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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."


  • May 21, 2020 10:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    My friends,

    Truly, how are you? Are you shaking your head and remembering how you yelled at your children? Put them in front of screens way, way too much? Forgot a work call? Served toast for dinner? Let the children overhear that right now you fear for their grandparents’ lives? Because I am.

    In the middle of all this, I pray we will all show ourselves love and self-compassion. We often think of the command to love our neighbors as ourselves as a reproof against narcissism and selfishness. It is a command to love and care for everyone--including ourselves.

    I have to admit, I’ve really been benefiting from my immersion in the first and fourth grades; I’m learning a ton! Along with simple machines and the natural resources of the Southeast, the Social Emotional curriculum at our elementary school is speaking to me. It’s called The Incredible Flexible You and it’s perfect, for me, in this pandemic. I love firm plans; I love making plans, following plans, knowing others have plans. But now--flexibility is key, isn't it?

    As silly as this is, as I work on my flexible self the word running through my mind each day lately is a quote from the old TV show Friends. There’s a well-loved episode involving Ross and Chandler moving a couch into a NYC apartment building, and while stuck in a stairwell Ross repeatedly yells “Pivot!” Every day as I need to continually change plans, directions, and tactics--with homeschooling, church, groceries--I silently call “Pivot!” It helps me laugh in the middle of a struggle.

    Perhaps a more Biblical view of “Pivot!” or the “Incredible Flexible You” is grace. The word grace, in English, is complex; it can mean many things including thanksgiving, blessing, favor, deferment, consideration, and even poise. As we continually pivot during this season, may we do so with grace and in peace, with our eyes on the Lord and with a heart open to blessing those in our circles.

    This Memorial Day weekend is a great opportunity to show our family how flexible we can be and find new ways to have special times. Here are some ideas:

    • ice cream delivery (our family discovered that several local places will bring us fancy ice cream sandwiches)
    • a picnic
    • a hike
    • yard games (make your own bean bag toss or target game, or find a Frisbee in your garage)
    • decorate your house or create a side walk mural commemorating the holiday
    • write letters to active duty service members
    • bake a traditional Memorial Day dessert -- or even better, make something for a neighbor, friend, or someone who lives alone
    • watch the Memorial Day Concert on PBS

    Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

    Peace be with you,
    Bryn



  • May 13, 2020 2:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    Over these last two months, many prayers and parts of prayers have entered into my mind each day as I am sure they have yours. One is, “the changes and chances of our lives,” which is from a collect found in our Compline service in the Book of Common Prayer. Here it is in full:

    Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
    of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and
    chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
    (BCP p. 133)

    In these last two months, our lives have changed drastically. Many of us have experienced not knowing what day of the week it is – that being in isolation from the rest of the world has us confused. We experience a range of emotions: sadness, depression, hopelessness, boredom, and a sense of fatigue. Yes, there is no doubt that we all from time to time have been wearied by the changes and chances of our lives. We wonder when this time of social distancing and isolation will end. And we are beginning to realize that life as we have previously known it, has changed forever.

    And yet – and yet, there are times of joy when we can “see” the faces of co-workers, family members, friends, and fellow parishioners on our computer screens, phones, or tablets. There is joy and sometimes laughter when we have a telephone conversation. There is joy when we send or receive a card or someone chalks our front sidewalk or we chalk theirs!

    These challenging times bid us to reach out to those who live alone, especially those in nursing homes or assisted living. Some of our parishioners are healthcare workers on the frontlines of this pandemic every day. Let’s remember them in our daily prayers. The most vulnerable in our country need our prayers and our advocacy. We all can make a difference, even from our homes. Check out the Episcopal Public Policy Network for ways you can help. Our own diocese has a special COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Additionally,  Episcopal Relief and Development has ways we can help others during the pandemic.

    Often, when evening comes and the world is hushed, we are left with our own thoughts and fears. For me, that is when I lean on the prayers that bring me hope and solace and comfort. The simple prayer service we call Compline is filled with such prayers. Thanks to the suggestion of parishioner Mary Street, we can all join together and say this beautiful Office on Zoom every Thursday evening at 9:00pm. It is a wonderful way to end the day, to ask for God’s protection during the night, and to join with others in prayer and to feel more connected. 

    Remember that all of us who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in God’s eternal changelessness. No matter what happens now or in the future, God is always with us, even when we may not sense God’s presence – God is here.

    Know of my prayers for all of you.

    Love and Blessings,
    Miriam

    Some Personal News to Share: Lisa and I have moved to the Cape. While we may be separated by a few more miles, we are still very much a part of Epiphany and look forward to our continued engagement with all of you!
     

