Log in

News & Resources: Spiritual Spot


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."

  • 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,

  • March 16, 2018 1:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Click here
    to learn more about the significance and history of tabernacles and sanctuary lamps. This Easterside Epiphany will be adding these elements to the Chancel area of the Church.

  • March 16, 2018 12:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I don’t know about you, but as we enter the final days of Lent, I am ready for a celebration. Many of us have spent nearly 40 days now consciously reflecting on how we live our lives.

    Whether we have given something up, or taken on a new discipline, striving to be faithful people can be hard work.

    When we get to Palm Sunday, I am always ready to shout “Hosanna!” I can just imagine the elation that the first disciples must have felt. Jesus, this person whom they had given up everything to follow and support, was triumphantly riding into Jerusalem. I can imagine them feeling that all their hard work and sacrifice had paid off. Surely this was the goal they had been striving for. All would be well. I’m sure they never imagined what would unfold only a few days later.

    For some reason this year as I have been preparing for Holy Week, the disciples actions and feelings have come to the forefront of this amazing story. It is certainly easy to identify with them. We, too, make sacrifices and work for things that we believe in throughout our lives. We, too, make many mistakes along the way. What a joy it is when we get to moments in our lives when we can really celebrate. How difficult it is when things quickly change and we realize that our work is not yet done, but just beginning.

    As the events of Holy Week unfolded, I can imagine the disciples' utter devastation. I’m sure they felt that all they had valued and believed was now lost. Of course, they didn’t yet know the end of the story.

    Oddly enough, I think I am drawn to the disciples' plight this year because of all that I have been hearing about in the news locally, in our country and beyond. I certainly don’t mean to imply that I think all is lost, but I do realize that many things I have valued and taken for granted may not be as secure as I have thought. Past achievements have been worthy of celebration, but the goal of all of God’s people being loved, valued, and accepted still seems a long way off. There is certainly much more work to be done.

    I am so grateful that I know how the story of Holy Week ends. There is more hope and joy than I’m sure any of the disciples could have imagined. For me, Edith Williams' text from last Sunday’s choir anthem sums up Holy Week perfectly, and it is indeed something to celebrate!

    Jesus, so lowly, Child of the earth; Christen me wholly, Bring me new birth.
    Jesus, so lonely, weary and sad; Teach me that only Love maketh glad.
    Jesus, so broken, Silent and pale; Be this the token Love will not fail.
    Jesus, victorious, mighty and free; Teach me how glorious death is to be.

    Craig Benner
    Director of Music and Organist 

  • March 10, 2018 5:47 PM | Anonymous

    ...from the Rector about the 4th Sunday in Lent: Refreshment Sunday, Rose Sunday, Mothering Sunday 

    Today, the 4th Sunday in Lent, marks a break in an otherwise penitential season. In English churches, and indeed in many Episcopal Churches in the United States, whatever austerity may have marked the earlier part of Lent gives way to “refreshment.” For Anglicans the tradition of “Laetare Sunday” extends as far back as the 15th century when the opening introit “O be joyful Jerusalem” was always sung on this Sunday. The Latin word laetare is the singular imperative of to rejoice. 

    The vestments for this day are often rose-colored, and in many churches, including ours, flowers adorn the Altar. In the Diocese of Southwark (in London) the Bishop, as recently as a few years ago, encouraged parishes to serve chocolate wafers and sherry for the coffee hour. Even if we had a coffee hour I think we’d stop short of that indulgence, but the point is to remind us again that every Sunday is an anniversary of the resurrection. 

    Another historical thread for this Sunday was the old (as in medieval) practice of visiting the cathedral, or the “mother church,” and eventually that practice morphed into the contemporary custom known throughout England of honoring mothers with spring flowers and a special tea cake known as Simnel Cake. Within the Anglican tradition we see this emphasized in two different Prayer Books, Canada’s and Ireland’s, both of which describe today as “Mothering Sunday.” 

    All of these customs and traditions are ways for the church to remind us that Lent isn’t a season for penitence alone, but also a time “to prepare with joy for the paschal feast.” And so our liturgy--our music, the prayers, and the environment itself--expresses a foretaste of the joy that’s coming, the joy of Christ’s resurrection, and ours.  

    Source material The Commentary on the American Prayer Book by Marion Hatchett (1979); 2004 Book of Common Prayer for the Church of Ireland (2005). 

  • March 01, 2018 2:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A few years ago the engine in my car went kaput with only 10,000 miles on it. It took two weeks to get it repaired, but eventually it was good as new. Nobody at the Ford garages, either here in Winchester, where it had its first oil change, or the one in upstate New York, where it was fixed, could explain why the engine failed. “It was just one of those things.”

