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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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  • August 23, 2017 1:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    23 August 2017, the Eve of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

    Dear sisters and brothers, dearest friends,

    Grace and peace to you from God who was, and who is, and who is. The first thing to write, really clearly, is that I miss you! It’s only been a month, I know, but the blessing of time away is also accompanied by a strong sense of missing you, especially on Sunday mornings (more on that follows).

    Thousand Island Park, Wales, and Ireland

    I write to you from Thousand Island Park, New York. Tom and I arrived here last Thursday and had the weekend with his sister and her husband, Ron, and their sons, our nephews, Trevor and Andachew. Andachew, who is 13 years old, studied online earlier this summer so that he could sit for his New York Boating Safety Certificate; he passed with a 93%. We had one good day of boating, and he did exceedingly well at the helm. They left late on Sunday. Since then Tom and I have tidied, scrubbed floors, spray-painted furniture, and caught up with the neighbors. Tom is enrolled in a water color class for three days this week, and I’ve enjoyed very long walks with Esther.

    The time in Wales and Ireland was at once restorative, and also productive. Gladstone’s Library, in Hawarden, Wales, was more splendid than I anticipated. Check it out www.gladstoneslibrary.org. My research on Theodore Parker Ferris revealed pretty much exactly what I expected: not much there! Although Dr. Ferris visited there twice in the late 1960s, all that remains are two of his sermons, and a prayer. Still, I was able to write most mornings. In the afternoon I would hop a bus to hike various trails in the gorgeous Welsh countryside. Honestly, I had no idea Wales was so beautiful. I made friends with various others who were staying at the Library, including the Primate of the Church of Ireland, the Most Reverend Richard Clarke, and the Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend James Newcomb, as well as several non-churchy types. In particular, I hung around with a young poet, Penny Boxall, whose book of poetry, Ship of the Line became a companion, as did Penny herself. You can learn more about Penny at her website, pennyboxall.wordpress.com. At Gladstone’s Library there is a daily Eucharist, exceptionally and simply done, which edified and fortified me.

    On Saturday, 12 August I took the train to Holyhead, Wales, and boarded a ferry to Dublin. I had Three Perfect Days in Dublin—sounds like an article from United Airlines’s magazine Hemispheres). An unplanned spiritual part of the journey included significant excavation of my mother’s ancestors, which began through some first cousins who live not far from Dublin, whom I had never met. It turns out that the story with which I grew up is quite a lot different from the facts! I knew my mother’s parents were from Ireland. What I didn’t know is that her father’s family spent two generations in Canada before removing to Michigan. And, the part of Canada where they lived is about 15 miles from where I am right now. And even though I was aware of their Irish-Protestant roots, I didn’t know that in the years 1884-1916 they established and worked to build four Anglican churches in the Diocese of Ontario. I’m off to explore them next week; sadly only one is still open for public worship. All of this really makes me wish my mom were still alive. There’s so much I’d love to share with her, and ask her.

    On Sunday afternoon, 13 August, I was dashing to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a 3:15 Evensong. I was running a little late, or so I thought, and cross the busy street (Dublin was jam-packed with tourists) when suddenly I heard, “Thomas! Thomas! Thomas Brown!”—it was Robert and Carol Tedesco with Luca and Isabella. I mean, c’mon: what are the odds? We met for lunch the next day.

    Church Reviews, and Previews

    In the same way that you’ve been in church every Sunday this past month, I’ve worshiped in the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Church of England’s Diocese of Chester, the Church of Ireland’s Diocese of Dublin, and the Diocese of Central New York. Three of them were lovely, and one was a huge disappointment. The first Sunday of sabbatical Tom and I went to Christ Church in Cambridge. I had never been to Zero Garden Street. I loved it. The curate preached and the congregation was both very welcoming, and how can I say, “very Cambridge.” I said to Tom afterwards, “if that’s not Harvard Square I don’t know what is.” All sorts and conditions of people. The bow-tie set with tattered shirt collars, along with young university students and families, and homeless people every bit a part of the community as the retired professors. The following Sunday I took the bus from Wales into Chester, England (just a 10 minute bus ride) to attend Chester Cathedral. Two words describe it: spectacularly inspiring. The liturgy was reverent (but not fussy), and the welcome was warm and wide. Then, it was on to Ireland. The Primate himself recommended Christ Church Cathedral, so off I went. Admittedly the place was jampacked.

