Archive for September, 2018

by the Rev. Susan Moss

Back in mid-May, the Sabbatical Season of Renewal was about to begin for our rector Jered, his family, the staff, and congregation. We were all preparing to head out into unknown territory. (Wagons Ho!) I asked, in a homily, one of my favorite questions: “What’s in the room?

As I write today, we are heading into the final month of the Sabbatical Season.

In the midst of another glorious, always too short summer, there have been new faces at the altar and new voices in the pulpit, a pilgrimage, two weddings and an ordination. We gathered as a community of faith to mourn the deaths and support the families of Dick Lyman, Jeanne Gilbertson, and Cooper Olson.

An ice cream social, sabbatical dinners, a rousing Thursday Book group, young adult and young family gatherings and the picnic with Holy Apostles are deepening relationships among us. We will bid farewell and thanks to Monte Mason as Interim Music Director though he will continue as Compline Coordinator.

What’s “in the room?” these days?

In September a mix of familiar and new faces will literally be in the room on Sundays. Margaret Thor is back in the deacon’s post. Associate Rector Craig Lemming will join Julie, Barbara, and me at the altar and in the pulpit. Music Director Richard Gray will be on the organist bench, and with the choir’s return, we will resume the use of the high altar.

As we prepare now to welcome and celebrate Jered and his family’s return, I urge you to take time to reflect on these Sabbatical months.  One of the ways to do this is by practicing The Examen. For centuries prayerful people have found direction by setting aside time to ask two questions: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? One of the aims of the St. John’s Sabbatical is to increase connection with one another. So you might also ask:  When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, to others, to God and the universe? When did I have the least sense of belonging?*  Your reflections can lead to insights and direction on what to maintain and what to leave behind when the Sabbatical Season ends.

Father Greg Boyle is founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles: one of the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry programs. Boyle’s call to practice “kinship across lines of difference” inspired and gave shape to the founding of  ECMN’s chapter of The Episcopal Service Corps, now beginning it’s third year. Craig Lemming, founding Program Director, named ECMN’s service corps Circle of the Beloved, reflecting MLK, Jr.’s  vision of a society based on justice, love, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human being.

Boyle’s new book Barking to the Choir: Power of Radical Kinship was on my summer reading list. His stories of kinship with gang members have bearing on those who seek to increase deeper human connections that matter.

It is true enough, Boyle writes, that we could make the world more just, equal, and peaceful, but something holds us back, in all our complicated fear and human hesitation. It’s sometimes just plain hard to locate the will to be in kinship—even though, at the same time, it’s our deepest longing. So no matter how singularly focused we may be on our worthy goals of peace, justice, and equality, they actually can’t happen without an undergirding sense that we belong to each other. Seek first the kinship of God, then watch what happens.

In gratitude for the kinship you have shared with me,
Susan Moss
Sabbatical Priest in Charge


*Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. Denis, Sheila, Matthew Linn Paulist Press


Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »

I have a new knee.

It’s been a month now and I am doing well, although I am continually amazed and grateful at the skill of medical science who put a piece of metal in my leg!

I have had to be more quiet less running around, having lunches out, shopping, or messing around in the garden. Perhaps it’s because it’s fall, a paradoxical time of new beginnings and also losses as well as the shadow of ice and cold looming. I have been nostalgic for….. I’m not sure what. The Epistle from James for next Sunday suggest that unease comes from “your cravings that are at war within you.”

Maybe so.

The Gospel says that the Disciples were afraid to ask” Jesus questions when they didn’t understand what he was trying to teach them which was the essence of Christian faith. This essence reflects the rhythms of human life which include suffering and loss followed by rebirth or transformation.

Sometimes we become nostalgic for what preceded our suffering – a time when we remember life as being easier, more rewarding, even more loving…. before the diagnosis, before the kids left home, or when our parents were still alive.

I hope I’m not the only fan of the iconic television series Mad Men, about a New York advertising agency in the Sixties. In this video, ad man Donald Draper is pitching an advertising campaign to two executives from Kodak who want to market their new slide projector as a wheel. Don has some things to say about that. (Ignore the annoying ad at the beginning, if one plays on your computer).

And I’ll see you in church

Read Full Post »

By the Rev. Margaret Thor

“Junk, Joy, Jesus.” These three words were the threads that tied us together and grounded us in our pilgrimage. John, our host and guide, introduced these words to us as a means to share our faith with each other. At the close of the day, we reflected on the individual “junk” we felt, the “joy” we experienced, and how we saw Jesus.