  • April 17, 2020 12:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Each month at our vestry meeting, one of us serves as chaplain and leads us in prayer and reflection. In October 2018, my reflection topic was Experiencing God's love in the midst of challenging times. I'm asking you to go there with me today, as I'm willing to bet you've experienced God's love during a challenging time, even if you didn't explicitly name it.

    Recall for a moment a particularly painful time or experience you've had in your life. The death of a loved one. The end of a relationship. A sudden loss of employment. A dire medical diagnosis. I know that I don't like to revisit these painful times, maybe that's true for you too. The days we face right now are indeed painful, challenging, and confusing. I've come to believe there's something important here to examine – something new, unexpected, and beautiful that often emerges from these experiences- resurrection stories.

    In October 2017, my father died after a long and difficult illness. My relationship with my father was complicated at times. Bearing witness to my father's homophobia as I was growing up made it difficult for me to come out. The realization that my father favored his friendships and profession over family was particularly painful, manifested at first in my parents' divorce, next magnified to me and my siblings during visiting hours at the funeral home after his death. A lingering doubt that I was fully loved by my father left me in a dark place.

    So, where is the resurrection in this painful story – where does Jesus’ hope and love come in? It's in the little things, the bigger things, and the huge things.

    Little things: It's in the kindness of a stranger: Ginny Schlemmer from Dave's Towing in Smithfield, RI. Dad's car, a leased Toyota, had been sitting idle in his apartment complex parking lot for over a year while he steadily declined. The funeral home and Ginny arranged to return Dad's leased car to the Toyota dealership and refused payment from the family.

    Bigger Things: It's in the love of this parish: Sarah Twiss's insistence on creating Dad's funeral service bulletin, an offer that came in just as I was realizing how overwhelmed I was in the details of creating his funeral. Miriam's calendar being open (or arranged to be made open) so that she could make the long drive to RI (with Sarah) and preside at Dad's funeral service when I learned that the local Episcopal priest was unavailable.

    Huge Things: In the time since my father's death the doubt about his love for me has been replaced with blessed assurance that he loved me fully. It came in a very unexpected conversation with him. Do any of you have conversations with those no longer with us? It's a relatively new concept for me. Here's the situation: I was upset about something at work, a personal “injustice” that had me reconsidering my commitment to my employer. In relating some of the details of the situation during a telephone conversation with a colleague, his response was along the lines of “be thankful for what you have, don't rock the boat”. Needless to say, it was not a particularly satisfying interaction. Later that week, I was in the shower and subconsciously relating the experience to my Dad. In a loud clear voice, I could hear him saying “Screw them, you deserve better than this”. The light shined, and God was laughing with Dad. So many things came into focus, and all of the doubts were replaced with a sense of peace. How I could have ever expected to see new life in my relationship with my father after his death– well, that's a resurrection story that I'll cling to forever.

    Lord, let us strive to see new life in everything that surrounds us: in the little things, the bigger things, and the huge things.

    Amen



  • April 09, 2020 10:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    We have just experienced most of Lent, and all of Holy Week and Easter in social isolation. Nothing we have experienced in these last weeks has been ordinary. People of faith all around the world have been kept apart, have been kept from gathering to worship because of an invisible virus.

    We have done our best to provide virtual worship and thankfully, with Zoom technology, we have been able to “see” one another on our computer screens or other devices. If you are like me, you have experienced a range of emotions during our time apart, days of feeling down and wondering if this time of isolation will ever end, days of hope as the vivid colors of spring burst all around us and birds return and nest in our yards.

    As Christians, we are taught that we are an “Easter People.” That means that we live in hope each day knowing that Christ defeated death and lives again. Christ lives in each one of us and although many of us may not be feeling like we have experienced Easter yet and are still living in Holy Week, Christ IS alive and one day will once again gather together and sing the glorious hymns of Eastertide.

    The psalm appointed for today is a portion of Psalm 16. The words of the psalmist are encouraging to me and give me hope:

    Psalm 16:8-11

    I have set you always before me; because you are at my right hand I shall not fall.
    My heart, therefore, is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope.
    For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit.
    You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
    (St. Helena Psalter)

    The psalm declares our faith in God, who is always with us even when we do not feel God’s presence. My prayer for all of us is that in this time that is like no other, we will lean evermore on the everlasting arms of Christ, trusting that he will show us the path of life and we will know that in his presence there is fullness of joy.

    Faithfully yours in Christ,



  • April 02, 2020 11:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Friends,

    You may have noticed that I am not participating in our live-stream services during this time of social distancing. Being in the age category that I am, I am being extra careful and not venturing outside of our home. I am well, as is Lisa and our two little poodles, Rusty and Bosco. They keep us grounded and entertained when we need a distraction. 

    I spend my days checking in with folks via phone calls and emails, Zoom meetings with various groups and individuals. Our dedicated Stephen Ministry Team continues to reach out to their care receivers and we had our first Zoom supervision group meeting last week. I am checking in with our other Pastoral Care teams making sure everyone is well and making phone calls instead of visits. 