    But a church filled with people didn’t equate, at least for me, with a lively sense of the Risen Christ. Much of the 70 minutes felt stale, formal, even stuffy. Not a single person said “hello.” The assistant rector, a woman, presided well, and she seemed happy to be there. The preacher, a man (but not the dean) seemed thoughtful, but I couldn’t get the gist of the sermon (good to be in the pew, for a change!). Sadly, I left and said to myself, “if that’s what Irish Anglicanism has to offer, I’ll take a pass.” Thankfully the welcome and tone at St. Patrick’s

    Cathedral (Dublin has two Anglican cathedrals) was markedly better. Finally, this past Sunday, the 20th, Tom and I drove over the bridge to a summer chapel in the little town of Alexandria Bay, New York. We know a few people there, and it was nice to be among friends. This coming Sunday Tom is preaching here on the Park so I’ll walk four blocks to the Tabernacle for the very Protestant service at 10:00am. The following Sunday I might go across the bridge, in the other direction, to the remaining church started by my Irish immigrant family. Rest assured I’ll be in church every Sunday, and I look forward to giving you a full report!

    And you’re getting ready!

    With the tale of August comes images of school resuming, and of course, Rally Day, at the Parish of the Epiphany. You’ll be welcoming Ran Chase and Brian Jones, and you’ll be engaged, as ever, in God’s great mission in your homes, in your schools, and in every relationship. Rest assured I’m praying for you, every day. As grateful as I am for this time away, you should know that I feel deeply connected to you and to our common life. In the meantime I promise to be present where I am, to keep you in my daily prayers, and to trust God who does infinitely more than we can desire or pray for. May God keep you.

    With my deepest love and respect I am faithfully yours,

  • October 27, 2016 7:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What’s All Saints Day? 

    A Christian festival (1 November) when we honor the lives of exemplary models and guides, and we ask their prayers for us. A broad understanding would also say that through baptism all of us are included in the celebration, the living and the dead. 

    What’s the Communion of Saints? 

    All Saints’ Day connects us to our belief in the Communion of Saints: that all of God's people, in this earthly life and in the various states of the larger life, are connected in one communion. In other words, traditional Christians believe that the Saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly praying on our behalf. While the saints aren’t divine, or even omnipresent or omniscient, we do believe that through Jesus Christ our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians. 

    How does it work.. the communion of saints? 

    Think about it as a celebration of a relationship, a relationship with people around us today, and also as a relationship with those who have gone before us in every time and place.  

    Is this really Christian?

    No and Yes. No, because it’s rooted in Judaism. At Passover Jews remember and look back so that God’s goodness and love can become present. Yes, because the primary way Christians do this is when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. 

    The Reverend Roger E. Nelson said All Saints Day had pagan roots. Does it?

    Think about Easter and Passover. In the Northern Hemisphere these are associated with rebirth and spring. Conversely in autumn thoughts turn toward death and eternity; days are shorter, darkness grows longer, and food is gathered for the winter. So it’s natural for the church to remember loved ones who made us who we are today. 

    What’s All Souls Day?

    A Christian festival (2 November) when we pray for all the departed brothers and sisters. We borrow this custom of praying for the dead from Judaism, and some of our earliest teachers (Cyprian and Tertullian) testify to the regular practice of early Christians praying for the souls of the dead. Spanish-speaking countries call this Dia de los Muertos, and in the Middle East it’s Yom el Maouta. 

    Isn’t it terribly Catholic to pray for the dead?

    No. Initially many Protestant reformers rejected All Souls Day because of the abusive practices of paying for Masses for the Dead, but today the Episcopal Church and many other Protestant churches celebrate All Souls’ Day and pray for the dead. 

    Why do Episcopalians seem to mix together All Saints and All Souls?

    History. When the Church of England was being born it fused these two days. However, our current Prayer Book (1979) officially separated them and adopted the more universal Christian custom of claiming again November 2nd as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (All Souls Day).

    When are we celebrating these holy days?

    • All Saints Day we’ll move to Sunday, November 6th at the 8:00 and 10:00 services (Holy Baptism at 10:00). This is one of a few feasts days that can be moved to the following Sunday, underscoring that it’s a big, big deal. 
    • All Souls Day we’ll celebrate on the actual day, Wednesday, 2 November at 7:30am. You’re invited to send us the names of your deceased loved ones; Miriam and I will read them just before we celebrate the Eucharist. 
    • Another observance of All Souls will happen on Sunday night, November 6th at 6:00pm with a requiem (Faure) with our choir and the choir of Christ Church in Hamilton-Wenham. This is a sung Mass to celebrate All the Faithful Departed. 

    How can I talk about All Souls Day with my children and grandchildren?

    Teach them to revere the dead by taking them to a cemetery, talk about nature shedding her old garb (leaves on a tree) to make herself ready for something new. Tell them stories of deceased family members, and how they influenced your life. On All Souls Day take out family albums, and share stories with the youngest in our family. Pray for deceased relatives at bedtime. 

  • October 23, 2016 6:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The following video was created just before Evensong this evening, thanks to the videography taken of Tia Landry-Kennedy. It is intended for parents of young children, but might well have something for everybody who wonders about what to some folk might seem strange choreography.