    When the car was finally put back together, a friend drove me to Watertown, New York, to get it. He is really persnickety about clean windows in his car and he introduced me to a product called RainX. He sprays it on the outside of his car windows; that creates an invisible layer of wax which makes the water, and the salt spray, make big beads. Then, when the wipers do their thing, one’s view is clear and pristine. It’s a pretty great product, and now I’m converted to RainX.

    This Sunday we’ll recognize and celebrate children and parents who finished a six week course, which we call “communion enrichment.” Most Sundays the parents were with me, and the children were with Carolyn Hughes. It’s been a ton of fun, and I’ve learned a lot from these moms and dads. In an email, one parent wrote to me and said, “except for Sunday mornings I’ve never known anything about the Bible. But whenever we look at a passage in the communion program I feel like it helps me to see, somehow pulls me forward. It’s amazing, sorta like RainX on the windshield.” I laughed, recalling the bottle of RainX in the garage, and hearing the great truth of his insight.

    It’s true; the direction of the Bible, the Word, is forward, inevitably and always. Its concern is the future. We look forward when we’re driving—whether the windshield has RainX or not—and the same posture is necessary when we read scripture, to lean into the future. When Jesus disappeared from the tomb, we’re told that he “went on ahead” of everybody, especially blindsiding those fixed on their rearview mirror.

    Plenty of religion is loaded with nostalgia; it gets defined by the past. That’s true for our brand of Christianity, too, and it’s even true for some of us. We pine away for the past, unable to glimpse what lies ahead. In just a couple of weeks, we’ll enter the pathway of Holy Week, and encounter parts of scripture that tell us about our lives, as well as parts of scripture that don’t fit, or actually grate. In all of this the tasks of interpreting and reflecting on scripture, as those parents did every Sunday these past six weeks, clears the way so that we see forward. If you think about fundamentalism, which at its worst is a compulsion to retrieve and preserve the past, we see how foolish and impossible it is.

    What I heard in that young dad’s analogy of God’s Word with RainX was a reminder that scripture is living and active, waiting for us to do something with it. Maybe today, and in the weeks to come, we can see faith as a deep confidence in God’s future, not living in the past, but leaning forward, able to see exactly where we are going.

    Faithfully in Christ,

  • February 23, 2018 12:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    During a recent Genesis middle school meeting, I asked the kids about what they look for in an ideal pastor. On the off chance Thomas needed to go on a quick impromptu theological mission to Barcelona and we needed a short-term replacement, what would you look for in a candidate?

    There was a moment’s hesitation and then the qualifications came flying in. “They need to be nice.” “They should be a dog person.” “They should show us how to be Christian.” “I wanna be happy to see them.” “They should wear bow-ties.” “They should remember people’s names.”

    Later, I mentioned to Carolyn that one of the girls pointed out that everyone had just ended up describing Thomas.

    After a little dip in the conversation, one of them said “I guess, they just need to be a good Christian.”

    “What’s a good Christian?”

    “If you come to church, if you pray, and if you’re nice to everyone. You also have to do nice things.”

    “Do you feel like you’re a good Christian?”

    *Laughs* “I don’t know. Sometimes, I guess.”

    I find middle schoolers are an easier puzzle to solve than high schoolers. Middle schoolers look for role models in their lives and are quick to point out hypocrisy and inconsistencies.

    In an atmosphere like that, it is of the utmost importance than we as a community raise our own standards of stewardship, acceptance, and love to the heights our young ones expect in us.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen short (well, I can but Sarah says this has to come in under 20,000 words) but I do my utmost to scramble back because there’s a small group of children who think I’m better than I am. And they feel that way about us.

    So I’m going to try to be the most Christ-like versions of myself. Even if I don’t feel it all the time, I’m going to put my best foot forward. I hope you’ll join me. Because young eyes are watching.

  • February 16, 2018 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The liturgical season of Lent is meant to be a journey. Like all journeys, it has a beginning (Ash Wednesday) and an end (Holy Saturday). Along the way, there are points of rest. In the western Church, these typically occur on Sundays (days not actually counted toward the 40). This journey does not require us to pack very much, just a prayerful heart and a penitent spirit. The main thing is to be sure to pack enough prayer and penance for the entire journey, for each spiritual discipline should get used every day.

    I realize that making the commitment to prayer every day may seem daunting. I can’t say that I have the best track record in this practice. Still prayer gives nourishment on this journey, allowing us to persevere through long stretches and static moments. Prayer is as simple as being fully honest with God. It is not speaking with an enlightened eloquence or succinct theological language, let alone a posture of kneeling a certain way. When we pray, we share our hearts with God. Ultimately, the purpose of Christian faith is a closer union with the Creator. Lent gives us a direct opportunity in prayer to know God more deeply.  