    This time of uncertainty has deepened my prayer life and I find my time in the mornings very rich. I appreciate the prayers and poems that some of you have sent to me and we will be sharing them in the weeks to come. Some are included in this issue of the 3 Crowns. 

    I hope that you have found ways to stay connected with family and friends. I have been sharing music and prayers with my family members and some humor, of course! When the simplest, day-to-day things are no longer available to us, I notice how I appreciate life more and try to find some beauty in each day.

    You will “see” me again when I offer a sermon on April 19, the Sunday after Easter. Until then, know of my prayers for all of you. You are in my thoughts and I hold you close to my heart.

    Blessings and Peace,



  • March 28, 2020 11:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    My friends, I pray this second week of social distancing was gentle on you. For me this has been a week of reevaluating how I should walk through these months with my children. When the school closures were announced two weeks ago, I leapt into action. I gathered my flashcards, posted my colored-coded schedule and we were OFF! This gave us great structure as the world tilted all around, and it gave me a feeling of control in a situation of powerlessness.

    But this week, as our new normal settled around us, it was time to take a deep breath and reconsider what our family really needs right now. It's not multiplication tables. I think what we really need is a holy surrender of our own goals and a time of building spirit, not achievements. 

    That's harder than running a homeschool, isn’t it?

    So now I'm asking myself: What could it look like, to hold our own desires in an open hand and welcome God to do deep heart work within us during this season? What if we prioritize relationships and personal connections, which usually take second place to schedules? What if we look for ways to sacrificially love others? What if we actively cultivate joy in the midst of disappointments, and embrace the new lovely that God offers? This is a work in progress, but isn’t everything?

    I pray that God will show us God's holy and perfect will for our hearts, and that we give ourselves permission to respond.

    Love, Bryn

    bhollenbeck@3crowns.org


  • March 15, 2020 11:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Greetings, my dear friends of Epiphany,

    I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you  (Phil. 1:3-4).

    I continue to be so grateful to God for you and your support of my unfolding journey towards the priesthood. My life is so abundantly blessed, I wanted to give you an update on my path-to-date.

    1) My studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) are going well. I am mid-way through my low-residency Master of Divinity program. “Low-residency” means that most of my classes are online, with the exception of two times a year when I travel to campus (Berkeley, CA) for two-week “Intensives.” The classes are rigorous and invigorating. The biggest surprise for me is how close I have become with my “cohorts” around the country. Because we are online 24/7, we are part of each other’s lives in a deeply-connected, holy way. I am amazed how God works in my life through these remarkable people who are, in many ways, the future of The Episcopal Church. I am blessed, indeed!

    2) The reason you don’t see me around Epiphany is that I am in “field education” as a “Seminarian” (think “intern”) at All Saints of the North Shore in Danvers, MA (ASNS). Epiphany has had seminarians in the past: Jennifer Vath and Paul Shoaf Kozak, most recently. All Saints’ gracious congregation has welcomed me with overflowing support and joy. My supervising priest, the Rev. Marya DeCarlen, is a wonderful mentor and friend. I preach once a month and serve every Sunday on the altar. God inspires and challenges me every week. Those of you who know that my calling to the priesthood was born in my work as a chaplain may be surprised to read that I am beginning to feel a calling to parish ministry! While I miss Epiphany, I am grateful for being in such a different worshiping community that loves God equally as much as you do!

    3) I am honored, humbled, and overwhelmed to report that the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee have recommended me for Candidacy (with your vestry’s support, thank you!). That means I am no longer a Postulant, but am a Candidate. This is the next step in the process of ordination. I am humbled and grateful.

    Thank you for your support of me, dear Epiphany. You all are so deeply loved by God and me. How blessed we are to be cherished by God! You all continue to be in my prayers. God-willing, I will see you this summer on several Sundays!

    Gratefully,
    Brett Johnson

    I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19)






  • December 20, 2019 2:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Does anyone else feel a bit surprised that Christmas Eve is tomorrow? As Dr. Seuss’s Grinch declares, with some dismay, “It’s practically here!” Unlike the Grinch, I love Christmas, but for me it always brings a sadness that Advent is over. This is both because I love Advent best of all the Church seasons, and because I always hope to do more, and be more, during the weeks leading up to Christmas. More cookies. More cards. More service. More hymns. More peaceful reflection and spiritual growth. Couldn’t we all use a few more weeks before Christmas?

    As our young family sprinted through this season, I’ve had to let go of some expectations (sending Christmas Valentines is a good idea, right?). One practice I’ve clung to, however, is a Jesse Tree reading with my ten- and seven-year olds. The idea of the Jesse Tree, in a nutshell, is to trace God’s plan for the world through Old Testament stories up to the birth of Christ in the New Testament (made simple thanks to amazing storybooks like McCaughrean’s The Jesse Tree and Marcellino’s Jesse Tree Ornaments).