  • October 20, 2016 8:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the early 1980s religious communities of every stripe were gathering around Harold Kushner's best seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Rabbi Kushner had just buried his fourteen year old son, Aaron, from progeria, a rare disease which causes rapid aging. Kushner was outraged at God for the unfairness of it all. He goes through all the various justifications for suffering, but in the end lays down his burden by asserting that none of are worth considering because all of the arguments assume that God causes human suffering. 

    The book looks at the story of Job, and explores all the interactions between Job and God, and through that, Kushner made a remarkable discovery, a contribution to theology which has shaped the past 35 years of teaching and preaching: God is loving and just, but God is simply not powerful enough to banish all evil and suffering. Why doesn't God stop it all? Because God can't. What Kushner hears in Job's and God's conversations is this: God says, "Job, I am doing the best I can, but I am not in control of all this. Managing evil is not an easy task, even for me." 

    The real invitation for Christians, at least as I hear it, is to proclaim that Jesus, who became flesh and dwelled among us, is involved in our pain and suffering, and stands (or sits) with us. It's one of the most powerful magnets of Christianity...that Jesus is intimately involved in both my joy and my suffering, right there with me every step. 

    Psalm 23 comes to mind, doesn't it? Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. For a sermon on the
    23rd Psalm click here.

    Peace and blessing for your day. 
    Faithfully in Christ,
    Thomas


  • September 21, 2016 7:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I came out as a gay man early-on during college. It was a relief to many, even if for me the process of telling this truth was a kind of hell. Interestingly the struggle wasn’t with God or Jesus, or with my family, but with adults who were in charge of the church, an institution I cared about a great, great deal. Throughout the coming out process God was always on my lips and in my heart. There were many angels who came in the form of family and friends, lovers too, to support and to guide, and within a couple of years I had made peace not only with myself, but also with the church. Like most people I grew tremendously during college. By the time I graduated, in 1992, my mind, my spirit, and my heart were at least five times the size they’d been when I first arrived. I had grown up during those years, not completely, but measurably. 

    A companion to me in those seasons, really a mentor, was a then-young professor in Counseling Psychology (in the graduate school), James M. Croteau. He wrote articles and taught courses, and in short order Jim was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor, and eventually to full professor. Countless men and women sat at his feet to learn about undoing racism and advocating for those who have no voice. At the time of his appointment Jim was the only self-identified, gay faculty member at Western Michigan University.  And because Jim was never my professor we were able to have a friendship that was free of the requisite boundaries which rightly define how teachers and students interact. To me he was “just Jim.”  Like me,  Jim struggled with overeating, so we’d sometimes go to Bill Knapps Restaurant for au gratin potatoes and hot fudge sundaes. Unlike me Jim dove head-first into all kinds of athletic pursuits, almost obsessively. His partner, Darryl, was also a friend, and in a real sense Darryl and Jim were my first experience of a gay couple.  Jim & Darryl were the first people from whom I heard the words, “Ogunquit, Maine.” They have visited there since the year they first dated, now 31 years. 

    Last Thursday Jim messaged me on Facebook to say that he was going to be in Ogunquit in October. He wondered if we might meet half-way for a meal. I responded by suggesting that we meet for supper in Ogunquit on Thursday, 13 October at 6:30pm. It was the first time in several years that we’d been in touch. 

    This past Sunday night I was afflicted with insomnia (unusual for me) so I looked at Facebook. There was an odd post from a woman I’d never met who referred to  Jim in the past tense. A reply from another person used the word “memories” My ears pricked up, but Facebook's siren was silent, so I chalked my ominous premonition to midnight stupor, and went back to bed. On Monday morning a mutual friend texted me asking, “is this still your cell number? I need to talk to you.” I knew immediately that Jim was dead. I just knew.

    Early on Sunday morning Jim set off from his house in Kalamazoo for a bike ride. Evidently before he was out of the subdivision he was dead from a cardiac arrest. Jim had no history of heart disease; he was 59 years old. Darryl is devastated, and as he stated in a text yesterday, “numb like I’ve never known in my life.”

    I can’t rejoice in Jim’s death, but I do give thanks for his reaching out last week; for the idea that we would have had a reunion over some rich meal in a fabulous restaurant in Ogunquit. The friend who texted me on Monday morning encouraged me to keep the date, and to toast Jim on 13 October; he thinks Jim will be there.  Today, I give thanks for the way Jim led me from death to resurrection. And, I give thanks that he lives now with the angels.

    As you go through your day today find, or call, or email at least one person to say, “I love you.” 

    O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days;that, when we shall have served you in our generation, we may be gathered unto our ancestors, having the testimony of a good conscience; in the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope; in favor with you our God; and in perfect charity with the world. All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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