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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."


  • October 26, 2018 12:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Faith is knowing that no matter what the day hands you, God is with you. This Church is with you.

    When we christened our two girls in this Church, we thought we would teach them this traditionally through weekly sermons and Sunday School lessons. Never would we have thought that it would instead be learned experientially during some of our toughest days. Never did we think our Faith as a family would be solidified during a year that we were not permitted (through doctor’s orders) to step foot through Epiphany’s doors.

    It all began with Thomas’ blessing for our family in our home a few days prior to Jason’s stem cell transplant. It was a few days before Jason would be in the hospital isolated and away from the girls for 30 days over the Christmas holiday and yet we never felt stronger in our Faith. We knew God had us in His hands. We knew that Thomas and this Church wrapped us in an embrace so tight that it literally held us together. The day after Jason’s transplant (Christmas Day), we received a handwritten, thoughtful note from Thomas very simply proclaiming, “New Life awaits.” That note remains on our family bulletin board as a symbol of the Faith that surrounded us when we needed it the most. Faith that was not questioned when we were feeling weak and scared, but Faith that was strengthened and abundant from this community.

    That note went on to also represent the many ways that during that year-long isolation we were anything BUT alone. Whether it was Brett Johnson and the Tuesday Prayer Group passionately praying for us (a family many did not even know), or the prayer squares we received to rub during stressful moments, or the blankets that were quilted for us by a skilled and thoughtful parishioner, or Sarah’s smile when she never judged us for our always late holiday flower donations, or Miriam and Carolyn’s gentle ways of checking in without needing to say a word. Again, at a time when it was impossible for us to connect with this community within its beautiful brick walls, we never felt so connected and loved. We know that connection can be found to some degree in other communities, but we BELIEVE it is truly unique HERE and what makes Epiphany so very special.

    The story of our journey here at Epiphany is unique to us and our personal journey that God has put us on thus far. That, to us, is the miracle of Faith. It is not something that is the same for everyone, yet when you open your heart and your eyes to it, it is there for everyone to take in. And to us, there is no better place to absorb and spread that Faith than here at Epiphany. We hope that you will join us on our journey.

    Jason, Robin, Maggie, and Alexandra Shevland


  • October 12, 2018 11:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Epiphany Family,

    The “#Metoo” movement of the past year has been the impetus for the church to offer a word of grace and encouragement for those who have been harmed. There is no question that we are facing a major cultural shift, and that we have more to learn.

    In the last several weeks, a Supreme Court Justice, a beloved actor and comedian, and scores of Roman Catholic priests are among the accused or convicted. And among us, in our own Parish community, there are scores of people with our own stories, some of us women, some of us men, but all of us figuring out ways to live, or to speak, or to respond.

    If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual assault, I pray that you will be gentle to yourself, and do whatever possible to take care of yourself. If you have not before reached out for help, please know that both the Associate Rector and I stand at the ready to listen and to support. In addition to whatever spiritual care Miriam and I might provide, there are resources beyond the Parish of the Epiphany, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673.

    In the Eucharistic liturgy for Rite I (the traditional, Elizabethan language of former prayer books), after the Confession of Sin the priest says the so-called “comfortable words” among them is a phrase from St. Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says, “come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” One of the ways I understand these words is to make sure I don’t carry burdens that are too big for me, and to make sure I’m doing my part to help others whose burdens are heavy.

    We have an opportunity to walk this way, the way of love. I bid you peace, and I call our church, especially its leaders, to courageous action and humility.

    Faithfully in Christ,


  • October 05, 2018 3:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beloved Community,

    On September 23rd, Adult Formation launched its theme for the year, “Bread for the Journey.” In our opening session, Rich Goldhor ably led us through a discussion about the spiritual practices that feed us, that help us through our day, through the challenges and joys of our lives. Perhaps for some, this was a new discussion. For others, it helped us take the time to write down and discuss with those at our table the things that feed and nurture our spiritual lives.

