Archive for July, 2019

“Local Talent” is a silk wall hanging created by Sarah Stengle. The format is inspired by the Korean Pojagi tradition, which is pieced, geometric, and intentionally irregular. The text on the hanging describes the positive qualities of those within the congregation, as participants talked about themselves or each other anonymously.

“Local Talent” is currently in the Gathering Space (lower level) and will hang there during the season of Pentecost. Come see it and experience all the words, ideas, and stories that this community contributed to the project.

Originally published in the July/August Evangelist.


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St. John’s parishioner Jamie Bents, artist and owner of j.teabee ceramics, has begun creating shells for the church to use in the sacrament of baptism. Jamie is a potter
(in the early morning and night) and an environmental consultant (by day), while parenting Louis and Charlie with her partner Mike. Her story of learning to use a pottery wheel began in studio classes at night; she eventually set up a pottery studio in the family’s Mac-Groveland garage, complete with an old silver and blue kiln affectionately named “The R2 Unit.”

Jamie developed the baptismal shells for St. John’s to reflect the feel, color, and depth of seashells. She used a porcelain-stoneware clay body that fires into delicate but durable ceramic as smooth and light as beach sand. A small ridged handle feels like a shell fragment picked up on the seashore. They incorporate an ombré glaze for sheer, softly layered color like the inside of a shell. She is honored to create this body of work for St. John’s, and sends blessings to our baptismal candidates.

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.

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Driving home from church up Summit Avenue last week, I saw a woman laying by the side of the road. It seemed like a pretty serious bicycle accident, and there were a number of people on the scene helping so I didn’t stop. I knew that I was preaching the next week on the Parable of the Good Samaritan (about an injured guy in a ditch by the roadside) and I had to smile. Some times I think God messes with my head. (Or would I not have seen this in the same way had I NOT been focused on this story? Head messed with, I swear.)

I’ve been a preacher for a long time and was pretty sure I knew a whole lot about the popular parable (I’m already in deep trouble whenever I think this). But most of us have heard the story so often that we no longer even “hear” it.

Besides over-familiarity, I knew the sticking points: Jesus never calls the Samaritan “good;” the lawyer who asks the question “who is my neighbor” really means “who is NOT my neighbor” i.e. “Who can I rule out and make this easier?” The priest and the Levite who pass the Samaritan by were bad guys and didn’t care enough to help. Conclusion: we should also be good too, and help our neighbors.

I don’t know about you but I tend to tune out generic messages about being good. I KNOW I should help others; I KNOW that there are many who need help; I KNOW that Jesus calls us to be his Body in the world. But somehow I confess that, like the story of the GS, I don’t really “hear” it. Or if I do, I don’t change that much.

Given the demands of time (or having too much time) and numerous obligations (or the loneliness of NOT having obligations) I think the real question often is: What’s in it for me? What’s in it for me to act more charitably, to go out of my way to help those who need it? To actually change something about my own life to benefit others?

And who is this neighbor I am supposed to be helping? And how am I to help? What would I really do instead of just thinking about it?

As I said earlier here, I thought I knew a lot about this parable. However, there is always more and I discovered a new way to think about these questions that address “What’s in it for me?” Of course, the idea is not original with me (duh) but is from the brilliant theologian Sam
Wells (who was with us for a weekend at St. John’s a few years ago). Actually, Wells’ theory happened to me this week at Target in Midway (head-messing again!) I’ll tell you about it. Ironically, Target-Midway has almost become holy ground for me.

See you in church. (Yes it will be hot but you won’t be wearing vestments!)


For some early tips about how to be a good neighbor, watch the master at work with the ultimate “other” – another species….

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By Cammie Beattie


Ten years ago, this church made a commitment.

Led by Barbara Mraz and Jennifer Kinkead via Give Us Wings, it was our response to a call from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church: to work towards the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Those ambitious international goals—related to poverty, education, health, and environmental sustainability—initially seemed beyond our reach. And yet, even when making a difference seemed impossible, we resolved to do just “one good thing.” We made a commitment to help the people of Kayoro, Uganda build a clinic.

So much has happened in the decade that followed. St. John’s Kayoro Health Center II (SJKHCII, as it is known in Uganda) was built in 2011 and a maternity wing was added in 2017. It is now part of a health care compound with a water pump, solar panels, baby warmer, autoclaves, freezer, refrigerator and many other improvements.








Photos depict the evolution of the compound from one building in 2011 (below left) to constructing new wings in 2017 (below right) to a level-3 health center(above).