    The deepening of our relationship with God can simultaneously happen when we open our minds and spirits to being penitent. While it is true that the briefest of surveys of Christian history reveals that the word penance brings some hefty baggage (i.e. self-flagellation), the mistakes of our past should not make us so intransigent to embracing the truths of offering genuine penance. In doing so, we acknowledge that we are NOT God. Moreover, an act of penance demonstrates an awareness that we are part of a larger world that suffers when we fail to live out our baptismal covenant. Finally, showing penance points to a most fundamental truth of the human condition – we rely on each other. As we journey through Lent, disposing ourselves in humility can surely launch us into profound communion with others and/or God.

    I hope that you set out on a Lenten journey this year. Invite a friend, a neighbor, or even a stranger. If you feel like you might need some guidance on this trek, Parish of the Epiphany provides multiple opportunities for you to journey in community with other members of the Parish during the Lenten Home Series or the Lenten on-line course. Regardless of how you approach the season of Lent, may you find peace and joy and renewal. May you marvel at the awesome blessing of walking this earth just like our Savior!

    Paul Shoaf Kozak

  • February 09, 2018 12:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.     Acts 2:43-47 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

    I don’t often seek out this passage for inspiration. Up until recently whenever I read it, all I could envision in this description of our early Church is a vision of a hippie hideaway commune. I can see people hanging out with no plan, doing whatever they felt like, wasting time – did I say no plan? Where did they think they were going? How did this early Church ever become worldwide with this model? Where was the programming and meetings and structure? Where was the children’s formation curriculum with craft included?

    As I search for how to help rebuild our Church and struggle with how to share my faith with others in this secular world, I now read this passage with a new lens. What strikes me is that these early Christians didn’t do much as a Church in the beginning except hang out, share belongings and stories, worship, and eat together. There was no curriculum with a craft, there were no classes! They were together building relationships around the good news of Jesus; they learned that they were loved, that they belonged to each other and took care of each other and when they messed up (which they did if you happen to keep reading into Acts and the Epistles), they were forgiven. They were committed to be in these relationships. Church grew from this beginning. The Holy Spirit was with them.

    Building and remaining in community is hard work, harder today than 2000 years ago. People are busy and there are many things that compete with Sunday morning worship time, never mind with the time it takes to get to know people beyond saying “Hello” on Sunday and entering into deeper, committed friendships. Many of us work long hours, there are commitments to events, parties, and often by the weekend we are just tired – coming to church can be overwhelming. It is hard to build a deep community of followers of Jesus in this environment, but it is so needed. We all need a place to feel safe and vulnerable, where we are known and loved and where we can practice being Christians. We need a community that will show up when we need help and will show up when we have something to celebrate, that will check in with us and that will hold us accountable.

    So what should we do? How do commit to each other, to worship each Sunday and to serve each other? We need to hang out together, we need to hang out together long enough to disagree, be disappointed, and get angry with each other and know each other well enough to feel safe, to say sorry, and to forgive one another. This takes time and commitment.

    As some of you know, I love talking about the Church by meditating on the parable of the True Vine. I enjoy any opportunity to pull out my vine and read this Scripture passage. This past Sunday, I had this opportunity with a class of second graders who are participating in this year’s Communion Enrichment class. In this parable Jesus says that he is the True Vine and we are the branches. Jesus says, “Abide in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit.” I asked the children to look at the vine and in one word describe what it would be like to abide in the True Vine. “Peaceful, tangled, messy, wild” were some of the words they used. We noted that there is sap running throughout the vine and wondered what sap we needed in order to abide in the True Vine. Right away, they said, “Love”. They got it. Then I got it. I am part of the Church because it is a place where I can learn and practice how to love and then go out into the world and spread this love. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ. I am thankful to these wise children and hopeful that they will keep their sense of wonder with them as they grow into adults and they continue to commit to being Church.

    This is what it is all about, we are the Body of Christ on this earth, and the Holy Spirit is with us. Those early Christians were right.

    The craft is optional. See you on Sunday.


  • February 02, 2018 4:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Worship is What Grounds Us 

    I recently read a wonderful article in the Royal School of Church Music quarterly magazine entitled “Singing with one Voice - The Choir as Embodied Theology.” In it, author Victoria Johnson says, “Singing is very much at the heart of a living faith and presents an opportunity for participation in Christian community through the imagination (when listening), or through the voice and body (when singing), and is therefore central to the worship experience. In the context of worship, song can literally unify the people of God, helping them become the body of Christ and the community of the resurrection.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Planning music for worship is one of my favorite parts of this job. Believe it or not, it doesn’t involve picking my favorite hymns and music. I start by taking a considerable amount of time reading through the appointed scriptures for a service, thinking about the themes and ideas in them, and then looking for hymns and anthems that illustrate these themes. I think about texts in the music, the mood that the music conveys, how long it will take the choir to learn an anthem, all while trying to vary styles from week to week so that we have some variety. On a good Sunday, I hope that the music reflects what we hear as the lectors read, what we pray in our prayers, and what is proclaimed from the pulpit. If the music moves you, makes you think, or pops into your head after you leave worship, I have achieved my goal.

