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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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  • 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,  


  • May 04, 2018 9:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Okay, I will begin by saying that I am not going to try to answer this question here but am writing this article to start off this conversation. As the Director of Family Formation, I actually have the word “formation” in my job description so I should be the expert, right? Having ministered to adults, youth, and children, teaching, mentoring, facilitating, and just hanging out at church for many years, one would think so. There have been times in my ministry when if you asked me the question, “What is Christian formation?” I would answer definitively. But I confess recently that there are many times when I have no idea, the world is changing so quickly it is hard to figure out beyond worship what we need to deepen and maintain a Christian spiritual life in such a busy, fast moving world.

    I am coming to realize that formation looks different for different people and it even looks different for people at different stages of their lives. To be formed in a Christian community as a disciple of Jesus is a very dynamic process, our spiritual needs change as we experience life’s transitions, responsibilities, struggles, pain, and joy. What feeds us when we are young does not necessarily feed us as we age. Formation that nourishes some might not nourish others. Yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we promise during every baptism as a congregation to support each other in each unique life in Christ. We are called to be in relationship with those already here and those just crossing our threshold, meeting them where they are in their faith journeys, and helping each other form into Christians, respecting each other’s path to becoming His disciples.

    So I get back to my original question, what is Christian formation to you? What do you need to deepen and keep a balanced healthy spiritual life? What support do you need to deepen your relationship with God and each other? What has been offered here at Epiphany that has fed your soul? In answering the question of Christian formation, I imagine many different answers; however, the more important question is why this formation is important to you because I believe the “why” is what brings us together. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Love,


  • April 27, 2018 4:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week as I drove back and forth from Charlestown to Winchester, I heard several stories on NPR with similar themes.  The first was a report on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s newly appointed Minister of Loneliness.  The story told of people who were connected to others electronically, but had difficulty finding meaningful relationships.  Amazingly enough, this new position was created to help busy people find community.  

    Later, there was a story from the Netherlands, where government workers were being paid to take music to lonely seniors.  Sometimes this meant getting groups of people together in one place so that they could listen to music and interact with each other. In other instances, it meant sharing recordings with housebound people one on one.  This included one 93 year-old woman who loved to ballroom dance with her weekly visitor, something she and her late husband had enjoyed doing for many years.

    Finally, there was a story from Japan that told of young people who had done something that brought shame on their family.  One man had failed to pass the law school entrance exam, and, as a result, he had ostracized himself from almost everyone.  Believe it or not,  this is a big enough group that there is an actual name for them in Japanese.  Hikikomori are defined as reclusive people who haven’t left their homes or interacted with anyone for at least six months.  The story went on to tell of a 33 year-old who had gotten a group of Hikikomori together to write about their stories in the form of a newspaper.  In all of these stories, finding meaningful community was mentally and physically healing for all involved. 

    For some reason, these stories stuck with me.  In a world where we seem to interact directly with people less and less, our need for real connections with others grows.  As  I began to think about the community of people in my own life who are most important to me, I began to realize that the overwhelming common denominator in those relationships  was church.  My closest childhood friends are from my church youth group.  I met my husband singing in a church choir, and our dearest friends, who over the years have become like family members, are all people whom we met at church. 

    I have no doubt that this is true for many of you as well.  I have been at Epiphany for a year now, and during that time there is one thing that has impressed me.  This is a community that deeply cares for others.  Epiphany Visitors work to make sure that those who can’t join us at church are still part of our community.  People meet regularly to pray for others in need.  Some of us make prayer shawls in an effort to enfold others in our warmth and love.  Lay Eucharist Visitors take communion to people.  Friends in Deed provide meals to those need them.  Flowers are delivered to people regularly.  Parents and toddlers gather weekly to make connections and support each other.  Choir members work together to provide music and in the process form valuable friendships.  And most importantly, we all greet and welcome new people who come through our doors each week.

    I have already come to value this community and I know that there are many others out there who will find what they are looking for here as well.  What we are doing is important work, and I know that we can make a difference in many peoples lives. The best part is that they will make a difference in our own lives in the process.


