at least from how I see things, when the greatest good many people seek are the lofty goals of paying fewer taxes, making more money, and doing exactly what we want with our money and our property.

    Today, Memorial Day, issues a call: to balance self-interest with the larger community and planetary interests, to let go of our ego so that our families, neighborhoods, and houses of worship thrive. When that happens so will our nation, and ultimately I believe, so will the world.

    The soldiers whom we remember today did not die just for us to pay fewer taxes, or make more money. In truth they died for a dream—a dream still partly unrealized in our nation—of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people in our community; the dream of liberty and justice for all; and to secure a place of refuge for the hungry, persecuted, and oppressed. Living by these values is how we honor those who have sacrificed on our behalf.

    Our Prayer Book includes official collects (prayers) for Labor Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving Day, but not for Memorial Day. Interesting to me is that the 1928 Prayer Book did have a designated prayer for today. The architects of our current Prayer Book embedded it in the several prayers for burial. I wish it were otherwise, that we had retained a prayer for this national holiday, but we can still steal a moment at some point today to say this prayer (p. 488 of the Prayer Book). It’s in the old-fashioned idiom of the 1928 Prayer Book, with its thees and thous, and it was composed when today really was known as Decoration Day:

    Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence; and give us such lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

    Decorate yourselves with a character that produces hope…because God’s love has been poured into your heart!

    Faithfully in Christ





  • May 11, 2018 9:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This Sunday we’ll baptize three young people, two infants, Hope and Brooks, and a four year old, Reeve. 

    In our baptism we become a part of something special; baptism isn’t an escape from some nasty peril. Jesus is plain and straightforward when instructing us on baptism. He picks two simple verbs: “GO” and “DO” and he tells those who follow him to baptize. It’s really an invitation to a whole new look at life, one that takes seriously our part within the community of all Christians around the world.

    Try not to think small. When we baptize, we baptize into the whole Christian Church on earth. Hope’s, Brooks’s, and Reeve’s baptisms may happen inside the Church of the Epiphany, but it’s not baptism into a parish community. It’s not even baptism into the Episcopal Church. The way I think about it, Jesus probably wouldn’t be much interested in us thinking so locally or narrowly. 

    Think about the awe some reality that on the same day when you or your children are baptized, so are other people in places like Tallin, Estonia; Cleveland, Ohio, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and they’re receiving the same blessing. That’s a tremendous joy to celebrate. Baptized Christians call each other brothers and sisters because we share a common life.

    Remember: We “do it” because Jesus said to do it. That’s reason enough to baptize. It has to be more than an act we engage in to please the grandparents, or to land a photo op for the scrapbook. It’s certainly more than avoiding hell. Jesus did not spend time speculating on the temperature of hell or offer clever means to avoid it. Instead, he preached a way of life that amounted to unswerving allegiance to God, our eternal hope.

    You only get baptized once in life. It’s a permanent arrangement between you and God that gets renewed every morning. Your baptism walks with you for the entirety of your life regardless of how many personal ups and downs you experience. The trick is to live your baptism, or claim its strength, in a daily way. Here is a hint for understanding baptism: The act of getting baptized happens on a particular day. The day has an eventful character to it. You select a date with the church and show up. Your wider family and friends appear. The baptism takes place. Cameras record the after-service joy. A big family meal typically follows.

    Living as a baptized person happens every day after the actual baptism. Upon awaking each morning, we get to decide how we’re going to live that day. Will it be lived with some of the jealousy, poor judgment, self-centeredness, or resentment that may have informed parts of yesterday? Or will it be lived with the invigorating sense that we rely on God’s embrace, and are powered by the Lord’s desire to help us be the best we can be? How we live each day determines whether our baptism means something to us or very little at all. 

    Three weeks ago I told a story to a group of Epiphanyites. It was about something that happened on Sunday, 13 December 1970, when I wasn’t yet three months old. Water was poured over my head, prayers were said, the Trinity was summoned, and afterwards, some cake was served. Of course I remember nothing of that snowy morning, but in the memory of God it was the most important day of my life. I once was dead, and now because of that day, I am alive. My job now is to live its truth, and that happens best with your help and guidance.  

    Faithfully,  


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