    Sunday mornings are really the focus of what we do here at Epiphany. They are certainly not all that we do, but worship is what grounds us, inspires us, and makes us want to go out the doors and into the world to make a difference. Worship is where we learn about our faith and are challenged to be more Christ like in our daily lives. It is where we all gather as a family. For this reason, I purposely focus most of our resources on Sunday mornings.

    Epiphany also has a wonderful tradition of sung services like Evensong and Lessons and Carols. I love these services as I believe music has a unique way of letting us experience the Holy. Sung services allow us to worship and be inspired in new ways. You may have noticed that we have not been having Evensong services monthly as has been the tradition in the past few years. I want you to know that this a conscious decision on my part. Rest assured, Evensong will not be going away! It will however be occurring a little less frequently as it demands a great deal of the choir’s rehearsal time. I want to be sure that we have time to make Sunday mornings the best that they can be. In light of that, we will be having three Evensong services during this half of the program year. Please plan to join us at 5:00pm on February 11th, April 29th, and June 3rd for this uniquely Anglican form of worship.

    If you are inspired to be a leader in worship by singing in the choir for Sunday mornings, Evensong services or both, please know that you are very welcome. If you can’t make a regular commitment, think about joining us for Lent through Easter Sunday, or plan to join us for a few weeks of rehearsals before an Evensong service. I can promise a welcoming community, wonderful music, and even an example of how we are supposed to live in Christian community. As Ms Johnson says in her article, “To successfully sing together as one requires each individual to be aware of their own voice and the voices of others around them. A truly beautiful voice sings not of itself but lifts the ear to God. There is a need for attentive listening and even a willingness sometimes to sacrifice individual virtuosity for the benefit of the whole. This is true in choir and Christian community.”

  • January 26, 2018 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    The Annual Meeting that some of us just attended could be viewed as just another business meeting with churchy overtones. Nothing could be farther from the truth! While we elected new Vestry members and approved the budget for 2018, our time together yesterday was really about taking stock in the last year and noticing where God was present in our common life and ministry.

    God shows up in the seemingly mundane tasks of counting the collection from Sunday morning, or helping a newcomer find the Chapel, the bathroom, or the classrooms for children and youth. God shows up when we smile and invite others to join us in our ministry. God shows up when we visit someone who is lonely, or we take someone to a doctor’s appointment, or pray the intercessory prayer list.

    What strikes me every time we gather, as we did yesterday, is your willingness to engage, your willingness to pitch in and help, and your willingness to consider doing things differently than they may have been done in the past.

    There is a convergence of thought and passion here. Our staff configuration is really beginning to gel and we are finding an excitement as we dream together of what God has in store for us at Epiphany. That dream and vision comes from building trust and finding a common purpose. Each one of us on the Staff is passionate about our work and we depend on one another for guidance and feedback. The excitement and creativity that we feel comes not only from our love for the work at hand but from the love we feel for each one of you. So many of you give so generously of your time and talent to the many ministries of this Parish. Your energy and commitment fuels the Staff and equips us to do the work that God calls us to do.

    It is important to look back on 2017 and give thanks for the many gifts given to us and celebrate faithful parishioners who give so much to further the work of God here and in the wider world. Now we look forward to 2018 with all of its challenges and joys. We may fumble at times or even fail when we try something new, but we will learn together and the Spirit will draw us closer together for having tried.

    One of the many wonderful hymns in The Hymnal 1982 is number 528, Lord, you give the great commission. I commend all the verses to you as a way to pray our calling as members of this Parish and as Christians. The second verse is particularly apropos given the year ahead of us:

    Lord, You call us to Your service:
    In My name baptize and teach.
    That the world may trust Your promise,
    Life abundant meant for each,
    Give us all new fervor, draw us
    Closer in community.
    With the Spirit’s gifts empower us
    For the work of ministry.   (words: Jeffrey Rowthorn)

    I am full of gratitude to be serving beside Thomas, the rest of the Staff, and with all of you. You are a joy and a blessing.


Location & Contact

70 Church Street
Winchester, MA 01890
Phone: 781.729.1922


   © The Parish of the Epiphany

Privacy Policy

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software