    This Advent practice is illuminating. It shows me that perhaps what is truly amazing about Christmas is how very long it is, indeed. The coming of the Messiah, the birth of Christ the Savior, the incarnation of God, this was not a single moment in history. It is not the four weeks of Advent and the twelve days of Christmas. From God’s creation of humanity, through the birth of Jesus and his death and resurrection, God’s plan was always, and will remain, to walk closely with His people. From the Garden, to Mount Sinai, to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to the cross and Emmaus, to the work of the disciples, and into this very place today--God is with us.

    In the beginning was the Word. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God dwells among us still. Rejoice, not only for Christmas Day, but everyday, full of God’s presence, redemption, compassion, and peace. May you have a joyful and merry Christmas.

    Bryn


  • December 12, 2019 11:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Beloved Community,

    In the fall of 1994 when I was first at Epiphany as a newly ordained transitional Deacon, I offered “An Advent Service of Remembrance” during the first week of December. Having experienced several significant losses in my own family at that time made me acutely aware of how difficult the holidays would be for many parishioners at Epiphany. Each year at this time I am reminded of this great sense of loss that many of us feel whether our grief is for a loved one we lost very recently or even decades ago. There are also feelings of grief and loss associated with growing older – perhaps a sense of loss over our physical bodies no longer able to do the things we once found so easy, or an “empty nest,” or we may have retired and feel a lack of purpose in our lives. Whatever the sense of loss or grief, our feelings are real and at times we may feel out of sync with a culture that portrays families smiling around a Christmas tree laden with gifts, or gathered at a large table resplendent with candlelight and lots of festive food and drink. Everywhere we go we hear holiday music that proclaims, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas.”

    Once again, on Wednesday, 18 December at 7:00pm in the Chapel, we will offer an Advent Service of Remembrance. It is a simple service of prayers, hymns, candlelight, and quiet meditation. It will be a time to remember those whom we love and see no longer, a time to gather as a community and just BE. If you know people who would might find this service comforting, please invite them to join you.

    In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and your feelings during the holidays. You might give something or do something in memory of your loved one. Click here for a link to a website that contains several strategies to help cope with the holidays. Simply talking about your feelings with a close friend, family member, or one of the clergy at Epiphany can be helpful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Sarah Conner, or Gayle Pershouse.

    In this holy season of Advent, I pray that each one of us will take some time out of our busy schedules to just sit and pray, even if only for a few minutes, and offer to God whatever is on our hearts.

    Faithfully yours in Christ,



  • December 06, 2019 8:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I experienced an internal chuckle when I learned my article would appear during Advent, this period of waiting, anticipation, and preparation for the birth of Jesus. Do you feel as though we’re in a perpetual state of waiting, anticipation, and preparation? I’ll confess it feels that way for me at times. Whether its measured in years, months, or weeks, waiting can feel uncomfortable and stressful for me. Yet, once the waiting is over, I’m left with a sense of gratitude. Why is it that I struggle with the ability to trust that all will be well? As Miriam often reminds us, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well,” from Julian of Norwich. And during our waiting, in Advent and otherwise, we can be watching for God’s presence in our lives.

    We’ve been waiting for years to have an elevator. During that time the following questions were turning over in my mind: Will we ever raise enough money? Will the construction completely disrupt everything? Will we encounter a cost overrun? How long will it take? And, so on. Well, the waiting is over, God has provided for us, the elevator is here, money fully raised, and construction costs right on budget. I am both relieved and grateful.

    We are entering into the 9th month of preparing for a new Rector. Similar questions have been swirling out of uncertainty. Well, once again, God is providing for us. I’m grateful for our immensely capable and faithful Search Committee, for the grace-filled spiritual leaders we have in Sarah Conner and Miriam Gelfer, our wonderful staff and committees who make so much happen behind the scenes, and for the steady support of our Vestry and my Co-Warden, Suzanne Owayda. Our spectacular Parish profile is complete (click here if  you haven’t seen it), and while the waiting may at times feel uncomfortable and stressful, my faith tells me to have no fear, God is with us in this journey. We just have to notice.

    We’re in the follow-up weeks of our 2020 Commitment Campaign. Together, as we finalize our budget for 2020 this month, we may have periods of doubt. Again, our faith tells us to have no fear, to trust in God, and to show our gratitude for the blessings we have.

    And so, my friends, as we wait together, let us lean on each other when there are times of doubt, uncertainty, and worry, for surely God is with us, as promised. We just have to be watching.



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Winchester, MA 01890
Phone: 781.729.1922
office@3crowns.org

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