    Hadley Hall was full of energy that morning. I could feel it, hear it, and sense it by the way that people leaned in to listen to one another. Near the end of our time, Rich invited us to write on post-it notes one or two things that feed us on our journey of life. We stuck them on the doors leading out to the cloister garden. Here are some of the responses. Those with a number in parenthesis indicates more than one person responded in like manner:

    Worship
    The Holy Eucharist (3)
    Prayer
    The Prayer of St. Francis (2)
    The Lord’s Prayer (4)
    A daily practice of meditation and prayer
    Compline (from the Book of Common Prayer)
    Collect: “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch, or weep this night. And give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your loves’ sake. Amen.”
    Nature
    Quiet
    Singing
    Time alone
    An attitude of receptivity
    Gratefulness
    Companionship

    Many people listed their favorite hymn. Hymns can inspire us, comfort us, and connect us to the divine. Others shared favorite Psalms. Still, others talked about difficult life experiences that often give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and of life. Some shared that helping others is a way that they are fed spiritually and others spoke about how reading books on spirituality or poetry fed them. One person named a particular piece of art that fed them.

    This list is only a sampling of what people posted. Over eighty responses came from fifty people in attendance. One person shared that she often begins her day with this short piece of scripture, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” What a wonderful way to start the day! It takes about three seconds to say and yet it can set our minds and hearts to acknowledge our Creator and to be grateful for another day of life and for whatever comes our way.

    This simple exercise of sharing some of the things that feed us spiritually brought us closer together. It showed me that there is no one way to feed our souls. Playing with children, holding a newborn baby, or simply sharing a good laugh with friends can feed our souls in a way that nothing else can.

    As we continue our journey together this year, I hope that you will nurture those spiritual practices that feed you. And if you find something in particular that you think someone else may find helpful in their journey, please share it!

    Faithfully yours in Christ,


  • September 28, 2018 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As I begin my fourth year among you, I am so filled with joy to be here with you all, to be part of whatever God is calling the Parish of the Epiphany to become. Every Sunday, as I drive in early in the morning, I am filled with excitement and expectation thinking about the time I will spend with you in worship, formation, and fellowship. I love seeing the children gather around the font, I love seeing the youth congregating together as acolytes, I even love how on most Sundays things don’t go exactly as planned and there is much help and laughter as we realize a little chaos is okay. I love being part of this community. I have learned so much from all of you about what Church is and I am grateful.

    Last week, I was given a gift. I was able to sit in on the El Hogar youth service team meeting. It was the first time the eleven high school youth were together since they returned from their journey on 21-28 July. As they recounted their time at El Hogar in Honduras, they told stories, they laughed about funny incidences, and finished each other’s sentences. It was easy being with them, they were happy, relaxed and welcoming, they included me in their group, even though I wasn’t there with them this year.

    And after getting settled, they planned for their sermon. I heard them reflect and thoughtfully articulate, each in their own way, their gratefulness for the gift of a privileged life the opportunities it brings. I heard them realize also what a gift it was to spend time with the children in Honduras who do not have these same opportunities. Each was transformed in some way by the experience. When they gave the sermon on 23 September, I know some were nervous about standing up in front of the Church, but they persevered.

    It occurred to me as I sat there listening to them that among many of the groups I have spent time with over the years, I have learned much about what Church is from the high school youth:

    They show up and when they show up they are all in. They show up even though it might be outside of their comfort zone. They deliver food to the Council of Social Concern and serve lunch at the Christmas Fair, they spend many of their YPF meetings lugging up the Rummage Sale items, and they jump in to help with childcare when I am shorthanded. They show up early Saturday morning to be trained as acolytes for Holy Day services, they show up to prepare and serve meals for our Parish, they show up to do outreach at Rosie’s Place. I will always be thankful that they showed up as counselors at Vacation Bible School. I have even seen them show up just to lend moral support to each other.

    They hold each other accountable. They are engaged together and coax each other to join in the life of our Parish as acolytes and as members of the high school choir. They join together to participate in service opportunities both in and outside of the Parish. They check on each other. When someone is not at a meeting, one of them will text to find out why. I have even seen them disagree and work through their disagreements as a group. They take care of each other.

    They ask deep and thoughtful questions about their faith. Some of the deepest conversations I have had over the years have been with youth who were preparing to be confirmed. They ask a lot of questions, they have a lot of thoughts and opinions and they listen with openness, respect and humility.

    Our youth are such a gift. They get it, what Church is and I look forward to learning more from them. 

    See you on Sunday.

    Love,


  • September 28, 2018 12:42 PM | Carolyn Hughes (Administrator)

    Francis was born in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. Though Francis was fairly frivolous as a young man, an experience of sickness made him start to re-examine the meaning of his life. One day, in a nearby church, he seemed to hear Christ saying to him, "Francis, repair my falling house." He took the words literally, and sold a bale of silk from his father's warehouse to pay for repairs to the church. His father was outraged, and disinherited Francis. In response, Francis gave up all his money and fine clothes and devoted himself to serving the poor.