  • April 20, 2018 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    Travelling to Italy with Lisa during Holy Week and Easter was a delight. It was part pilgrimage, part vacation. Every moment of it, including our travel through Heathrow Airport, afforded us opportunities to glimpse God’s people, the wonder of nature, and the glory of our faith that is shared across language and culture, class and centuries.

    Our time away allowed us to be unplugged from our devices, keeping us focused on each moment, whether it was an encounter with a stranger offering directions, a friendly guide on a trolley, or the front desk attendants at our hotel, eagerly offering directions or restaurant suggestions.

    Rome has many ancient churches and basilicas, and we found ourselves praying in each one we visited. Mary was featured in all of them, as were many beloved Italian saints. Each day of Holy Week, I found myself thinking about all of you and wondering what your path of Holy Week was like. We attended Mass on Palm Sunday at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, designed by Michelangelo and built in the 16th century. Even though we knew very little Italian, the liturgy was familiar to us. The priest blessed and handed out olive branches instead of palms, as is the custom in Italy. Those in attendance were older and were very devout in their prayers. As we left, an older woman sat on the stone floor at the doorway holding a rosary in her arthritic hand, begging for coins and blessing us as we passed by.

    Everywhere we walked, God showed up in the people – from tattooed twenty-somethings with their fashionable clothes, young women pushing baby strollers, international tourists with their digital cameras, young African men peddling hand-carved bowls, selfie-sticks, or phone chargers; waiters in local restaurants graciously explaining the Italian on menus; families enjoying the hot springs in Saturnia; two young women having a moment at the Trevi Fountain as one proposed to the other.

    Each day I found myself brought to tears at least once – overcome by the beauty of the people, the architecture, and the sweeping vistas in the mountains. And of course, there was music. On Palm Sunday evening we walked to St. Paul’s Within the Walls, the convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and the oldest Protestant Church in Rome. We listened to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, beautifully performed by St. Paul’s Choir, Camerata, Chamber Singers and various soloists. Again, I was brought to tears by the sheer beauty of the music, the time and place, and feeling connected to God’s people throughout the centuries who had worshipped at St. Paul’s and all who had glimpsed the divine in the exquisite music of Bach.

    Our week in Tuscany showed us God’s grandeur in the sweeping vistas, the ancient villages on the sides of mountains, acre upon acre of olive trees and grape vines, and local flowers beginning to bloom. Our explorations led us to some “off the tourist path” treasures that were less-travelled. Leaving the gilded basilicas behind, I found refuge in two simple abbeys. Centuries old and simply designed, these places of worship revealed beautiful frescoes depicting the life of Christ, the saints, and of course, the beauty of nature. Gregorian chant filtered through these simple houses of prayer as we stopped to pray and felt so connected to our faith and to those who have gone before us.

    Returning home and to Epiphany, I am filled with gratitude for our time away. My first week back reminded me how Epiphany reflects the love of God I felt so deeply while we were travelling. In the midst of such grief over the death of our dear friend Rick Marks, this Parish came together in so many ways to surround Rick’s family and friends with so much love and care. The compassion of the risen Christ was made manifest by the Choir, the Altar Guild, the Flower Guild, our Staff, and so many of you who attended to Eileen, Henry, Philip, and Rick’s family. What happened on that Saturday was such an outpouring of love – our coming together as a Parish family to commend to God one of our dearly beloved members.

    God’s love cannot be contained. Not in this life or in death. I have seen it and felt it here and in our travels. God’s love is real – I’ve seen it in the faces of strangers and I see it every time I greet one of you.

    Faithfully,



  • April 13, 2018 5:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Truman Capote, an avowed secularist, once wrote that he heard voices coming from other rooms, meaning that he was beginning to perceive realities greater than the one in which he lived. St. Paul, quite a lot different from Mr. Capote, once said that if we only hope for this life, we are to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). In other words, there is more!

    The Epiphany Elders group, a community of men and women who meet regularly to discuss aging, the second half of life, and how faith informs life recently invited me to visit them to speak about, wait for it: resurrection! Big topic. We traced some of its scriptural bases in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, but quickly turned to what we each believe. I confessed that any number of preachers, myself included, have committed the heresy of preaching Easter sermons that equate resurrection with heaven. You know the type: “Because Jesus lives we are all going to heaven, and what a day of rejoicing it will be!” 

