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News & Resources: Spiritual Spot

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

You'll find here occasional writings, a few rants, and hopefully some insights too, about Christian discipleship, the Episcopal Church, and on faith community's life at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, Massachusetts. At the Epiphany we understand ourselves to be "a welcoming Episcopal community, united in God, called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to transform the world with love and generosity."


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  • September 21, 2017 12:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I am one…and our role is to visit those parishioners unable to attend church on a regular basis - perhaps because they are homebound, or in a nursing home, or caring for family members. Through our ongoing personal visits, we try to keep those parishioners part of the life of Epiphany and let them know they are still remembered and valued by us.

    The visits vary from visiting someone at his or her home or nursing home and just chatting, bringing a copy of the Sunday church program for them to read or sometimes, if possible, we will have an outing: going to lunch, or taking a drive to see foliage, or a garden or a museum, or… running errands. I was once asked by my parishioner to buy her a new lipstick. When the saleswoman heard that the recipient was in a nursing home, she made up a lovely gift pack of other cosmetic items for me to take to her. I thought of the phrase, “the kindness of strangers.”

    I have been an Epiphany Visitor for the past few years. When I began, I had assumed that I would be helping to provide the experiences of the outside community to the person I visited. But in fact, it has really been an exchange. Rather than me being the one bringing a sense of the outside world and the Epiphany community to the parishioner I visited, I realized my visitee was offering me a sense of her world and life.

    “Alice,” my first visitee, was an 85 year old woman in a wheelchair, in assisted living. She had lived a life very different than mine in many ways. She had been born and raised in Colorado (to this day I have to look at a map to locate states between California and the northeast coast so she seemed rather exotic). She had ridden horses, hiked, camped, and moved to the east coast after college and marriage where she raised her family and had a career. She summered, still, on a New England island, despite the complications of getting the wheelchair on and off the boat and no cars on the island. Fearless, smart and funny, she was interested in everything. She had been very active in Epiphany and missed attending church. Through her internet connections, she kept in touch with friends new and old, was driven by friends to book club meetings, often apprising me of new books I’d missed and advising whether they worthy to be read or not. As her health failed, her humor and religious faith did not, and they kept her alert and learning to the end. Her death left a hole in my life.

    My next parishioner had been born in the middle east, on the other side of world from Colorado. The tales of her upbringing, rich cultural background, education, and experiences of political change opened another world to me. It was as though I were reading a novel. Fiercely intelligent, independent, and deeply religious, she combined a strong stubborn streak with a sense of humor.

    Another visitee, also in her 80’s, had been born in Oklahoma (I had to get out that map, again). When I first met her she still got about using a walker, organizing simple outings with friends to go to lunch or hiring a cab to take them all to a matinee. She spoke fondly of her days as an Altar Guild member, remembered being part of the rummage sales and Christmas Fairs’ planning and doing. Epiphany and her Christian community had been a big part of her life and she missed it and attending church, tremendously. Her cultural interests were broad; she belonged to a poetry club and invited me to join and her home was filled with wonderful oil paintings. When I asked about them, I was stunned to learn she had painted them some thirty years before. Her health declined and she moved reluctantly into a nursing home but to her surprise found the social life stimulating, and thrived there. She had monthly appointments to keep her hair colored and was very interested to learn that I knew a widower asking, “would I like him?” She kept me laughing.

    Every spring the Ephiphany Visitors invite all our visitees to a gala tea held in Hadley Hall. Tables are beautifully set with flowers, there is laughter, music, and delicious things to eat. Transportation is provided if necessary. It’s wonderful to see this big group of otherwise isolated individuals all catching up, laughing, exchanging news.

    I feel privileged to be an Epiphany Visitor, to have been invited to know people who otherwise I could not have. It has been a blessing.

    Blessings,
    Diana Obbard 

    Photo: Members of Epiphany Visitors


  • September 10, 2017 1:55 AM | Anonymous

    Beloved Community,

    If you’re like me, the summer seems to have flown. In New England we’ve been blessed with incredible weather, abundant sunshine, longer days, and time to refresh and re-connect with family and friends.

     As we come to the end of the summer and experience cooler nights, our thoughts turn toward the fall and new beginnings. Some are returning to school, some are entering college for the very first time, some families have welcomed a new baby over the summer, many of us are returning to work, and some are looking for new jobs or new opportunities to serve. Wherever you are in the mix of life events I invite you to join me and the rest of our dedicated staff as we begin a new program year at Epiphany.

     Rally Day is this Sunday, September 10th.  It is an opportunity to rally together and re-connect with one another and to welcome new folks who have visited over the summer and are looking to find a home in this wonderful parish. After our 10:00am service, we’ll have a barbecue hosted by the Vestry. Everyone is invited and encouraged to stay after church. Rally Day is an opportunity to re-engage with the many opportunities to deepen our faith and to serve others. For a list of our weekly offerings click here. 

     As Thomas was getting ready to go on sabbatical I asked him what he wanted us to work on in his absence. Without hesitation he said, “Discipleship!” This year our Formation programs are committed to helping everyone – young and old alike – to discover how we might be Disciples, how we might become unabashed ambassadors of the reconciling love of Christ. A “disciple” is a student or follower of Jesus. That’s what we believe as Christians and as Episcopalians. Often, we’re reluctant to share our faith with others, especially outside of the comfort of our Parish.

     As our children and youth continue to learn the parables and how they relate to their everyday lives, we adults will have many opportunities to delve into the scriptures and reflect on the teachings of Jesus and how we might be better informed and equipped to be disciples in a culture and world so desperately in need of healing, justice, and love.

     As you think about your fall schedule I hope you will consider making Sunday worship a priority and then pick one or two activities that will nurture your soul and your journey of faith. What do you need to sustain your life during the week? If you don’t find what you need among the many offerings already in place, please let me or a member of the Vestry know.

    We have many exiting plans for the fall and will welcome a new Intern, Paul Kozak, and his family. Paul will be with us most Sundays and a couple of days during the week. He is looking forward to meeting all of you and hearing your story.

    I look forward to being with you on September 10th and throughout the fall as we strive to become emboldened to proclaim the Good News – that is, the unconditional love of God through Christ is available to all! Now more than ever, we need to be ambassadors of that Good News!

    Faithfully yours in Christ,


  • October 27, 2016 7:27 AM | Anonymous

    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

    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

    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

    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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Phone: 781.729.1922
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