A staff quarters was recently completed, largely supported by funds from St John’s. It can house 3 staff, with modern toilets, a shower and a small kitchen. It allows the clinic to be open 24/7—one of several measures needed to bring the clinic to the level of a Health Center III, which results in more benefits from the Uganda government and greater service to area residents.

Plans are in place to expand the inpatient ward as medical needs are increasingly being met, including a larger maternity ward and an operating room. The clinic is partnering with Health Partners to develop a health care insurance program. And Simba Oil Ltd, located across the road from the clinic, has offered to extend electricity from their plant without cost, because SJKHCII provides “very vital services to the community”!

SJKHCII has increased the number of people that it serves each year. It regularly offers training on immunizations, reproductive health, pre-natal and infant care, and other issues. Overall, more than 18,000 people received care from SJKHCII in 2018!

Clearly, doing “one good thing” has led to more than we could have ever imagined. It was the spark to develop a full-on health care compound that has attracted many other funding sources beyond St. John’s. Every day, more people are living healthier lives with dignity and hope. Through God’s grace and St. John’s generosity, One Good Thing has led to MANY GREAT THINGS in Kayoro Village, and this story has even more chapters to come.

Is God calling you to participate in this ministry? There are many ways to respond!

  • Join the St. John’s Kayoro Clinic Committee. (Contact Sue MacIntosh at suemac94@me.com)
  • Help make Days for Girls reusable menstrual kits so that young women don’t have to miss school each month. (Contact Patty Byrne Pfalz at pbp2053@gmail.com)
  • Help make Mama Kits of medical supplies for pregnant women who live too far from the clinic and will likely deliver at home. (Contact Cammie Beattie at cbeattie96@gmail.com)
  • Visit Kayoro! A trip may happen in February/March 2020, and there may be scholarship funds to help with travel costs. (Contact Therese Anderson at director@giveuswings.org or Sue MacIntosh at suemac94@me.com)

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.

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Saying Farewell to the Elliott & the Van Yperen/James Families.

By Ellie Watkins

For the past half-decade, St. John’s has been blessed with two families who have enriched us with their presence and the stories they’ve helped us share as they’ve presented in our faith forums. They are both moving away this summer, prompting us to look back and appreciate their time here.

Nate Van Yperen and Elaine James and their children Hank and Forest are relocating back to Princeton, NJ. They came to St. John’s in the fall of 2013, shortly after moving here from Princeton. They visited a few other churches, but were drawn to St. John’s by the warmth of the community, number of young families, and the farmer’s market. “These,” they say, “were signs of a vibrant and engaged community of faith.”

Elaine’s first offerings for Sunday morning faith forums were on women in the Old Testament—she gave a talk on Ruth (while she was pregnant!), and then a series on women in the ancestral narratives. “Each week I was grateful to hear stories about the women in our congregants’ lives who modeled strength, insight, and faith.” Nate’s first talk was about Theology and the Environment; his most memorable forum was a talk on Bayard Rustin. “It was enriching to hear and engage diverse responses to Rustin in his own words.”

Elaine and Nate were impressed with the lively, thoughtful conversation that consistently characterized the forums here. “The most interesting moments were when someone would use the material to connect to their experience, which would in turn connect to another’s experience,” they say. They want the church to know that “it was a privilege to serve as regular forum speakers.”

The Rev. Neil and Mary Ellen Elliott are moving to New Mexico. Neil first spoke at an adult forum here in the 90s, and was impressed at how engaged and educated the group was. “This is a smart congregation!” he observes. Then in 2012, Neil and Mary Ellen visited again as parishioners looking for a new church, and were impressed that St. John’s had taken a stand in support of recognizing same-sex marriages. “We knew we’d found a home.” Since then, says Mary Ellen, “Our time at St. John’s has been very full.”

Their house group has been “a real blessing” and a close-knit group of very good friends. Mary Ellen was involved with building and grounds, vestry, and the fellowship committee. Neil has preached and helped with planning faith formation offerings. He observes that people here aren’t afraid to bring up controversial things—”not just politically, but to express that they have doubts.”

It can be scary to express doubts or to challenge the usual teachings, but, says Mary Ellen, “it hasn’t shaken our faith.”

Is there anything else they would like to say to the church community? “Keep doing what you’re doing,” Neil tells us. “Don’t be afraid of controversy, or taking a stand, or holding on to your convictions.”

“Continue to come together,” encourages Mary Ellen. “House groups, summer meals.” She recalls many instances where parishioners have gathered and felt a strong spirit of fellowship. “Everything has been a lot of fun.”

Knowing these families has indeed been a lot of fun. We wish them well—and hope they’ll stay in touch and share stories from their new endeavors!

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist. 

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