    Well, that was like a quarter in a juke box for me, and before long I was prattling on about the glory of the Prayer Book’s burial rites, and how I prefer the phraseology of its title, “Burial of the Dead” rather than the more culturally popular (and I think somewhat vapid) words, “celebration of life.” Every good funeral is a celebration of life, and there’s no need to avoid the words death or burial. We’re not gnostics who declare the “body bad” and the “soul good.” Body and soul—together—are good because God made us, Christ redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit guides us. 

    The Prayer Book’s burial service—a typical Episcopal funeral—expresses so much hope! We believe that the next life is full of hope, and the words in that rite declare that whatever the next life is it will be rooted in God’s goodness. We even proclaim that in the next life there shall be a dynamic in which we might go from strength to strength. C.S. Lewis, when he spoke about the next life, put it this way: “If it’s not true, then something better will be.”

    For me, whatever is beyond this life has to be related to the here and now. My faithfulness is dependent upon building a foundation on Jesus Christ. The questions I ask myself include: “Is my life reflecting as much of Christ’s life as possible? How am I asking you and other companions to help me?” Whenever I wonder what eternal life with God will look like I’m reminded of my silliness in indulging such a notion. Eternal life doesn’t start sometime or at some place. It includes all time and all places. To see eternal life is to take a deep breath right now, and to look around. Surely this life is part of eternal life! 

    Lesley McCloghrie is a friend and a priest. She grew up in England, and is now retired in Northern California. Years ago, over a festive Eastertide lunch in the Big Four Restaurant on Nob Hill in San Francisco, I was speaking about the previous Easter Sunday, and how glorious it had been. Lesley said, “Thomas it’s not Easter Sunday, it’s Easter Day. Remember that Easter is every Sunday, and that Eastertide is 50 whole days!”

    Lesley’s right, and we’re now just two weeks into this wondrous season. Your church, along with every other Christian community, will keep proclaiming, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen” not because we’ve mixed up resurrection with heaven. We’ll keep singing “Alleluia” because of our ongoing responsibility to bring new life to others, going from strength to strength. 


  • April 06, 2018 5:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy Easter! Although Easter Sunday occurred 8 days ago, the Easter season lasts for 50 days. Thus, the Easter greetings must keep coming. I suppose this is something that I learned from my dad. As long I can remember, he has enthusiastically greeted friends and family with this post-resurrection acknowledgement. He faithfully does it all the way until Pentecost. It doesn’t matter where he is; church, the grocery store, or the post office. If he knows you and knows that you share the Christian faith, you are going to get an Easter greeting.

    It is not so much the words, “Happy Easter,” that ring true, but his authentic expression of joy. Easter is fundamentally about the profound joy that we experience believing that Jesus is risen and that hope and new life overcome death and suffering. Jesus’ victory gives us the courage we need to confront the challenges of life, as well as patience to endure through times of alienation and sadness. For this reason, we celebrate Easter with a sense of solace and elation.

    It is because of Easter that we, as a people and a church, have a unique understanding of pain and suffering. As I stated above, Jesus, the risen Christ, has triumphed over death. The fear, threat, and event of death no longer overburden and/or paralyze us. What does this mean in our day to day living and for our relationships? Well, it means that the dead are still our friends to borrow from the theologian, Elizabeth Johnson. Our beloved dead continue to form us and inspire us, even though they are no longer physically present. Their departure from earth does not bring an end to their relationship with us. Albeit in a new and different way, we continue to relate to those who have come before us and those whom have marked us.

    We believe that our beloved will live forever, as part of the Body of Christ. We, as members of one universal Church, share in this Body. This type of believing in not simply a mental exercise. It is a heartfelt truth anchored in love. The love that we have shared with the dead, which finds its source in the self-giving love of Christ, never ceases. Love continues even when someone is no longer with us. The unconquerable love of God, which has been revealed to us in and through our human relationships, is what establishes the joy of Easter.