    Since he could not pay for repairs to the church, he set out to repair it by his own hands. A few companions joined him. Francis and his companions would have no money, and no property, individually or collectively. Their task was to preach, "using words if necessary," but declaring by word and action the love of God in Christ by tending the poor, sick, lonely and excluded people.

    It is said that, one day, while Francis was traveling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds”. The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away.

    He preached to both human and animal the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God and the duty of humans to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves.

    HOW CAN WE FOLLOW IN FRANCIS’ PATH TOO?


  • September 21, 2018 8:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At the beginning of each September, when the choir returns, I am always struck by how much I miss having the full choir in worship during the summer months. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having people drop in during the summer to join us for our pick up choir, but smaller numbers and less rehearsal time don’t allow us to lead the congregation in worship in the same way that we are able to the rest of the year.

    Singing is an important part of our worship, and if we look to the Psalms, this is exactly as it should be. Psalm 30:4 says, “Sing to God, you servants of God, and give thanks for the remembrance of God’s holiness.” Psalm 81 tells us to “Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob. Raise a song, strike the timbrel, The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.”

    The job of the choir is to lead everyone in worship as they sing to God. Did you know that we actually take time each week to practice the hymns and service music we all sing? It is our hope that if we are able to sing this music well, that it will allow everyone, whether they consider themselves singers or not, to sing out their praises.

    Epiphany thinks that singing is so important that we hire four professional singers during the year. You can learn a bit about them in the bios below. These voices act as leaders in the choir. It is wonderful to have them as part of the group, but four voices do not make a choir. We are very lucky to also have well over twenty singers from the congregation who give of their time and talents to provide the wonderful choral sounds that you hear each week.

    Of course there is always room for more. If you feel called to lead in worship by singing in the choir, please join us. You will find a warm choir family ready to welcome you. If you like to sing but are nervous about giving the choir a try, remember that there are leaders in each section who are there to help you. Together we can do just as Psalm 95 instructs us: O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)



    Choir Section Leaders

    Mezzo Soprano Cindy Vredeveld
    is a native of Michigan and earned a BA in Music from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. As a member of the Luther College Nordic Choir, she had the privilege of touring much of the United States, and also Eastern Europe. Cindy was a long-time member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC). During her time in TFC, she also performed as a soloist with both the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She has appeared with Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra, Lexington Symphony Orchestra, Concord Symphony Orchestra, Paul Madore Chorale, Newton Community Chorus, and Lowell House Opera. Cindy is a long-time employee of Massachusetts Eye and Ear, where she is currently Senior Compliance Auditor and Privacy Specialist. Cindy appreciates the warmth and welcome she has received from everyone at Epiphany. She says, “I really feel very at home here.”

    Cuban-American tenor, Fran Daniel (Frank) Laucerica is new to Epiphany this year. He is a recent graduate of Northwestern University where he received his Bachelor of Music degree in the Voice & Opera program. He is currently pursuing his graduate degree at the Boston Conservatory in Opera Performance studying under Dr. Rebecca Folsom.

    He has recently sung operatic roles with Chicago Summer Opera, the Cambridge Chamber Ensemble, and the Miami Music Festival. He also performs regularly with the Boston Baroque, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Music of the Baroque, and the Grammy award-winning new music ensemble, The Crossing.

    Seth Grondin, Bass-Baritone, is a native of Bangor, Maine, and has been living and performing in the Greater Boston area since 2008. He has recently performed with Boston Opera Collaborative, Odyssey Opera, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, NEMPAC Opera Project, and New York Lyric Opera Theater, as well as several area choral organizations. He has also performed as a folk musician in earlier years, particularly Irish and Maritime Canadian folk music. He is grateful to be singing at Epiphany with such supportive musical leadership, and a dedicated, welcoming staff.

    Leo Balkovetz, soprano is a graduate of the Longy School of Music’s Historical Performance program. He specializes in art music as a form of storytelling. This May, he premiered his show “The Death of Venus,” an early music cabaret mixed with live storytelling. He is currently performing with the group Canto Armonico and in Promenade Opera Project’s production of “Cendrillon.”


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

    Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Faithfully in Christ,


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

    Beloved Community,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Faithfully yours in Christ,


  • June 12, 2018 9:52 AM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Faithfully,



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