If you have been with teenagers for any length of time, you can imagine some of the “junk” voiced during the trip. Words such as “long” and “tired” were prevalent during the first couple of days. After a while, the comments became humorous. Following one hike, a pilgrim confessed that she was the one who stepped in the cow patty – yuck! However, as time went on, the phrase “no junk today” won out followed with excited descriptions of “joy.”

And there was a lot of “joy” to be shared. A long hike in mountain capped by a trip up to a waterfall. Clearly the pilgrims were awed by the power of the waterfall and the beauty of the countryside in Ireland. The hike along the rocky edge of the water by the lighthouse was another highlight. We stopped and built a “cairn”, a pile of rocks, with each rock representing something we wanted to give up that was bothering us. We then gathered around the “cairn” and offered our prayers to God. There was “joy” in exploring a ruin of an abbey that was accessed through the window – none of the adults could climb up to or fit through the window which made it that much more exciting.  We took a fishing boat out to the Saltee Island and visited a bird sanctuary. Although almost all of the pilgrims were hesitant about this particular experience, I think it may have been viewed as one of the highlights of the trips. At one point we all sat on the rocks overlooking the sea observing a large flock of gannets. These large birds were noisy but peaceful (if you can imagine that) as they lived their lives playing with each other, flying in and out, and caring for their young. (And did I mention puffins? Seeing the puffins in the wild was one of my joys.)

Reflecting on the Jesus moments started out hard for some yet as our time together progressed, it became easier to express. Many of the Jesus moments tied directly to the “joys” and other times to what was observed. Watching a youth help a hiker, a stranger to us, navigate through the slippery rocks on the island was one example. Seeing the pilgrims assist each other down a difficult set of rocks; reaching up and grabbing a foot to place it on the next rock down. My Jesus moment? It was simply being with the pilgrims as they became a “squad” of friends tied together with this experience of the pilgrimage. We proclaim that Jesus is love and that is what I experienced on our pilgrimage.


Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »

As our program year begins, here are some thoughts on invitation and evangelism from Lea Anne Schmidt, Coordinator of Growth and Member Integration. 

My best friend, Amy, once invited me to go on a blind date, and that (much later) turned into an invitation to marriage from my husband, Patrick. My oldest child graduated from high school this year, so I invited over a hundred people to my house. We are all invited in many different ways: to meals, to mingle, or to mourn. Invitation makes us into who we are.

In an age of email and Facebook, inviting someone to an event can seem easier than ever. Why, then, do we seem to hesitate so much more before inviting folks to church? Why don’t we share a great church experience on Facebook like we may share a great dinner, concert, or party?

When we recite our Baptismal Covenant, we are asked, “Will you proclaim the good news of God in Christ in word and deed?” and we answer, “I will with God’s help.” In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, John and two of his disciples see Jesus walking along the road and ask him, “where are you staying?” Jesus responds, “Come and see.” Jesus offers an invitation.

This week I have been asking myself: Where is Jesus inviting me to “Come and see?” And who does He want me to invite to come along with me? When and how do we do the work of Jesus by offering invitations to others? When and how do we evangelize on His behalf, the Episcopal way?

The Episcopal Church guides us through its recently published Charter on Evangelism.  It states, in part, that “Through the spiritual practice of evangelism, we seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people—then invite everyone to MORE.”  The Charter describes three components of evangelism: of the church, by the church, and for the church.

Evangelism of the church points to us. Before we can share Jesus’s love with others, we need to dwell in it through reading scripture, worship and prayer, both privately and corporately. We need to tend to our spirit and allow ourselves to be loved by God.

Evangelism by the church is what we do to share Jesus’ love with others. In our service for others and in our moments of need, we want to be open to naming what it is that sustains us. By talking openly about our faith, we become disciples of Jesus.

The third part is Evangelism for the church.  New members are crucial for the vitality of a congregation. Their questions, energy, curiosity, and love for the church keep us attuned to our community and our mission.  The more diverse we are, in a myriad of ways, the more closely we reflect the Body of Christ.

Do you need to invite people to Sunday services? No, but that is an important part of who we are as a church, and is a gift we are called to share—however much it is a step out of our comfort zone.

During these last weeks of our church sabbatical, I invite you to engage in some private and public evangelism.  First make space for God and take time to pray, study scripture, and attend worship. Then ask the question, when or how did your faith carry you through difficult times? How has St. John’s helped you to answer Jesus’s invitation to “Come and see”? And after feeding your own spirit and acknowledging your blessings, ask yourself who you know that needs an invitation to “come and see” and invite them to church.


Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.

Read Full Post »