    May your Easter season be joyful! May your continue to offer one another Easter greetings. May we all continue to lean into the love of God. Jesus Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

    Paul Shoaf Kozak
    Intern


  • March 26, 2018 7:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Triduum, Three Sacred Days

    It's one liturgy across three days. We disperse and regather during these three days, but a single liturgy overarches them, encompassing everything that happens in church, at home, at work, at school. 

    Maundy Thursday, 29 March, Do this in remembrance of me

    6:00pm, a hosted parish supper in Hadley Hall with Eucharist, foot washing in the church, stripping of the altar, and procession to the altar of repose

    Tonight is the doorway into the Triduum. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum which means “commandment.” Maundy Thursday celebrates the meal of Jesus’s self-giving, made manifest in the footwashing and in the gift of Bread and Wine. These signs of Jesus’s love and self-offering are the focal points. We reenact Jesus’ demonstration of what it means to be a servant through the ritual of foot washing. The sign is strongest when all members of the community have the opportunity both to have their feet washed and to wash others’ feet. At the conclusion of this service, the altar is stripped, then the whole congregation moves toward the baptismal font, where an altar of repose, or a local version of the Garden of Gethsemane, has been created. The unseen presence of Christ (in the consecrated bread and wine) is made visible, and we focus ourselves for the Night Watch--staying as we can throughout the night--until 7:30am on Good Friday when we receive Holy Communion with these elements. 

    Good Friday, 30 March, Behold the wood of the cross

    7:30am Prayer Book liturgy with Communion at the back of the church

    4:00pm A liturgy designed for children and families

    7:30pm Prayer Book liturgy with music and the veneration of the cross

    Because this is a continuation of Maundy Thursday there is not a procession today, merely an entrance in silence. The focal points of this liturgy are the bare Altar and a large rough-hewn cross. The Adult Choir sings the Passion, followed by the sermon, the offertory, (throughout the Episcopal Church today’s monetary offerings are directed to the church in the Holy Land) and the ancient prayers of the solemn collects. The energy and shape of this liturgy are unfamiliar; it is the trough, the desolate valley of this Three Day journey. The service concludes with the veneration of the cross. All are invited to touch the cross, or to stand near it, or to kneel at it, or to use consecrated oil to anoint the cross. 

    Holy Saturday, 31 March, In the midst of life, we are in death

    9:30am, Prayer Book liturgy 

    This is among the Prayer Book’s best treasures! Good Friday’s emptiness yields gradually this morning to quiet expectation and preparation. The altar guild, the flower guild, the choir, and all the generous-hearted who are preparing for tonight’s feast gather in the church for this brief, yet powerful, prayer service.

    The Great Vigil of Easter, 31 March Suddenly Jesus met them and said,‘Greetings!’

    7:30pm The Great Vigil and the First Eucharist of Easter

    Our time of waiting is almost over, our work nearly completed. We pilgrims of the Three Days are nearing our destination. We are about to be gathered into the Paschal Mystery, to be seized by its present power, to be transformed. We who have died with Christ in Baptism will rise with him tonight into Easter life. Drawn from ancient sources, this is the most dramatic liturgy of the year. The progression of themes and moods played out on Palm Sunday are reversed. We hear the timeless prophecies of hope. We move from darkness to light. We celebrate baptisms by candlelight. We sing the first “alleluia” of Easter. The church is flooded with light as the Eucharist is celebrated. Bring your own bells and noisemakers! We play with fire, and with water, and sweet-smelling oil; we light a great candle in the darkness and read from the book of our story by its light; rejoicing, we carry our gifts of bread and wine to the Altar, and then the feast continues with a festive reception hosted by the 2018 confirmation class, in Hadley HallOur community’s full-on Easter joy, are the ingredients for this late-night party. 

    Easter Day, 1 April, Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed!

    7:30am, The Holy Eucharist

    9:00am, Choral Holy Eucharist

    10:00am, parish-wide coffee hour in Hadley Hall

    11:15am, Choral Holy Eucharist

    These identical celebrations of the Eucharist include the Beacon Brass Quintet, massed choirs, and a church full of people singing to proclaim God’s power to bring life out of death. We will hear the great Easter anthems, sing our favorite hymns, and experience everything else that makes for “an Epiphany Easter.” Come early, bring a friend, share the joy. Child care available from 8:30 until 12:30.


  • March 22, 2018 1:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    “I do need to go to church. I need specifically religious elements in my life. I find that if I just turn all of my spiritual impulses — if I let them be solitary, as I am comfortable in being — I’m comfortable sitting reading books and trying to pray and meditating. Inevitably, if that energy is not focused outward, it becomes despairing. It turns in on itself, and I will look up in a couple of months, and I find that I’m in despair. And so I think that one of the ways that we know that our spiritual inclinations are valid is that they lead us out of ourselves.”

    On Being: Krista Tippett exerpt from interview with Christian Wiman January 4, 2018

     “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. By this shall the world know that you are my disciples: That you have love for one another.” 

    Book of Common Prayer Maundy Thursday liturgy p. 275 

    Often when I am driving in my car, I listen to podcasts. I enjoy hearing people way smarter than I articulate their thoughts and ideas, mostly about God and faith. Recently I have been listening over and over again to an On Being Krista Tippett podcast in which she interviews a poet by the name of Christian Wiman. His thoughts on spirituality and religion in this interview are beautifully and poetically articulated and have helped me crystalize why I need “religion” and “Church” in my own life. I understand more deeply what “incarnate” means and recognize that being a follower of Christ is anchored in my body and my senses and experiences with the world and each other. 

    This week we enter into the holiest of week in our Church year. As we walk through the final days of Jesus’ life, three ancient services encapsulate the essence of who we are as Christians. These services, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, let us experience and participate in and with our community in a deeply incarnate way. These services are not spectator events but require us to wade in and participate, to become part of the story of Jesus.

    Of the three, Maundy Thursday is my favorite. I love the theology of it, I love that it is on this night we participate in the story of the Last Supper, that it is the night the Jesus instituted the Eucharist, that it is that night that we hear again the command from Jesus to love one another and to serve one another, and that it is the night that Jesus demonstrated this love when he washed the disciples’ feet and we participate in this love by washing each other’s feet. The physical act of washing each other’s feet is a powerful way to open us to the vulnerability that is necessary to receive and give love. 

    So now I must confess. Up until last year, I have attended this service and never actually participated in the foot washing, I have only watched. I was afraid to. I was afraid that if I put myself in such a vulnerable place in front of everyone that I might not be in control of my emotions, it would be too embarrassing. So I continued to attend, to love the theology, to watch, and then read a lot about it.

    Last year was different. A week beforehand, I talked about Maundy Thursday to a group of children in chapel. When I admitted to the children that I had never had my feet washed, my dear eight year old friend Sydney immediately yelled out, “I am going to go to the service and get my feet washed and you are coming up with me.” 

    I answered, “If you really do go up, I will too, Sydney,” not wanting to squelch her enthusiasm and figuring the odds of having to really fulfill my promise was slim. Well, she and her mom did show up that Thursday, and luckily Sydney was wearing stockings. I said, “Oh well, you won’t be able to do the foot washing with tights on!” I thought I was in the clear for another year, but as we were all processing down the hallway towards the church for the foot washing, the door to the restroom behind me burst open and out swaggered Sydney, waving her stockings, smiling and yelling to me, “OK, now we are getting our feet washed.” I was cornered with no way out. 

    So I went up when it was time and what followed was not what I had expected. For me, it was definitely a feeling of vulnerability and discomfort, but also intertwined were feelings of love and kindness received from others. We were all laughing together amongst the awkwardness. I felt the love that I had been reading about, I saw it in Sydney’s giggles, in the kind welcome of our host Marian and in Alicia’s, Sydney’s mom, smile. After feeling that love and connection, I felt like sharing it. I believe we all felt this love that night, it was God’s love, God’s incarnate love. I would never have gotten this from reading or watching. Thank you Sydney.

    I plan on participating again this year! Please join me and we can look forward to what God is awakening in us together.

    May you feel the presence of God’s love in these holy days. Love,



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